Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Great Awakening - Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32

The Great Awakening - Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
Oct 30, 2011 AM

Today, we will finish our study on prayer by putting into practice what we have learned from God through his Word. Everything we’ve focused on has been in preparation for this evening, when we will gather as one body of believers to pray for the dreams and plans God has for us as a church in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead. Why is this important? It is important because never before has there been a time when our nation and world is in greater need of a Savior. It is a time set apart time for personal and corporate prayer, crying out to God in repentance and fresh surrender for all his purposes and power to break forth upon our church, our city, and our country.

Since 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has depicted on its cover what is called the Doomsday Clock. This clock registers how close the world is to nuclear apocalypse by the proximity of the minute hand to midnight. These nuclear scientists weigh both positive and negative factors in the world and make their determination about how close we are to ruin. However, far more ominous than any human danger is the unspeakably awesome wrath of God. The prophet Joel shocked the nation of Israel when he ordered the blowing of the trumpet, which is akin to turning on an air raid siren. At that sound, everyone dropped what they were doing to gather for war. Yet, what enemy was bearing down on them? What army threatened them? Once they gather Joel explains who is breathing down their necks and it is not some unforeseen enemy, it is God himself! Doomsday is at hand! The same could be true for our day and age as well! What needs to occur? I believe a great awakening within the church itself. Let’s discover what that means…

READ: Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32

Christianity today has lost its focus in finding out what God desires, and rather centers on how we can manipulate God so we can feel better about ourselves. God is not fooled by our selfish duplicity. Romans 1:18 tells us that God’s wrath is against all godlessness and unrighteousness. What is the wrath of God? The word describes a settled and abiding disposition against something. Just as God always loves, he also always hates sin. What if all that we are experiencing in our society or in our own lives is the result of reaping what we have sown, that we are experiencing God’s wrath because of our sin? A great awakening needs to occur and the prophet Joel tells us…

I. That awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to! Joel 2:1-2

1. Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand… (Joel 2:1 NIV)
1) An alarm is only an alarm if it is recognized as such. A few years ago on the Oregon coast, they ran tsunami warnings complete with horns and sirens. Few folks heeded them because few had ever heard the horns before and many of them did not work! I believe the same is true for the spiritual alarm that needs to be sounded in our day and age. Many have never heard it and many pulpits are broken in declaring it! It is time for the church to sound the alarm and make Christians aware of what it means. I am not talking about the end times, but the judgment that is occurring. Interestingly, this section of Joel is spoken to the priests, whose business it was to blow the trumpets for calling solemn assemblies to meet in the temple. It gave notice of approaching danger, of enemies, or in this case of judgment. How do we sound the alarm in our day and age? We sound it by reminding God’s people about God’s wrath, “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:11-12 NIV) Christians can become spiritually arrogant in their relationship with Jesus thinking they will escape by God’s grace. Ultimately yes, but not in what they reap for their lives now. Believers can and will suffer the wrath of God when they ignore his grace. We are reminded that, “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day!” And that the person “who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made!” (Psalms 7:11, 15 NIV) Paul reminds us to “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 5:6 NIV) It is time to sound an alarm! To blow the trumpet in Zion! Awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to!

Paul made it very plain to those of the first century church that when believers try and hide their sin, God’s wrath will come on them. In fact, he admonished them to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:2-6 NIV) This tells us…

II. That awakening occurs when we return to God! Joel 2:11-13

1. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”(Joel 2:12 NIV)
1) Repentance is a harsh word for our day and age. We love to “feel” sorry for the things we do, and we want others to forgive us when we do them, even if we never ask for forgiveness, but this simply is not biblical. Repentance means we recognize the sin we are in, stop doing it, openly and honestly confess it, turn from it completely, and turn to God totally! In Romans Paul asks those who thought of themselves as enjoying God’s favor no matter what they did in life a very pointed question, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4 NIV) Paul knew that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) For real repentance, God demands complete and utter brokenness, Godly sorrow. Otherwise, we “show contempt for the riches of his kindness.” What we fail to realize is that God’s wrath is coming and we will know the full force of it unless we repent of our sin and return to God! This is why Joel called the people to return to God with “all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” We are to literally, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13 NIV) Tearing one’s garment meant they were publicly displaying their sorrow, but God is not interested in outward show of feelings! He desires us to repent of our sin and turn back to him! True awakening occurs when we return to God!

Americans love to manufacture things, including spirituality. If we cannot gain God’s attention the way we desire, then we will mount an ad campaign and publicly pronounce that God is indeed in what we desired all along. Sadly, we get what we pay for or as the Bible teaches, we reap what we have sown. Simon, a first century sorcerer turned believer, wanted to buy the spiritual presence of God. He was sincere, but sincerely wrong. Peter tells him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” (Acts 8:20-22 NIV) This shows us…

III. That awakening occurs when God’s people get serious! Joel 2:15-18

1. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:16 NIV)
1) While your eternal relationship can be found immediately in the Lord, your daily reliance in him is not. What do I mean? Salvation is instantaneous, but abiding in Jesus takes effort. Holiness demands personal sacrifice. Paul would say it is a moment-by-moment occurrence, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) You cannot find it once a week in worship on Sunday. This is why, I believe, much of what is done in churches today is to manufacture a sensation of holiness rather than true holiness! Joel saw with God’s perspective that his angelic army was marching toward the gates of Jerusalem. No power on earth could stop it. God’s wrath was coming. Joel realizes what most believers today are blatantly ignorant of, that God demands his people get serious about him! What is being done in many churches today is a convoluted spiritualized version of blind man’s bluff. We are spiritually blinded people trying desperately to bluff God into thinking we are holy! It is time for us to “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, [and] call a sacred assembly!” The early church had folks caught up in trying to manufacture spirituality as well. So much so, they begin to see certain spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, as more important than others. Paul met this heresy head on by asking, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:7-8 NIV) The answer is, “No one.” They had forgotten their spiritual gift was not for their pleasure, but to declare the gospel clearly! It is serious business. Perhaps we have forgotten just how serious. Paul would remind us, “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13-14 NIV) It is time for God’s people to get earnest. Spiritual awakening will occur only when God’s people get serious!

As your pastor and spiritual leader, I am calling our church to a sacred assembly. Tonight, we will spend time in seeking God’s face for our lives and the life of the church. We have dreamed dreams and set aside some things we believe God is calling us to do, but these will not happen until we get serious about our walk with the Lord. This will be a service that will call each of us to “fast” in some area of our life that God asks us to in order for us to see him more clearly. James’ advice is good for us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) We “do what it says” by listening to what God says to us through it! When this happens, we know…

IV. That God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs! Joel 2:28-32

1. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28 NIV)
1) Perhaps Christians have forgotten that we are to be spiritual children first before we can be the physical adults God desires. Jesus perplexed Nicodemus by telling him, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6 NIV) We are to be spiritually reborn in order to live as God wishes. In fact, we know that whoever believes in Jesus, “streams of living water [the Holy Spirit] will flow from within” them! (John 7:38-39 NIV) This is why Paul would write, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14 NIV) When God awakens his people to do his will he always uses his power through them! Paul gives us a good clue as to why this is so important for us to comprehend. He writes the Corinthian church, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NIV) Notice that Paul’s emphasis was on his “weakness and fear.” He knew he could not do what God desired unless he was willing to be emptied of himself and to be used of God. He wanted his message to rest squarely on God’s power! God tells Joel, “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:27 NIV) When we get out of the way by getting right with the Lord, God’s Spirit will be poured out and awakening will occur!

Conclusion:
What if this was the time for God’s great awakening and we were not ready for him to use us? What if we as a church, and as individuals, allowed ourselves to get in the way of the Lord and not be a part of his great awakening? We have learned this morning that awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to, awakening occurs when we return to God, awakening occurs when God’s people get serious, and God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

The Great Awakening - Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32

The Great Awakening - Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
Oct 30, 2011 AM

Today, we will finish our study on prayer by putting into practice what we have learned from God through his Word. Everything we’ve focused on has been in preparation for this evening, when we will gather as one body of believers to pray for the dreams and plans God has for us as a church in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead. Why is this important? It is important because never before has there been a time when our nation and world is in greater need of a Savior. It is a time set apart time for personal and corporate prayer, crying out to God in repentance and fresh surrender for all his purposes and power to break forth upon our church, our city, and our country.

Since 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has depicted on its cover what is called the Doomsday Clock. This clock registers how close the world is to nuclear apocalypse by the proximity of the minute hand to midnight. These nuclear scientists weigh both positive and negative factors in the world and make their determination about how close we are to ruin. However, far more ominous than any human danger is the unspeakably awesome wrath of God. The prophet Joel shocked the nation of Israel when he ordered the blowing of the trumpet, which is akin to turning on an air raid siren. At that sound, everyone dropped what they were doing to gather for war. Yet, what enemy was bearing down on them? What army threatened them? Once they gather Joel explains who is breathing down their necks and it is not some unforeseen enemy, it is God himself! Doomsday is at hand! The same could be true for our day and age as well! What needs to occur? I believe a great awakening within the church itself. Let’s discover what that means…

READ: Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32

Christianity today has lost its focus in finding out what God desires, and rather centers on how we can manipulate God so we can feel better about ourselves. God is not fooled by our selfish duplicity. Romans 1:18 tells us that God’s wrath is against all godlessness and unrighteousness. What is the wrath of God? The word describes a settled and abiding disposition against something. Just as God always loves, he also always hates sin. What if all that we are experiencing in our society or in our own lives is the result of reaping what we have sown, that we are experiencing God’s wrath because of our sin? A great awakening needs to occur and the prophet Joel tells us…

I. That awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to! Joel 2:1-2

1. Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand… (Joel 2:1 NIV)
1) An alarm is only an alarm if it is recognized as such. A few years ago on the Oregon coast, they ran tsunami warnings complete with horns and sirens. Few folks heeded them because few had ever heard the horns before and many of them did not work! I believe the same is true for the spiritual alarm that needs to be sounded in our day and age. Many have never heard it and many pulpits are broken in declaring it! It is time for the church to sound the alarm and make Christians aware of what it means. I am not talking about the end times, but the judgment that is occurring. Interestingly, this section of Joel is spoken to the priests, whose business it was to blow the trumpets for calling solemn assemblies to meet in the temple. It gave notice of approaching danger, of enemies, or in this case of judgment. How do we sound the alarm in our day and age? We sound it by reminding God’s people about God’s wrath, “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:11-12 NIV) Christians can become spiritually arrogant in their relationship with Jesus thinking they will escape by God’s grace. Ultimately yes, but not in what they reap for their lives now. Believers can and will suffer the wrath of God when they ignore his grace. We are reminded that, “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day!” And that the person “who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made!” (Psalms 7:11, 15 NIV) Paul reminds us to “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 5:6 NIV) It is time to sound an alarm! To blow the trumpet in Zion! Awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to!

Paul made it very plain to those of the first century church that when believers try and hide their sin, God’s wrath will come on them. In fact, he admonished them to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:2-6 NIV) This tells us…

II. That awakening occurs when we return to God! Joel 2:11-13

1. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”(Joel 2:12 NIV)
1) Repentance is a harsh word for our day and age. We love to “feel” sorry for the things we do, and we want others to forgive us when we do them, even if we never ask for forgiveness, but this simply is not biblical. Repentance means we recognize the sin we are in, stop doing it, openly and honestly confess it, turn from it completely, and turn to God totally! In Romans Paul asks those who thought of themselves as enjoying God’s favor no matter what they did in life a very pointed question, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4 NIV) Paul knew that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) For real repentance, God demands complete and utter brokenness, Godly sorrow. Otherwise, we “show contempt for the riches of his kindness.” What we fail to realize is that God’s wrath is coming and we will know the full force of it unless we repent of our sin and return to God! This is why Joel called the people to return to God with “all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” We are to literally, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13 NIV) Tearing one’s garment meant they were publicly displaying their sorrow, but God is not interested in outward show of feelings! He desires us to repent of our sin and turn back to him! True awakening occurs when we return to God!

Americans love to manufacture things, including spirituality. If we cannot gain God’s attention the way we desire, then we will mount an ad campaign and publicly pronounce that God is indeed in what we desired all along. Sadly, we get what we pay for or as the Bible teaches, we reap what we have sown. Simon, a first century sorcerer turned believer, wanted to buy the spiritual presence of God. He was sincere, but sincerely wrong. Peter tells him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” (Acts 8:20-22 NIV) This shows us…

III. That awakening occurs when God’s people get serious! Joel 2:15-18

1. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:16 NIV)
1) While your eternal relationship can be found immediately in the Lord, your daily reliance in him is not. What do I mean? Salvation is instantaneous, but abiding in Jesus takes effort. Holiness demands personal sacrifice. Paul would say it is a moment-by-moment occurrence, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) You cannot find it once a week in worship on Sunday. This is why, I believe, much of what is done in churches today is to manufacture a sensation of holiness rather than true holiness! Joel saw with God’s perspective that his angelic army was marching toward the gates of Jerusalem. No power on earth could stop it. God’s wrath was coming. Joel realizes what most believers today are blatantly ignorant of, that God demands his people get serious about him! What is being done in many churches today is a convoluted spiritualized version of blind man’s bluff. We are spiritually blinded people trying desperately to bluff God into thinking we are holy! It is time for us to “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, [and] call a sacred assembly!” The early church had folks caught up in trying to manufacture spirituality as well. So much so, they begin to see certain spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, as more important than others. Paul met this heresy head on by asking, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:7-8 NIV) The answer is, “No one.” They had forgotten their spiritual gift was not for their pleasure, but to declare the gospel clearly! It is serious business. Perhaps we have forgotten just how serious. Paul would remind us, “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13-14 NIV) It is time for God’s people to get earnest. Spiritual awakening will occur only when God’s people get serious!

As your pastor and spiritual leader, I am calling our church to a sacred assembly. Tonight, we will spend time in seeking God’s face for our lives and the life of the church. We have dreamed dreams and set aside some things we believe God is calling us to do, but these will not happen until we get serious about our walk with the Lord. This will be a service that will call each of us to “fast” in some area of our life that God asks us to in order for us to see him more clearly. James’ advice is good for us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) We “do what it says” by listening to what God says to us through it! When this happens, we know…

IV. That God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs! Joel 2:28-32

1. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28 NIV)
1) Perhaps Christians have forgotten that we are to be spiritual children first before we can be the physical adults God desires. Jesus perplexed Nicodemus by telling him, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6 NIV) We are to be spiritually reborn in order to live as God wishes. In fact, we know that whoever believes in Jesus, “streams of living water [the Holy Spirit] will flow from within” them! (John 7:38-39 NIV) This is why Paul would write, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14 NIV) When God awakens his people to do his will he always uses his power through them! Paul gives us a good clue as to why this is so important for us to comprehend. He writes the Corinthian church, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NIV) Notice that Paul’s emphasis was on his “weakness and fear.” He knew he could not do what God desired unless he was willing to be emptied of himself and to be used of God. He wanted his message to rest squarely on God’s power! God tells Joel, “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:27 NIV) When we get out of the way by getting right with the Lord, God’s Spirit will be poured out and awakening will occur!

Conclusion:
What if this was the time for God’s great awakening and we were not ready for him to use us? What if we as a church, and as individuals, allowed ourselves to get in the way of the Lord and not be a part of his great awakening? We have learned this morning that awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to, awakening occurs when we return to God, awakening occurs when God’s people get serious, and God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The principles of a powerful prayer meeting, Part 2

The principles of a powerful prayer meeting, Part 2
By Pastor Lee Hemen’
October 23, 2011 AM

Last time, we asked why Elijah, Moses, Joshua, Jesus and Paul were so filled with confidence when praying about the impossible that they often announced that it would take place even before they prayed! How could they be so sure that God would answer their prayers? I believe it was because they had paid the price of being alone with God. They had come to know the very heart and intent of God. They began to see life from his perspective instead of their own. Fervent focused prayer surged through their spiritual souls and it beat with the intense intimacy they shared with the Father. They sought the Lord until they knew what he was doing and joined him in doing it! Therefore, they saw the power of God displayed in response to their prayers. This is the very essence of what Jesus meant by abiding in him, without which we will not know what God’s will is or what to ask him.

We find that the early church experienced the very same thing in their prayers as well, so much, so that they were confident in their prayers and their outcome. Much of today’s church is based on so much programming, manufactured hype, and commercialism that it often does not depend on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at what the rest of the principles are that the early church experienced that helped them to have empowered prayer.

READ: Acts 12:1-12

We are so instinctively “me-centered” in our thinking and praying that it will take spiritual discipline in addition, discernment to force it from our prayers. Until we do, we will not receive what we ask because, as James 4:3 teaches, we will ask wrongly in order to get something from God! However, God-focused prayer calls us to a different kind of lifestyle. When the early church took on this kind of prayer focus, they experienced the power of God. What we find is that the church experienced a…

I. Deep koinonia!

1. Christian fellowship is the opening of a Christian’s heart to one another!
1) There are three episodes from the life of the Early Church that teach us the power the church experienced because of prayer. In Acts 2:42-43 we find that the church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” Because of their sensitivity to the working of God in their midst a godly “fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.” Then in Acts 4:31-33 we find that “those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.” Finally, in Acts 5:12-16 we discover that “Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles” and that “believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers.” In fact, those that were sick “and those who were tormented by unclean spirits… were all healed.” What made the difference? It is something that many churches in our day and age lack: koinonia! It was a deep abiding fellowship with one another. Look again and you find that “they devoted themselves” to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. They were of “one heart and soul” and decided to have “everything in common” with each other. Wow! Christians desire people in their lives who truly care, yet almost everything the modern church does, thwarts this. Mega cannot promote intimacy and you cannot program true fellowship. Koinonia comes from a spiritual connection that is based in our relationship with the Lord. John would write, “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” (1 John 2:10 NIV) Peter would say, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV) The early church’s prayers were powerful because they enjoyed a deep koinonia.

EXAMPLE: John Franklin concluded from his study in Acts that “God worked in their lives in proportion to the degree of their koinonia, the quality of love between believers. Their favor with God flowed from his pleasure in their depth of fellowship.” (“And the Place Was Shaken,” by John Franklin, page 40.) Years ago, when speaker of the house Sam Rayburn heard he had terminal cancer, he shocked everyone when he announced he was going back to his small town in Bonham, Texas. People said to him, “They have got the finest facilities in Washington, D. C. Why go back to that little town?” Rayburn’s response resonates with something inside us all. He said, “Because in Bonham, Texas, they know if you’re sick, and they care when you die.” (Submitted by J. R. Love, Ruston, Louisiana, PreachingToday.com.) He was speaking of the kind of koinonia a small town displays. God empowers the prayers of those who enjoy spiritual koinonia one with another!

We will pray more impassionedly when we trust those with whom we are praying. Trust is built when our lives brush up against one another; when we share our faith and we walk the tough times together. This is why small groups are a key spiritual element to our church’s life. We simply don’t have time to build close relationships in Worship. Koinonia fuels fervent effective prayer that is real, binds wounds, and shares with one another so that friendship and care increases. Without it, our praying together will be surface only and the power of God constrained. However, we discover that it wasn’t just the close koinonia that empowered the early church’s prayer it also came from…

II. Clean hearts!

1. Purity in the heart produces power in one’s life!
1) We find this principle from the very first stories in Genesis where Adam and Eve hide from God to the final chapter of Revelation where God’s holy saints surround the heavenly throne! God has always required a right heart from those to whom he will reveal himself. All who miss this point miss God. Go back and look at when Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God. God respected Abel and his offerings, but he rejected Cain and his offerings. Why? The Bible makes it plain that God’s approval or refusal was squarely based on the person making the offering. God’s response is always directly linked to the condition of the heart of the one worshipping. At the dedication of the new temple, this is why he tells the Israelites, “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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) God answers a person or a people in proportion to how they are walking with him. He never differentiates between the thing requested and the one making the request. Another way to say that is this: God doesn’t just answer prayer; he answers you! David understood this spiritual concept and why he would sing, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalms 51:9-10 NIV) This is also, why Paul warned his friend Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV) Clean hearts lead to empowered prayer!

EXAMPLE: A classic example of this occurred in a prayer meeting in the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. Christians there had been imploring God for some time to send revival and spiritual awakening. Finally, during a Friday night prayer meeting, a 16-year-old youth prayed, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior.” (Psalms 24:3-5 NIV) He then began to ask God if his heart was pure. Others in the room began to inspect their walk with God, to confess their sins, and to renew a right relationship with God. At that moment, God began to transform lives on those islands. In fact, as they were praying God woke up most of the town at midnight, and they gathered at the village square asking how to be saved. Once the hearts of those Christians were cleansed, God worked mightily through them. God empowers the prayers of those with clean hearts!

I have often been amazed at churches with two similar worship services where one well be Spirit-filled, vibrant, and hearts responsive; while the other service, with the same message and music, will be cold, flat, and unresponsive. The difference simply depends on the spiritual condition of the hearts of those in attendance. The psalmist was absolutely right when he deduced, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” (Psalms 66:18-19 NIV) A believer either helps or hinders the movement of God’s Spirit in respect to their spiritual cleanliness. In fact, we discover that this extends to the unity of believers as well. In order to have empowered prayer a church needs to be in…

III. One accord!

1. The church consists of two types of folks: the saints and the aints!
1) Five times in the first five chapters of Acts, the KJV Bible relates that the disciples were in “one accord.” Each time the Greek word used is “homothumadon,” which is a compound word meaning, “same passion, combined heat, or shared glow.” The early church shared the same burning passionate heart. This spiritual unity reflected in their praying together, meeting together, fellowshipping together, beseeching God together, and doing miracles together! How important was unity? Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NIV) We reflect and bring God glory through our loving, selfless, servant attitude toward one another! This harmony is directly connected to God’s patent presence and power in the pages of Scripture. Paul would admonish his readers that Christians were to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV) Those who deliberately tried to sow discord in the church were declared as “blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:12-13 NIV) God said they were like a “scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth!” (Proverbs 6:12 NIV) Wow! For a person or church to experience empowered prayer, they have to be in one accord!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland wrote in Our Daily Bread about “a demonstration of sheep-herding using a Border Collie, the dog trainer explained that because sheep are highly vulnerable to wild animals, their main defense against predators is to stay together in a tightly knit group. ‘A sheep alone is a dead sheep,’ the trainer said. ‘The dog always keeps the sheep together as it moves them.’” He continued by stating, “The biblical image of God as our shepherd is a powerful reminder of how much we need each other in the community of faith. When writing about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the psalmist said, ‘[God] made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them on safely, so that they did not fear’ (Psalm 78:52-53). As part of God’s flock, we who have trusted Christ are under His guiding, protecting hand while being surrounded by the shielding presence of others. We are part of a larger body of believers in which there is safety and accountability. While we don’t give up our personal responsibility for thought and action as members of the flock, we are to embrace the concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ in our daily lives. With Christ as our Shepherd and fellow believers around us, we find safety in the flock.” We are in one accord!

Conclusion:
We find that the early church experienced empowered prayer because of their deep koinonia, clean hearts, and their being in one accord. What kind of prayer do you experience?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Principles for a Powerful Prayer Meeting, Part 1 - Acts 12:1-11

Principles for a Powerful Prayer Meeting, Part 1 - Acts 12:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 16, 2011 AM

There is a plain marker on a neglected grave in a cemetery near the Canadian border that reads, “Daniel Nash, Pastor, Laborer with Finney, Mighty in Prayer.” Who was Nash? He never had the limelight but he shook heaven and hell because he believed in the power of prayer. Charles Finney, a former lawyer turned preacher by the call of God, was one of the key figures during the Second Great Awakening in 19th Century America. In the seven years in which Finney preached, there were an estimated 500,000 conversions. However, if you asked Finney, he would have given the credit for his crusades to Daniel Nash. When Finney went to a city to preach, Nash would arrive several weeks early, rent a room, find other Christians to join him, and start a prayer meeting to pray for souls. He rarely attended but stayed hidden, agonized in prayer for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to melt people’s hearts. Finney and Nash traveled thousands of miles together, in prayer and proclamation of the Gospel. In1831, Nash took ill. On December 20th, while on his knees in prayer over a map of the world, Nash died at age 56.

In this week’s passage, we find the early church faced with insurmountable odds. Foes to the gospel message and the church were everywhere. From the national leadership to the religious establishment, the early church faced almost certain extermination. Yet in the midst of severe persecution, we find the church growing and God doing miraculous things. One should ask, “What did the early church know that today’s church has forgotten?” We will discover principles for a powerful prayer meeting…

READ: Acts 12:1-11

I am interested in prayer warriors like Nash and the early church! Those who willingly do battle for souls, overcome obstacles, and move God’s hand. As we look into God’s Word at the early church in Acts, we discover that kind of prayer. As we are asking God to teach us how to pray as a congregation as well as individuals, I thought it well to show you principles for a powerful prayer meeting. In the next two weeks, we will focus on five principles. Today we will focus on two of these. We discover that the early church…

I. Focused on God!

1. A Christian is out of spiritual sync until they focus on the Lord!
1) It means tuning to God’s agenda and joining him there! Have you ever done a comparison between the way the apostles approached Christ in the Gospels and the way they approached Him in the book of Acts? In the gospels their immature requests included calling fire down from heaven to consume those who rejected Jesus, sending people away hungry, and arguing about who would sit on the right and left hand of the throne when they got to heaven! They constantly demonstrated a lack of faith. Consequently, our Lord rarely did what they asked. However, when you turn to the book of Acts, you find a completely different result. We find 3000 converted in a single day, rooms shaken, prison doors opened, and the church established throughout the known world! What made the difference? Very simply, they went from being on their own agenda to being on God’s agenda. They changed from being self-centered to being God-centered. In fact, we find that when King Herod had Peter arrested, the church prays: “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Persecution has a way of getting people’s attention. What was true then is certainly true for our lives as well. Whenever we are faced with the extreme difficulties of life, we immediately ask people to pray! We are out of spiritual sync until we focus on the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Way back in Acts 4, Peter and John are released with threats of what would happen to them if they spoke in the name of Jesus again. They go back and report this to their friends who immediately “raised their voices together in prayer to God!” (Acts 4:24) Interestingly, we discover that they spend five verses recounting how God works even through ungodly rulers and they finish by praying, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30 NIV) As a result, the place where they were praying was shaken as a physical sign of the power of God falling on them! Sadly, I believe that 90 percent of our prayers focus on us rather than winning the lost! When most of our praying is about our needs, we are focusing on us rather than God’s purposes. We need to focus on God with our prayers if we want our community and world won to Jesus!

While I believe that God is interested in our daily needs, we can become so caught up in them we forget about the plan of God. Jesus did not come to give us an easier life here and now, he came to seek and save the lost. His last commands to his followers consisted of telling them to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) The early church took this very seriously and it was not until the 1980’s that the American church lost this focus. We discover that the early church…

II. Followed God’s lead!

1. Far too often Christians sing, “Where he leads I will follow,” when in their heart they mean, “Where I lead, God should follow!”
1) Consider this: How is it that Elijah could believe that God would respond to his prayer by sending fire from heaven and consuming the water-soaked sacrifice? How could Moses think God would split the Red Sea when the Egyptian army was chasing the people of Israel? How could Joshua ask the sun to stand still? What made Jesus think a four-day-old stinking corpse could live again? They asked for the impossible because they were so God-oriented that they knew what he was doing and where he was working. Notice that in each case that discernment and knowledge flowed from their relationship with God through prayer! They had paid the price in prayer and therefore understood God’s perspective and joined him there! It is important to note that this is exactly what Jesus taught about his own life: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NIV) Jesus always discerned the heart of God and then acted. He calls us to that same kind of walk. In Acts, we find the disciples together in prayer. In fact, “the church was earnestly praying to God for” Peter! What occurs? “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.” (Acts 12:7 NIV) We learn that “Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.’” (Acts 12:11 NIV) Both Peter and the church followed God’s lead!

EXAMPLE: Let’s look at an incident from Daniel Nash’s life. In one city, a group of young men confronted Finney and announced they were going to break up the meetings. Finney and Nash decided to combat them with prayer, so they found a grove of trees and gave themselves to prayer until, in Finney’s words, “we felt confident that no power which earth or hell… would be allowed permanently to stop the revival.” That night, the group of young men arrived to find a packed house to hear Finney preach. Nash, who was ordinarily a quiet man, stood and faced them with these words, “Now mark me, young men! God will break your ranks in less than one week, either by converting some of you or by sending some of you to hell. He will do this as certainly as the Lord is my God!” Having said that, Nash dropped to his seat, bowed his head and groaned in prayer. Finney thought his friend had gone too far. Yet by the next Tuesday, the leader of the group suddenly showed up in tears and confession. He trusted Christ. Before the week was out, almost all of the young men were converted. That kind of discernment comes only to those who have a lifestyle of prayer focused on God and are willing to follow his lead!

Conclusion:
The principles of a powerful prayer meeting begin in focusing on God and then following his lead! Paul would write his friend Philemon, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 1:4-6 NIV) Paul focused on God and followed his lead do you?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Hindrances to Effective Prayer - James 4:1-10

Hindrances to Effective Prayer - James 4:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 9, 2011 AM

We can let the littlest things in life frustrate us. A red light that doesn’t turn green fast enough, a slow checkout line, or just a bad mood! Have you ever tried praying at those times? I have. It is hard for me to do. I guess it is because my heart and thoughts are not in the right place!

There are hindrances in life, aren’t there? Sometimes these hindrances keep us from the full and richness of a personal relationship with the Lord in prayer. It can be a bad attitude, hurt feelings, not getting our way, ungodly behavior or several other things that hinder our time alone with God. God desires and wants to spend time alone with us in prayer. If progress in the Christian life depends upon our prayer, if we are commanded to pray, if promises on a cosmic scale are made to those who pray--what would a waiting Heavenly Father think if we refused to pray? James introduces for us this morning that we can be hindered in our prayer life.

READ: James 4:1-10

There is only one kind of greatness taught in the Bible--spiritual greatness. Prayerfulness characterized the lives of Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, David, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Daniel, Mary, Peter, Paul, John, and Jesus. Can you imagine any of these folks functioning apart from prayer? A life filled with the Spirit is packed with prayer. We discover that…

I. Relationship can be a hindrance to our prayer! (James 4:1-2)

1. You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:2 NIV)
1) Notice the problem these folks had, they suffered from infighting and conflict. They were selfish individuals! James writes, “You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” These folk’s relationship with one another and with the Lord was all messed up and so their prayers were all messed up! Paul commended the Corinthian church by saying, “you help us by your prayers!” (2 Corinthians 1:11) He knew the value of Christians praying for one another. He would encourage, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, [and] faithful in prayer!” (Romans 12:12 NIV) and, “Devote yourselves to prayer!” (Colossians 4:2a NIV) Why? Paul knew that our Christian relationship could be either a blessing or a hindrance to our prayers! Jesus related, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV) The idea is you have to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye!” (Matthew 7:5 NIV) Notice the problem is “against you” and not your brother! The relationship is broken because of you! When God’s people are united and praying for one anther they do not have time to prey on one another! In chapter 5 of James, we discover the extent of the relational problem these folks had. James writes, “Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged!” (James 5:9a NIV) The word “grumble” is another word for PRAYER! These folks had a relational problem and therefore a prayer problem! Relationship can be a hindrance to our prayers!

EXAMPLE: James reminded them, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray!” (5:13) How about your prayer life? Is it selfish and self-centered? How much of your prayer focuses on you instead of others? However, more importantly how is your relationship with the Lord and with your fellow Christian brothers and sisters? Remember, James warned, “The Judge is standing at the door!” If you have a hard time praying for one another perhaps, it is because your relationship with the Lord or others is messed up! Let me ask you, “What if your relationship with Jesus is like your relationship with fellow believers?” Relationship can be a hindrance to our prayer!

No one can expect God to move or work in his or her life with any greatness without the fellowship of prayer! It is a spiritual and physical impossibility. Just as prayerlessness is a limitation so can improper attitudes be a hindrance to our prayer. James tells us that…

II. Wrong motives can hinder our prayer! (James 4:3)

1. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NIV)
1) Selfishness in prayer poses a danger to the purposes God wants to accomplish in our lives! It contradicts Gods will! James related, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” This is an important concept for us to understand. I am reminded when the Israelites became so dissatisfied with what God desired that “In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them!” (Psalm 106:14-15) Their wrong motives hindered their prayer! Therefore, God gives them what they ask for and they suffer because of it! We know that when Moses’ sister Miriam prayed arrogantly to God, God dealt with her selfishness severely (Numbers 12:1-2)! Moses then has to plead with God to spare her life (Numbers 12:12-15)! Prayers offered from totally selfish and wrong motives cannot and will not be answered the way we desire! In fact, they may be answered in a way we like the least! Remember, James writes, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives!” What are your motives when you pray? We can become so convinced of what we desire that our desire becomes the answer to our prayer instead of God’s true will. Wrong motives can hinder our prayer!

EXAMPLE: We can so desperately want something to happen that what we desire becomes the answer to our prayer instead of God’s true will. We live in a day-and-age whereby we equate answered prayer to what best suits us. Bigger is better, easier is blessed, and our personal happiness must be God’s plan! We have become so in love with what is easy in life that we now equate it to our prayers as well. I am not suggesting that Jesus did not come to give us an abundant life, but what we define as abundant is not what God defines as such. Abundance for God imprisoned Paul three times and took his life, but established Jesus’ church! Abundant life for William Carey took 7 years for his first convert to Christianity. The abundant life of Lottie Moon was exemplified by self-sacrifice of her health and welfare to do the will of God! All of these were the result of the “abundant life” God gave them and each was a tremendous prayer warrior. Laura Story in her song, “Blessings,” touches on this when she rhetorically asks God, “’Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears. What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” Therefore, be very careful dear child of God and realize that wrong motives can hinder your prayer!

Praying selfishly brings us into danger with God. He will not coddle us with answers hostile to what he wants to achieve in us. God will not risk putting into our hands a hazard in order to satisfy an unhealthy desire! In the world, you earn what you get, but in God’s kingdom, you get what you believe. That is why…

III. Our lack of faith is a hindrance to prayer! (James 4:4-5)

1. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NIV)
1) No prayer relationship is possible where there is no faith in prayer! Failure to believe means we think God is a liar, this why Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). The writer of Hebrews tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV) James understood this and he warned his readers, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” (James 4:4-5 NIV) When we live with one foot in the world all the time our prayers become useless. We begin to live our lives based on lucky coincidences and selfish concerns instead. We have no idea what God desires. In fact, we might be afraid to ask! God loved us to the point of sending his Son to die for us. When we become more enamored with the things of the world than our relationship with the Lord, our prayers are hindered! It displays a lack of faith. The answer to our prayers is not dependent on our feelings of the moment, our resources, our talents, or our training--it is squarely founded in Jesus Christ! When we trust the things of the world more than we trust God, our lack of faith is a hindrance to prayer!

EXAMPLE: I have met folks who actually think that because of the job they hold, how they provide for their families, or the friends and education they have God is blessing them! Nothing could be further from the truth. We forget that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. More than this, we can become so focused on ourselves we forget to ask God what he desires for our lives! This is where much of Christianity is mired today: self-aggrandizement. The prayers that changed a world have been displaced by the prayers of selfishly desperate individuals looking for personal happiness at the expense of their walk with the Lord. It displays a complete lack of faith in God’s plan and thereby a distrust of God himself! No wonder our lack of faith, is a hindrance to our prayer!

The function of faith is not just to get something done. Faith is the basis of a relationship with God. We can put our confidence in a loving caring God who loves us enough to save us from our sin in the first place! James was writing to a group of people caught in sin and it was hindering their relationship with one another and with the Lord! Finally, we discover that…

IV. Rebellion and sin is a hindrance to our prayers! (James 4:6-10)

1. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8 NIV)
1) Any sin is not just any sin, because any sin will hinder our prayers! The deliberate indifference to those in need will create a barrier to our prayers, “If a man shuts his ears to the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). James would ask, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16 NIV) Knowing we sin and doing nothing about it hinders our prayer also. David wrote, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” (Psalms 66:18-19 NIV) Hypocrisy in prayer reaps its own reward, Jesus declared, “But when you pray do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray...to be seen by men...they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:5)! We know that bitterness, anger, and other unhealthy attitudes will hinder our prayers. James warned, “That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” James then scolds, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” He commands us to, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NIV) Humility is not the natural state of humanity. We are prideful people. Sin, however, is foreign to the very nature and purpose of the kingdom of God! Anything that interferes with our life in Christ interferes with our prayers! Rebellion and sin is a hindrance to our prayers!

EXAMPLE: I think many of us would be shocked to see ourselves the way God does. Just as lovers can have blinders, Christians can be spiritually ignorant of their own rebellion. When we join in skewering our spiritual leaders, when we gossip, or when we deliberately excuse ourselves from serving in Jesus’ church he. I will never forget when OM Allen, a respected pastor, was talking with a young woman about her prayers and how they never seemed to help. She lamented, “I do this,” and “I do that,” and “I am involved in…” OM simply looked at her and remarked, “The ‘I’s’ seem to have the majority.” She was shocked. She was involved in what she felt she needed to be involved with, but she had never asked God or her church where she could serve. Her rebellion was why her prayers were weak. Rebellion and sin is a hindrance to our prayers!

Conclusion:
We have explored hindrances to our prayers. Our relationship, our motives, our faith, or our sin hinders our prayers. What hindrance keeps you from effective prayer?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The power that unleashes God’s will! - Revelation 8:1-5

The power that unleashes God’s will! - Revelation 8:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 2, 2011 AM

John Franklin, in his book “And the Place Was Shaken”, recounts a time in 1990 when he joined about 250 people in a two-week evangelistic crusade in Mombasa, Kenya. They were divided into teams of three, each team going hut-to-hut and house-to-house, presenting the Gospel. Franklin said he was in awe. “A few times in my life I have been in a service or prayer meeting where the manifest presence of God could be felt but never before in a whole city. Wherever we walked, the presence of the Lord tangibly permeated the land, so much so that often people were saved by the dozens.”

His team was walking down a dirt road that led to the next village. Three Kenyan men were seated on stools by the roadside. One inquired, “Excuse me are you from America?” Franklin replied, “Yes.” “Are you one of the ones who has come here to tell us the word of God?” “Yes,” he answered. The man responded, “We’ve heard that you’ve come, and we’ve heard of Jesus and His great power. Tell me, how does one become His follower? My friends and I want to know.” John explained the plan of salvation and the man immediately replied, “Let’s pray.” This happened again and again, and in all, 30,000 people responded to the Gospel in 14 days! However, it took preparation. Three months earlier, several churches in Mombasa began fervently praying. During the crusade, a different church prayed all night each night. Franklin joined one of the all night prayer meetings. He felt the presence of God in his hotel room so strongly when awoke that he did not rise; he simply slid out of the sheets to his knees in prayer. Following the prayer meetings, every single adult they witnessed to trusted Christ! Franklin and the others discovered that the revival that came to this city happened because of the corporate prayers of God’s people.

Last week I introduced this neglected subject of praying together. I made several statements that God has sovereignly ordained the corporate praying of His people, such that His mighty workings increase exponentially and His purposes are accelerated when we pray together. One writer, after studying the New Testament pattern of corporate prayer wrote, “The Early Church didn’t have a prayer meeting. The Early Church was the prayer meeting. In fact, in the Early Church, every Christian was a prayer-meeting Christian.” (Fred Hartley’s “Everything by Prayer”, page 12.) We need a renewal of prayer in our church, because it is the power that unleashes God’s will!

READ: Revelation 8:1-5

In Revelation, the Apostle John tells us of the things that he experienced and in the midst of earth-shattering events, there is this astounding pause in heaven, and a lesson about prayer that is amazing. The prayers of God’s people are portrayed here as the instrument God uses to bring this world to its appointed end. Like a tremendous symphony, there are three major movements in this apocalyptic orchestral drama of the last days and they all come from the power that unleashes God’s will! Let’s discover what they are...

Movement #1: The seven-sealed scroll is opened!
1. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17 NIV)
1) These verses refer to the opening of the seventh seal of a scroll. This is the final seal of the seven seals described by John in chapter 5 that he cried over because they could not be opened. The enormous significance of the contents of this scroll is such that no one in heaven, not the cherubim that continually declare God’s glory; not the resplendent Gabriel, God’s special messenger; not even the mighty archangel Michael, God’s heavenly warrior could open the scroll! John declares that when, “He opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” What were the contents of the scroll? It contains the unfolding of human history. Its opening would enact the final chapter for this world and those who live in it. However, remember that when the call went out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John wept because, “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it!” The delay was intentional. The elders near the throne tell john, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5) Only Jesus the Lamb of God could open it! When the call goes out, no one stepped forward but Jesus! Jesus alone has the royal right to open the seals of history and oversee its final unfolding, because Jesus died, and in dying, he ransomed a great multitude of saints from all the nations, and he alone has made them priests and established them as rulers of the earth! The cross is the key to human history! What happened there, nearly 2000 years ago will unlock the future revelation of God’s plan. The seven-sealed scroll is now opened by the Lamb of God!

Chapter 6 records what happens as Jesus cracks open the seals of the scroll like a mighty timpani of a heavenly orchestra, one-by-one. The actions of Christ in heaven bring thunderous blows against the earth the likes of which have never been seen. Each opened seal creates global cataclysm. And with each successive seal that is broken by Christ in heaven, humanity is brought one frightening beat closer to the end of time and the brink of eternity. Let’s take a look at…

Movement #2: The silence in heaven!
1. “Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” (Zephaniah 1:7 NIV)
1) In 8:1, the Lamb, Jesus, breaks the last remaining seal to the scroll. Once this scroll is opened, the wheels of God’s judgment will speed up, preparing the way for the Second Coming of Christ to earth and the end of all things. But before that occurs, something unusual takes place. Notice again, that when the Lamb “opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The hosts of heaven stand in awe with what is about to transpire with the opening of the scroll! The very next sound heard is in v. 5 when “the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake!” Wow! The raw sovereign power of God is about to be released in ways that will cause the cosmos to convulse and everything to change forever! So the inhabitants of heaven share a stunned silence. However, do not miss what we are being shown here in this moment. Jesus deliberately pauses to show John and us the gathered power our prayers have and the effect they create in history! In the previous verse we are told, “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Do our prayers really matter? Does praying together truly accelerate the fulfillment of God’s purposes? The answer is, “YES!” Leon Morris wrote about this passage that the prayers of “saints appear insignificant to men at large. But in the sight of God they matter. Even great cosmic cataclysms are held back on their account. And the praises of the angels give way to silence so that the saints may be heard!” (Leon Morris, “The Revelation of John”, page 119.) In other words, after the opening of the seventh seal we have a dramatic presentation of the importance of the prayers of the saints and the silence in heaven ensues!

Before the scroll is opened God wants to make clear to John and to us that the unfolding of the end of the world will happen by the prayers of the saints. The words that we often could barely utter, have reached their destination, and been interpreted into one final stanza! Which, by the way, brings us now to the final movement…

Movement #3: The supplication of the saints of God!
1. “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:15 NIV)
1) Again, look at verse 3, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.” Notice that John relates it is the prayers of “all the saints” that have been placed on the altar. If you wonder where your prayers go and what God does with them, here is one of the answers. They go onto the golden altar before God’s throne! How wonderful is that? In fact, we discover that incense throughout the Bible refers to people’s prayers and praise offered up to God! The Psalmist would pray, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalms 141:2 NIV) The author of Hebrews would conclude, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV) If mere human beings can invent a memory chip that holds countless millions of bytes of information, it is not difficult to imagine that the Creator of all things providing a way to preserve every prayer that has ever been prayed in the name of Jesus! We can only imagine the fragrance they offer in God’s throne room. Nevertheless, there will come a day when God will do something else with our prayers. Remember, verse 5 tells us that, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake!” These cataclysmic reactions of thunder, loud rumblings, flashes of lightening, and the earthquake simply represent the action of God from heaven on the world as the scroll of the end of the age begins to open and the seven trumpets and the seven bowls are poured out! However, in the midst of all the mighty power of God do not miss the instrument that brings this all about, namely, “the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne!” Your prayers, dear child of God, preserved, protected, and deposited before the throne of God on a golden altar! It is the beautiful supplication of the saints of God and the power that unleashes God’s will!

Conclusion:
What these verses in Revelation teach us is that the prayers of the saints are the instrument God uses to usher in the end of the world. Our prayers change the tempo of history in more ways than we realized before. Not one God-exalting prayer has ever been offered in vain. None of them is lost. None is a wasted measure or pointless. Not one heartfelt crescendo is forgotten. All are accumulated and heard at the very throne of God and placed on his golden altar until the final drumbeat!

The time will come when God will orchestrate his holy angel to take his mighty censer and fill it with fire from the altar where the prayers burn before the Lord, and pour it out on the world to bring all God’s plan to one final completion. And it will be because of your prayers dear saint in the Lord. Never forget that our prayers are the power that unleashes God’s will!
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This sermon was drawn from John Franklin’s, “And the Place Was Shaken” and from notes by Lloyd Stilly, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores. Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.