IN-YOUR-FACE REVIVAL PRAYER

 

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1).

 

He first gave the “The Lord’s Prayer.” Then He told a story about a man caught by surprise with a late-night visitor. Middle Eastern hospitality dictated his desperation, and he woke up his friend with an urgent request for bread.

 

He received four clear “no’s,” but he doesn’t go away. Listen, we’re already ashamed to wake the guy at midnight. I would have left after the first, “Don’t bother me.” Still he stuck around—and got three more harsh negatives: “The door is already locked.” Does that sound like a “yes?” Then he says, “My children are with me in bed.” What happens if he gets up? I’ve put many a crying child to sleep late at night, then sneak out the door quietly, bump a chair, and the chorus returns in full volume. He is put off by his brash friend.

 

The final “no” would appear to shut him down for good: “I can’t get up and give you anything.” But the man doesn’t leave. And Jesus says, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (8). The word “boldness” is translated “importunity” in the RSV. The dictionary calls it “troublesome, annoying urging or demanding.” The ESV uses the word “impudence.” It means “rashness without thought of the consequences.” Not a polite word.

 

It is used once in the Old Testament (Greek Septuagint) for a prostitute who finds a victim late at night, “kisses him, and with impudent face she says to him…’Come, let us take our fill of love till morning…’” (Prov. 7:13). Hardly a complimentary expression!

 

That is what Jesus used for the brash intruder, and Jesus encourages us to pray like that. The situation called for a different kind of boldness, not polite but pushy.

 

We see this with the Canaanite woman who encountered Jesus (Matt. 15). She also received four clear no’s: first, the silence of Jesus, then the complaint of the disciples, then the words of Jesus about only being called to Israel, then an apparent insult from Jesus. She persisted, and Jesus healed her daughter at that instant.

 

Passivity kills. Brazen importunity gets heaven’s attention. Examples in recent history: Two sisters, Peggy and Christine (84 and 82) in the Hebrides Islands (1949) whose prayer brought down a mighty revival, and a group of students at Asbury College (1969,70), whose united prayer did the same.

 

Sometimes revival comes because the heart of God calls for it, like at Nineveh. It is unlikely that Israel was praying for Nineveh, or than that God would destroy it. But God prefers to save rather than to condemn (John 3:17). At other times, revival comes because God anoints people to pray. Extraordinary need calls for extraordinary prayer to release an extraordinary visitation from God. Let us get in God’s face until He pours out His Spirit in our city, our land, our world!!

 

IDENTITY AND DESTINY

 

“I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” Okay to say that as long as you don’t pull the “sinner” identity into your new life in Christ. “Sinner” is what we were. “Saint” is what we are. We have been given a new identity through the powerful work of the cross.

 

We are not schizophrenic. Otherwise, we set the bar too low for living in the power of the Spirit. Sinners sin. It is not possible to live apart from the way we view ourselves. If “sinner” is our identity, sin will be our behavior. Identity drives behavior. What we believe is how we behave. In other words, we behave our beliefs.

 

If your friend is struggling with anxiety, are you going to point it out to him? Or are you going to call him to his true identity in Christ? Only the Spirit can show us what a person needs; maybe it’s an admonition. More than likely, he needs to be called upward: “This is not who you are. You’re not a worrier; you’re a warrior. You fight for others. God is releasing you from a past of anxiety.” People usually know what they are battling. They need a friend who believes for them past their faults to their future.

 

Calling people to their true identity prepares them to walk into their destiny. Those with a skewed identity walk into a flawed destiny. Those who do not know who they are don’t know where they are going. Eagles raised in a chicken coup act like chickens.

 

If you are convinced you are a light, shine you will. Jesus declared our identity when He said, “You are the light of the world.” Then He called us into our destiny by exhorting, “Let your light so shine before men…” Had He led with the admonition without the statement of identity, we would have tried and waffled.

 

I grew up hearing the Gospel, and I embraced it. But I also heard that I was both a saint and a sinner, which I interpreted as meaning that sin was inevitable. It would be like playing for a team that never expected to win the championship. Win some, lose some. I thought it was holy to focus on sin; that way I could confess them and deal with them. My very concentration caused me to keep sinning.

 

Paul said that we become what we behold. I thought saying I was a sinner was a mark of humility, when for me it was an admission of defeat. I was failing to take seriously the work of the cross. Others may be able to walk that sinner-saint identity—I couldn’t. New Covenant Christians are consistently called saints, holy ones. It is an issue of identity, and by virtue of the work of Christ, we are identified as people in Christ and called to holiness. That sets the bar where it belongs. Am I making too much of myself? No, I am making much of the redemption of Christ on my behalf.

So if you want to walk confidently into your destiny, settle the issue of identity. Then go for it! (Email paulanderson@harvestcommunities.org for identity study in Ephesians.)

 

ROOTS AND FRUITS

Harvey struggled in ministry. His pastor observed over-reaction, anger, and control. He pointed it out, adding, “I see the fruit; I’ll guess the root. You grew up with an overbearing parent, one dominant, the other distant. You experienced tension and emotions were capped.” As the pastor spoke, Harvey’s wife cried: “You described his step-mother.” Harvey added that at age nine his parents said, “We’re getting a divorce. Take your pick.”

 

Roots help us understand fruits. A radio teacher said it this way: “Behind the deed is the need.” A deed showing rebellion may tip off a sad cause behind the effect. Sloppy work when mowing may indicate laziness, or it could signal a need for an on-sight dad. Withdrawal might indicate relational pain such as alcoholism in the home. Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33). Fruit identifies the tree.

Legalism sees fruit and reacts. Judgments trump understanding. Jesus saw the root and responded appropriately. Think Zacchaeus, Jesus was criticized for hanging with “a sinner.” People saw the fruit of greed and judged him. Jesus saw a man with history and destiny. As my mentor Larry Christianson said, “He looked past his faults to his future.”

 

Legalism says, “Believe and you can belong.” Jesus says, “Belong so you can believe.” He received Zacchaeus, giving him grace so he would open to truth. By making people believe first, we withhold grace until they have bought truth. This attitude can keep people out of the club. Jesus wanted Zacchaeus in. The people wanted a reason to keep him out. Jesus announced, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (Lk. 19:9). In other words, he belongs.

 

A survey done by George Barna discovered that the majority of Christians think the purpose of the church is for Christians to feel love and find fellowship rather than for reaching out. No wonder that most wait for outsiders to come in. Internal focus overrides an external call. Jesus’ bottom line was seeking and saving. When that becomes ours, it impacts how we receive people. We will go to the homes of people like Zacchaeus rather than expecting them to meet us on our turf. And we will learn to deal with the root underneath the fruit, enabling us to disarm those with love who accuse us of bigotry.

 

Legalism demands conformity, challenged by different people like Zac. It says, “Look like me, be religious like I am.” Grace invites people to a process of transformation to Jesus. Truth ranks high, but truth isolated from grace is brittle. Jesus didn’t mandate conformity from Zacchaeus before receiving him. The grace Zacchaeus received opened him to truth. We don’t have a record of Jesus preaching to him. What we do have is the testimony of Zacchaeus: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (v. 8). Sounds like repentance to me. Grace transformed him from greed to generosity. Powerful! And Harvey accepted the challenge of counseling, graduated from seminary, and is doing fruitful ministry. Grace works!

PRAY FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray…’” (Luke 11:1).

 

Jesus modeled a life of prayer by praying, and they saw the results. They put two and two together and came up with power. They saw the relationship between His prayer life and His miracle life and made the request.

 

He had taught much about prayer—about persistence, faith, a generous Father, and how to use prayer to move mountains. Did the disciples learn to pray? Indeed—and they turned their world on its head.

 

In answer to their request, Jesus gave them a model prayer. He said, “When you pray, say, ‘Father’” (Luke 11:2). That surprised them. Too close, too personal. They didn’t speak the name of God. Now Jesus was telling them to call Him what children call their dad. But Jesus had a reason, and they would come to understand. We are servants of the Lord and children of our Father. As servants we own nothing. As children we are given all things. Good posture for prayer! Then Jesus gave them important items to ask for—that God’s name be hallowed, that His kingdom come, that we receive daily what we need, that we are forgiven and forgive, and that we not be led into temptation.

 

Jesus next told a story. He said, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (v. 5,6). Bad time (midnight), bold request (three loaves of bread), big need (I have nothing). Although he called him his friend, the guy on the inside was not friendly. He said four things that amounted to “NO!” “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked. My children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.”

 

Most people would have left after the first statement, almost everyone after the fourth. But desperation trumps defeat. He would not be refused, and his persistence won the battle—and the bread.

 

The verse that follows suggests just that: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For most people who ask receive…” Not exactly. It says, “For everyone who asks receives” (v. 9,10). Jesus doesn’t exaggerate!

 

Then He closes His teaching on prayer by focusing not on the persistence of the pray-er but the faithfulness of the One we pray to. In the same way that a child asks for fish at mealtime and never entertains the thought that he might be tricked, so we can expect only good things from the Father when we ask. How bold are you? How persistent? Asking proves you are a child. Asking persistently proves you are desperate. Desperation fuels powerful prayer. God is the rewarder of those who seek Him. The Holy Spirit is the answer to all our deepest needs. And the Father loves to give the Spirit. Ask Him now!

“TAKE OUT THE PAPER & THE TRASH”

 

…a line from The Coasters rock ‘n roll hit, “Yakety Yak” (1958). We haul garbage out Wednesday mornings. We’ve forgotten a few times, once when we had twenty-five people sleeping over. Trash overflowed like crazy. Neighbors thought we were. Once we were late—and I chased the truck in our van filled with garbage. Not real effective. No garbage—no need to put it out. Never happened at the Anderson’s.

 

Do you have regular trash collection at your home? How about in your heart? Any weeks when it accumulates and smells putrid? I returned from vacation once and found maggots in our trash.

 

GARBAGE IS

  • unconfessed sin that festers. Read about its affect on the body (Psalm 32:3-5).
  • destructive emotions like resentment, hostility, anything alien to the soul, like cancer is to the body.
  • an old newspaper, a banana peel, or anger. It may have served a purpose yesterday, but leave it overnight and like manna it rots. Dump it. Cain didn’t. Instead of taking the garbage out, he took his brother out (Genesis 4:1-7). Sad!

 

Ever discuss what constitutes trash? What the Spirit calls garbage we may hold onto. Scripture says to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (12:1). We might have reasons for not dumping trash. It’s hard to repent, and many of us are out of practice. Some prefer living in denial (“I don’t have any garbage”), or make excuses (“everyone’s got it” or “that’s just who I am”). Trash thrives in the darkness. We hide it in the basement—or deep in our soul.

 

GARBAGE NEEDS TO BE COLLECTED…

  1. Because of self-deception. “If we say we have no garbage, we deceive ourselves.” Others can smell it. Open your mouth and out comes cynicism, blame, or self-rejection. I didn’t realize that I still had garbage from seminary years before. It had not occurred to me that I needed to forgive a pastor. Once I pleaded with a young adult to dump the garbage that had accumulated in his life. He said that he couldn’t, and depression followed him around like a bad friend.

 

  1. Because trash can destroy us. Sharon hated her mom, and friend that dragged her forward for prayer. When I asked her if she wanted to get rid of garbage, she said, “I have to—it’s killing me.” Unforgiveness left untreated torments the soul (Matthew 18). If we have the symptoms—depression, passivity, inability to relate with others—look for garbage. Ask friends to help you.

 

  1. Because we don’t want trash on our minds. The more you dump it, the less you think about it. We are Christ-centered, cross-focused. Better to be Christ-conscious than sin-conscious. How? Dump the trash!

 

WE TAKE OUT GARBAGE REGULARLY

The early church practiced garbage collection: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). They discovered that walking in the light strengthened fellowship (I John 1:8) and released healing. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). We may assume that we are to confess to God. The context suggests confessing to one another.

 

Trash containers are collected weekly, but trash should be emptied daily. I use an acrostic to help guide me through my daily prayer (PRAY—praise, repentance, asking, yielding).

 

“Great, one more thing to do.” No, the gospel says, “Done,” not, “Do.” Jesus said, “It is finished.” He became the toxic waste dump of all humanity. He took out the garbage, all of it. Our job is easy compared to His. I can deal with garbage, because God has already declared me righteous in Christ and will finish what He has started. “Faithful is he who has called you, and HE WILL DO IT!”

 

 

MARRIAGE–A REAL KILLER!

 

My philosophy of marriage changed after I entered into matrimony. You’ve heard some lofty ideals. The purpose of marriage, simply put, is to kill you. The same God who engineered the death of His Son is planning yours, and marriage serves His purpose. Jesus talked about two crosses—His and ours!

 

I found this out early in our marriage when Karen called to let me know that she was coming home late and asked if I would cook. I was disappointed but resolved to respond honorably. As soon as I made that decision, I felt like Mother Teresa, Saint Francis and Billy Graham wrapped into one. Karen was fortunate to marry someone so godly.

 

As moments ticked off, so did I. The turkey was not the only thing cooking in the kitchen. I rehearsed the injustice. I had worked all day. She came home later than anticipated, and by the time she arrived, sainthood had gone out the kitchen window.

 

Couples are surprised to find that marriage tests them more than they had imagined. It necessitates dying. Two people mean two different ideas, preferences, schedules. When the Bible says that “the two shall become one,” it’s more than physical. You can’t buy what you want, and you can’t go to both New Mexico and New Hampshire on vacation. Like the cowboy in the saloon who’s been shot and does damage before he dies, we do the same.

 

Careful: your pride is showing.

 

I’d rather invest three hours in a couple after six months of matrimony than six hours before. They realize that marriage is not a piece of (wedding) cake. They don’t come in google-eyes; they are wondering, “Who is this person I married? Not quite the prince I thought. Sure has strong opinions.”

 

The cross stands at the center of the Christian life. Jesus didn’t wear it; He was hanged on it. And He told us that we must embrace ours: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). St. Paul said, “I die daily.” That must happen in a marriage for two people to become one—every day!

 

The goal of marriage is to make you holy, not happy. Happiness surfaces as a by-product. Jesus died to sanctify His bride (Eph. 5:26). What if we did the same in our marriages?! As we fall in love, we can’t imagine living apart. We expect to be treated as a king or queen. Surprise—we must die to ourselves for that to happen.

 

Happiness doesn’t come by pursuing it but by dying so you can serve your partner. The option is to choose happiness—and live apart. I hear it all the time: “I need to be happy, too.” What that means is, “I need to do as I please.”

 

If I meet with a couple for a 1000-mile checkup, or even one considering divorce, I ask two questions:

  • In what areas do you (not your partner) need to die for this marriage to work?
  • Are you willing to do that, beginning now?

 

Living is all about dying. Paul said it plainly, “Death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). What a wonderful gift to give to our neighbor, our sister in Christ—or our spouse! What a dead-icated marriage!

 

 

WHAT TIME IS IT?

 

Time is a friend, not a foe. We turn it into a tyrant by abusing it, not investing it. Same with money—good servant, terrible master. We don’t have enough time when we are casual about obeying God. Time becomes burdensome to perfectionists and victims. Don’t do what God has not given you to do. We have time to obey God. It is an illusion to think that you will have more time tomorrow. But you can have more wisdom and make right choices. You don’t have time not to fill the car with gas. Obedience is the greatest time-saving device. Unconfessed sin causes us to lose time, because God disciplines rather than directs (Ps. 32).

 

All time is not created equal. The Bible speaks of two kinds—chronos and kairos, the time on the clock and the time of opportunity. When Jesus cried because Jerusalem missed her time, He was not looking at His watch. God has His moments, and the Spirit can alert us. So “look carefully then how you walk…making the most of time…be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:15-18). Some time is pregnant. Bartimaeus was healed because he cried out. Jesus never passed that way again. Some wished they would have cried out. When it is harvest time, get the crops in. When it is time to repent, don’t rejoice. Catch the moment—ice cream with the kids. Live the present. “Now is the day of salvation.”

 

God is eternal. A thousand years is a day. God can tweak time; we can’t. But we can redeem it. We are headed for eternity. Time is a small parenthesis in forever. Living with eternity in view keeps us from being tyrannized by time. We put all our marbles in the age to come. Time makes new things old, like skin, but an eternal focus brings comfort. Time is an internship preparing us for eternity. Angels don’t wear watches. We relate to a God who lives in eternity. So we lay up treasure in heaven by investing money and time, two precious commodities that we only have in this life. We don’t spend money and we don’t spend time. People who know they are valuable also know the value of money and time. I don’t have time to waste, but I have time to invest. Self-discipline is self-caring. Whoops. Coupon expired. Generosity saves money; servanthood saves time. Truly!

 

Wasting time is sin, squandering a great gift. Go ahead and chill, but remember you are accountable to God. “So teach us to number our days…” Lost time cannot be recovered. Planning saves time. Worry is a time-waster. So is discouragement. Never open the door when discouragement knocks or you will lose time.

 

Time is going somewhere. It is not circular, as evolutionists propose. The universe is growing old and running out of time. So is Satan, who doesn’t look forward to eternity (Rev. 12:12). Time folds into eternity when the King returns. The past is past. Understand it, just don’t live there. Instant replay is history, which must give way to destiny. Shift to D, not R. Live in the present but with eternity in view. David said, “My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15).

 

GOVERNMENT AND THE ISIS CRISIS

 

Christians are called to extraordinary love, including those who hate us: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom. 12:14). Then Paul says, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (19). The next paragraph says that government, not individual Christians, does execute God’s wrath on evildoers (13:4). That would include dangerous Muslims.

 

While Christians love their enemies, government is instituted to protect us from our enemies. Government is concerned for the proper ordering of its society. That is not the church’s function. It is called to proclaim the gospel. Good government enhances that possibility. We are to pray for government leaders “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” (I Tim. 2:2).

 

Government bears the sword against those who threaten such security. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad” (Rom. 13:3; I Peter 2:14). Government is responsible for terrorizing terrorists. The government that does not guard its citizens is not fulfilling its God-appointed assignment to hold evil in check. “He who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom. 13:2). Individual Christians must be careful not to call down God’s judgment in a knee-jerk reaction against evil, but government is expected to—by the Judge Himself!

 

If terrorists surrounded my house, I would pray. But I would also call the police and hope they arrived in time to do their God-honoring duty by protecting its citizens from evil and carrying out God’s wrath on evil people (13:4). Muslim terrorists are servants of the devil. Their book tells them, not once but a multitude of times, to “kill the infidel”, which means all non-Muslims. (I have the Koran on my shelf). Mohammed was a killer. Jesus, prophetically called the Prince of Peace, never killed.

 

Jesus exposed the strategy of Satan (and of radical Muslims under his authority), “to kill, steal and destroy.” ISIS does this proudly in the name of Allah. They are the most obedient Muslims. If all Muslims obeyed the Koran, they would do what ISIS is doing, and some of them no doubt silently favor ISIS. A precious few are raising strong objection—most are perhaps afraid to. Those who do not favor ISIS are likely most open to the gospel, because they are ashamed that some people are actually doing what the Koran is telling them to do. And some former ISIS killers have come to faith in Jesus!

 

Government does not preach the gospel—Christians do. So we love Muslims and pray that they do not obey their Koran but instead come to obey the Word of God, which tells God’s people to love enemies.

 

The only way I would take in Muslim Syrian refugees would be to put them alone in a separated area, where they could not pose a security threat. Government must protect its people and its borders, which are divinely assigned (Acts 17:26). Allowing such refugees to mingle in our society is naïve and criminal. I do not understand why the United States does not declare war on ISIS for its multiple acts of war and do whatever is necessary to eliminate it. ISIS has threatened to do in America what it is brutally doing in the Middle East. Christians would have more favor with Muslims if our government rose up and stopped ISIS cold (like France began to do). That is what government does. Read the Book! (Romans 13:1-7).

 

WHAT ABOUT THOSE RESOLUTIONS?

 

Most of us feel a need for change. New Year’s seems like a good time for resolve. We threw away the old calendar. We’d like to toss some old habits as easily. Not a bad way to think, and there’s biblical precedent for doing it on New Year’s and other times, like…

 

Daily. The day started for the Hebrew the night before: “There was evening and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5). I carry in my Bible questions to review my day. Here are three: Did I live for others today? Did I miss any God-appointed opportunities? Is God pleased or do I need to ask forgiveness? Resolve to start the day right—as you hit the sack!

 

Weekly. Each Sabbath brought a new opportunity for a Hebrew. A day of rest meant reflection. Worshipping Christians find an opportunity in Holy Communion: “Let a man examine himself…” (I Cor. 11:28).

 

Monthly. Hebrews built their calendar around the moon. The new moon brought a fresh month. The thin crescent visible at sunset marked the day as holy. Time slowed down and work ceased, bringing rest and review. Some take a day a month for reflection.

 

Yearly. The Hebrew agrarian society harmonized with nature. Key seasons came at springtime and harvest. Feasts were holy days, marked by worship, celebration, and reflection. Rosh Hashana, Jewish New Year, is celebrated in the fall. It gave them (and still does) a time of serious introspection, confession, and resolve.

 

The God who says, “Behold! I make all things new,” gives us the desire to make changes as well. Businesses take inventories. Not a bad idea for us to do likewise. But…

 

We cannot change. Resolutions founded upon our ability fail. Paul acknowledged the insufficiency of will power (Romans 7:15,18). Resolutions should perhaps start with the confession, “I can’t.”

 

God changes us through the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news, not good advice. Jesus came because we couldn’t change. If we could, no cross is needed. God works from the inside out, not by grit but by the Holy Spirit. You might state your resolutions as an invitation. Rather than, “I’m going to exercise more,” try saying, “God, I am trusting you to work in me self-control.”

 

If we catch the rhythm of change throughout the year, we don’t have to put all our marbles in the New Year’s basket. Otherwise we cave in by Valentine’s Day. The calendar gives us a rhythm for resolution.

 

One final word: who we are determines what we do. Conduct follows creed. Those who only focus on the imperative, “I’ve got to change my eating habis,” don’t usually get results. The indicative points to the imperative.

 

The Christian life is more about receiving than doing. If we know that we are princes and princesses, how we live follows from that identity in Christ. Get the indicative down (who we are), and the imperative (how we’re commanded to be) comes more as an invitation than a standard. Identity drives behavior.