Prayer WORK

“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us…” -Nehemiah 1:5-7

While the context of this passage is written for ancient Israel, the spirit of Nehemiah’s prayer rings as true today as it did back then.  What you’re about to read comes from a broken, yet stirred heart for us to corporately SEEK the Lord.  To be honest I’m not satisfied with JUST the current Church seeking God.  I want to witness a MASSIVE influx of people YET to believe on Jesus for salvation!  We are told in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is patient and wants NOBODY to be destroyed.  It all begins with the Church, so let’s let the Lord start with US.

1Therefore, 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. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  -Romans 12:1-2

I don’t know about you, but I’m in CRAZY-desperate need of God and His mercy in my life!  I want to be the FIRST one to line up and OFFER myself to Him so that I may know His will for my life.  So please know I do NOT come from a perspective of “I’ve got it all together.” I DON’T.  But I know the One Who DOES!  I’m NOT here to judge (Matthew 7:1-5).  My hope is that we will follow His gracious call for us to remove ourselves from places of compromise and into His PERFECT will for His Church (2 Corinthians 6:17 & Isaiah 52:11).

This post is in the least a firm exhortation to LIVE RIGHT unto the Lord.  To some this will be an outright but respectful and gentle rebuke against current heretical beliefs and immoral permissions.  I cannot deny the fact that it may be difficult to read for many because it was very difficult to write!

I choose to identify with my own contribution to our corporate mess of sin, so that WE together might intercede in prayer and overcome the vices of our time with the strength of the Lord.

If my words have ever or currently do carry any weight with you, then I encourage ALL of us to humbly present ourselves before the Lord.  While many of us are most certainly saved by the amazing grace of Jesus, there is still something lacking in our daily pursuits of Jesus as a whole with regard to holiness and daily consecration to Him.  Our societal ills are the manifestation of that reality.  The sooner we accept and admit our fault in the matter, the sooner we can move on in rebuilding our broken cities and walls (Isaiah 61:1-4).

On Tuesday, April 28th, 2015, I set out to prayer walk around the US Supreme Court as they heard oral arguments on the issue of whether or not all states will be forced to recognize same sex relationships as “marriage” regardless of the matter of religious liberty and/or how the people legitimately voted in said states.  As many of us know, this is a hotly divisive issue and requires PURPOSED and proactive care to treat with civility and respect those who don’t share OUR particular view, right or wrong.  That’s what civil debate is for: to hear multiple views and conclude where truth is, at least that’s what SHOULD happen.  We are CALLED to this kind of gentle process.

As I began walking around the Supreme Court, I realized there was ALOT of trash left over from all the protesters on BOTH sides of the issue.  I wanted to continue walking in what I perceived as faithful prayer, but my attention kept being drawn toward a plethora of Starbucks coffee cups, ACLU “Just Say I Do” Water bottles, various soda bottles, numerous “Equality for All” signs, a protest program spread sheet, and a tri-fold gospel tract, amongst other smaller morsels of trash littering the sides and front of our Supreme Court.  It was then when a great dilemma hit me:  Who’s going to clean up OUR mess?  Although I wasn’t present during the heat of the bantering protests, I say “our”, because 1) We are ALL Americans; 2) I certainly land on one side of the issue. So the trash from that side of the argument may as well be my trash; and 3) The Supreme Court is the peoples court! Its OUR courthouse as a unified people.  That is, what is said in our court and what is decided matters for ALL OF US in our daily lives.  It mattered for the issue of slavery in our early history. It matters for mothers and their 50+ million babies who have lost their lives at the hand of “lawful” medical professionals.  No matter how one believes, laws and interpretation of laws directly impact our lives.

After seeing the garbage, I didn’t feel like walking back to our local coffeehouse to obtain trash bags.  I would’ve rather prayer walked, and not worried about other people’s trash.  After all, it wasn’t MY trash.  Alas, it was one of those moments where I felt the Lord nudging me to do so. I had the directive and the resources available to me.  So, I went back, grabbed 3 large black plastic trash bags and began cleaning up our national mess.  As I picked up each piece of trash I prayed for wisdom from God for the Justices and reverence for His 10 Commandments, which hang within the walls of our court room.  As I kept walking and praying, I noticed my prayer WALK transformed into a prayer WORK!

Each piece of garbage represented somebody’s hurt and pain.  Every printed page was somebody’s passionate view for life and society, right or wrong.  I began to see the validity of Absolute Truth in the trash, coupled with the validity of somebody’s feelings, at least from their own perspective.  I thought of the human elements that had gridlocked people into their current frame of mind, on both sides, including my own.  Each piece of trash told a story.  The “Equal Marriage: I DO” bumper stickers handed out by the National Organization for Women, was screaming, “if YOU can be married, so can I!”  And at face value, that seems reasonable.  Until one brings in the tri-fold tract litter piece, which tells the story of what marriage is and how God defines it from the Bible.  Here these pieces laid on the ground, silently opposing each other even after their holders departed the scene.

I Do...NOT

I was burdened with the wonderment of how we might be able to reconcile the CLEAR need to protect religious liberty so law abiding citizens are able to exercise their faith in a peaceful manner without the government telling them what they CAN or CANNOT believe, while still listening to and helping the person who feels like an outcast and “lesser than” because of sexual choices and/or perceived pre-existing conditions.

After filling almost 3 bags full of protester trash, I didn’t have an answer on how we could better reconcile our differences in the context of a free society, and I still don’t.  The only clarity I had was going back to the truth that we are ALL in need of hope and at some point affirmation as human beings.  I sensed my call to live at peace with ALL people as much as it depends upon me (Romans 12:18).  I am NOT called to compromise or give up my values, but to do my best to live alongside, if possible, those who would differ with my values.  However, when the state, or even a city government exalts itself above the God of the Bible, that is when I CANNOT live at peace with such an arrogant and depraved method of thinking.  Many have said forcing pastors to perform a same sex wedding would never happen, and yet, it has already begun as the Washington Times reports in an article titled, “Idaho city’s ordinance tells pastors to marry gays or go to jail”.  And yet in the midst of this, I’m called to love and lead with Grace and Truth, in Jesus’ Name.

SCOTUS Trash

I am not so naiive to believe that those who do not profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will give me the time of day to speak Truth with Grace into their lives, a part from the sovereign direction of the Holy Spirit.  So let me simply say this:

I hear you.

I cannot agree with any form of fully embraced homosexual lifestyle anymore than I can agree with heterosexual adultery or fornication, because my conscience CANNOT defy God and His Word.

I’m not perfect, but I’m listening.

I’m following my Great and Compassionate God’s example of how I can love with HIS eternal, and merciful love, while still instructing and life-coaching with His Truth.  Its not easy to navigate, but I commit to always enter this conversation with charity and grace for all.

So as to not be misunderstood by those I unwittingly offend simply by just being a follower of Christ, I say this to my Christian brothers and sisters and those who prefer a heterosexual lifestyle: Have we repented of our selfish desires and fleeting lusts disguised in the pursuit of “happiness”? Do we have any regard for the fact that God said He HATES divorce (Malachi 2:16)?  Are we willing to acknowledge that marriage was being assaulted by heterosexuals LONG before the gay marriage debate began, just as Peter J. Smith writes in his article titled, “Confessions of a Millennial Apologist,”?

I long for the day when we as a people humbly cry out: “Oh GOD! YOU ARE RIGHT! We are WRONG! Have mercy on us!  Forgive us and HEAL our land!”

Church!  How can we expect the culture and even our political leaders to support our “convictions” when we compromise our convictions from the Holy Spirit by allowing even “hints” of sexual immorality into our lives, let alone FULL displays of it in our behaviors and verbal affirmations of sin?

In no way am I excusing what God calls a “detestable sin” in Leviticus 18:22 (NLT), referring to homosexuality.  Not to mention the many NT verses that speak against it as sexual immorality, among others.  Ultimately, for those who desire to honor God according to the Truth of His Word, shouldn’t we choose to consecrate ourselves like Joshua and Hezekiah, and the New Testament disciples?

Wouldn’t this whole debate end if we could all simply grab hold of the heartbeat of God?  How do we KNOW His heartbeat?  From His WORD and IN His manifest Presence in WORSHIP!  It’s impossible to know God’s heart in the mass confusion which stems from a plethora of arbitrary feelings and philosophical pondering which has no firm foundation in fact or careful study of the Bible.

God certainly accepts ALL of us as we are, whether struggling with heterosexual or homosexual sin, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.  Forget SELF expression! Isn’t RENEWAL part of the Full expression of the Gospel?  Why is it reprehensible to many in society to proclaim that God TRANSFORMS us and makes us NOT better than others, but better than our old selves?  Who doesn’t want to be better than their old self? But the only way we can be better than the “old us” is to follow GOD’s WAY for us: Jesus.

I wish I could simplify this in a 140 character tweet, but how does one condense an age old moral issue in such a way?  This is way bigger and more complex than this or any other piece of writing can define, answer, or postulate.  That said, in a concluding tone, please allow me to define what I mean by “God’s Way for us: Jesus”.

Many Christians make the mistake of thinking Holiness is passé.  We arrogantly think that such an “outdated religious practice” was something only good for our grandparents and the Puritans of old.  We naively believe that consecrating ourselves, that is setting ourselves apart to God, was an “Old Testament” practice and has NO validity to a New Testament Church.  And yet the New Testament derives its meaning and fulfillment from the prophecies and unchanging principles of the OT!  Not to mention the disciples regularly wrote about setting ourselves apart.  Please observe the Scriptural progression from a few OT to NT passages:

5Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you.” –Joshua 3:5

5He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the LORD, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. 6Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They abandoned the LORD and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him.” -2 Chronicles 29:5-6

The Apostle Paul is CLEAR in both 1st and 2nd Corinthians that our BODIES are the TEMPLE of God:

19Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

And,

14Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:

“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.17Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.18And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” -2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT)

And,

3It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” -1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)

As if Paul’s instructions weren’t enough, Peter chimes in, again referencing Old Testament “logic”:

13So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” -1 Peter 1:13-16 (NLT)

I look at these passages and view our “ancestors”, that is our Grandparents and our Great-Grandparents, and those before them as FAITHFUL to God on a generational level.  If we are honest and consider Hezekiah’s exhortation to the Israelites in 2 Chronicles 29, we might conclude that WE are the generation who is doing EVIL in the sight of the LORD our God!  Look around!  What do you see?  BE HONEST with yourself and God.  In many respects we are not proving our repentance from sin with our deeds (Acts 26:20).  Our deeds are proving our acceptance and comfortability with sin.

Whether you think homosexuality is not a sin, or that divorce isn’t “that” bad, or that sleeping together before marriage and cohabitation isn’t completely horrible, or that even looking upon sexually explicit images isn’t really “sexual”, or that “little” lies are “ok”, I want to suggest we consider the following:

It would seem…We are more concerned with what people think than what God thinks.

It would seem…We seek the approval of men and women above the approval of God.

It would seem…We are more concerned with words of affirmation from mere humans than we are of God’s Word.

It would seem…We are full of ironic rushes to judgment against those who are simply speaking as heralds of God’s Truth and Love.  If one judges another for simply speaking what God has already spoken, because they don’t like what is being said, WHO is judging whom again? I lost track on that one.

It would seem…We are comfortable with living in the gray areas of “50 Shades of Grey”, because we’re content with the compromise of over 50 YEARS of gray “morality” that has been shoved down our throats since the sexual revolution of the1960’s!  It would seem we NEED a HOLY REVOLUTION of Christ followers who WON’T compromise any longer. How long until we UNITE in the relentless calling of Jesus to live HOLY and not casually?

It would seem…We would rather have the comforts of pleasure and short-lived peace and ungodly unity with unbelievers than the comfort and unity of the Holy Spirit and Eternal Peace of Christ.

It would seem…We are content with compromising our call to holiness in order to live in some vain pursuit of worldly wholeness with those who refuse to follow Jesus.

It would seem…We have exalted sexual immorality as a virtue in and of itself rather than exalting the One who makes us virtuous by His blood shed on the cross!

It would seem…We have permitted the Name above every name to be dragged through the dirt on our TVs within our own homes, in our movie theaters, and even in our churches because unlike Isaiah who had the courage to confess his unclean lips, our mouths are full of dirt!

It would seem…We justify our sins with the dead corpses of intellectualism and anti-christ philosophy, as if the natural learning of human institutions somehow possess the words of life, when the Word of Life already has revealed to us The Truth. As Romans 1 declares, we have exchanged the Truth of God for LIES!  Like a frog coming to a slow boil on a stove top, we are too lazy and blind to realize we are about to be consumed by the heat of the flames of our own making.

It would seem…We are the lukewarm church of Laodicea from the Book of Revelation.  We think we are rich, whether in our materialistic “blessings” or in the confines of our white-washed neo-religious learning tombs.  While we call out planks and sawdust among each others eyes, mutilating the Scriptures with heretical teaching and ideas, we only grow more spiritually fat, feeding off our accolades and applause of self-serving “service” to our fellow man, never considering that the Lord asks us to minister to HIM above all else.  One may declare their piety via their pursuit of “equality” for all forms of sexual immorality, but the reality is God has already spoken on the matter in His Word, and found We The People wanting.

It would seem…Religious Liberty/the 1st Amendment of the Constitution is dying in America.  Like the father of lies who gives partial truths to make the lie more easily swallowed, the service oriented “piety” of many is nothing more than a ruse to lure the elect of God away from following Jesus. As difficult and unbelievable as it sounds, many are pursuing doctrines taught by demons.  As Senator Padme of the planet Naboo declared in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause,” so also our liberty to declare God’s truth in a “free” and “open” society dies, simply because people are applauding and exalting what the God of the Bible has clearly called unholy and against His way.

It would seem…we have forgotten the SECOND part to “perfect religion”: PURITY.  Doesn’t James 1:27 say, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress AND to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.“?   Scripture is CLEAR that those who practice sexual immorality in ANY form, without acknowledgement of sin through repentance, will NOT inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9 & Galatians 5:19-21).  We are not only to AVOID all forms of sexual immorality, we are NOT to approve of those who live in such a way, and when we do, we too are in danger of the wrath of God (Romans 1:32-2:11).

My friends, this is one of the most laborious, difficult things I’ve EVER written.  I’ve had to write papers for Doctors John Wilson and Dennis McNutt at Vanguard University, so that’s saying a lot! Truth is, it hurts to I know I may face ridicule by those who don’t and WON’T understand, but again, I’m compelled to call us BACK to a place of humble submission of our thoughts and attitudes before the Lord.  When it comes down to it, I would rather obey and honor God, and hear His affirmation when all is said and done, than receive the present and ever fading applause of the masses.

Will we truly hear what the Spirit is saying and follow in obedience for the sake of our own souls and this generation?  Or will we keep treating the Grace of God as if Jesus didn’t have to die and pay a great price for OUR wrongs done in the flesh?  Will we rise up like David, take down the giant arguments against the knowledge of God in our day through the preaching and teaching of Truth in the power of the Holy Spirit and Grace of Jesus?  Or will we keep catering to and compromising with a world that in the end wants nothing to do with Christ?

Friends, we can no longer tolerate clear and blatant sin in our lives and in The Church.  Remember, it is not OUR Church.  The Church belongs to JESUS!  Many of us have mistaken our call to be loving and kind, as a call to affirm wicked and godless behaviors.  Such worldly toleration will choke the life of the Spirit out of any church or individual because it is knowledge that sets itself up AGAINST the knowledge and perfection of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  It is the controlling, sexually immoral spirit of Jezebel that Jesus warns His Church of in Revelation 2.

We are called to CALL the world to repentance FROM sin and to be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit and to make disciples in HIS Name.  We are NOT the “Editors in Chief” of God’s Word.  We are simply His messengers and ambassadors, representing the heavenly plea for men and women to receive LIFE, if they would so choose in Christ!  If we have compromised the holiness of Christ with sexual perversion, then what kind of disciples are we making?  More importantly, what kind of disciples are we BECOMING and for WHO, if we’re constantly and willingly denying the Truth of the Word of Christ?

Perhaps you say, “Well, that’s YOUR version of “truth” Mike.”

Perhaps.

And if its NOT just “MY” version?  If what I’m appealing to you with is led of God Himself?  How then should we live?

I have by NO means attained a standard of perfection, but on this matter, I gently urge my Christian brothers and sisters who do NOT view certain forms of sexual immorality as sin, to humbly present your heart and mind before the Word of God and allow Him to mercifully transform your mind into HIS way of thinking (Romans 12:1-2).  I appeal to 2 Timothy 2:22-26 and pray you will come to your senses in the Spirit of God once again. It is not good that we who profess Christ as Lord continue to allow IDENTITY IDOLS, whether sexual or materialistic, to remain in ANY seat of our hearts and minds.

I think of the quote from Abraham Lincoln, where he said, “With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Though the days we live in are becoming increasingly darker with the rise of the justification of sinful behavior, both IN and outside of the Church, don’t lose heart.  Remember, we fight with spiritual weaponry (Ephesians 6:10-18 & 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) through prayer, by denying ourselves, consecrating ourselves to the Lord and taking up our crosses daily and following Him (Luke 9:23).  Remain firm in the righteousness God has already revealed in His Word and His work on the Cross! Until Jesus returns to receive His faithful ones, may we be careful to walk in the Grace and Truth that Jesus came into this world with.

The next time you go on a prayer WALK, be prepared to do some prayer WORK in the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, which may mean picking up the trash of people you disagree with as you pray FOR them.  I believe this is one way the powers of hell CANNOT prevail against Jesus’ Church, just as He said they would’t.  They never have, they never will.  Who knows, God may yet bring one last great revival to America and heal our ever increasing, self-inflicted, national wounds.

 

 

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