79. Overthrowing the powers of hell.

Prayer is a plea for God’s ordained order to prevail above earthly powers. We can overthrow hell-power by prayer.

When we pray the Word of God we can have on earth what heaven had already decided on. [Jack Hayford]

That is why we pray according to Jesus’ command:

Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19) [heaven=the unseen realm]

Prayer is the golden thread throughout the Bible and the most important kingdom dynamic. In days to come, it will be your joy to study the different prayers of the prophets and kings of the Old Testament. David and his fellow psalmists probably stand out as the royalty of prayer and praise. Solomon‘s prayer at he dedication of the Temple and his request for wisdom, Isaiah’s poetry-prayers – he sang his prophecies, Jeremiah’s outbursts of praise, Daniel’s prayers, Nehemiah’s shotgun prayers – the one sentence power invocation to the highest Authority. The few godly kings of Judah prayed about warfare and threatening neighbours with miraculous intervention.

The Holy Spirit will create the hunger for God in you. Prayer is all Holy Spirit work, not your own. If you do not feel the hunger, ask for it.

I saw my mother reading the Bible for hours and hours on end. I was not like her. I was very interested in other things and could not spend hours in Bible study, but I wanted to be so fascinated with it like she was. I prayed for it. I prayed for a hunger that would drive me out of bed, grabbing my Bible. Now when I wake up in the morning, it is with excitement for something new from God.

Prayer is a life of obedience

The definition of obedience is in the original meaning of the Greek word hupakoe. It comes from hupo = under and akouo = to hear. The word signifies attentive hearing, to listen with compliant submission, assent and agreement.

Obedience is a submission to God’s way and God’s time.

Greek has two words for time – chronos and kairos.

Chronos reminds us of the word chronology and indicates calendar time, measured time, counted time, the relentless and constant passing of time in minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades, centuries and millennia.

Kairos is the liberating concept of God’s time and is defined by Strong’s concordance as: opportune time, set time, appointed time, due time, definitive time, seasonable time, proper time for action, the fullness of time.

Obedience to the Word and submission to God’s timing will open your ears to receive revelational insight.

Our biggest challenge in life is to truly see. To see deeper and understand clearer. Therefore our first prayer is the prayer of the blind man:

Lord, that I can see – into my struggle and my circumstances to see You, the Giver.

Seeing brings us to the second part of the verse – seeking. When we pray to truly see, we can seek and find. It is as if the two words follow onto each other – see and seek.

Just allow the Word of God to wash over you.

 

Seek and you shall find, says Jesus in Matthew 7. What shall we find? We shall find HIM. This the Psalmist knew well.

 

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10)

 

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. (Psalm 14:2)

 

When You said,Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

 

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

So did the prophet Isaiah.

O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. (Isaiah 30:19)

 

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)

 

Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways. As a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. (Isaiah 58:2)

 

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Jesus is the Key, the Door, the Life, the Way, the One and Only. Do not let the reason and resistance of the post-modern society hinder your spiritual victory. This is not a narrow and exclusive way of coming to God, as they would like to argue. It is a wide-open invitation to the warmth and provision that you will find for every possible problem you might have.

Whatever the church may be, any denomination, God is working in there. Many people are hurt and disappointed by church people and church doctrine, but God will never abandon His church. There is always a remnant of upright, loving Christians, who walk in His love and care about you. We might think that a church is dead and irrelevant. God is patient and faithful and will always be there for people who draw near to Him in spirit and truth, far away from church or inside.

Never confuse organized religion with the church of Jesus Christ.

In seeking you will find the character of the Most High, revealed to you in the person of Jesus. In Him all the promises of God is Yes and Amen to the glory of God through us. [2 Corinthians 1:20] He is the miracle-working Messiah Who works in us exactly as He worked when He walked the earth.

This is gift from the powerful hand of the Son of God Himself. Just like the miracle in Luke 24:45:

And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

 

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Ask Jesus to reveal His character to you. Ask Him to reveal the heart of the Father, so that you experience revelation-knowledge in prayer – deep insight into God and your circumstances.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: Sing the Song of Moses.

 

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11

 

‘O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? Deuteronomy 3:24

 

O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. Psalm 89:8

 

Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms. There is none like You. Jeremiah 10:7

Seek and find Jesus and your ask-list will move into a new perspective. The list might change altogether. You will begin to ask other things that now seem more important.

Just for a moment we can swing back the armour of God, explained in Ephesians 6. We cannot pray without the armour. Prayer is the battleground. We war against invisible powers that have clearly defined levels of authority in a real, though invisible, realm of activity. The armour prepares us for battle – prayer is the means by which we engage in the battle itself, with God’s word being our chief weapon employed against satan in our struggle.

 

Dear Pebble pals – I will be away for two weeks. When I come back I will post the last pieces in this series. It is all about the words:

Knock, and it will be opened to you. In it we will talk about the events of Pentecost and how it is applicable in the church for today.

 

 

78. Only the very best – always?

Jesus’ response is very simple. One of the Jewish Rabbis asked, “Is there a man who ever hates his son?” Jesus’ argument is that no father ever refused the request of his son; and God the great Father will never refuse the requests of his children.

Jesus’ examples are carefully chosen. He takes three examples; Luke adds a third to the two Matthew gives.

 If a son asks bread, will his father give him a stone? If a son asks a fish, will his father give him a serpent? If a son asks an egg, will his father give him a scorpion? (Luke 11:12)

The point is that in each case the two things cited bear a close resemblance.

The little, round, limestone stones on the seashore were exactly the shape and the colour of little loaves. If a son asks bread will his father mock him by offering him a stone, which looks like bread but which is impossible to eat?

If a son asks a fish, will his father give him a serpent? Almost certainly the serpent is an eel. According to the Jewish food laws an eel could not be eaten, because an eel was an unclean fish. “Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you” (Leviticus 11:12). That regulation ruled out the eel as an article of diet. If a son asks for a fish, will his father indeed give him a fish, but a fish, which it is forbidden to eat, and which is useless to eat? Would a father mock his son’s hunger like that?

If the son asks for an egg, will his father give him a scorpion? The scorpion is a dangerous little animal. The sting can be exceedingly painful, and sometimes even fatal. In Israel there is a pale kind of scorpion, which, when folded up, would look exactly like an egg. If a son asks for an egg, will his father mock him by handing him a biting scorpion?

God will never refuse our prayers; and God will never mock our prayers.

The Greeks had their stories about the gods who answered men’s prayers, but the answer was an answer with a twist, a double-edged gift. Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Tithonus a mortal youth, so the Greek story ran. Zeus, the king of the gods, offered her any gift that she might choose for her mortal lover. Aurora very naturally chose that Tithonus might live forever; but she had forgotten to ask that Tithonus might remain for ever young; and so Tithonus grew older and older and older, and could never die, and the gift became a curse.

Any man who prays is bound to want to know to what kind of God he is praying. He wants to know in what kind of atmosphere his prayers will be heard. Is he praying to a grudging God out of whom every gift has to be squeezed and coerced? Is he praying to a mocking God whose gifts may well be double-edged? Is he praying to an angry God who must be appeased and calmed?

Is he praying to a God whose heart is so kind that he is more ready to give than we are to ask?

In Revelation the reception of our prayers is described. This is the atmosphere in which prayer is heard. Let us note Revelation 5:8 and never forget this verse.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

 Jesus said it. It is good and true. I believe it. Period. He said God is good and give good gifts. He said it is His Father’s joy to give to those who will receive.

Micah 7 says God delights in mercy.

The story of Jesus explaining the good gifts of the father to the son, explains en encourages why we should accept God’s way and timing as our answer. God will always answer our prayers; but he will answer them in his way.

Often if he answered our prayers as we at the moment desired it would be the worst thing possible for us, for in our ignorance we often ask for gifts which would be our ruin. This saying of Jesus tells us, not only that God will answer, but that God will answer in wisdom and in love.

Move in the Spirit. Move your thinking, move your resolve, move your attitude, to where you belong to receive the Father.

In Greek there are two kinds of imperative; there is one definite command, like “Close the door!” There is also the present imperative which commands a man to go on doing something or do it always. “Always close the door,” would be a present imperative. The words of Jesus here are present imperatives. Jesus is saying, “Go on asking; go on seeking; go on knocking.” He is telling us to persist in prayer; never to be discouraged in prayer. Is our desire such that we can bring it repeatedly into the presence of God?

This is the confirmation of praying without ceasing.

Jesus here lays down the twin facts that God will always answer our prayers His way, in wisdom and in love. We bring to God an undiscouraged life of prayer, which tests the rightness of the things we pray for, and which tests our own sincerity in asking for them.

A repeated desire, tests the depth of desire. Prayer will get rid of the baggage, the superficial worries and the fleeting cravings.

MOMENT OF PRAYER : Ask in the Name of Jesus. As if He is standing here and asking you – What would you like Me to do for you?

 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: We might always feel unworthy. If sin is the barrier – confess.

Hear the words of Jesus:

 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask in prayer. Matthew 21:22

 

77. In the secret place of the Most High.

It doesn’t sound like much. Kneeling by a bed behind a closed door and speaking to the God of heaven and earth. It is after all the image we grew up with, if we had the privilege of being raised in the home of praying parents. We might even have the memory of a mom or dad close to us, guiding and participating, probably assuring us of the angels around us in the room to protect us against the fear of the dark.

For the first century Jew, it was not a familiar image. Prayer was mostly in public at set times during the day. When Jesus taught the disciples and the audience of the Sermon on the Mount to call the revered and holy Jahweh Dad, He cut to the core of their most deeply ingrained customs on prayer.

Jesus came with another revolutionary idea. Praying in private – secret prayer.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5,6)

This was difficult. Most houses had very little privacy. Common houses had only two rooms, one for eating and one for sleeping. In summer months the family ate on the roof for coolness. The room Jesus mentions here, or the closet, like the KJV says, was a little storeroom where food and other household stuff were stored. It was a revolutionary idea to pray where other people would not see you. As if you should go into the “unseen”, out of the public eye into the secret place.

It is into the closet that the presence of the Father shines. It is not your cold heart and discouraged, battered soul that determines your prayer. It is the Father’s heart that determines prayer. It is how much He has for you, that brings you to the closet, not your failures and fear. His presence is not dependent on your righteousness. It is your acceptance of the Cross, the Truth, His beloved Son, which guarantees the intimacy of the closet experience. There you will find the joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is only your humble heart that He wants.

How do you go in there?

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart—[feeling or expressing remorse or penitence; affected by guilt]

These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

The best way to start is confession.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

The Greek word for “confess” is homologeo. It means, “to speak the same thing.” That is, to say about sin what God says about it.

Confession involves being honest, forthright, and not excusing yourself either to God or to your own conscience.

If the Father says, “I don’t want you to do that,” then you respond, “Lord, I don’t want to do that.”

Prayer needs to be honest – not accurate.

 MOMENT OF PRAYER: Ask – write down your wants, needs and worries. (Get it out of the way.)

Just make it practical for a moment. Take a glass of water in your hand. How much water is in the glass – 6oz or 9oz? You can take a guess on your own size glass. You can stand with it for a while with no effect on your hand or arm. If you have to hold it for an hour, your arm will get tired and numb. If you hold that glass of water for a day, the effect on your body will bring you pain and suffering. When you put the glass on the table, it will not matter how heavy the glass is anymore. It will have no effect on you! There could just as well be a mountain in the glass!

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

So – put it down, otherwise it will make you sick.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:

The God to whom we pray is a God of love who is more ready to answer than we are to pray.

Isn’t it wonderful that we have the Holy Spirit and can make any space our secret place? Our prayers are mostly secret in these modern days. Seek your privacy, create your space and put your burden at the foot of the Cross.

We have spoken about Nehemiah and his shotgun-prayers; those one sentence calls to the Almighty in the moment of need.

Our secret place is so easily accessible. It is only the move in our thoughts to take them captive and experience the loving presence of the Father, who is always with us. Surrender your imagination to God and “feel” His presence change the atmosphere around you, wherever you are. Imagine Jesus with you. He is there, but we “see” into the unseen with our inner being, our imagination. (Ephesians 1:18)

It is the safest place ever.

You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence…. (Psalm 31:20)

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
(Psalm 91:1,2)

 

 

76. Our secret power of life.

 “Ask, and it will be given to you;

seek, and you will find;

knock, and it will be opened to you.

 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7,8

The divinely targeted life seeks the way of the Lord revealed by the Spirit in prayer and obeys the will of the Lord as revealed in His Word. Jack Hayford.

Prayer is a life-style.

If you have it, you have everything else. I you don’t have it; it doesn’t much matter what else you have.

Andrew Murray writes this:

It is fellowship with the Unseen most holy One. The powers of the eternal world have been placed at its [prayer’s] disposal. It is:

the very essence of true religion,

the channel of all blessings,

the secret of power and life.

Not only for us, but also for others, for the church, for the world, it is to prayer that God has given the right to take hold of Him and His strength.

Ask, Seek, Knock – three words from Jesus himself. He is teaching the people of the old Israel in the traditional mode of instruction. The principle is stated and then repeated. The people there did not sit with notebooks. In fact they had very little or in most cases, no access to Scripture. The scrolls were carefully preserved and maintained by the Scribes and the Pharisees within the confines of the synagogue. They were the leaders, powerful and prescriptive. Ordinary men had no source of the Word of God available to them. They fully relied on their leadership to prescribe a godly life – and the leadership did not disappoint – they prescribed!

Jesus came from a nation that loved prayer. No nation ever had a higher ambition of prayer than the people of Judea. They ranked prayer as the highest priority in their religious duties.

But certain faults had crept into the Jewish habits of prayer. They are not the faults of neglect; they are the faults of misguided devotion. Prayer tended to become formalized.

There were many who loved the formal prayers and who repeated it with reverence and adoration and love. Inevitably there were also those who rambled through it, to hasten on to more pressing matters.

We Christians cannot really criticize. For everything that has been said about formally gabbling through any of the prescribed prayers of Judea, can be said about grace before a meal at the family table.

Repetition of the formal prayers can become something like a superstitious incantation of a spell.

Further, the Jewish liturgy supplied stated prayers for all occasions. There was hardly an event, which had not a formal prayer. There was prayer before and after each meal; there were prayers regarding the light, the fire, the lightning, seeing the new moon, rain, storms, when one sees the sea, lakes, rivers, on receiving good news, on using new furniture, on entering or leaving a city. Everything had its prayer.

It really was something very dear and beautiful. Every happening in life was brought into the presence of God. But just because the prayers were so meticulously prescribed and stated, the whole system lent itself to formalism. They focused on the right prayer for the right time.

The pious Jew had set times for prayer. The hours were the third, the sixth and the ninth hours, that is, 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm; wherever a man found himself he was compelled to pray. He might be genuinely praying to God, or he might be carrying out a formality. The Jews prayed standing, with hands stretched out, palms upwards, and head bowed in plain view of every passerby.

To these people Jesus teaches on prayer in the chapters of Matthew 6 and 7.

We live in the dispensation after the cross of Jesus and know that satan was defeated by the resurrection of Christ. Jesus taught His disciples a ground-breaking, theology-shattering prayer – to call God Father. For the Jews at the time, God was a distant, untouchable, holy and strict God-figure. They could hardly call Him by name. They prayed their daily prayers fulfilling the requirements, mostly in public. His name was written with consonants only. The vowels were left out in reverence.

They never dreamed of calling God the Father DAD. Jesus said that whoever have seen Him, have seen the Father, Creator-God, the high and holy One, living and breathing amongst us. John 14:7:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

Jesus WAS God the Father. The Trinity is integrated, not so detached as we might have come to think. It is as if God tore His own heart out and put it in the human body of Jesus and said – I’ll show mankind my heart.

He taught them to pray the iconic prayer in Matthew 6. It is a wonderful discovery to study the “Our Father” in detail and learn to pray from Jesus Himself. It is a powerful and most well known prayer, prayed in the most difficult and darkest circumstances over many centuries. It has been used and abused and has not lost anything in the process. Our Creator, our Maker is our dad, papa, pappa – the warmest closest words you can find for the man who is your father.

He is infinitely more than the best you can imagine.

Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.” (Matthew 19:17, The Message)

 Next time: Prayer in secret.

75. He is good, good, good – always.

What do you “see” when you think of God the Father? Do you have a picture of Him? Do you see Jesus or is He sort of separate? What is this Trinity-doctrine with which the theologians shape our God-concept?

Stay with me in these chapters of Exodus; in this most dramatic scene that will shape future generations in prayer.

Moses is in conversation with God. God has just told him that He would not go with them into the promised land with an uncharacteristic reproach: (33:1,3)

 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt…

 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

 Now suddenly they are Moses’ people. How could this happen? God knows what Moses can take? He is God’s good friend remember?

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

He is also all-knowing and stands outside of time. He knows what His reproach will stir in Moses and knows the plea that is about to put Moses’ life on the line.

Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” (Exodus 32:31,32)

Moses stands as a true and strong prophet. He puts himself literally between God and the people.

What a miserable mess is this consequence of their sin? God looks fierce and vindictive. He is angry and blaming.

Moses reacts without fear towards this almighty, punishing God. He pleads for the people with full knowledge of God’s holiness and anger. He even reminds God that they are not his people, but God’s people.

He pitches his tent outside the camp – a separation from sin and evil. The people have the opportunity to separate themselves from their deeds and go outside to Moses. Whenever Moses goes into the Tabernacle, the pillar of cloud, the symbol of God’s presence, descends over the door. He prays:

Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.(Exodus 33:13)

Even in the midst of great evil and sin, in God’s disappointment, His presence does not leave the camp. He is where His people are.

 He is, where one heart seeks His favour and grace.

MOMENT of prayer: Show me Your way, that I may know You and find grace in Your sight.

 PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: Moses brings the people the image of the Father.

They have experienced God’s disappointment and consequences of their sin. The gold they had to drink is symbolic of the deadly effects of our sinful deeds in life.

God knows what they need to see, when He shows Himself to Moses.

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you… (Exodus 33:19)

God will reveal His goodness to you in the fullness of the moment.

His character is the answer to every prayer.

In the midst of failure and disappointment, He showed His people His goodness.

When God revealed himself to Moses, He said of Himself:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in [unfailing] love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6 Also translated: goodness and truth [KJV & other translations]

These words can be summarized in the Hebrew word – hessed. which includes every possible aspect of covenant loyalty. When the people asked Moses, what God looks like, he said He looks hessed. Moses saw His character! God will do all that He is and said He would do. He is the Source of goodness and truth.

Whatever He does cannot be anything else than goodness and truth.

In prayer in the Presence, God will reveal Himself to you. In Him are all the answers, all the power, all the strength you will ever need. Get to God Himself. He is truth. He cannot lie. Where He is, every promise of the Word is real.

How can we pray to enter into the Presence of the Most High and sit in the secret place of the Almighty?

MOMENT of prayer: The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18

Contrite means feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming; ashamed, remorseful, hangdog, guilt-ridden. Remorse means a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: This is a once off – not a continuous life of guilt; quite the opposite. Confess and carry on to victory. Confession is a step forward, not wallowing in the cauldron of poisonous culpability.

Prepare to see God in His glory so that His goodness can pass before you. You can never doubt your life lived under the full impact of His glorious love for you.

The image of the Father? “See” the father of the prodigal son waiting for you to come home and running out to meet you with outstretched arms…

 

74. Delivered, baptized and … uh-oh, the desert?

Do you know the story? The drama of dreams, kidnapping, lies, slavery, prison, more dreams and then the palace of ancient Egypt at the climax of its civilization – gosh, no wonder Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote an extremely successful musical about it. God delivers Jacob’s family from famine in the story of Joseph, when he becomes the ruler of all Egypt under the Pharaoh.

The family lives in prosperity and over a period of 400 years   become a great nation. Many Pharaohs come and go and Joseph, the king of dreams, is forgotten. His descendants become a threat to Egypt and they are oppressed into slavery under an architectural ambitious Pharaoh. Their cry to God over many years is answered in the calling of Moses, a deliverer, to stand up to the Pharaoh with whom he grew up in the Egyptian palace. Disaster and death hit hard in Egypt and the Israelites are led in triumph through the Red Sea miracle into the desert.

There they are led by God’s presence in the cloud by day and the fire column by night for 40 years, a generation in Biblical terms. They have to learn to trust God in many ways. They are separated from the many idols of Egypt, who worshipped their cattle gods. After many, many years of desert dwelling – almost 40 – Moses leaves them in the care of his brother Aaron, to meet with God on Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments, to shape the moral fiber of God’s people.

At the foot of the mountain a very disturbing scene plays out. They have been schooled in following God’s way of doing things, but Moses stays away so long, that they think he might be dead. Under Aaron’s leadership they decide to worship God in their own way. With all their valuables they shape a golden calf (looking very much like the gods of Egypt they were supposed to leave behind). Exodus 32.

And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Aaron declares:

This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

(Exodus 32:4)

God tells Moses on the mountain that he needs to get down there. The party is wild, loud and fleshly as it always is with idol worship. God speaks his own anger to Moses and promise to abandon the stiff-necked people to go into the promised land on their own.

God never withdraws His promise – no matter what wickedness prevails. (Romans 11:29)

You know the story – Moses reacts in anger with such fury that he breaks the tablets on which God’s law is written and says to Aaron:

“What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”

Aaron’s answer is almost comical, and one could even have smiled, were it not for the utmost life-threatening danger of God’s wrath involved here.

 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

Moses makes the people grind the golden calf into powder and mix it with water to drink. They are miserable and sick. They stand accused and stunned by the wrath their “good intentions” has evoked.

The point of our story is in Moses’ plea to God for the people.

He knew that they could never dream of entering into the promised land, without the Presence of God. To this day, this is what defines true Christianity. The communication of our heart in submission to His directive, our chat to God to hear His heartbeat in His Presence in prayer, is our trademark.ham48

How will we function as powerful, effective, victorious Christians?

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” (Exodus 33:15,16)

MOMENT of prayer: “Please, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18)

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:  So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.     (Exodus 33:17,21,22)

 Our journey often feels like a desert wandering. We know God and desire to serve Him, but we think we can do it our way. Learn from this story. God’s yoke is easy and His burden light.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

In our desert, we want relief, more than learning and staying close to Him. We are so rushed, scurrying for the promised land with our own agenda and feeble thoughts of how our prayers should be answered. God has a master plan, better and bigger than you can ever imagine.

Do you know how to live in the cleft of the rock, under the cover of His hand?

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

Walk the desert, wait for the promise.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.

(1 Corinthians 2:9, The Message)

73. One day to another – no greater contrast ever.

I grew up with Good Friday. I cannot remember all of them well, but I know they were there. For a period of at least twenty five years, Easter weekend was engulfed in a church tradition called camp meeting time – a period of ten days every year when going to church and socializing with people from church were the main activities. We drove a few kilometers outside Johannesburg, South Africa to a huge piece of land where people from all over the country came to pitch a tent or park a caravan. There were also huts and wooden structures erected specially for this time of year.

Later during high school years and university, I studied through many Easter weekends, but even then I would not miss the “big” services – Good Friday morning and the celebration of the resurrection on the Sunday after. Camp meeting services were conducted in a rough and cold brick building with a corrugated iron roof. This structure could seat quite a few thousand people with a platform for an extensive band and the church leadership. The singing was heavenly and after camp meeting time, everybody went home with new songs on their lips, but more important, in their hearts.

Many testimonies of miracles were associated with this building. For most of the services the people were invited to write their prayer requests on pieces of paper. These little papers were then assembled in front and prayed over with the church leaders stretching out their hands over them. My mother once “saw” in the Spirit how one of the corrugated iron sections of the roof “opened” and the prayer requests were “flying” out as if a gushing wind were gathering them up to heaven. She knew they were all safely in the Hands of our loving heavenly Father.

My two elder boys still experienced camp meeting time. No one ever missed the last Sunday night “goodbye” service. April was usually rainy and cooler. We carried two heavy quilts into the service for them to sleep if the three hours got a bit long for them. Yes… three hours! We would sing for at least an hour, worshipping until the heavens opened in every heart and the intercessory prayer could start for a long line of needs.

My brother had a wooden structure put up, where we could meet after services and on camping chairs and picnic tables eat the most wonderful moveable feasts, carried in baskets and cooler bags from home kitchens. My boys called it: the Ark. On the last Sunday evening, we would choose one of the many church stalls baking “crepes”, which we called pancakes, but were more like the French crepes; the size of a dinner plate and wafer thin with cinnamon sugar and rolled. That would be the farewell-food, enjoyed while people came to say goodbye and sit a while for a testimony or two.

I will never forget the talk. People talked about God, all the time – freely, passionately and wholeheartedly. All ages, especially the veterans were walking worshipping testimonials to the goodness and provision of God.

Then there were the kids, joyfully bundled together in their own hall; the radiant Corner of Sunshine as it was called. A cousin of my dad was the leader and preacher and between him and his family they did the singing and the teaching. His messages were illustrated and fun; always making sure the children under 12 were learning about their good heavenly Dad, looking out for them faithfully. The farewell song of the Sunshine kids on the last Sunday night of the camp meeting, I sing to this day – the last verse of Psalm 23:

Surely goodness and mercy

Shall follow me

All the days, all the days of my life

And I shall dwell in the house of my Lord forever

And I shall sit at the table prepared for me

Surely goodness and mercy…

This past weekend was Easter and I am a million miles away in time and space from those years. Why do I remember?

I know why.

Many years later in adult life, I once attended a United Church Easter service in a town on the south coast of South Africa, called Hermanus. The reverent there was a well-known radio preacher, Martin Holt. I have always had a deep appreciation for Latin, which I learnt at school as well as university, partly since studying Law required knowledge of Latin. His sermon’s title was Vivit – the Latin for He Lives! He was so thrilled to bring this news to his congregation that his anointing rubbed off in this word that burnt itself into my mind.

I know why I remember that Easters of my past. No Easter, no church, no testimony, no prayer would be possible without the shout of the women that first Easter morning: Vivit – He lives!

This one fact changes everything. It is the contrast from a Saturday of darkness in death to the Sunday of light in life.

This week, is the week after the celebration of that day when Jesus said to Mary in the garden:

But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16:7)

Where are you these days after Easter? Are you caught in death and the darkness of the Saturday, just like Peter, feeling the failure of personal defeat and crushed dreams?

Jesus says to you, just as specially as he mentioned Peter, to go to the meeting place where you met Him the first time – your Galilee. He knew how utterly broken Peter was, after his betrayal and after the cruel crucifixion killing. He knew what effect His appearance will have on Peter.

He knows what you need, right now. He is waiting for you… He knows that your life will be changed when you see Him.

Go and shout it out – Vivit! – He lives … because He has risen from the dead.

72. Words of blood for my future.

Oh, the uncertainty, the dread, the misty outlook, the hesitant gaze upon a path covered in the fog of the time span called the future. To us it is not revealed; to God it is known. Like death, the future is a mystery belonging to God.

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Here we are encouraged to do the words of the law. God’s word is revealed to us and is our refuge regarding the future. He is perfect in His planning. He will never hold back what we need. Our guarantee for provision and protection in the future is the promises of God in the Word of God.

Just like Noah. God invited Noah into the Ark. (Genesis 7) He was called righteous, just like us. We are the righteous of God in Christ. It is not our own goodness, sinlessness or effort towards worthiness that make us righteous. It is the Cross of Jesus and His blood cleansing us from our sin that make us righteous. Any thought of unworthiness to approach God, is a thought planted from the pit of hell. I cannot say it enough and will continue proclaiming it as a core value of salvation.

 God was on the inside. In His Presence there is everything you need – safety, provision, care and protection for as long as you need it until you are safely directed to your next step in life. You have to make the decision to step inside. The ark speaks of a radical life change. The decision to step inside is a complete break with ordinary living and doing. It is kingdom living, in the presence of our loving Dad, settling down in His plan for our lives.

I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;  (Jeremiah 29:14)

God is present and present. We distinguish between manifest presence and omni-presence. Omni-presence is a fact. It is what the Bible tells us. Our Creator-God is everywhere.

Manifest presence is what we experience when we seek His face in prayer and recognize the change deep within us and in the atmosphere around us.

When I came to Canada the realtor told me the walls of the house were all wood. To me it looked like the walls I know – brick and mortar walls. They are plastered and painted. The wood is concealed behind the facade of paint.

I immediately walked to a wall and knocked. I heard something. My knocking experience was very different from anything I know of knocking on walls. I HEARD the wood. Nobody needed to tell me it is wood.

I was very close to the wall, so close that I could reach out and touch the wall. That is how I knew.

Do you hear the song of the Universe? Just listen to the song of creation, when you walk in nature?

My youngest song loved the old Imperials song by the Gaither Vocal Band. Some of the lyrics go like this:

I listen to the trumpet of Jesus, while the others hear a different sound,

I listen to the drumbeat of God Almighty, while the others just wonder around,

I hear the voice of a supernatural singer that only those who know Him can.

Practice your hearing skills, listen to your inner convictions and submit your mind and thinking to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Read your Bible prayerfully to experience the promise that leaps from the page.

 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7)

When I pray, when I seek His face – I experience His manifest Presence. I do not need somebody to tell me He is present. I am clearly and keenly aware of Him and my mind and senses respond to the obvious fullness of the atmosphere. In that atmosphere spontaneous tears flow and the Hoy Spirit ministers amazing restoration and exhortation.

The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, will show you life and how to make a living. He will bring you the branch of provision.

 Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth. (Genesis 8:11)

In the conversation with Him – prayer – you submit your next step to His guidance and plan. He has a plan for you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) In His presence His provision is clear.

MOMENT of prayer: Lord, I submit my future to you. I confess all my dread and alarm about the future. I know you are Jehovah Jirah – my provider. Your Word promises that You will never fail me. I now raise my expectation towards to the Holy Spirit and expect a future, exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond I can ever think of or ask in my wildest dreams. (Ephesians 3)

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: The content of my future is the promises of God – not world politics, my own circumstances, horoscope predictions or fear.

The way we conceive the future sculpts the present. It gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak we live listlessly.

Hope is a response to the future, which has its foundations in the promises of God. It looks at the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety into the future, but instead believes that God’s promise gives the proper content to it.

But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present; it is a stance in the present, which deals with the future. As such it is misunderstood if it is valued only for the comfort it brings; as if it should say, everything is going to be all right in the future because God is in control of it, therefore relax and be comforted.

Hope operates differently. Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future as a field of action, and as a consequence fills the present with energy.

 Eugene Peterson: Living the Message.

71. Come out – where are you?

Are you with me? Way, way back when the story of the Bible began, let us walk with Adam and Eve into the well-known disaster describing the birth of all destruction and devastation. Twisting the magnificence and glory in God’s promise of bounty and beauty, Satan sows doubt in Eve’s thinking and make her think she might be missing out on something. She eats of the fruit that would turn her into her own god and becomes the proud deity of her own destiny.

Eve gave Adam to eat; they saw their own nakedness and hid from God – as if it is possible to hide from the omni-present, all-knowing Father. That same day, not letting the sun go down on their devastation, God came and called in the wind: Adam where are you?

Do you really think He needed information about Adam’s whereabouts? Do you think the all-knowing, everywhere God did not know exactly where Adam and Eve were and precisely what happened in the garden that day? He knew off course! Still He came…. and called.

Sin did no end the conversation. No sin can ever end the conversation.

Today, this day, as through all the ages, His invitation rings true:

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is God’s Message:

“If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.

If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, The Message)

What an amazing word! This is the answer to sin. Get it out of the way. Come back into His Presence. No detours, no guilt, no hiding from God. Come back, call out – forgiveness is guaranteed.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Confess whatever you are hiding from God. If nothing comes to mind – ask the Holy Spirit to show you.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence? 

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (Psalm 139:7,8)

If God said it, it is life-giving and life-changing, powerful, miracle-working words. His words of forgiveness will lift you up and out of failure and hopelessness.

Why did God ask questions? Not to get information, but to get the exchange going. Adam had to talk it out, tell God why they are hiding, confess, explain and in spilling the secret, be healed and forgiven. Sin is so often a secret, unspeakable and shameful – so much that it holds you captive just by the sheer shame of it. Talking about it is rendering it powerless.

God has an answer, a miracle, for the biggest scandals you can think of. He will not allow satan to defeat you and your potential in this world. His plans are steadfast and sure.

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. (Proverbs 19:21, The Message)

Often, but not always, His first point of communication is our circumstances. He does not orchestrate it, but He uses the evil coming out of our wrong decisions for good. All the disaster in our world today is the consequences of sin and man’s wrong decisions. God judges sin continually in order to bring people to repentance. In any crisis of choosing right above wrong, discipline above easy, effort above letting slip, know that God is good, always, and will ALWAYS work our mess for our benefit.

What happens in the garden? God prevails – until His voice calls them out of hiding. He gets them to talk. The whole story is blurted out with blame and accusations. As always God’s judgment comes sound and clear, not to man – who will off course carry the consequence of sin, always with God by his side, but to satan, who will bear the ultimate defeat at the cross, when his head will be crushed.

God told the serpent:

“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals,

Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.

I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.

He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

 After this declaration of judgment, God did a very important thing.

He covered their nakedness His way. He killed an animal – I believe it was a lamb, but the Bible does not say – and clothed them with the symbolism of innocent blood flowing for the cleansing and covering of their sin. Their own efforts with fig leaves did not spare them the shame of their failure. Only God could cover them to live on the cursed earth, the brokenness that we still live in today.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: we are covered by the blood of THE Lamb.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Thank God for instant restoration and forgiveness to defeat sin and walk in victory.

By His blood the Garden is restored and we can walk with God in His Presence, entering into conversation with our Father as of old, before sin. Where He is, is peace and rest.

From this moment on, everything is focused on the conversation. Satan wants to break it off and God loves and forgives to restore it.

 

 

70. Only rumours …or firsthand?

There is another principle to prayer that we often overlook.

 God initiates prayer. Not us. He speaks to get the exchange going.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Every time the words “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” occur in the New Testament, Jesus is the one who is speaking. This is no casual expression. It is the divine Son of God saying, “Don’t ever close your ears or your heart to your need to be taught.

How we listen will determine our prayer life.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Let us start at the beginning.

The story of the Garden in the Book of Genesis is all about words. It is recorded in words and it tells about words. The first words ever created – big time – bigger than ever or anything we might know.

Words brought the world into existence, words flung the stars into space; words spoke the light into being and set the oceans their boundaries. Then God formed man from the dust, the woman from the man and spoke a blessing over them to give them authority over all things.

The ancient Hebrews believed words are a unit a unit of energy that goes out and accomplish something. Therefore the blessing spoken could not be retracted. Once Isaac spoke the blessing of the firstborn over Jacob, it could not be undone and Esau had to accept a lesser blessing.

God’s first words to man was spoken in His Presence in that beautiful perfect garden.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: God speaks. If He asks us to pray without ceasing, He will talk to us without ceasing!

Therefore My people shall know My name;

Therefore they shall know in that day

That I am He who speaks:

‘Behold, it is I.’” (Isaiah 52:6)

You cannot live on rumors of God – hearsay. Like Job (42:5) we declare: (The Message)

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!

There in the Garden He sets the scene for constant communication. He never ceased to speak. Not even sin could thwart the voice of God.

I am not sure what you think of prayer. Just the word might bring bad associations – forced prayer, awkward moments, heartless prayers, judgmental prayers, long windedness, religious rituals and so forth. Just think for a moment what is your intellectual and emotional response to the mentioning of prayer. Are you excited by the thought, or do you feel guilty? Are you hesitant or expectant? Do you feel indifferent; having decided long ago it doesn’t work or can you testify enthusiastically about recent answer to prayer?

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Express the desire to hear God’s voice.

Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden as royalty to reign over the magnificence of creation. They dwelt in perfect communication and entered into the rest God planned for them. Remember, their first day on earth was the Sabbath. One can never reign effectively and victoriously without entering into the rest of the Sabbath with God, relaxing and finding fellowship with Him.

That was the first, fabulous consequence of communication – rest and peace. Adam was a scientist. He worked every day and met God in the stillness of the evening. He named creation. It is science. Talk to anyone in the natural sciences and they will tell you they are still naming creation.

Then in the darkness that followed the decision to listen to that challenging half-truth of satan, came the distancing of shame and failure, fleeing from the Presence and conversation.

Satan questioned God’s words, and Eve added some of her own understanding when she said: we are not to eat or touch the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God never said not to touch, only not to eat. Sin comes to us in various ways, but it is the participation and immersion in it, that corrupts and destroys. It exposes our nakedness without the covering of God’s Presence.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:  Prayer is a conversation – initiated by God.

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39,41,42)

Pray with me:

Lord, open my ears to hear what the Spirit says to he church, so that may I know Your plans and purposes on this earth.

 

Pray without ceasing.