Monday, August 4, 2008

we pray and then...what happens?

So, OK, we pray. Then what happens when we pray? Forgiveness comes. Reconciliation happens. Changed hearts grow more aware. Changed lives. A different point of view. A new heart.

The Lord moves us into a place to reflect His Glory.

Psalm 93:1-5 The LORD reigns, He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns Your House for endless days, O LORD.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Facing the truth about the Church today, one would find that there is a lack of Spiritual discipline. Leaders are falling into unrepentant sin one after the other. Churches are splinting because sin was not addressed nor was disobedience handled in a Biblical way.

Back in 1988, a magazine that was sent out from Moody Bible Institute reported by it’s then president Joseph M. Stowell, “I find myself asking, “Is there something within our system that tends to produce neatly packaged products looking for a place to fall?” (p. 4, May 1988, Moody Monthly).

Are we setting ourselves up for a fall i.e. Pride, greed, lust? I think so.

Well, there is something wrong with our system today. It is the same thing that has been a problem from the start. Spiritual Discipline is not being followed in our Churches.

The Lord moves us into a place to reflect His Glory.

Jesus had commissioned His Followers to go into ALL the world and make disciples. That included baptizing them and teaching them to obey ALL that He commanded them (Matt 28:18-20). Christians are rarely asked to follow such a commitment.

Something happens to the core of a person when the whole community lacks or wavers on COMMITMENT. They tend to loosen up on the INTEGRITY they have in their relationship with The Heavenly Father. (Integrity means to be wholehearted in our commitments to God and His requirements.) Not WORKS but LIFE! It is not enough to say: “I believe!” What do you believe and how do you live that belief system out—even within your own household?

We look at the life of Job who was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8). Even after much personal turmoil & loss, he stuck to his integrity (2:3, 9; 27:5; 31:6). With all his heart, Job cried out to his God and said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (13:8).

There have been some in the Bible that do not give us such an example. Good old Abraham fell away from a Godly integrity when he fathered Ishmael by the slave girl Hagar. God called him back to a wholehearted trust in Genesis 17. He then recovered and his faith was made complete (James 2:21-22).

The Lord moves us into a place to reflect His Glory.

Peter fell away a few times. He denied his own Lord Jesus before the trial. Later Jesus restored him. He fell into sin later when he stopped eating with Gentiles. He feared some legalistic Jewish approval more than he feared God (Galatians 2:1-13). He was “not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel…” (14). He was restored and went on to finish the race well.

In Israel’s history, we see time and time again how they lost their integrity before God. (Numbers 32:11). They fell into unbelief and that plunged them into an epidemic of immorality, open idolatry and, finally, outright rebellion against God!

This did not happen over night. One thing fell that lead to another. Small issues at first that lead to more and more dismissal of what God wished for them. They—like us—allowed issues to take front row seat that should have been cut out of our thinking and life style long ago, be we lack integrity of heart.

In Hebrews 3:12, we find a warning: “see to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, un-believing heart that turns away from the living God.”

In our postmodern world today, Spiritual Discipline looks like an optional concern. It should not be because the Lord moves us into a place to reflect His Glory.

Dallas Willard wrote in Christianity Today/1980 “The best of current literature on discipline either states outright or assumes that the Christian may not be a discipline at all—even after a lifetime as a church member.” A Gallup poll uncovered “a self-centered kind of faith” among young believers …that is growing.

One of the areas that lack Church/Biblical integrity is found in the number of Churches that remain silent on the issues of separation and divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. When a church does speak to this issue with the voice of loving authority, troubled marriages are often healed. Even if they are not restored, the rest of the fellowship has the feeling of security and support in marital faithfulness by a church that does take a stand.

An old favorite of mine, Warren W. Wiersbe wrote in a book titled speaks to the heart of the issue in his questions: “The Integrity Crisis”“What’s been a mission on our local churches? Why have good people felt compelled to look for substitutes elsewhere.” “Let’s begin by noting a lack of authority in our churches. I mean by that, the absence of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over His ministries and His congregations” (p. 117) and I would add, over our families, too.

By getting back to the basis of the Faithfulness of God, we can see that when we look at the Tabernacle He had established, we can see that when man dishonored His Throne of Mercy in the middle of His people, Israel fell into moral ruin and into bondage to pagan lands. When His People returned to the Lord with all their hearts and served only Him, God delivered.

1 Samuel 2:30, God said, “Those who honor Me I will honor but those who despise Me will be disdained.”

Churches are splitting apart in alarming numbers. By one estimate, 10,000 churches in North America split every year. One missionary went to the field supported by seven churches, but four of these suffered such devastating splits that they could not continue their support. One church had only twenty people left in a three million dollar facility! A fifth supporting church was losing so many people following a split that their support was also in jeopardy.


Lack of Spiritual Power in the Prayer life of the Church!

Questions to ask yourself right now about you own Prayer Life:
1. Is prayer changing me? How or why no change?
2. Is Prayer making a difference in my life?
3. Is my prayer life bringing me closer to God?
4. Do I know God better now than I did a year ago?
5. Am I moving toward giving control of my life to God?
6. Do I consistently try to tune into His presence?
7. Are my prayers helping me deal with my own sense of self-worth?
8. Are my prayers helping me develop a more loving relationship with others?

Because our Christianity is so unique, we must join together to make Christ our life! Our prayers can make Him preeminence (or have supremacy) on our fellowship so that the world will see in our praying community authentic Christianity that is like Christ Himself.

The Lord moves us into a place to reflect His Glory.

There will be a two week absence from the author. See you all after August 17!