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“My house shall be called a house of prayer”

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My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.

Those were the words of Jesus, quoting Isaiah 56:7 after he had entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling, or profiting off of God’s house. The Jews had turned the house of God into something it was never intended to be, and Jesus had literally had enough and decided to do something about it.

Many of us have a problem envisioning the gentle Savior becoming angry, don’t we?Harder still is imagining the scene where Jesus overturns the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. Images of tables overturned, coins tossed all about, and men scrambling to get out of his way are not the images we associate with Jesus. [1]

Yet this was Jesus in action, whip in hand, taking authority over what had become the desecration of the temple. The temple was the place where men assembled for one purpose: to worship God. This was a sacred and a holy place, for it was here that men went to call upon the Lord.

Because their hearts were so far from the one true God, the Jews had long ago stopped worshiping Him and instead had resorted to using the temple as a means of profiteering. They knew that since the people came from many different areas to worship, that they would need to purchase animals to sacrifice.

Money changers would be needed to exchange the various types of money for shekels so the people could purchase these animals, and these money changers were all too happy to tack on a little extra charge for the privilege. In other words, they found a way to profit off of God.

A religious racket if you will.

This is what had infuriated Jesus that day. Worship now came at a monetary cost. If you wanted to worship in the temple, you now had to pony up and pay the going rate, otherwise you were left on the outside looking in.

The Jews had distorted the true meaning of worship. They had prostituted the worship of God in exchange for money. The new order of the day was ‘you wanna play, you gotta pay’.

All of this in a place designed as a house of prayer. A place where devout worshipers went to meet with God had been turned into a cold, dead, lifeless building operating under the marketplace mentality of those who knew not God.

How sobering is that?

I submit to you that it is no more sobering than seeing what we Christians have done to God’s house in our day. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the church has taken this to levels the temple Jews never dreamed of.

It didn’t start out this way, of this much we know for certain. The early New Testament church faced an unrelenting persecution levied against it by king Herod. It was this Herod who made James(the brother of John) the 1st of the Disciples to be martyred for Christ. [2]

Seeing that this pleased the Jews so much, Herod then took Peter and threw him in jail, intending to kill him as well. Knowing full well what had happened to James, the church then began an earnest prayer meeting on behalf of Peter. [3]

So intense was this prayer meeting that the Bible tells us that “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him(Peter). No two minute prayer read from a prayer book meets the definition of ‘prayer without ceasing’. No, this was praying on a whole different level. [3]

These men and women were praying around the clock for Peter because they knew that his very life depended upon them interceding with God for him. I liken this type of prayer to a woman in labor. Intense prayer, prayer wrought with tears of desperation and anguish.

If you know this story at all, then you know that God did indeed intervene. He sent an angel to deliver Peter from the prison, a pattern of deliverance that was repeated time and again in the early church. Their formula was simple: whenever a great need arose, the church banded together in one mind and one accord and prayed until they saw the victory.

These early believers knew something we don’t know today. They understood that God intended for his church to come together in meaningful and enduring prayer, hence the prophet Isaiah’s words that “my house shall be called a house of prayer”.

Is that how we would best describe your church or mine today? Are we gathering together in seasons of meaningful, enduring prayer as the early church did?

Unlike so many of us, they understood that the connection between God’s power and presence was solidified through prayer. Not preaching or teaching, not singing or music, not programs or activities.

God showed up when people prayed.

None of those other things are capable of bringing the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless they are first bathed in meaningful and enduring prayer. There is an anointing, or spiritual power that exists in our efforts when those same efforts are saturated in prayer.

There is no anointing my friends on the flesh-centered mindset that permeates so many of our churches today. Services that have been carefully designed to make you feel as though you are the most important thing in the building are devoid of any Spirit that “breaks the yoke” of sin. [4]

Do you see the difference? I have commented on this before, this absurdity of believing that someone can “lead us into the presence of God” or somehow ‘bring a word’ when they themselves never approach Him in prayer. Yet for some odd reason, God’s people seem to be content to have it this way. [5]

Could it be we don’t even know what we’re missing?

Prayer is the key whether we are talking about an individual or an entire church. Without it we are left to stumble along, guided by our own ideas and methods that can never have the impact they could have were they birthed in prayer.

I think it’s time that Christians everywhere were reminded of the fact that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting. This thing we call ‘Church’ began in an upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, when the Disciples of Jesus along with several others were filled with the Holy Ghost. [6]

My hope is that all of us would stop to consider that if the Church was birthed in a prayer meeting, wouldn’t it make sense that the Church should continue in the same manner?

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] John 2:15

[2] Acts 12:2

[3] Acts 12:5

[4] Zechariah 4:6

[5] Jeremiah 5:31

[6] Acts 2:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sounds of Silence in God’s House

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Have you ever felt grieved over something you cared deeply about, but had no control over? Lately, I’ve been feeling this way, like someone who just stepped out of the pages of the Old Testament.

Like Jacob of old, I have wrestled with the Lord over this post because I know as soon as it is read, I will be branded a critic of the Church. Unlike Jacob however, I have given up trying to hide my feelings any longer and admit that I am defeated.

Let me explain.

Whenever it became necessary for the Lord to deliver a message of correction to His people Israel, often He would raise up a man or woman and instruct them to go to the people and deliver the message. We refer to these servants as Prophets.

These Prophets are scattered throughout the Old Testament. Some we have labeled as “Minor Prophets” while others are called “Major Prophets”. All of them were called of God for a specific task and season in the history of Israel.

Of the many things these Prophets had in common, one was that they all shared a burden for God’s people. They bore this spiritual weight in their hearts because the people loved the pleasures of sin more than they loved God.

Oftentimes, as in the case of the Prophet Jeremiah, the magnitude of the weight they bore would reduce them to tears and cries of anguish. [1]

While I am certainly no Prophet, I can empathize with them because of something amiss among God’s people today. In fact, if I dwell on it too long, I become almost grief stricken. What is it that has me feeling this way?

It is the sound of silence in God’s house.

It is the realization that the church no longer desires revival; thus, she no longer travails in expectation of a new awakening. Rejecting the call from above to “come out from among them” [2], she has decided instead to align herself with the world, and in the process has rejected the Lord of Glory.

There is no longer a sound of weeping and anguish in the house of God over our spiritual barrenness, and the sound of this silence is deafening.

The church of Jesus Christ has married the world and thus has come under its spell. In doing so, the church is now more impacted by the world than the world is impacted by the church. Who can deny this truth?

We have sold our birthright.

I grieve because the church no longer wants God, but rather has discovered a way to carry on without Him. Remove the Holy Spirit from the church? No problem, hardly a soul will notice as we carry on with our regimented programs disguised as religion.

In our efforts to appease the masses, we have compromised all that made us unique, and our birthright has been auctioned off on the altar of pragmatism. We have copied the error of ancient Israel, who rejected the Almighty in favor of a flawed and imperfect king. [3]

I am distraught over the absence of Holy men and women of God, those who have been in His presence and now carry with them the burdens of a people gone astray. Where are those who have heard His voice, who have received the clarion call to sound the alarm and cry aloud for the church to return to its former glory? How long will they remain silent?

Incredulously, in the span of but a few generations the church has become little more than Sunday morning entertainment. Impassioned, God-inspired, soul searching sermons have given way to polished speeches that have more in common with the mantra of positive thinking than they do with the Word of God!

Instead of preparing our hearts for an encounter with the Holy One, we have created a sterile, guilt free environment where our hearts will never be pricked, and our conscious will remain unseared.

This environment is better suited for a coffee house or a nightclub, places where one never need concern themselves with being confronted with the sin that permeates their life.

We dim the lights and crank up the sound system in our efforts to mask the reality that we no longer walk in the Spirit, therefore we are resigned to manufacture a spirit of our own. The cheering thousands are proof enough that we have found the right formula.

Never mind that weeping and anguish of soul are no longer found in God’s house. The church now exists to make us feel good about ourselves, and all who enter its doors have entered a “Guilt Free Zone’. We have created a safe place where sin is never acknowledged or confronted. Come as you are and leave as you came.

We do not want revival. We do not want a return to the old paths. We do not want a fresh revelation from God as to the pitiful condition our souls are in. No, we want none of things because if we did, we would have them!

If the church wanted revival, it would have revival. It would pay any price in order to once again be endued with power from on High. But the church does not want revival because to have it means she would have to divorce herself from the harlot, worldly system it has aligned itself with.

The church is not inclined to return to the old paths, where the good way was [4]. To do so would force us to choose whether we will be hot or cold. To return to the old paths would force us from our lofty seat on the fence of mediocrity and lukewarmness, and we are quite comfortable there, aren’t we?

Instead, we want to be like the world in nearly every respect, while still calling ourselves “Christian”, and we will stop at nothing to accomplish this goal.

What has this illegitimate marriage given us? It has given us a parade of sexual predators in the church that has left untold thousands broken and bleeding in its wake.

It has given us a litany of ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ [5] disguised as clergy who reject the teachings of scripture in order to cozy up to the world, thus allowing every conceivable and base lifestyle to stand in the pulpit and declare their own twisted version of ‘truth’.

It has given us an anemic and sick substitute for Christ’s church, the very church He bled and died for. What is supposed to be His Body has been rendered powerless to stem the tide of sin and degradation that has enveloped it.

Such a church has forfeited its birthright and is no longer Christ’s representative on the earth. It is a counterfeit, and the deafening silence from within its lukewarm walls is proof enough that she is in danger of being rejected by the Lord. [6]

May God have mercy on us…

Ron

 

 

[1] Jeremiah is often referred to as the “Weeping Prophet because of his own words in chapter 9, verse 1: Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of my people!

[2] 2 Cor.6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.

[3] 1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us.

[4] Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in them.

[5] Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

[6] Rev. 3:16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.

 

 

Feeling Small in His Presence

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Today my family and I did something we always love to do,which was to go to the beach.At least that’s what the girls call it.For me,it’s all about the ocean.That vast,incredible ocean.While they can spend hours talking,picking up seashells,or just walking together I am transfixed by the grandeur of the sea.2016-11-09-13-34-46

The sea,with it’s timeless,repetitive rhythm of the tides that come and go as if they have been programmed by some Master craftsman to continue unabated for all eternity.

Never stopping,never slowing,but in a rhythmic pattern choreographed by Someone far greater than any of us.

I feel so small in His presence…

It is a world unto itself,something so vast and incomprehensible as to render the most prolific of writers utterly speechless.

Who can begin to describe the complexities involved when this was first placed into motion? Where is the mind that can trace back to it’s origin this cycle of ebb and flow?

It is here,in this place,that I sense Him in a way that defies all human comprehension.

For there is a Holy solitude here. Here,among the many people who have come from far and near to rest in the warm sunshine and to fall asleep listening to the sounds of the relentless waves crashing into the shore.This is a Holy place.

In the midst of all that is going on here,there is an unexplained sense of calm and order.

It is a solitude unlike any other,as if one can here “deep call unto deep”.

In the midst of this crowded beach I stand gazing out at this seemingly endless body of water called the Gulf of Mexico,and I am nearly overcome by the sense that I am surrounded by One who is greater than all I can see with my own eyes.2016-11-09-13-43-01

It is as if I hear His voice whispering to me that what I am witnessing is something from eternity past.Strong. Ageless. Timeless.

His voice,this ocean,the ceaseless tides,are all reminders that He is still in control of it all and that I do not have to fear what tomorrow may bring.

The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.  Psa 93:4 NKJV

We serve a Mighty God.He calls the waves and the winds to obedience.By His own decree we have been bought with a price and are now the Sons and Daughters of God.He has redeemed us and knows what every tomorrow will bring.Being God,there is no event that can take him by surprise or catch him unaware.

Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the se2016-11-09-13-47-14a, By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it.  Jer 5:22 NKJV

 

 

Lord,in your Presence I feel so small.Hide me under the shadow of your mighty hands.

May I never get so high-minded or proud that I forget just how great You are.

The Spirit is Speaking to The Church…

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Did you ever stop to think about how many times you’ve had to repeat yourself when trying to get your children to pick up their room or do their homework, or how many times you’ve said the same thing over and over yet no one seems to listen?

Ask any parent(or spouse!)and I’m sure they’ll agree that sometimes you just have to keep hammering home the point until they get it. Looking back I’d have to say I gave my poor mother an awful lot of grey hair because I had a tendency to do things my own way. Come to think of it, I haven’t changed much in that regard so I guess I’m just naturally hard headed.

Jesus knew a thing or two about repeating himself as well. Don’t believe that? Then read along with me and lets see how many times Jesus repeated basically the same phrase as He delivered a message to each of the seven churches in Asia.

Revelation 2:7 (NKJV)
7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:11 (NKJV)
11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
Revelation 2:17 (NKJV)
17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Revelation 2:29 (NKJV)
29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Revelation 3:6 (NKJV)
6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Revelation 3:13 (NKJV)
13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Revelation 3:22 (NKJV)
22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

If I did the math right that make seven times that Jesus said “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Seven times he admonished the church to open their hearts to receive the message that was delivered to them. Seems to me that this must be pretty important to the Lord.

What I find striking about this is that the Spirit of God knew the spiritual condition of these seven churches. So much so that He knew their shortcomings,their strengths and weaknesses,and yes even their motives. In short,nothing could be hidden from the Spirit because He is the Spirit of Truth.

Whether it be a church or whether it’s you or I,the Holy Spirit does indeed know us.Every part of us.What does this mean for us today? Well, if it’s true that God “changes not” then it’s also true that the Spirit knows us just as intimately as He did those seven churches nearly 2000 years ago.

Now, shouldn’t we be listening to His voice and acting upon it the first time?

Be blessed,

Ron