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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 next BIG thing

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I’ve been studying 1st Corinthians 2 where the Apostle Paul speaks about the gospel being presented in a demonstration of Spirit and of Power. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this subject matter, but for reference sake I’ll post a few key verses.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1st Corinthians 2:1-5

Knowing the capabilities of Paul to more than hold his own in any theological debate, I find it interesting that he would start this letter by saying he wasn’t coming to them using excellency of speech or wisdom.

We know that this man Paul studied at the feet of Jewish scholars, and was well versed in the Old Testament scriptures. He most certainly had attained a high level of wisdom, and his knowledge of various languages gave him the ability to converse with nearly everyone. He disputed with the Jews and Greeks frequently, clearly demonstrating to all that he was on their level, so to speak.

Yet he said that he pretended not to know anything except for Jesus and him crucified. In other words, Paul’s heart was for winning souls. He knew that the key to winning these people was to become one of them. So he left his superior knowledge, education, and skills at home so that he might be received by these Corinthians.

Do you think there might be a lesson here for all of us today? Might we be better soul winners if we were to lose the attitude? Is it possible that if we humbled ourselves and got down on the level of those who are so desperate for hope, that we might actually have something to offer?

Paul went on to say that his preaching was not done with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

What he meant by that is that he did not come to entertain them as though he were some great orator. The people were accustomed to hearing speeches given by politicians, sages, philosophers, and other learned men of the day. As such, they were always on the lookout for the next BIG thing.

If Paul had come to them as one of these, it is likely that they would have paid him very little attention. Paul, however, was hardly in the ‘entertainment business’.

The Apostle knew that the Corinthians had many voices vying for their attention. There was one voice, however that they had yet to hear from. This voice not only spoke at a level they could appreciate, but it was accompanied by a demonstration of God’s power.

These passages remind me of how desperate the Church is today for a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. When I say that, I am making a clear distinction between the Spirit and power of God as Paul knew it, and that which is passed off today as being from God.

We have a lot of voices in the world today who claim to speak for God and to operate in His power. Sadly, these voices are nothing more than con men(and women), who have figured out that desperate people will shell out millions of dollars in hopes of receiving their miracle.

This is not, however, the power that Paul spoke of. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul would have soundly rebuked each and every one of these modern day deceivers.

Unfortunately, the Church isn’t aware of it’s desperate state. Instead, she is only too willing to continue down the path towards capitulation to the gods of this world.

Such is the price that must be paid when the Church embraces the world and its standards, instead of proclaiming herself as the standard bearer of Biblical truth and righteousness.

Oh how I wish that pastors everywhere would once again teach this to their congregations. Instead, what we have is a modern day system of idolatry, where pastor worship has become the norm.

Beloved, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”(1st Cor. 3:19). Do not allow your hearts to be deceived by placing your faith in man. Whatever wisdom man has, it is temporal. It is fleeting, destined to pass away.

The power of God however is from everlasting to everlasting. It transcends the wisdom of man, indeed the natural man cannot begin to understand such power.

Paul desperately wanted the Corinthians to understand that their faith must not be in the wisdom of men….but in the power of God.

Instead of always searching for the next BIG thing, my earnest prayer is that we who know Him as Lord and Savior will come to experience His power in a very real and tangible way.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Translation or Demonstration: which do we need more of today?

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As of this post, there are approximately 100 versions of the English translation of the Bible. Amazingly enough, I am old enough to remember when you could count the number of Bible translations on one hand! My, how things have changed!

We now have versions that have eliminated all of the “impossibly difficult to pronounce words”. There are also versions that contain word for word translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . We have Women’s,Men’s, Teens, Tweens, Children’s, Student’s, Leader’s, and New Believers Bibles.

Browsing online or through a Christian book store reveals a plethora of KJV,NKJV,ESV,NIV,NLT,NASB,HCSB,ISV, and about ninety other translations.

Confused yet? You should be.

Why do we have so many translations of the Bible when statistics show that only one in five Americans actually read the Bible? If we are to believe the data, it seems obvious that our attempts to make the Bible easier to read have largely been for naught.

Of course some will argue that if even one person is strengthened in their walk with Christ through reading one of the above mentioned Bibles it’s worth it, and I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that the Word of God is being presented in a manner so easily understood by the masses.

Yet somehow, the sheer volume of Bible translations hasn’t equated to stronger, faith filled Christians. How could they be, when the percentage of Bible reading is so low? Or as the Princess recently told me, just because man changes a lot of the words, man cannot change the heart.

Could it be that our focus is misdirected? Do you suppose that even with all of the available translations of the Bible we are still missing something?

I believe that we are. It’s a key component of our relationship with Christ, and it’s written on the very pages of the Bible we aren’t reading! Consider the following from  2nd Corinthians,chapter two:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul has just revealed to us the key component I was referring to. Let me explain.

It is not excellency of speech, for Paul said that he didn’t come spouting great sounding words, nor did he come declaring his vast wisdom. He could have, but that wasn’t his focus.

He did not come to them bragging about all of his past accomplishments, or of his powerful connections. Again, he certainly could have done so, as his resume was filled with them. What he did profess however was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Paul did not speak as to appeal to the wisdom of men, though he certainly could have held his own with the brightest minds of his day. Being a master of the Law, Paul was well versed in all aspects of communication, yet he made no effort to appease the conscience of men.

What Paul brought was nothing that would appeal to the carnal nature of man. What he brought to Corinth was a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.

This is what I believe to be the missing, key component in our relationship with Christ: the demonstration of God’s power.

All of the things that Paul did NOT do or bring to Corinth, we have in abundance today. We have some of the most highly educated and knowledgeable men and women to be found anywhere in the world standing in our pulpits today.

We have men and women so eloquent of speech as to be capable of painting a thousand virtual masterpieces with their great swelling words, all designed to appeal to our carnal nature.

Yet what we desperately lack is a demonstration of the power of God. Please understand what Paul was referring to by the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”.

He was referring to the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, save the lost, and yes, even to raise the dead. Real power. God power. The kind of power that has become nearly extinct in our day.

While publishers continue to pump out more and more new Bible translations that go largely unread, the Church starves for a demonstration of the real power of God.

I must ask though, how can God reveal Himself in power when we don’t even know Him as the God of the Word?

Why is this so important? Paul gives us the answer in the last verse, where he says “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.

Our faith, that precious commodity that we are to cherish and nurture as a precious gift, must not be in any man. No preacher, no pastor, certainly not a “pay for your blessing” televangelist. Paul declares that our faith should stand in the power of God.

As many of you know, in the hardest times of your life faith that is rooted in God will stand. Likewise, faith that is rooted in man will last only as long as the good times last. God’s power is infinite, and His supply has not diminished with the passing of time.

My prayer is that all who read this will commit their being to God,not man. That instead of running to the next conference or the next hot off the press translation, we will run instead to the Word of God.

Regardless of the translation.

Ron