desperation (5)

Your passionate, powerful, privilege

Your passionate, powerful, privilege

You are not letting your passionate, powerful, privilege go to waste are you? Please stay tuned for a minute and I will explain this question. In this brief space we will review Jesus’ passion and power in prayer. It should whet your appetite for private and public prayer participation which will in turn have a similar effect on your friends.

Jesus’ private prayer practices and his answers caused his disciples to ask their great teacher for a lesson in prayer. His pattern covered the basics so thoroughly that many millions have memorized his prayer pattern. Fewer have studied and benefited from his personal prayer in John 17, asking the Father to unite us by his Spirit as an insider, and for us to publicly wear his badge of love which identifies us as his disciples. His prayer prepared obedient disciples for Pentecost and subsequent revival and evangelism.

Jesus’ unmistakable passion for his Father’s house of prayer for all nations fuels my own passion for prayer. He did not hesitate to cleanse the house of prayer from abuses, so that it could be redeemed for kingdom uses.  How many churches do you know in McKinney that open their doors daily to host regular corporate prayer, demonstrating prayer is their foundational, first priority? I am aware of one. There is a lot of room in McKinney for regular, creative, praise and thanksgiving-based prayer venues.

Personal, public, and persistent prayers of God’s people are desperately needed in our community and world today. Your prayers will be much more enjoyable and effective when they are praise- based, Bible- fed, and Spirit- led.  Since the Word of God IS the Sword of the Spirit, lets’ read, meditate, and pray some of God’s prayers, patterns, and principles recorded in His Word!  These, including giving Him thanks, are sure fire ways of praying in His will. 

All types of prayer are beneficial as illustrated in the famous ACTS acronym: Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; Supplication.  We have the privilege to join the 2 greatest intercessors of the Godhead; Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  “Who will say they are not right? Jesus Christ died. Yes, he was raised from death. He is at the right side of God. And he talks (intercedes) to God for us.”  Romans 8:34 “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb. 7:25  “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  Rom. 8:26

As we close our thoughts together, let’s review some attitudes of prayer that attract the Holy Spirit.  These include: humility, servanthood, brokenness, honesty, holiness, desperation, hunger and thirst for God, and vulnerability.  As you allow God to work such qualities in and through your life, perhaps you will rise to seek or start a prayer venue as a leader or follower to serve, inspire, and equip other body members in experiencing the vulnerability James instructs:   “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”   James 5:16

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Our pastor is preaching through the Sermon on the Mount on Sunday mornings. A few weeks ago he preached on the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” He pointed out that the word translated “poor” here means to be destitute. It can be used for a beggar who is absolutely dependent upon help from others. Poverty of Spirit is the heart of prayer.

We come to God because our help, our strength, our hope of salvation, our very lives depend upon Him.

Spiritual poverty is the starting place for prayer. “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Faith springs from spiritual poverty. “I come to You, Father because I know I cannot solve this problem. I cannot even understand the problems I face.”

The extent of my spiritual poverty is shown by the fact that I do not even know how to pray as I ought. I even depend on God’s Spirit to help me pray.

"Thank You, Lord, that You died for my spiritual poverty. Thank You, Father, for meeting my poverty with Your everlasting wealth."

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Holy Desperation

"The key of holy desperation for the presence and ministry of Jesus is required in order for us to move out of our complacent, satisfied existence. Desperation is the underlying fuel that ignites our hearts for unity, prayer, worship, and repentance. If we aren’t longing for Jesus our ministry activities will be routine and hollow. There is certainly no shortage of ideas, plans, methods, books, teachings, programs, and activities in the church; what we are suffering from is a drought of desperation for God!” Rhonda Hughey
Are we desperate enough for God and His presence? This is a good question for each of us to ponder. I taste the level of commitment necessary for city transformation whenever I am involved in a 24/7 House of Prayer. I remember how I felt after finishing a non-stop, one month 24/7 House of Prayer in Spain a few years ago. It was as if we stepped into the fire of God’s presence in that location in southern Spain. Prayer lives had been challenged. The question I had to ask myself at that time was:
How far am I willing to go? 
How desperate am I willing to become? 

It was time to proceed. Many of us had stepped in this far and the levels of commitment required were going higher. God had challenged us to a new phase, a new mountain to climb for His glory. He wanted us to go deeper in holy desperation. The battle had been great, but there was no turning back.
There was something so exceeding real and alive to that dimension of living. 
There was something so necessary and dynamic to that taste of unity between the churches. Suddenly we realized that we were in this together, and we desperately needed one another to touch that region of Spain with God’s glory. I began to value and love the body of Christ in all its’ dimensions as I had never done before. I began to understand what it meant to be members of one another. We had tapped into God’s wonderful plan for Kingdom living, and I never wanted to return to the old ways. God had brought me a step further in holy desperation during that time. I felt really alive with the purposes of God! 
We will not see transformation in our cities and neighborhoods until our hearts move into a greater level of holy desperation for God. Rhonda Hughey in her bookDesperate for His Presence shares about purposely pursuing God. She says:
“The decision to make a radical lifestyle change and realign our hearts with the Lord is a matter of our will availing itself of God’s grace and reprioritizing our time and commitments. We can willingly and purposely begin to pursue God! When we do, He responds, and the more time we spend in His presence, the more desperate for Him we will become. It’s an interesting dynamic; the hungrier we are for Him, the hungrier we will become for more of Him!”

There are ways we can evaluate our cities and our personal lives to see if they are on their way towards transformation. We can discern if the signs of transformation are present and increasing in our city. George Otis, Jr. gives several indicators of transformation. Below are some of these indicators adapted from his study. Take time to regularly evaluate your city and your personal life, and pray through these indicators. Most of our cities have a long way to go, but desperate prayer is the key. Study and pray these verses over the area where you live. Take inventory and prayerfully answer these questions about your own life regarding holy desperation.

  • The political leaders acknowledge their sin and dependence on God - 2 Kings 11:17-18, 23:2 and Jonah 3:6-9. Do I acknowledge sin in my own life? In what areas do I need to grow in holiness? Make a list.
  • The economic conditions improve - 2 Chronicles 17:3-5, Psalm 144:14, Isaiah 60:5, and Amos 9:13. Am I wise in my spending, and do I give to the Lord’s work?
  • Kingdom values are integrated into daily life - Ezra 10:4, Nehemiah 8:10, Ecclesiastes 10:17, and Acts 19:17-20. Am I practicing Kingdom living in my own life? See the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
  • Crime and corruption diminish - 2 Kings 12:13-15, Nehemiah 5:6-12, and Isaiah 60:17-18. Are there any evil practices in the way I live?
  • New laws are put into effect - 2 Chronicles 19:10 and Nehemiah 10:31. Am I obedient to the laws of God? Where do I need to grow in obeying God’s Word?
  • There is a decline in divorce, bankruptcy and suicide - Nehemiah 12:27-28, 43, Isaiah 54:11-14, 62:3, 7, Jeremiah 30:17-1, 31:11-13, and Hosea 2:15. How are my family relationships? In what ways am I seeking to help those who are struggling with marriage, hopelessness, or poverty?
  • The natural environment is restored - Leviticus 26:4-5, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Ezekiel 34:27, and 36:29-30. How am I helping, or hindering, God’s natural environment? 
  • Christians take responsibility in healing and helping their community -Isaiah 58:10-12 and 61:104. In what ways am I helping my community?   
  • Christians take revival into other cities and nations -2 Chronicles 17:9, Isaiah 61:6, and Acts 11:20-26. What is the level of my revival passion? Am I fervent for revival in my city and nation, or am I apathetic?  
We will not begin to see this kind of transformation in our cities unless we first become desperate for God. He wants us to become so desperate for His presence so that we want it more than anything else in the world. What does desperation look like? Let me give you a good example: 
A young man approached the Greek philosopher Socrates and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.” Socrates took this young man and walked him down to the sea. They waded into the water, and he dunked the young man under the water for thirty seconds. Finally he let the man up for air and asked him to repeat what he wanted. He sputtered, “Knowledge, O great one.” So Socrates dunked him under the water and held him there a little longer. He then asked the question again. After several dunkings and responses, the philosopher asked, "What do you want?” The young man gasped,“Air, I want air!” “Good,” said Socrates, “When you want knowledge as much as you want air, you shall have it.” 
In a similar way, God wants us to be desperate for His presence like this young man gasping for air. Many of us have faced moments of desperation in this life.
  • If you’ve just lost your job and have five children to take care of, you know what it’s like to be desperate.
  • If you are starving and are searching everywhere for a meal, you know what it’s like to be desperate.
  • If you’ve been saved out of drugs, have overcome alcohol, have lost a loved one or have lived through a terminal disease, you know what it’s like to be desperate.
  • If you remember what it’s like to be lost and searching for the answer and now know what it’s like to have found Jesus, you know what it’s like to be desperate. 

God wants us to seek Him desperately and invites us to seek Him with all of our heart. Desperation is one of the secrets to a deeper prayer life. Are you willing to respond to this invitation? The door is before you - the door of intimacy and the door to His presence. Let’s invite the King of glory to radically come into our lives and take over, asking Him to make us passionate in prayer. Are we not right at this moment in a place of desperation for the transformation of our cities and nations? How bad must things get before we become desperate?  
Nothing will happen without God. Let’s invite the King of glory in. Let’s say like David in Psalm 24:9-10: “Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty - he is the King of glory.” 
“Lord, we open the door to your invitation. Make us holy. Radically change our personal lives and reprioritize everything. We seek Your face. Make us hungry. Make us desperate for You and Your presence. Change our city. Bring revival to our nation. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
“To be desperate means to be without hope in your current condition and to know that in your own power you don’t have the necessary resources required to change it. People who are desperate become determined to find help, often taking great risks to meet their desperate need. In the communities where transforming revival has occurred the people of God were desperate enough to change their lifestyle and their priorities and to commit their time and resources, making everything secondary to the desperate pursuit of God in their midst. They cried out in desperation, and the Lord heard their cry.”  Rhonda Hughey

Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff
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When last we left Jonah, he was in the belly of the great fish. He was in a bad fix and a bad way. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “Nothing clears the mind like the certain knowledge that you will be shot in the morning."

That’s obviously true.

If a man knows he is going to be shot very soon, it has a way of clearing the mind of trivial details. You don’t worry about washing the car if you know you’re going to be shot at sunrise. Someone else can wash the car. You’ve got bigger things to worry about.

So it was for Jonah. But first he has to come to his senses.

I had the chance to spend some time with a man involved in ministry to students. Occasionally he is faced with difficult disciplinary decisions when the young people break the rules of the group. “I’ve dealt with everything you can imagine. Every sort of sexual sin. Cheating. Breaking the law. You name it, I’ve seen it,” he said. This particular organization has an established set of procedures in place to deal with those who get in trouble. And very often they are able to help the young people make amends and set their lives on a new path.

During our discussion the man made two comments that stayed with me. First, he has learned that lying has almost become a non-issue today. Everyone lies, and they lie all the time. It’s almost as if it’s not a sin to lie anymore. Perhaps it is a sign of postmodern relativism that we have come to accept that lying isn’t wrong. Or perhaps it is just a fulfillment of Romans 3:13, “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” After discussing how people routinely lie to cover up their sin, he offered this conclusion:

You can’t help a liar.

You can help anyone struggling with any sort of sin as long as they tell the truth. But you can’t help a liar because you can’t trust anything he says.

The situation is compounded by the fact that when most of us get caught, we confess as little as possible. And that leads to the second key point. The man said that it’s always a good sign when “they tell you something you didn’t already know.” If you knew A-B-C, but the person then adds D-E-F, you know their repentance is deeper than just “I’m sorry I got caught.” True repentance always involves coming clean, and coming clean means owning up to the whole pattern of wrongdoing, not just to the thing you happened to get caught doing.

Three Hard Words

Proverbs 28:13 declares that he who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." The Bible also says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6) or as Eugene Peterson puts it, “truth from the inside out.” It is very hard for most of us to come to this place of total honesty with God and with others. Most of us face a continual battle to be transparent in all our dealings, especially when we have sinned. You can make a good case that the three hardest words to say are “I have sinned."

No one wants to say that. We would rather do anything, including lying, to keep from saying those words. We’ll make excuses, we’ll rationalize, we’ll twist the facts, we’ll blame others, and we’ll say, “It’s not my fault” or “She told me to do it"or” So what? Everyone else is doing it."

The excuses never seem to end.

Let’s lay down a marker here at the start of this message. It’s a good mark of spiritual health if it is becoming easier for you to say, “I was wrong.” That’s a good sign because it means you are taking responsibility for your own actions. It means you are ready to get your life right with God. It means you’re ready to start growing again.  

They say that every sermon should have an application so let me give you mine even before we get to our text. Here’s what I’d like you to do. Take a Bible plus a notebook and a pen and find a quiet place. Then pray this simple prayer: “Lord, show me the truth about myself.” Those seven words are all you need to say.

Then wait for God to speak to you.

When we pray that way, the answer will begin to come from heaven. Little by little the Holy Spirit will show us our weaknesses, our faults, our mistakes, our bad attitudes, our foolish words, our pride, our arrogance, our need to be in control, our need to tell others what to do, our desire to have our own way, our anger, our bitterness, our lack of mercy, our lack of love, and our lack of compassion. I know from personal experience that if you wait long enough, the Lord will always reveal the truth to you.

It’s hard to do this. God knows that so sometime he forces the issue. Sometimes God puts us in places where we have to face the consequences of our own stupid choices.

He won’t take sin in stride.
He won’t say “Boys will be boys.”
He is passionate for holiness.
He loves us too much to let us go on in sin forever.

That’s a truth Jonah found out the hard way.

In Jonah 2 the disobedient prophet finds himself in the belly of a great fish. We don’t know what sort of fish it was. We do know that the Lord appointed the fish to catch and swallow Jonah alive. It was a divine miracle that the fish appeared at just the right moment in just the right place, with just the right appetite to swallow Jonah but not to kill him or maim him in the process.

Can you imagine what it was like inside that fish?  It’s dark, you can’t move around very much, the fish is swimming constantly, salt water washes over you, seaweed wraps around your body, and unidentified objects knock against you. One other thing. The inside of a fish really stinks. Plus it’s greasy, slippery, and the fish is trying to digest you.

Jonah’s Psalm

Jonah 2:1 says, “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God." While he is inside the fish, he composes a beautiful prayer that takes the form of a psalm.

First, he cries to God for help. “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (v. 2). No boasting here. He knows that if God doesn’t save him, he will never get out of the great fish alive.

Second, he confesses that God put him where he is. “You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas" (v. 3). Notice that Jonah doesn’t blame the sailors for throwing him into the deep nor does he blame the storm or the great fish. Jonah sees clearly that behind the ship and the storm and the casting of lots and the raging sea and the great fish, behind all of it stands the Lord of the universe. Jonah bows before God and says, “I’m here because you put me here." It is a great advance spiritually to stop blaming others for your problems. Jonah knows he must answer to the Lord alone.

Third, he feels like he is going to die in the great fish. “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head” (v. 5). There’s no way out unless the Lord brings him out. Apart from God, he’s Sunday lunch for the big fish and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Fourth, he remembers the Lord is his only hope. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord” (v. 7). Finally Jonah is acting like a true believer. After all the running away, after all the disobedience, after all the prodigality, after all the self-centered living, God has Jonah’s undivided attention.

God will do whatever it takes to bring us to the place where we remember him. He’ll stop at nothing. That includes calamity, sickness, loss, repeated failure and heartbreak.

Whatever it takes to get us on our knees is good for our spiritual growth. Jonah is saying, “Lord, I’ve been running from you for a long time, and now at last you’ve got my full attention.”

Fifth, he vows to serve the Lord. “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good" (v. 9). You can see the spiritual progress he’s making in this psalm. First, he acknowledges that God put him where he is. Second, he accepts God’s discipline. Third, he thinks he’s going to die. Fourth, he finally remembers the Lord. Then and only then does he vow to serve the Lord.

He comes to the great conclusion in verse 10: “Salvation is of the Lord." This is the hardest lesson for any of us to learn. Salvation starts with God and it ends with God. Some of us struggle a lifetime to learn that. Most of us have learn it over and over again. Some people never learn it at all. But there is no salvation, no deliverance, and no getting better until we realize that if God doesn’t save us, we will never be saved.

That’s the advantage of being in the belly of a great fish. It clears the mind so you can think about what matters most. Most of us would probably improve spiritually if we spent a few days in a great fish, or at least someplace without TV, radio, or the Internet. In the terrifying darkness inside the fish, Jonah realized the folly of fighting against God. As the wise man said, your arms are too short to box with God. He’s going to win every time.

What We Know So Far

Let’s wrap up the message with a few observations about Jonah’s journey so far.

1. Although he was a prophet, it had been a long time since he had talked honestly with God.

It’s amazing and frightening how easy it is for church people to go through life without talking to God. Why do you think Jonah prayed in the great fish? For one thing, there was nothing else to do. Without the regular distractions of life, Jonah focused on the Lord. People say to me, “Why doesn’t God speak to me?” To which I answer, “He speaks to you all the time, but you won’t slow down long enough to listen.” The loud clamor of life and the constant pressure to get things done, to meet our goals, and to cross off items on our to-do list, all of it conspires to keep us from hearing the still, small voice of the Lord.

But God knows how to speak to us. And he certainly knows how to get our attention.

It’s a good thing to be desperate if desperation turns your heart to the Lord. I can imagine few things worse than being in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights. But it is better to be in the fish and talking to God than on dry land boasting about your big plans.

You pray inside the great fish because if God doesn’t do something, you will die there.

But notice this. It’s not that the belly of a fish is inherently more dangerous than living in a luxury suite in a high-rise hotel. You can get into trouble anywhere. An earthquake can strike, a tornado can come, a car can veer off the road, catastrophe can strike at any moment. You can be singing a tune one moment and have a stroke the next. It happens every day. No one is immune to trouble, and there is nowhere on earth where you are truly safe from heartbreak, sadness, disease, danger and death.

2. God had to stop Jonah in his tracks in order to get his attention.

Notice the progression. In chapter 1 Jonah acts and keeps messing things up. In chapter 2 Jonah prays and things start getting better. Often our greatest problem is slowing down enough to hear God’s voice.

3. God delights to deliver his people from impossible situations.

Being trapped inside a great fish for three days and three nights is an impossible situation. Even after Jonah gets right with God, he’s still inside the fish. He’ll never get out on his own. So God works an amazing deliverance. Look at verse 11 of Jonah 2:

The Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

The same Lord who appointed the fish to catch him now tells the fish to let him go. By the way I checked out the Hebrew word translated “vomit” and it means . . . vomit. That’s a very good translation.

Some of you have heard of “projectile vomiting.” That’s what happens here. Jonah took a ride on the “regurgitron.” One moment he’s wedged in the belly of the fish, the next he’s flying through the air, and the next he lands on the shore, covered with shrimp cocktail.

All of it meant to teach him and us that salvation is of the Lord.

The Famine Always Comes

Jesus told a parable (Luke 15:11-31) that fits with the story of Jonah. A young man came to his father and said, “Give me my share of the inheritance.” So the father did, and the young man took the money, left his family, and journeyed into the far country where he spent his money on wild living. One translation calls it “riotous living.” He spent it all on wine, women and song. It all worked out until the famine came.

By the way, you can mark it down. The famine always comes sooner or later. You can have your fun and spend your money and live any way you like. You can throw off all restraint. But the famine comes eventually. When the money runs out, you find out that your so-called friends won’t return your phone calls. They were happy to party with you when you had cash in your pocket and a credit card to cover everything else. But when you tap out, your party buddies suddenly disappear.

Now he’s feeding the pigs, hoping to catch a little from the slop bucket. The Bible says when the prodigal son came to his senses, he said to himself, “Back home my father’s servants have plenty to eat. I will arise and go to my father and say, ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ Make me one of your hired hands.”

He began the long, slow, difficult journey home.
Ashamed and embarrassed of what he had done.
Wondering what his father would do.

He needn’t have worried. Jesus said that the father saw his son a long way off. That means he had been waiting, waiting, waiting for his son to come home. Don’t you know the folks in the village made fun of him. “Come on in, old man. That son of yours is gone forever. Don’t waste any more time on him. Give it up.”

But he wouldn’t give up. The father said, “I will not come inside. I am waiting for my son to come home.” Day after day, he waited, watching and hoping for a sign his son was coming home.

One day he saw it. A tiny speck on the horizon.

The father ran to meet his son while he was still far away.
He didn’t say, “Let him come all the way and then I’ll talk to him.”
He ran after him.
He couldn’t wait to see his son again.

Once a Son Always a Son

After his father had hugged and kissed him, the son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” That was the speech he had rehearsed. He was going to say, “Make me like one of your hired hands.” But he never got those words out. The father wouldn’t let him say it.

Why? Because once a son always a son.

A son at home, a son far away, a son in the pigsty, and a son on the way back home.

That’s why the father said, “Go get the sandals. Go find my best robe. Get the golden ring. Kill the fatted calf. My son who was lost has been found. My son who was far away has come home. Let’s get the party started.”

I’ve got some good news. The lights are on in the Father’s house, and the door is always open. The Father stands waiting for his prodigal sons and daughters to come back home. And he doesn’t say, “Clean yourself up first.” He just says, “Come on home. We can’t wait to see you again.”

He doesn’t say, “Prove that you are worthy,” because no one is worthy of the Father’s love. He just says, “If you are tired of living in the far country, if you’re tired of running away, if you’re ready to come home, the door is always open to you.”

What’s the hardest part about coming home? It’s that first step. Oh, how hard it is to take that first step back home to God. Prodigals are scared to take that first step because they are afraid of what awaits them on the other end of the journey.

What if there is no one to meet them?
What if no one is glad to see them?
What if they are greeted with a torrent of angry words?

Jonah and Jesus

They don’t understand that Jesus has paved the way home in his own blood. His death is so great and his resurrection so complete that nothing can be added to the value of what Christ did for us 2000 years ago. That’s why when Jesus himself spoke about this, he called his own resurrection the “sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39-40). As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish, even so Jesus was in the heart of the earth. As Jonah came out of the fish, even so Jesus came out of the realm of death.

The story of Jonah points us to Jesus, and the story of Jesus tells us how far God will go in behalf of guilty sinners. He sent his Son to the lowest place on earth, to the bloody cross of Calvary, the emblem of suffering and shame. And out of that shame he fashioned our salvation.

Now the door to heaven has been thrown wide open. Now all the reluctant Jonahs of the world can find their way home to God. Sometimes we sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” I wonder if we shouldn’t change just one word to get the full impact of this story:

Outrageous grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

The grace of God is not just amazing. It’s outrageous! It welcomes the worst sinners into the courts of heaven. It makes a way for even super-religious people to be forgiven of all their sins. And for the rebel who today languishes in the far country, feeling alone and forgotten, God’s grace reaches out and says, “Jesus has paid the price. When you are ready, you can come home to God.”

Father, we thank you that we don’t have to be perfect because if we did, who among us would qualify? We thank you that we don’t even have to scrape off the dirt of our own foolish mistakes. We couldn’t do that if we tried. All we have to do is turn and come home.

Lord Jesus, you are the Friend of sinners. We are so glad because you are the Friend and we are the sinners. Thank you, Lord, for this story because if Jonah can get a second chance, there’s hope for all of us.

Give us grace to come and courage to take the first step. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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I was recently with several of men who went to a Korean brother to ask about how to stir our churches to pray for our city. We were impressed with the prayer emphasis in Korean churches. Large numbers gather for prayer at 6:00 a.m. or earlier, seven days a week.

This brother was silent for a moment, and then answered, “We do not pray unless we are desperate.”

From there he began to tell us about the roots of revival among Korean churches. This movement of God began with heart broken repentance. One of the elders of the church in Korea stood up at a meeting and publicly confessed that he had stolen money from a missionary. This confession produced a season of repentance in churches throughout the country.

Over the years the Korean people faced hardships of poverty and oppression. The harsh Japanese occupation crushed the people. Then came the communist invasion and the Korean War. Millions of people died. Several hundred thousand families were displaced and divided. People turned to God in those terrible days. Those years of desperate prayer are bearing fruit to this day.

Finally, our Korean American brother pointed out that God has begun to send signals to America concerning our need for prayer. Are we desperate enough to see the signs of God’s judgment and grace before it is too late? Can you list some reasons God is giving us to call us to serious prayer? __________________



A Word from Jesus

A seven day meditation on the letter to the Angel of the church in Leodicia

(These excercises are designed to cultivate desperate prayer.)

Jesus gave the words of Revelation 3:14-22 to a church that needed to recognize its spiritual condition. Studying and meditating on these verses may prepare our hearts to turn to God in this hour of spiritual need. These exercises are set up to take one week. You may benefit by taking more than a week to study and meditate on them.


1. Begin by committing these verses to memory. It is worth the struggle for God to pierce your soul with His word. Spend at least 24 hours going over these verses, thinking about them in every spare moment. Record in a journal or make notes in your Bible the things God impresses on your heart.

DAY TWO (Verse14)

2. What is the significance of Jesus saying, “These are the words of the Amen”? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. Why does Jesus identify Himself as “the faithful and true witness”? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4. Is Jesus still the ruler of all God’s creation? ___________________________

5. What authority for your life should you recognize from these words of scripture?_______________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

DAY THREE (Verse15)

6. In verse 15 Jesus says, “I know your deeds.” How thoroughly does your Lord know your heart and life? _________________________________________ Ask Him to reveal things He wants you to see about yourself. Record some of them here. _____________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7. Rate your spiritual condition on the temperature scale below.

_____ Cold

_____ Hot

_____ Lukewarm


8. What does the Lord mean when He says, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth? What might that mean to us today? ___________________________ _______________________________________________________________


9. Jesus accused this church of saying they were rich, but they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Take some time to describe what Jesus meant as He applied each of these words to the church.

Wretched ___________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________

Pitiful _____________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Poor _______________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Blind ______________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Naked _____________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________



10. Jesus counsels us to buy from Him “gold refined in the fire.”

1 Peter 1:6,7 says we can rejoice even though we suffer grief in all kinds of trials. “These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

A Peculiar Blessing

The Lord sends difficulties to purify our spiritual lives. All of us face these things from time to time. Unfortunately, we sometimes miss their benefit. Here are four principles for getting God’s blessing from crises.

1. Recognize God’s hand in difficulty.

We often miss the benefit of trials because we do not see them as the hand of God. Hebrews 12:7 commands, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”

We always think troubles are evil, but the Bible teaches that God will use them for good. What troubles came to you today? _________________________ _______________________________________________________________

Did you recognize the gracious hand of God in them? ______

2. Submit to difficulty as God’s grace.

When troubles come we kick and scream, and resist them. Our Lord did not. In the garden before He was to be crucified Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Paul recognized in 2 Corinthians 12 that his physical trial was given to keep him from being conceited about his spirituality. Paul had prayed three times for the “thorn in his flesh” to be removed. The Lord answered, “My grace is enough for you.” So Paul said he would rejoice in weakness, because it meant God’s grace would rest on him.

Do you need to stop resisting something God wants to use in your life? ______________________________________________________________

3. Depend on difficulty to bear fruit in your life.

Romans 8:28 says “We know” that God will work all things together for good in our lives. Hebrews 12:11 promises that discipline produces righteousness and peace in those who have been trained by it. Will you trust God to use trials to produce spiritual fruit in your life?

What do you think God wants to do through the trials you are now facing?______ _____________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

What do you think God might be doing with the trials your family or your church faces?_______________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

4. Rejoice in God’s discipline.

James chapter 1 tells us to consider trials to be pure joy because of what God will use them to do in our lives.

What is your attitude toward the things God is using in you life? ________ __________________________________________________________________

Are you offering a joyful witness to people around you of God’s grace in the midst of trials? ____________


11. (Rev.3:18, continued) Next Jesus counsels us to buy white clothes to cover our shameful nakedness.

What should you be ashamed of before God? _____________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you remember what Adam and Eve did when they realized they were naked in Genesis chapter 3? They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. But God made coverings for them out of animal skins. You cannot cover your own spiritual shame. Only God can cover your sins with His righteousness. In Revelation 7, an angel identifies people wearing white robes as those who come out of the great tribulation with their clothes washed in the blood of Jesus.

Take some time to confess what you need Jesus to cleanse in your life. You can trust God to forgive and cleanse you from any sin (1 John 1:9).

12. We need eye salve to heal our spiritual eyes. In Psalm 119:18 David prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Spiritual blindness is a common problem in the church. And tragically, we often don’t even know we cannot see. Many things keep us from seeing what God is trying to show us. We don’t see because of pride. We do not see because of sin in our lives. We do not see because of our desires that blind us to God’s will. What keeps you from seeing God’s will and work around you? ______ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

13. Note that all three of these things are to be purchased. We must desire them enough to pay whatever they costs us.

What will it cost for your spiritual eyes to be opened? ________________ __________________________________________________________________

While grace is free, it will cost you something to receive it. It cost Jesus everything to take away your sins. What will you have to give up to seek His forgiveness? _______________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Are you willing to endure hardship, for God to work in your life? _______


14. “Be earnest and repent.” (Verse19)

Are you serious enough about the things God has been telling you to make adjustments in your life. What is the first thing God wants you to change? __________________________________________________________________

(Verse 20)

15. What does it mean for Jesus to eat with you and you with Him? ___________

16. Jesus is knocking at the door of your church. His presence can be frightening. You will no longer be in control. What do you think intimacy with Him will mean to your church ____________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



17. What will you have to overcome to walk in fellowship with Jesus? ________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

18. What will it mean to share His throne? _______________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


19. What does it mean to have spiritual ears? _____________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

20. This letter was directed to the angel or messenger who would speak to the church in Laodicea. Jesus concludes by saying “Let anyone who has ears, hear.” Do you know someone who might be willing to hear what God has been saying to you? Are you willing to talk to them about this?

After you have done this seven day meditation You may wish to lead a small group to pray together over these verses. Here is a guide you may use to pray through a scripture passage.

1. Say to the people, “Listen for a word, concept, or verse that strikes you as this passage is read.”

2. Read the scripture aloud.

3. Have each person share what struck them in these verses.

4. Have the people listen as the passage is read a second time. (It is good to have a different person read this time.) Tell the participants to think about what God would have them pray.

5. Go around the room again letting the people share what they think God would have them pray. After each person shares, ask the person before to pray for that person. Explain that they are not necessarily to pray for that persons requests but for the person.

6. After the one before has prayed, ask the person pray for the concerns that came to mind in the passage.

7. After each person prays, ask if anyone has a prayer to add to that persons prayer. Often another person’s prayer will speak to someone in the group. Let them pray before you go on to the next person.

8. After everyone has prayed, lead the group to sing something quiet and worshipful.

9. Finally, ask people to share what they believe God is saying. This will help them confirm God’s word to His people.

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