heaven (12)

PTAP: Assurance of Eternal Life

For both Muslims and Christians there is a great desire for the afterlife. This world and all that it offers still leaves us empty. We desire heaven. It is the work of Jesus on the cross that assures Christians their sins are forgiven and they have an eternal home in heaven when they die. Christians have confidence in the finished work of Jesus.
Muslims do not have Jesus' righteousness; all they have is the hope that Allah will allow them into paradise. They have no assurance. Even if they follow the Quran and the Sharia Law perfectly there is no assurance of a place in heaven. Pray that all that Jesus has done will be understood in the Arabian Peninsula. Pray that the name of Jesus would grow in honor. Pray that people in this region would so long for the assurance of heaven that they would seek until they find the way the truth and the life in Jesus Christ.

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:22-26

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Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

This is the first of the Beatitudes that may come close to making sense to modern Westerners. However that is because we really do not understand. This almost sounds like Jesus was saying, “If you are nice to people, they will be nice to you.” There is some truth to that. But it misses the reality of human nature and society. The world is not made up of nice people who will always be nice to you. If you only know those kinds of people your life is indeed sheltered.

I recently heard a testimony of a man who shortly after coming to faith in Christ heard Brother Andrew, God's Smuggler, talking with a prominent Near Eastern Sheikh who was ordering the death of 8 Israelis because 4 Palestinians had been killed. Brother Andrew ask him, “But where does forgiveness come in?” The sheikh answered, “That is only for those who deserve it.”

Much closer to home, I heard a woman tell about a man in her child’s Public School who mistreated and lied about her daughter. This was a horrible time for their family. Later she got some perspective on the events because the man was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She said, “I can forgive him because we found out his behavior was affected by the tumor. But I can't forgive other School Employees, and even friends in our church, who believed him when he said those things, even though they had known our daughter all her life.”

I understand her hurt, and why she said what she did, but that was not what Jesus taught. Christian Mercy does not end with those who are excusable. Later in this same chapter Jesus tells us we are to be like our Heavenly Father who sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust. We are even to love our enemies with the love of God.

What some of you are already thinking is important to understand. It is not true that your enemy will show you mercy, if you show him compassion. What then did Jesus mean? Like all of the Beatitudes this looks beyond the rewards given by other humans on this Earth. Jesus was pointing to the ultimate mercy of our Heavenly Father.

Toward the end of Mark 11 Jesus gives us one the most powerful promises of praying in faith. And then in verse 25 he extends what he says about faith with these words.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Jesus clearly links trusting God to forgive our own sins with forgiving those who have wronged us.

Matthew 5 concludes with the words, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” How in the world are we ever going to obey this command? The only way we could do it is through the gospel. When we receive Jesus Christ, we receive His mercy, His righteousness, and His forgiveness for all who who receive Him. Are you striving and praying to show His mercy toward those around you? We receive His power in our lives to love and forgive as He forgives. But we will not know our final Christ-like perfection until we stand before the Father in His forgiveness and grace.









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Recently my oncologist ask if I would add my experience to the ‘Patient Stories” on his website. I agreed, and began by looking at the stories already included there. I was amazed that out of 27 accounts only one had any mention of prayer or God or anything beyond this life. In 1 Corinthians 15:19 Paul tells believers that if our hope is only in this life we are of all people most miserable. This truth can be applied to cancer patients whether they are Christians or not. It is hard to be positive when you no you may very well lose everything you hope for. This of course is true for everyone, whether you have cancer or not. In Colossians 4:5 Paul speaks of the hope stored up for us beyond this life. Look with me at the context of this verse in Colossians 1:3-6

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God.

Our hope is stored in heaven for us. Our great treasure, our ultimate rewards are waiting for us in heaven. It is there that we will enjoy the embrace of our Lord, and hear him say, “Well done.”

The gospel gives our lives purpose, meaning, and hope beyond this life. and it will bear fruit in our lives and in the lives of others to the last breath that we take. If this is true, we do not need to escape our trials. God will give them meaning to the last moment we live on this earth.











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"Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn
and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!"
Isaiah 64:1-2
Call on the Lord to come down, burst out of heaven and come to the Arabian Gulf people. Ask Him that the rocks and mountains desert in the Arabian Peninsula would tremble at His presence, filling the land. As a spark sets twigs on fire and causes water to boil, may the coming of the Lord on the Arabian Gulf people be like fire that causes water to boil. May His coming have such a great effect on them that they react and boil with joy in knowing Him. May He make His name known in the Arabian Peninsula and may they fall on their knees before Him. Pray for the fame of the Lord to grow across the Arabian Peninsula and all His enemies would know of His fame.
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I am embarrassed to admit how spiritually insensitive I was in what I'm preparing to tell you. I did a great deal of research over several years and in fact completed the first drafts of an entire book on spiritual intelligence before I was convicted that what I had to say was not from God.

First God convicted me that my motives were not pure. I said some things in the book that were true, and possibly helpful to some. But I also secretly wanted to insinuate that I was smart too. God forgive me.

But the broader problem was the focus on intelligence itself. We have seen this, possibly to a lesser extent, in the focus on natural intelligence in education. In the early part of the last century Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman, who developed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, was obsessed with identifying children with exceptional intelligence. However, it turned out that a majority of the children Turman identified did not do well in life.

Scripture tells us that God is not as interested in bright minds as He is with tight thinking. Few things are as dangerous spiritually as loose thinking. 1 Peter 1:13 has a marvelous picture for this. King James Version translated this fairly literally calling us to gird up the loins of our minds. In the English Standard Version this verse reads,

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Here is the picture. In the ancient near East men wore flowing robes. There were a number of good things about this, but robes became a major problem if one had to run. If a man ran any distance at all he would soon be hopelessly tangled in the cloth. So if someone  knew he was going to have to run, he would gather sheets his robe up and tuck them into the belt around his waist.

Peter uses this as a vivid picture for preparing our minds for action. He links this word picture with being sober minded. Tightening the belt of your mind does not appear anywhere else in Scripture. However Peter uses being sober-minded twice more in this letter. 1 Peter 5:8 calls us to be sober-minded because our adversary the devil is stalking us. In 1 Peter 4:7 Peter says because the end of all things is near, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Peter calls us to sinch our minds up on things of Ultimate Importance. What do you think about? Is your mind fixed on earthly success, earthly comfort, earthly satisfaction? Sober minded believers set their minds on what God will ultimately do in our lives.
This requires us to tighten our minds on Ultimate Truth. I was once talked with a close friend about errors in The DaVinci Code. He liked the book, and did not think most of my objections  were important. Then I mentioned Jesus being married. He object to this. I told him there is absolutely no ancient reference to any such thing. The notion only rose from speculations in modern times. He answered that he wasn't getting into the history, he  just meant that was how he thought it should be. I suppose he assumed truth and history would adapt.

If we want meaning in this life we must direct the motivation of our minds to Ultimate Hope. I was just trying to think of a C.S. Lewis quote that said something like, If you aim at truth you will get comfort as well. If you aim at comfort, you will get neither. Some of you Lewis aficionados know I was thinking wrong. What Lewis said was, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in. Aim and Earth, and you will get neither.” I am not sure the related thought would not be true as well. “Aim at truth and you will get intellect thrown in. Aim at intellect and you will get neither.





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In Ephesus 5:14-15 Paul writes, "For this reason I bow before the Father from whom Every family in heaven and earth derives its name."

The Lord's Prayer does not simply teach us to say the words, "Our Father which art in heaven." Jesus is calling us to bow our hearts to our Heavenly Father. The privilege of coming to God as our father represents ultimate intimacy and majesty. I remember my sister and I running out to meet my father and throwing ourselves around his legs as he came home from work. Jesus is telling us we have that kind of relationship with the God of the universe, the God beyond the universe who created heaven and earth.

In Matthew 23:9 Jesus told us we have one father who is in heaven. He is the source of our spiritual DNA. We are born again in Him. Have you ever seen a child who reflected his father's appearance? God is working in the lives of His children making us more and more like Him, like Jesus.

I also remember my father's deep quiet voice teaching and encouraging me. He did not always do it perfectly, but my heavenly Father does. God teaches and guides His children.

My father worked hard to provide for the needs of our family. But even my father's provision was given us by God. God provides our every need. In His arms we are blessed and comforted. He alone knows our deepest needs.

There were times when my children knew I was afraid. But I do not ever remember my father being afraid. I could not imagine being afraid when I was with him. If he was there we were safe. God is our ultimate rescuer. He is our Savior. More than a dozen times in Scripture we have the phrase, "God our savior." This of course includes Jesus as God the Son. Tutus 2:14 speaks of "our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Jude 25 reads, "To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time now and forever. amen"




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PTAP: Longing for Heaven

For both Muslims and Christians there is a great desire for the afterlife. This world and all that it offers is still empty of what our hearts desire. We desire heaven. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, Christians believe all their sins are placed on Him, and it is because of Jesus they will enter heaven. Christians have confidence in the finished work of Jesus. For Muslims, they do not have Jesus' righteousness, all they have is the wish that Allah will allow them into paradise, there is absolutely no assurance. If they follow the Quran and the Sharia Law perfectly there is no assurance. Pray that all that Jesus has done will be understood in the Arabian Peninsula. Pray that the name of Jesus would grow in honor.  Pray that local people of the AP would so long for heaven that they would seek the only way there - Jesus Christ. May the power of the following Scripture move you forward in your prayers.


"We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.


For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus." Romans 3:22-26

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Days 1-13 can be read here


He that dwelleth 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 will I trust.
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.(Psalm 91, KJV)

Dear Father Yahweh.
Thank you for giving us the promise of Psalm 91. Please be with us that we may abide in Your secret place and not stray from the narrow path that leads to eternal life and salvation through Your Son Yeshua. We understand that ONLY in abiding in You that we will have protection and promise given in Psalm 91.
Though these times are very dark and wicked they are a reminder that the return of Your Holy Son Yeshua is near. We need your protection Lord God. The enemy is upon us and we need to be living and walking and doing all for Your Kingdom. We pray for a great revival during these last days that more will turn to you.
I pray protection over our families and everyone of your children. Judgment is upon the wicked of this world and this nation oh God. Please bless your children, keep us safe, and help us lead many to You through Your Son, Yeshua. We acknowledge and proclaim that Yeshua is the ONLY way to You Father God. We thank you for sending Your only son as a sacrifice for our sins that we may have eternal life if we acknowledge Him as our savior and become born again. Please let us strive to be like Yeshua and let more of our worldly ways fall aside, that we may be overcomers for the Kingdom of Heaven.
We pray this in Jesus Holy Name. Amen.
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In a nightmarish world, it's good now and then to dream of heaven.

“The toe of the star-gazer is often stubbed.”

- Russian proverb


Sadly, our experiences on earth can be nightmarish.

Idealists “in a dream world” sometimes stub their toe on “reality.”

“Two men look out same prison bars; one sees mud, the other stars” (Langbridge).


Dreaming of a better world, at the top of the staircase is God—

Author of perfect dreams, Means to the end, Final Step to reach the goal,

Stairway to the stars, Reality behind dreams, Energy to climb steps and attain visions.


The sky is not the limit—aim for the company of the immortals!

Dare to dream grand dreams—heaven open, angels on the stairway of hope.

Trust your Father’s protection as you traverse the twists and turns of the dreamy spiral.


Daydreaming is sweet, but it is time to wake up and start climbing.

Way-dreaming is better—not just staring up the steps, stepping up the stairs.

We will celebrate heaven’s dream come true with the Star-maker at the top of the stairs.


He dreamed of a stairway that reached from earth to heaven.

Genesis 28:12 NLT


Johnny R. Almond

                Pastor, Colonial Beach Baptist Church, Virginia

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

Book available through local bookseller or preferred on-line retailer.

Author’s blog www.GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com

[This devotion was based on/adapted from Day 19 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity]

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Modeling the City of God

Thanks to National Public Radio, I learned something new recently: China has spent billions of dollars constructing buildings—and even entire cities—to replicate some of the world’s most renowned architecture.


      If you live in Beijing or Shanghai, you no longer have to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, for there’s now a copycat version in your own country. If you’ve always wanted to visit Manhattan, you can see a replica nearby, complete with Rockefeller and Lincoln centers and even a Hudson River. And for those looking for something more serene, the gorgeous Austrian town of Hallstatt has been replicated in all its picturesque beauty.


      In most Western cultures, people look down on you for being a copycat. Not so in China. They take pride in their replicas, whether the replicas are of watches, electronics, missiles, or cities. Psychologically, it probably feels as if they have conquered the objects they’ve recreated.


      Personally, I would much rather visit the real Eiffel Tower than see a cheap imitation. And I’ve never been very attracted to Rolex watch knockoffs, because I know there really is a difference between the real and the counterfeit.


      If everyone followed the Chinese copycat philosophy, we would soon reach a point where nothing was real. Creativity and innovation would be a thing of the past, because all we’d ever do would be to copy from one another. In such a world, Steve Jobs could never have created Apple, because there was nothing yet to copy. It’s as if he saw something unseen to model his products after.


      But my biggest criticism of China’s copycat cities is this: The Chinese are seeking to copy the wrong things. Sure, Paris and Manhattan are iconic places in the human scheme of things. Yet why not shoot for a higher model these earthly places?


      Here’s what I mean…


      I think the Chinese ought to take some time to read Augustine of Hippo’s famous fifth-century book about the contrast between the City of God and the City of Man. While the well-intentioned Chinese builders are spending lots of time and money to duplicate the best architecture the world offers in the City of Man, a much better quest would be to reflect the heavenly city whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10 TLB).


      Why try to copy each other and replicate earthly models, when our objective should be to model the kingdom of heaven? Yes, it’s certainly easier to reproduce Paris or Manhattan. But in the end, it’s much more rewarding to reflect God’s architecture instead of man’s.


      However, before we’re too hard on the Chinese, we should all ask ourselves some hard questions: What are we building? What model are we patterning our lives around? Are we living for earthly things or for God’s eternal kingdom?


      These questions are at the very heart of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Our prayers and our lives should reflect a glorious quest for His kingdom to come and His will to be done—modeling on earth what is already happening in heaven. In the end, that’s the only city worth replicating.


      So go ahead and be a copycat. People shouldn’t have to go to heaven to see what it’s like. They should be able to look at your life and mine.



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Prayer is the Strategy of Heaven


“Intercession is standing before the court of heaven and pleading a case or cause before an Holy awesome God. There are things that deeply touch the righteous Heart of the Father and above all, He is jealous of His glory…” Michael Howard

Our God is a mighty warrior. He is a God who has a strategic plan. You and I can take part in this strategic plan.

I doubt if very many of us wake up in the morning and enter the day realizing that we are at war and that strategy is of utmost importance. The truth is that prayer is the greatest strategy in the world. Prayer is the strategy of heaven. As we use this mighty weapon, God then gives us His strategy for life on earth.

The majority of the Church worldwide has not, yet, awakened to this strategic weapon of prayer and intercession. If we did, we would be using it daily, and our prayer meetings would be packed to overflowing. I envision the day coming when we will begin to realize more and more that nothing happens without prayer.

Often in the natural we look to man-made methods and schemes to get the job done. We think big money and promotion will reach the world. We try harder with our human ingenuity. That will never work, at least not long-term. Prayer and intercession will prepare the way for the harvest. We must choose to use heaven’s strategy rather than man’s human devices. We must set our minds above and learn to intercede. We read in Colossians 3:1-2:

“Since, then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

It is in prayer that God gives us heavenly strategy to do the work on earth that will touch the world. I have seen this over and over again. In intercession God gives us the greatest plan. In the quiet place God opens to us His greatest secrets. Everything that will make a difference has to have the touch of the supernatural. God does the work through us, and He gives us His plan in prayer. The days we are living in are evil, and nothing but intense intercession will bring in the harvest.

A woman came to a missionary in India asking him to prevent a certain Christian from praying for her anymore. She was asked how she knew that Christian was praying for her. She replied: “I used to perform my worship to the idols quite easily before and now I can’t. He told me he was praying for me and my family, and now my son and daughter have become Christians. If he continues to pray, I may become a Christian as well! Things happen when he prays. Somebody must make him stop!”

This Christian knew that prayer was the strategy of heaven and so did the idol worshipper who did not want to experience the power of prayer! God wants us to go deeper in strategic prayer. These are days of opportunity, and God is raising-up intercessors to touch people’s lives in every nation. Never underestimate the true potential of prayer. Ephesians 5:15-16 says:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Never fail to realize that an hour in prayer can make a huge difference in the strategic outcome of your day and in the lives of others. But how do we touch this heavenly strategy?

Ways to Touch Heaven’s Strategy of Prayer

I find in my life personally that a faster way to enter into the throne room of God is through worship, praying the Word of God, and fasting. This brings me quickly into heaven’s perspective. These are three secrets to a deeper prayer life. This is what we practice regularly at the International House of Prayer here in Kansas City. You and I have every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

We touch heaven through our praise, through praying the Word, and when we deny ourselves through fasting. We are then able to concentrate more fully on God’s heart. Let’s look at these three ways along with quotes from Michael Howard, a mighty intercessor, in his book called Proven Arrows of Intercession:

  • Worship and Praise. Worship, praise and thanksgiving should be incorporated into your life as much as possible. When you are down or discouraged, try the medicine of praise and thanksgiving. It is a good medicine because it puts your attention back upon the greatness and the glory of God. Praise is a powerful weapon of war. 

    “We can never underestimate praise as one of the greatest and most powerful weapons of war which the Lord has placed in our hands. And, when praise becomes high praise, it commands the unlimited resources of heaven because it gives absolute glory to the Lord. In a way which is beyond our understanding, deliverance and redemption are wrought through praise with great power for such conclusively speak of the supreme victory of Jesus.” 

  • Pray the Word of God. If you want to grow in your prayer life, start praying the Bible. God loves us to pray His Word and use the sword of the Spirit in intercession for the lost. It keeps us on-target, and we begin to think the very thoughts of God.

    “The promises and blessings of God’s Word are conditional. What God has done before, He will do again under the same climate and by the same standards. It is for this reason that intercession must be solidly built upon and directed by the Word. This means that the intercessor must know and quote the Word. This is not so the devil can hear but because a case must be made before the Lord… God is committed to His Word and the fulfilling of it.

  • Fast and Pray. Fasting is a key to a powerful prayer life. Fasting together with prayer will help you to tap into heaven’s riches and strategy in a way nothing else can. It quiets your outer man so that your inner man can hear the heartbeat of heaven. 

    “Jesus was always ‘prayed and fasted up’ while the disciples were not. This is why He always had authority in any situation. It is too late in the crisis to ‘get fasted and prayed up,’ so to speak… The benefits, blessings and powers of fasting are clearly revealed in the Word. Firstly, fasting brings the flesh into submission in all areas and herein lies the secret of the power… Fasting is a total denial of self that is mandatory if one is to be a true disciple of Jesus (Mt. 16:24). Thirdly, there is a mysterious relationship between fasting and the power of heaven intervening on our behalf.” 

Is it always easy to go heaven’s way? No, we are so often tempted by earth’s attraction. We are tempted by quick results and man-made schemes, by things that look so good. We are attracted by fleshly fame and fortune. But in reality prayer is what really will get the job done. Prayer and intercession will bring glory to the King and touch earth with heaven’s riches. Prayer is the strategy of heaven. Prayer is the work, the strategic work, of the Kingdom. Prayer will prepare the way for the King. 

Never forget this truth, because your enemy will tempt you in every way possible to get the job done through human resources. He will promise you a quick, painless way to get results. But, the quickest way is go straight to the King in prayer. And He will reveal to you a strategy of life that will release His greatest glory through you here on earth. Why is this true? It is because you will be living and doing exactly what you were made for.

And I promise you that this is a joyful and fulfilling way to live.

Have your friends sign up for Intercessors Arise here!

“God puts no limitations on His ability to save through true praying. No hopeless conditions, no accumulation of difficulties, no desperation in distance or circumstances can hinder the success of real prayer. The possibilities of prayer are linked to the infinite rectitude and to the omnipotent power of God. There is nothing too hard for God to do. God is pledged if we ask, we shall receive God can withhold nothing from faith and prayer.” E. M. Bounds

Debbie Przybylski

Intercessors Arise International 

International House of Prayer KC Staff 



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Something Big is Happening Here

Sometimes you discover a new truth by accident.

That happened to me recently as I was reading through Ephesians. Actually I’ve beenreading and re-reading Ephesians for the last few months. When I read David Powlison’s advicethat we should master Ephesians and be mastered by it because “in apinch you could do all counseling from Ephesians” and “It’s all there:the big picture that organizes a myriad of details,” I decided to goback and make it the focus of my daily Bible reading. So that’s whatI’ve been doing for the last few months. Sometimes I read a few verses,sometimes a chapter or two, sometimes I read the whole book.Occasionally I ponder a single verse.

I’ve been struck repeatedly by how Paul emphasizes the cosmic dimensions of God’s plan. He does itin Ephesians 1 where he talks about God bringing all things togetherunder the headship of Christ (v. 10) and how Christ is now seated farabove all authority and power (v. 21). He does it again in chapter 6when he says that we wrestle against principalities and powers and thespiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (v. 12). Paul sees what happens here on earth as being closely connected to events in the spiritual realm.So with that in mind, I’m reading along in chapter 3 where Paul talksabout how in the church Jews and Gentiles stand on an equal basis, withthe same standing and the same privileges. That’s a tremendous truth tothink about. Then you come to this verse:

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of Godshould be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlyrealms” (Ephesians 3:10).

That’s the sort of verse you might read quickly and not think about. But it deserves closer examination. Paul says that God has arranged things so that the church of JesusChrist displays the “manifold” wisdom of God. The word means“many-colored.” Picture a bouquet of multi-colored flowers or a piece offabric with a vast variety of colors, red and pink and blue and brownand green and yellow. I have seen computer programs that promise thatthey can print pictures in “millions of colors.” That’s the idea here.God’s wisdom has many hues, many varieties, and God intends to use thechurch (meaning those of us in the church) to display that wisdom.

Ray Stedman explains it this way:

The word translated manifold here is literally the many-colored wisdom ofGod. Why did the apostle choose this poetic adjective? It is becauselife consists of many colors. We all have blue days. And red hours ofanger and passion. And golden moments of glory. And dark, somber valleysthrough which we must pass. And lush, green pastures into which we aresometimes led. God’s love is manifest in all of these hues of life. Sowhen you go through a blue time, it is God’s love that you are learning.When you go through a dark and pressured time, the love of God is beingmanifested there. You may not see it, but God knows how to make itclear. And even the joyful times are manifestations of the many-coloredwisdom of God.

So far, so good.

But then look at that last phrase. God intends to display his“many-colored” wisdom to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenlyrealms.” That can only be a reference to the angelic beings watchingfrom heaven. When Ligon Duncan preached on Ephesians 3:8-13, he painted this word picture:

The Apostle Paul is saying that God has put you up on the stage of historyand that when you look up into the galleries and into those expensiveboxes you are going to see the angelic powers of heaven, good and evil,because God is putting them in graduate school to learn from you of Hiswisdom and glory. In other words, God is going to display His glory togood angels and bad angels. He’s going to display the wisdom of Hisplan to principalities and powers through you as the church.

Kenneth Wuest offers this succinct summary:

The Church thus becomes the university for angels, and each saint a professor.

Folks, that’s a mind-blowing insight. It’s telling us that what happens to us on earth has a purpose that goes far beyond us personally. God intends to use the events of this life, the good and the bad, thehappy and the sad, the positive and the negative, all of it together andeach part individually, to make a display for all the universe to see.He does it so that the angels scattered across the universe, in alltheir various ranks and orders and levels, will see something of God’swisdom worked out through what happens to us here on earth.

Unanswered Questions

I find this perspective helpful because so much of what goes on around usseems to make little sense. I’m thinking of the heartaches of life, howone person gets cancer and dies while another person is spared cancerand yet another person gets the same cancer, goes through chemotherapyand survives. Why does one child live and another die? Why is one familyhit with a seemingly endless series of trials? Why did this husbanddecide to walk away from his marriage? Why did the car wreck leave thisman crippled but the man next to him walks away unscathed? The list goeson and on and on.

Why was this person promoted and that one passed over?
Why do some people want to get married but never find the right person?

Ephesians 3:10 offers us a unique perspective that we need to consider. I can say it in one simple sentence:

Something big is happening here.

Something much bigger than us.
Bigger than our own personal agenda.
Bigger than anything we’ve ever dreamed.

If we are Christians at all, we know that life isn’t about us.
We’ve heard that for years.

But here is an insight that may bring light on some of those “why” questions.

God intends to use us as a demonstration of his wisdom to a whole galaxy ofangelic beings who watch with great interest as we move through life onour way to heaven. They see us struggle, they watch us grapplewith tragedy, they see us deal with setbacks, they pay attention when wecry out to our Father for “grace to help” in the nick of time. They seein ways we don’t see how God’s plan is moving forward through oursuffering and pain and tears.

Now if this is so–and this seems to be exactly what Paul is inferring in Ephesians 3:10, lots of thingsthat happen aren’t just about us. Something much bigger is going through our struggles in this world. We wouldn’t understand it even if God tried to explain it to us. But we get little hints of it in verses like this.

As I pondered this some more, I remembered that Jonathan Edwards commentedthat in heaven we will spend the vast stretches of eternity marvelingwith other believers about how the wisdom of God was displayed in hisplan to save us and shape us into the image of his Son. When I firstheard that, I thought to myself, “Well, fine. But I think after maybe250 years or so, I’ll have fully covered all the mysteries of my ownearthly journey.” I admit that’s a very human way to look at it, butthat’s what I thought. But suppose God intends to use our life journeyas a canvas on which to paint the richness of his wisdom for the angelicbeings to study. Suddenly that lifts us into a realm of cosmic purposethat will truly stretch across the endless ages of eternity.

I think it means that at some point when we face hard times and when lifemakes no sense whatsoever, we need to stop and say to ourselves,“Something big is happening here." God never wastes anything. Not even the tiniest tear falls without a purpose.

Sometimes we think that life should get easier as we get older. I doubt that is the case for most people. If anything, the mysteries of life become more profound as we realizehow little we understand about why things happen the way they do.

Two people die every second.
But you are not dead.

Three Quotes

As a means of helping us think about this a little deeper, consider thesethree quotes gathered from very different authors in very differentplaces.

The first quote comes from a pastor who asked the following question, “Where in the Bible did God ever give someone aneasy job to do?” Now we may quibble with the question, but I think thelarger point is quite true. It’s hard to think of anyone in the Bible towhom God gave a truly “easy” job. Now why is that? God puts all of usto the test so that we will be forced to trust in him. If he only gaveout “easy” assignments, we wouldn’t have to trust him very much. Maybewe would conclude we didn’t need him at all. But hard assignments driveus to our knees in prayer.

The second quote comes from a certain TV preacher. A few months ago, while listening to asnippet of a program, I heard him offer this insight: “God will neverbring us to the place where we no longer need him."

And all God’s children said, “Hmmmm.”

That’ll make you stop and think. Down deep there is a part of us that would like to come to a place where we don’t have to trust in the Lord so much. Not that we don’t want to pray, but secretly we’d like to be in such aplace of earthly fulfillment where we didn’t have to pray desperateprayers to the Almighty. It would be wonderful (or so we think) ifthings were going so well that all we had to do was to praise the Lordall day long.

Not going to happen.
Not this side of heaven.

If all our needs were met, we’d end up forgetting God just like the children of Israel did in the Old Testament. Earthly prosperity tends to be no friend of spiritual growth. And total prosperity generally means total disaster. I think thatpreacher was right on in what he said. God intends to bring us again andagain to the place where we are crying out to the Lord, begging for hismercy and his grace.

That’s not a fun place to be.
But it’s where we need to be.
Anything that drives us to our knees is good for the soul.

The third quote comes from my friend Peter who pastors a house church in China. Lastmonth he and his wife came to the U.S. for a special seminar in Dallaswhere they spent a week with leaders from other countries at a fancyretreat center. Peter said it was a very good week, but there was onedrawback. “We had a beautiful room, wonderful meals, and everything weneeded was provided for us. We didn’t even need to pray.”

It’s always easier to pray when we have a consciousness of our own need.While we were with Peter, he prayed powerfully for us and for my wife inparticular who was going through some physical difficulties at thattime. It was a transforming moment to hear this Chinese pastor pray sofervently to the Lord.

So much faith!
So much earnest desire!

Later he told us that the Chinese church has no choice but to pray and askGod for healing. Given the pressures of the last sixty years, the churchhas learned to call upon the Lord fervently. I know I’ve used that wordtwice, but then I think of James 5:16, which in the King James Versiontells us that the “fervent” prayers of a righteous man avail much withGod.

The end of the whole matter is clear. Do not lose heart when hard times come. Something big is happening here.

Something bigger than you can see.
Something bigger than you can imagine.
Something so big that you can’t begin to figure it out.

I believe God brings us back again and again to these times ofdesperation so that we will see that it’s not about us and our problems.God intends to use our trials to teach us to pray and to trust him moreso that (and this is the point of Ephesians 3:10) the angelic beings will behold in us the many-colored wisdom of God.

When we see a fellow saint going through hard times for which there seems tobe no earthly explanation, let us erect over that spot a sign withthese words:

God at Work

When I was a teenager, I used to attend country churches where they wouldsing, “We’ll understand it better by and by.” Back then I didn’tappreciate the depth of theology behind that song, but with the passageof many years I see it more clearly now. And in this one verse Paulpulls back the curtain to give us a peek at God’s purposes that we wouldnot otherwise know. As you face the trials of life, keep this truth infront of you and make it a bedrock of your faith:

Something big is happening here.

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