humility (18)

PTAP: The Church in Arabia - Leaders

February Prayer Campaign - Pray for the church in the AP
We are continuing to pray for the forming of indigenous churches in the Arabian Peninsula (AP) as a PTAP community in February.
Week 4 – Leaders of the AP Church
“But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28
Praise the Lord that communities of local believers from a Muslim background (MBBs) are gathering together in the Arabian Peninsula and local churches are being birthed. As these new churches form, leaders are needed to serve, guide, direct, teach, preach and encourage.
Pray for God to raise up AP church leaders who have the heart of a servant, and a passion to love and care for His people. Pray that the groups of MBBs will be able to recognize and submit to the leaders God has chosen.
Pray for AP church leaders to be completely surrendered to God and the authority of His Word. Pray that these leaders would rightly divide the Word and be able to communicate it to their congregations.
Pray for AP church leaders to be discerning of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for AP church leaders to be people of biblical integrity: gentle, above reproach, self-controlled, honest, moral, trustworthy, not greedy, respectful, hardworking and teachable.
Pray for AP church leaders to have a deep understanding of the needs of the people they shepherd.
Pray for AP church leaders to have wisdom to help their congregations navigate through persecution, and to live vibrantly for Christ within the Muslim culture that surrounds them.
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God has been showing me something in scripture this week that I just have to share with you. In Matthew 18 the disciples asked Jesus about greatness.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.’”

Jesus answered by saying that we cannot even enter the kingdom of heaven unless we repent and become like little children. And He said whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now let me point out the humility that is like the child Jesus stood before them. Even a newborn baby is not innocent. He is selfish to the core. But he is absolutely dependent. And we must humble ourselves to become dependent upon God to enter the kingdom of heaven. Our salvation, and everything in our lives depends upon Him.

When Jesus says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” who is he speaking about? I believe Jesus must first be referring to literal children, especially those who have already accepted Him as Savior. But I also believe Jesus is speaking of those of us who have entered the kingdom in childlike dependence. When people receive us as we go to them with the gospel, they receive Him.

Now look just a little further down the passage to verse 10

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Again, who is Jesus talking about? I believe He is telling us that children have guardian angels who always see our Heavenly Father's face.

We do not yet see Him face to face. 1 John 3:2 says we will be made like Jesus when we see His face. But could it also be that as we become children of God, we too are surrounded by Heavenly angels who continually see His face?” And of course Jesus Himself is always interceding for us before the Father. You are well-represented before the throne.



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  • Matthew 5:10

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

    Has there ever been a time of greater need for peacemakers? In these days everything from politics to dietary preferences divides people. What will bring us back together?

    Years ago now, I took a team to Thailand to help lead a conference for missionaries working in Northwest China. One of our responsibilities for that week was to provide programs for the children of those missionaries. All the children spoke good English, but their families came from different parts of the world. Most of them probably also spoke one of the minority languages of Xinjiang Province. It may or may not surprise you to learn that some of those missionary children reflected stress on their lives. And we had to deal with conflicts nearly every day.

    One afternoon one of the boys who seemed to be in emotional high gear all the time, ran right in front of me, accidentally knocking a smaller child down, and hit another boy in the back of the head with his fist. The boy who was hit was not hurt severely, though he did put his hand on the back of his head and look around for who had smacked him.

    We were in the process of taking the children into the next room for one of their twice-a-day VeggieTale treats. I caught the offender by the arm and detained him while the other workers directed the rest of the children to gather around the television set to watch the video.

    “What did you do wrong?” I asked the boy.

    On the verge of tears he screamed at me, “I want to go watch VeggieTales!”

    “But what did you do wrong?” I asked the second time.

    “But he said . . .”

    I cut him off. “What did you do wrong?” He wouldn't answer. He clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. I held him as he struggled to go into the next room. We were near the open door and he could hear the introductory song of VeggieTales.

    “I want to go see the movie.” He yelled again.

    “You have to tell me what you did wrong.”

    “But I want to go!”

    “You evidently don't want to go badly enough to talk to me about what you did wrong.”

    “But Joshua. . .”

    I stopped him again. “I'm not talking to Joshua. I am asking you to tell me what you did wrong.”

    He struggled with me for about 20 minutes before he began to calm down.

    He finally admitted that he had hit the other boy in the back of the head because he was mad. He evidently didn't know he had knocked the small girl down as he charged across the room.

    “What do you think you need to do about this?” I asked. He was at first willing to miss the rest of the VeggieTales video rather than apologize. But the video was still playing within earshot. His restrained tears finally began to run as he agreed to apologise to the other two children as soon as the video was over. I took him in to see the rest of the video. He scooted in among the other children seated on the floor around the TV. He was still obviously upset.

    After he was settled in, the boy he was angry at touched his shoulder and motioned for him to sit by him. He scooted back to be next to the other boy who grinned at him. He didn't wait until the video was over to say he was sorry to the boy who reached out to him.

    I did not tell you this story so you would identify the peacemaker here. But I do think it highlights some of the dynamics of peacemaking that Jesus gives us in Matthew 5:10.

    First, peace comes from a peacemaker rather than a situation.

    A peacemaker is always someone who is at peace with God. Note I did not say someone who has made peace with God. If you are at peace with God, God has made peace with you. But you must humble yourself to respond to His grace.

    Those who have received God's peace have had their arrogance washed away at the cross of Jesus.

    And finally, peacemakers reach out to others as God has reached out to us.

    These are not necessarily a sequence of steps. The relationship, humility, and purpose of God's peace are fundamental our relationship with God. People will see and recognize a radical difference in God's peacemakers. And God Himself will not be ashamed to identify us as His own.



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I fear many Christians have the notion that we are saved by grace, but we are trained for righteousness by legalism. This is a serious mistake for Christians and it misses one of the most wonderful truths of scripture. In Titus Chapter 2 Paul tells us the grace of God trains us for Godly living. Look with me at these verses.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Titus 2:22-14

Let me point out for you several ways that God uses His grace to train us to live Godly lives.

First, We Are Trained In The Gratitude of Grace.

We do not develop self control and godliness so we will be saved. We obey God out of gratitude that He has already saved us. This gratitude brings great devotion. “Look what  He has done for me!” It also produces humility in us that is foundational to a changed life. And focusing on His grace frees us defensiveness about our sin. Our sins were paid for on the cross.

We Are Trained In The Hope of Grace.

We are like a bride being adorned for our bridegroom. We love Him. And we are preparing our hearts to be ushered into His presence. We desire God's grace to be worked  into our lives more and more because we are looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.

We Are Trained In The Transformation of Grace.

When we begin to follow Christ God brings about a radical change in our desires. But we still have habits of mind and behavior that must be changed on a deep level. Because the penalty for them has been paid we have freedom to deal with the root motivations of our pride, greed, lust, or whatever sin we would avoid dealing with if we were still being defensive. And God is planting more and more of His thinking and His holiness into our lives. The more we read His word, and live in fellowship with Him, the more like Him we become.

We Are Trained In The Fellowship of Grace.

God's Grace has appeared so that He might make us a people who are zealous for good works. We cannot do this, or be this, alone. We stand together. As we are united with Him by God's grace, we are united with others in the family. We love one another and encourage one another every day while it is still called today. (Hebrews 3:13)



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Last week I wrote about uniting in a tapestry of prayer focusing on the prayer meeting in Acts 4. Among the treasurer's that can be easily mined from that prayer meeting are some wonderful keys to unity in prayer. One of the most important is praise.

When Believers come together in prayer there is, or ought to be, a humility that welds our hearts together. We are broken, heartbroken, and forgiven. And that is certainly an underlying factor in the book of Acts and the whole Bible. However there is no specific reference to it in this prayer. You can, I suppose, sense it in the tone, but I do not believe it is in the words of this prayer.

The Holy Spirit also uses the opposition of the world to bind Believers together in prayer. This prayer is a prime example of that. Peter and John have just returned from the Sanhedrin having been beaten within an inch of their lives and warned never to speak the name of Jesus again in public. It is from this platform that this prayer burst forth from the hearts of the Believers. But while this was certainly a factor in their unity on that day, something else is primary as the people raise their voices together in prayer.

Note the words of this prayer beginning with verse 24.

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”

The primary words that bound the church miraculously together on that day we're a triumph of praise. The people were bound together by the greatness and majesty of God our Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I was recently in a prayer meeting that began with praise. The first two three people praised God. The next man chafed at beginning with praise. He was upset over things he had seen on the news that morning. He said, “I live alone and I don't have anyone to talk to but my dog. I've got to share this grief, and we've got to pray about these things.” As he shared the unity of the prayer meeting was diluted. The primary focus of prayer needs be God. When we start with our heart aches, fears, or the trials we face, we focus on ourselves.

Focusing on the greatness of God strengthens our faith. Praising God together strenghthens one another’s faith. Then when we come to pray for heartaches, we face them in confidence in the greatness of our God to handle them. Praise brings us into a powerful unity of faith encouraging one another to trust in God.


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Have you ever noticed that before a mission trip or some great event or in fact before a great work of God in your life, you have intensified spiritual attack?


I believe there is a reason God not only allows but arranges attack in your life. There are a number of benefits that come to us through spiritual attack. Toughening strengthening of faith, the necessary humility, the development of character, and compassionate empathy are wrought in us through trials and yes, spiritual warfare.

I believe the primary or all encompassing reason God allows those things is the preparation of Prayer. We need prayer for that mission trip, for that great gift of God, for the work God wants to do around us. And spiritual warfare drives us to pray. We pray far more consistently because we are under spiritual attack. We pray more fervently because we are in spiritual attack. We pray listening prayers under spiritual attack. We pray more faithfully because we're in spiritual attack.

Of course when you are in spiritual attack the goal is to be obedient. But in addition to any general obedience you need the specific obedience of prayer.

And God is allowing spiritual attack because you simply need more time in his presence. You need the imprint of His reality and majesty, His power and nearness. When you are facing spiritual attack you have to pray as you have never prayed. And you can pray with anticipation because of what God is preparing to bring about in your life. And that kind of praying is necessary for us to walk in the work of God.


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Morning by Morning, January 20 - Hear from Heaven and Heal Our Land
Good morning, Lord Jesus. Let Your name be the first word from my mouth this morning and let my relationship with You -- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit -- have the first place in my life.  ...
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJ).
To change the heart of our nation, we have to choose to humble ourselves and allow You to change our hearts. As we seek You in prayer, as we turn to You in repentance, as we embrace You in faith, You hear and Your forgive and You heal.
As You change us, You awaken us and revive us. You remind us of Your calling and Your destiny for us as Your people who are called by Your name here in our land. May we be found faithful in our generation to accomplish all You've intended in Your heart through our hearts that turn to You in prayer, repentance, and faith. We make our appeal to heaven in prayer. And You answer from heaven in power.
O Lord, my God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- hear from heaven and heal our land. May the honor and glory of Your name be great again in our hearts and in our land. "Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence -- as fire burns brushwood, as fire cause water to boil -- to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!" (Isaiah 64:1-2 NKJ) In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Be encouraged today! In the Love of Jesus, Tommy Hays
May you be moved in the unity of God's Spirit with all who are called by His name in prayer, repentance, and faith to turn to Him in your heart, that the Lord may hear from heaven and heal our land, in Jesus' name. Please pray the same for me as I join with you in agreement in that prayer (Matthew 18:19; Psalm 133; John 17:18). God bless you, my friend!


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"I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me."

Job 23:5

All of us come across things we do not understand about God. Some of them certainly bother us. I recently talked with a close friend who was struggling with one of those things. I told him I thought he might gain deeper insight than those of us who do not struggle with his particular question. But I don't believe that is always the case. I think it depends on how you pray about the issue that is bothering you.

Are you praying to understand? This is fundamental. I started to say there are things that can only be understood, if God explains them to us. But that statement is too narrow. We can never understand anything about God, if God does not reveal Himself to us. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says the things of God are "spiritually discerned."

The next principle of prayer that must apply here, is to come to Him in worshipful humility. Expressions of this need to be cut into several facets. Let me propose a parable for you to chew on. This is the kind of problem that puzzles us, and can frustrate or anger us. And while this is told as a parable, some of you know of something similar that has happened.

Suppose a group of young people are on a church bus on their way to an outing when an out-of-control truck hits them killing every young person on the bus. And suppose some of them had not yet understood the gospel, and would have that night. If God knew about this before it happened, before any of those young people were born, even before the foundation of the universe, why did He not prevent it?

My first application of humility here is the recognition that God is good. The problem is of course an example of the philosophical conundrum, "If God is all powerful and good, why do we still find evil in the world?"

But if good truly exists, there must be an ultimate good and an ultimate perspective of good. Just as life must have a living source, and intelligence must have an intelligent source, so goodness must come from an ultimate personal good. Abstract concepts come from persons. Persons do not spring from concepts. The ultimate source of good is God. If God were evil there would have to be someone higher than God to pronounce him evil. An evil being would not be God. If there is no ultimate good, there is no way we can say with any authority, "That is good." or "That is evil."

This does not solve the problem, but it gives us a starting place. Trusting His goodness, we can humbly come to God, asking Him to help us understand.

The next facet of humility is patience. There is no question that we live in a fallen world. The Bible explains that our world was cursed because of sin. I don't think I would need the Bible to tell me things are not right or fair. The good suffer and the wicked prosper. I am part of that evil. I love the story of The Times asking the question, "What is wrong with the world?" G.K. Chesterton reportedly wrote back.

"I am.


G.K. Chesterton."

God's  promise is that in His infinite wisdom and power He will make all things right in the end. I am glad that He waited to condemn evil until I received the grace purchased by the blood of Jesus.

We also need to come with the humility to admit that we will not be able to understand many things about God and the universe. The book of Job in the Old Testament deals with a similar problem. And it is interesting to me that even after everything was restored to Job, the reasons for his calamity were never explained to him. He was never even given the explanation readers are given in the first chapter. And in fact philosophical answers are seldom what we need when we ourselves are hurting. To some extent all of us are the mother of a child on that bus. When you are hurting, you need God's embrace more than you need answers.

However, in the context of understanding such problems, there are some philosophical issues that must be addressed. The problem of this parable assumes some things that are not in evidence. First, it assumes that death is the worst possible thing that could happen to these young people. Death is terrible. The Bible clearly teaches that death is our enemy. (1 Cor.15:26) But the purpose of life is for people to come to know Christ as savior not length of life or other blessings in the here and now. If you were on a sinking ship, your greatest concern would not be how long you managed to stay on the ship before waves sweeping over the deck forced you into a life boat.

That is not to say we are not to hate death, evil and the unfairness of this world. Jesus was angry at the tomb of Lazarus. But even if I can't imagine how God can bring good out of some evil, He promises to do so. This is part of the reason Jesus had to die the way He did. If you were one of his disciples at the cross, you would surely have cried out against the unfairness of the whole event. And you would have felt there was no way God could bring any good out of that. Jesus laid down His divine privilege and unfairly bore our judgment.

And the parable assumes that God should have prevented these young people from this tragedy because they were good kids doing good things. But the Bible does not teach that good people, from our limited perspective, will always be sheltered from evil. And none of us are made right with God because we go to church or do good things. As Christians we do good things because we have been made right with God.

However young or old the people on that bus were, they were infected by the evil that our hearts choose. They would have been sinners deserving condemnation. And those young people would almost certainly have had more opportunities to repent than young people holding up a convenience store. Whose death is more unfair in the light of eternity?

Now I added something to this story. I said some of these kids might have understood and taken advantage of the gospel that night. I admit this is serious. Lack of opportunity to accept Christ is certainly the worst unfairness in our world. It is also the worst evil in me. I have been a hindrance to people coming to Christ. There are people who may well have been saved, if I had explained to them the gospel. There are people whose lives would have been radically different, had I faithfully and fervently prayed for them.

I am aware that I have not fully answered the question. And if I have soothed your anger about some evil, I may have done you a disservice. The unfairness all around us certainly angers God. We join Him in such anger. But rather than aiming our anger at God, we should cry out to God to intervene in the lives of those who suffer. I want God to do whatever is necessary to make me an instrument of His grace in redeeming society and bringing people to faith in Him. Still, I thank God that my own redemption includes His grace in the lives of those who would be lost, if I were their only hope.

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Proverbs 14:34 reads,

"Righteousness exalts a nation,

but sin is a disgrace to any people."

I recently read a speech by Winston Churchill entitled The Defense of Freedom and Peace. It was subtitled, The Lights are Going Out. The great orator proclaimed to Americans who had not yet entered the war that it is the conflict of spiritual and moral ideas which gives free countries their strength. Especially in the light of history resistance against the domination of the Nazis should not be seen in any other way. By some estimates they put as many as 20 million people to death simply because of their race, or their weaknesses, or unwillingness to support the evil cause.

Even 70 and 80 years later we can feel good about our sacrifices to defeat that evil regime. But where are we in the world today? Where are we as a nation? Since 1973 Americans have brutally extinguished nearly 60 million innocent lives simply because we found them inconvenient.

This was not done by our government. We do not have S.S. troops pounding at our doors in the middle of the night. We did this ourselves to those who by any reckoning were the most innocent among us. Most Americans now admit that abortion is wrong. It is interesting to me that many people say they believe abortion is wrong to justify not doing anything about it. We believe abortion is wrong, so we must be free from responsibility before God, or history for that matter.  

But what can we do? I am sympathetic with those who see the crisis as overwhelming. But nothing is impossible with God. Let me suggest three essential approaches to the problem.

First come to this crisis with humility and compassion. We all share in the cultural, intellectual and moral corruption that has swallowed up our nation. This is not simply the problem of churches that did not stand against abortion. This is not simply the fault of another political party or someone else. Most of us would agree that German people who ignored the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors or were afraid to speak up no matter what it cost them, shared in the guilt.

And we who are also guilty need to seek ways of ministering to girls faced with unwanted pregnancy, and unplanned and unwanted children. Do we have means to intervene in the lives of young people who realize they have sacrificed their vision of the future on the altar of sexual freedom?

Next, address the problem with wisdom and intelligence. If we simply demonize political opponents or shout at them in protest, rather than listening to their arguments and seeking to persuade people, we will make little headway in the issue.

Finally, we must face this problem in prayer and worship. We will not turn this evil around without the mighty hand of God. We need to see this as a matter of spiritual war, crying out to God about every issue small and great. We have no greater weapon in spiritual warfare than worship that connects us with God Himself.

The culture of death is a daunting reality. But it is no greater than slavery that the enemy foisted on our fathers a few generations back. Against all social, economic, and political odds Great Britain outlawed the vile trade on her far flung shores. And eventually Americans were willing to plunge ourselves into a horrible civil war.

If your faith is not built on a powerful relationship with Almighty God you will not be able to pay whatever price is demanded of us to defeat this horrible plague. 


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Much is being written here and elsewhere these days about praying for our country.  Good thoughts, wisdom shared, encouragement and hope given.  Hopefully, we're praying even more than we're writing about prayer.

I wanted to take a minute to contrast two approaches that I've personally experienced to praying for our country. 

  • Pride brings God the answers and asks him to act on them; humility brings God questions and asks for his wisdom.
  • Pride tells God who needs to be elected or which party should be in or out of power; humility seeks God's intervention to raise up righteous leaders of his choosing.
  • Pride calls down God's judgment on people who believe or act in ways we consider immoral (and that even ARE immoral); humility seeks God's grace, forgiveness and cleansing for those who live far from his will, recognizing that we also once lived outside his will and saving grace.
  • Pride makes the assumption of the Pharisee - that we are in the right and that God should recognize that; humility recognizes with the tax collector that we are wrong and in need of God's grace.
  • Pride shouts; humility pleads.
  • Pride calls us to tell God the way things are going in our nation and in our world; humility causes us to seek his wisdom and strength to change them.
  • Pride focuses our thoughts on the changes other people need to make; humility confesses the changes we need to make.

I have prayed both ways.  By God's grace - and in his infinite patience - I'm slowly learning to pray less from pride and more from humility. 

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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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2 Chronicles 7:14 reads,

"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land."

Prayer is the natural and supernatural expression of humility. Humility is evidence of God working in our lives drawing us to His embrace.

When we pray we humble ourselves in our spiritual weakness. Many years ago God pressed on my heart that I needed to gather a prayer team to pray for me. To be honest I found this very embarrassing. I had to publicly admit that I did not have it all together.

We must humble ourselves before the will of God when we pray. In biblical prayer I do not approach Almighty God as if He were my assistant to give me my selfish desires. Biblical prayer longs for things to be made right. It prays for God’s good and perfect will to be done.

In prayer we often humble ourselves before other believers. Notice that this verse, like most promises and commands regarding prayer, is plural. When we pray together as a nation, a church, a small group or two or three agreeing, we yield to each other's concerns. Even praying alone is more fulfilling when we intercede for others.  

In prayer we also humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God. It is necessary for us to pray for things God is calling us to do. I often think the final confirmation that God is in something is impossibility. If God is telling you to do something, it will be impossible. If God does not work, such things will never be accomplished. By praying you admit that you cannot do what only God can do.

And ultimately we humble ourselves before the person of God in prayer. When we pray we expose ourselves to God's might, majesty and absolute holiness. We come to see our absolute inadequacy in the presence of God. And we humbly and joyfully rest in His sufficiency.


Next week I plan to write on seeking God's face. In prayer we seek God for Himself. We don't just want His things. We seek and find intimacy with God.

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Revival Catalyst


So just what is a catalyst? Chemistry students will likely think of a substance that brings about a chemical reaction. But another definition is, a person or thing that precipitates an event. Have you ever experienced a person enter into a room full of hostile and hateful people and seen them thaw out, smile, and enjoy a new atmosphere for a while? This reminds me of a report from the earlier Welsh revival. The revival so vividly transformed the vocabulary of the coal miners, that they had to retrain the mules to understand their new commands.

When a movement sweeps in and overnight changes what comes out of the mouth of a salty coal miner, this is an unmistakable work of God. If you doubt that, just how successful have you been in controlling your own mouth?

But this introduction merely sets the stage for a difficult question. What precedents might have led up to such a sweeping revival that is impossible for men to orchestrate? So in our considerations today of possible factors that have preceded revival, we now ask, “what might be considered a catalyst for revival?” From our beginning definition I’d like to propose that we are looking for a person or thing that precipitates an event. I am going to suggest that a revival catalyst is a person whom God uses through persistent prayer and godly attitudes and attributes to precipitate revival that only God can bring about. What might that list of qualities include?

Listed below are several attributes that seem to capture God’s attention as he looks us all over to find a heart that he can trust.

  • Humility
  • Brokenness over personal, regional, and national sin
  • Hunger and thirst for God
  • Obedience, as a way of responding to God’s love
  • Keeping our word, especially when it hurts
  • Patience and endurance, especially in prayers of humility, repentance, adoration, & intercession
  • Integrity
  • Holiness
  • Passion (Hot; NOT lukewarm)
  • Respect, Honor, “Fear,” Worship of God
  • Desperation

Please respond in two ways: 1-let me know what qualities are missing; 2- join me in praying for revival beginning with us and moving outward throughout God’s sphere of influence.


For inspiration I have two suggestions: 1-go next week to see the movie War Room; 2- read up on the Moravians who gave up their bickering, gripes, and hostilities for unquenchable round-the-clock prayer that promoted John 17 unity and whetted the appetite for thousands to love and serve God!

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I took a break from my blog during the month of August, 2015. And I told you I would see you in September. Well, it is September. And I am back as I said I would be. I pray for God to speak to each of you in these entries.

I am so blessed to have people whom I love and love me on daily prayer lists. I am not sure anything cultivates my love for them like prayer. I also have the names of people on prayer lists who are hard to love or even like. Exercising kindness toward them is necessary for feeling and growing my love for these people. But these actions must begin with and be carried out in prayer.


I have people on prayer lists who have wronged me, or worse, harmed people I love. God clearly impressed me to put these people on prayer lists. But I do often find it difficult to pray for them. Praying in general helps me understand and apply the truth of God's grace to them. God's forgiving love begins to rub off on me. Especially as I put forgiveness into words by asking God, even against my will, to forgive them.


Interestingly enough I often need more patience with people who are closer to me than those I have trouble loving. They are sinners. And I am a sinner. We sin against each other. I thank God that prayer brings me into contact with God's patience with me. Despite what the devil accuses I can go to God in confession immediately after sinning. I am still His child even after I sin. Praying in that grace opens my heart to patience with others even when we rub each other the wrong way.


I am not sure anything is as necessary to love as humility. And nothing cultivates humility like access to God by grace in prayer. I do not deserve the privilege of prayer. The Son of God had to die on a cross to purchase it for me. I did not just need a little more righteousness to see the kingdom of God. I had to be born again. And I am no more deserving of God's grace than that person I find it difficult to love.

Today I plan to pray specifically for God to show His great love to everyone one my prayer lists and people I come in contact with all day.

Next week I plan to begin a series of blog entries on the Foundations of Prayer

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A 'Platform' on Our Knees

When I recently I hit 20,000 Twitter followers @BestBibleTweets, I started having eerie flashbacks of a conversation last year with a pastor friend named Steve. He had spent a considerable amount of time trying to build a social media “platform” to promote a book he had written. Some marketing guru apparently had told him that if he could gain 20,000 followers on Twitter, it would be a breeze to sell his book.


      It took several years, but finally Steve achieved his Twitter goal and was ready to launch the book. He was so excited. Steve was convinced his book would sweep the country, if not the world.


      Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well. He had invested most of his life savings to design and print 10,000 books, figuring he could easily recoup his investment when the books sold.


      But within four or five months of launching the book, reality was beginning to set in. Instead of selling thousands of books, he had sold only hundreds. And he found himself giving away many copies of the book for free to friends and relatives.


      Steve was bewildered. He thought he had built a pretty impressive platform. But somehow the response from his Twitter followers and Facebook friends was lukewarm, at best.


      Meanwhile, Steve had withdrawn from most of his pastoral responsibilities so he could go on the road and promote the book. He spoke at some churches, did some book signings, and even was interviewed on a few local radio programs. But despite these noble efforts, he still had over 9,000 books stored in his garage.


      If you are looking for an easy moral to this story, I’m not sure I have one.


      I’ve seen lots of disillusionment over the years from those who sought a higher platform. Some of these people seemed very well-intentioned, with a sincere passion to impact the world with their message. But in other cases, the message seemed to get buried amid narcissism and self-promotion.


      I’m not against platforms. I’m glad to have an ever-growing tribe of followers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I want to get my messages to an ever-wider audience.


      But I’m still wary of all of the social media hoopla. The Bible is clear that true promotion must come from the Lord, and nowhere else (Psalm 75:6-7). If you are trusting in something else or someone else to give you a platform, you’re likely to be greatly disappointed.


      The more I walk with the Lord, the more it seems like the safest “platform” is the one closest to the ground—where we humble ourselves before others to serve them and wash their feet (John 13). And doesn’t this kind of face-to-face, hands-on, behind-the-scenes ministry bear greater fruit in the long run than any lofty type of platform?


      When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, will He really ask us how big our platform was? Or will He simply want to know whether we faithfully loved and served people with whatever platform we were given?


      Despite the clear words of Jesus, it seems we’re still prone to seek the place of honor at the banqueting table instead of the place of service (Luke 14:7-11). Meanwhile, Jesus’ model of leadership was to build a platform to lift others higher, not ourselves.



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Passion, Purpose, Power and Prayer

9651008479?profile=originalI’ve watched the influence of the church ebb and flow for the past 30 years, and I have to confess that in most cases, the message and energy behind a movement was much more impressive than the fruit it created. Maybe my expectations are high, but based on the time, money, energy, promotion and presentations strategy that’s flowed into the public arena in the name of modern Christian ministry, I believe that, if Christ-followers were giving our time and attention to the right things, we would see much more lasting fruit in the world.

Before I go too far into the deep end of the pool where it sounds like I’m just splashing around and complaining, let me preface these thoughts with my confession. I’m a committed member of a local body that is using it’s time and resources to build the kingdom and send the gospel around the world. We’re not a perfect church, and I’m not a perfect Christ-follower. Yet I have to return to the standards by which Jesus gave us to measure myself, and periodically ask “How am I doing? How is my church doing? Are we fulfilling the commands Jesus gave us to make disciples, expand his kingdom and transform the world?”

In business or ministry, it’s easy to be busy – and still accomplish little of lasting value, and the larger the church, the more momentum the congregation can create, and by mistaking momentum for God’s presence and anointing, churches can carry on for years (decades), never fulfilling the great commission in a way that is commensurate with their abilities, gifts, resources, and calling.

Ouch. As Christ–followers, we all know this is true. We just want it to be true of other churches . . .  “those guys over there” . . .  not us.

Looking Back

In the past 40 years, since the Jesus People movement of the 60’s, the corresponding Charismatic movement in the churches, and the explosion of creativity which followed, contemporary Christianity has become its own subculture. Social calendars in every major city are filled with Christian concerts, conferences, cruises, musicians, magicians, comedians, authors, and events in ways that would have never happened just 40 years ago. When I came to Christ, contemporary Christian music was only found in dimly light coffee houses, street corners, and barn pastures. How things have changed.

My lament is not meant to criticize, but revolves around this single idea. As the culture changed, and contemporary Christian ideas became part o the larger church culture, Christians thought, and popular magazines of the contemporary Christian movement proclaimed that the cultural acceptance and transformation would carry with it deeper Christian influence in the world. We thought that because Christian music was appearing on the airwaves along with other top 40 and rock and roll music, that Christianity would be more accepted, and have greater influence. As money flowed into the Christian subculture grew in the name of evangelism, missionary and outreach budgets shrunk, and yet Christian influence in our culture diminished. Something is wrong with this picture.

At the same time Christian concerts, music, conferences, art, t-shirts and book stores have proliferated, the church’s influence on the secular world has measurably decreased. Virtually every survey has revealed fewer people attending churches, fewer people believing and regularly reading the bible as a source of their faith. The country and the church has more divorces, more violence, more single parent homes, and more brokenness. By any objective measurement, the gospel is making less of an impact on the American continent today that is was 50 years ago.

Jesus said that our Father’s will was that we bear fruit, and that our fruit remains, and this is the reason for this retrospection. I’m not writing to condemn or criticize. I’m writing to say, with the exception of a few pockets, the church today has a huge disconnect between our effort, activity, and outcome. We are called to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world. Over the past 40 years, we’ve lost ground.

Spending our Resources for Eternity.

I’m not writing today to propose one size fits all, uninformed solutions. I’m not that arrogant. I’m writing to ask four simple questions.

  • Is there passion in your heart for what you’re doing, and for what your church is doing? Confirmation of God’s blessing and purpose is passion. If our hearts are cold, it’s time to do visit the Heart Surgeon, empty our hands of everything that consumes our time and energy, and give him permission to change things, and change me.

  • Are you living on purpose or just spending time?  Jesus and his followers in the church’s first centuries were clear about their mission. They didn’t allow the needs of the day, hour, or moment, extraneous entertainment and time hungry hobbies, and to pull them away from God’s Word, prayer, and doing the things which God entrusted into their care. They knew they were stewards who would give account, not owners who could do what every they wanted.

  • Is there power in your life, church, family, and ministry . . . real, life changing power? The early church and the Christian church throughout history, during times of revival embraced and flowed with supernatural, life-changing, relationship-healing power. Like a vineyard which no longer yields fruit abundantly, maybe it’s time to ask God to prune our lives, and surrender leaves and branches that consume energy without returning anything of eternal value.

  • How is your prayer life?  In Jesus’ life, passion, purpose, and power all flowed from his connection to his Father in prayer. When the disciples got up in the morning, and Jesus wasn’t around, the gospels tell us that they knew He was off praying. In fact, the only thing that the disciples specifically asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. They knew his life flowed from his Father, and they wanted to live the same way.

At the heart of what I’m asking is this question. Why don’t we have revival? Why doesn’t the church live like, look like and have the influence on the world like the first century church, and like the church in the US during the Reformation, and the first and second great awakening. The late revivalist Leonard Ravenhill wrote that today's Church didn’t have revival because we are content to live without it. While we can’t manufacture revival, every outpouring of God’s power that changed the course of the world was connected to a period when his people loved and obeyed passionately, lived purposefully, walked in the power of God’s spirit, and prayed fervently.

The world is becoming a darker place. Are we the generation that will start the next great awakening? 

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Who am I Praying for?

9651008260?profile=originalThe men’s ministry in our church recently held a daylong event, and I had the privilege of being part of the prayer team. As the guys gathered in the gym surrounded by camo-netting, motorcycles and 4x4 ATV’s,  I was welcomed into the church's prayer chapel by the presence of God’s Spirit. I expected to fight with my roaming mind to stay focused on the prayer-task at hand. I expected to consciously have to still my mind, and wait for my emotional wheels to coast to a halt before I would really enter into God’s presence.

Instead God’s Spirit met me at the door, and for the first hour, I was overwhelmed by a single idea. I sensed God ready to meet with me, not standing off in the distance waiting for me to fight my way into his presence. While I didn’t hear an audible voice, I overwhelmingly sensed God say:

 “You are here to ask me to do things for you, but you don’t have to ask. You don’t even have the right to ask for anything of your own accord. I want your prayers on the basis of my promises to you. I want to answer your prayers, and I offer you my grace, power and presence on the basis of my Unchanging Word.”

As I’m writing this, I’m having a hard time describing how this single idea transformed my prayer expectations. I often spend time in extended prayer. I have my prayer lists, and I pray for my kids, my church, my finances, family and country. I ask God to glorify himself, reveal himself, and cover those who spend their lives in service of the ministry. I have my shopping list that I lug into my prayer closet, but so often I feel like I have to walk up hill before I can talk to God. I have to clear away the brush in my mind to find a peaceful place in the middle of my mental forests before I pray. For those of you in an intercessory ministry, I trust you understand the struggle my inadequate words are trying to frame

Prayer is hard work, and if we don’t pray, there are events in the kingdom that will likely never happen, miracles left undone, souls left unchanged. I do, and God will; if I don’t, God won’t. It’s hard to dance with this humble task without becoming arrogant in the execution.

Yet that day, God reminded me that I am in a covenant with him, and He wants me to pray. God wants and waits for me to enter into his presence. I don’t have to come up with the perfect formula of words before God hears me. He has promised to hear me . . . hear us, and we get to stand before him on the basis of his unchanging commitment to us, our Father, Redeemer, Savior and Friend.

Years ago, a musician named Scott Wesley Brown told this story. Sitting in a prayer meeting, he waited his turn while trying to find the perfect words to impress God and the people around him. He didn’t feel the pride in his heart until a young girl spoke up and said slowly:

“Dear God, A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.   
Father, I don’t know what to say, so here are all the letters I know.
You put them together in the right order. Amen”

Irritated at first, Brown was humbled by the time the girl finished. He wanted to get it right, to impress and declare. The girl just wanted to pray.

When I go into prayer, do I remember that prayer is a conversation? I hear it all the time, but too often I act as if it’s all up to me. Why aren’t more people coming to the prayer meetings? Didn’t Jesus call all of us to pray? Why are there so few people in the prayer room this morning? It’s so easy to be quietly proud in my prayer closet. That morning in the prayer chapel, God illuminated my pride from his perspective.

I pray because he asks me to come. I can expect an audience because he promised to answer. I am welcomed because of what Jesus sacrificed for me. I can love, because I was first loved. If there’s anything I have to get right in my prayers, it’s humility, and the conviction that God will keep his promises when I ask. Now I can ask in faith.



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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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