The Scripture I want to look at in this blog actually addresses only men. However, I believe ladies can read over our shoulders and get a firm grasp on some things that we need God to do in our marriages. My experience is that ladies are much better at doing that than men.
The verse is 1 Peter 3:7.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
The goal of Peter's admonition points to a great spiritual power afforded to husbands and wives. In Matthew 18:19 Jesus said,
“If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
The depth of unity that can be developed between husbands and wives brings an Earth shaking power in prayer. Need I say that our enemy the devil will do anything he can to hinder our united prayer. Let's look prayerfully at what the Holy Spirit teaches in this verse that will enable us to overcome the barrage of the enemy.
Peter begins by telling men, “live with your wives.” There is a mindset related to this. We need to develope an attitude of unity with one another in marriage. It is God's will for the two of you to become one. Thinking together requires time together? We should desire for our unity to be as complete as that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bound together in ultimate love. This may be counter productive to say, because such unity is absolutely impossible for us. But I can say, Men, we are to live in union with our wives. We are to bind ourselves to them with the love of Christ.
Possibly the most crucial thing God tells us here is to live with our wives with understanding. If you think this is easy, you probably haven't tried. You will not think like your spouse. In the 1990s John Grey wrote, Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. He made a clear point that men and women don't think alike. Although I believe the differences commonly pointed out by social scientists are too uniform and simplistic, we are different. You will not be able to understand your partner by reading a book. You will have to spend time with your wife to begin to understand her. You will have to spend time thinking about what she needs and wants. Most of all you will need to pray about it. If God does not show you how she is thinking, you will remain obtuse. And while this is a life-long endeavor, what God shows you should change your attitudes and behavior. If you are not considerate, you don't understand at all.
We are to put our wives on a pedestal of the love of God. First, because they are the weaker vessels. I am aware that all women are not physically weaker than men. And there will always be ways in which the wife will actually be stronger than her husband. But there is something precious about her weakness. Treat her like fine china.
Then we are to honor our wives as spiritual equals, “heirs together of the grace of life.” Of course, this is how we begin. But in many, possibly most cases, the wife has matured beyond her husband spiritually. And in every case, God will give each of you strengths and gifts that He has not given the other so you can draw from one another.
The point of all this is that you can pray for one another and pray together. Each person in a marriage ought to have a list of things you consistently ask God to do in your partner. These should include some things you feel like you need from your spouse. They should include things you know your spouse needs, possibly from you. And you need to pray for the purposes God has revealed for the person with whom you are partnered.
And because our lives are so busy, we need to work at finding time to pray together. Every couple may do this differently. You may need to be patient with your partner in this. But make it a goal. You can even pray for God to help you find time and incentive to pray together. Who knows what God will do in answer?
Last Sunday our pastor preached on Psalm 133. And God spoke to me as he preached. I am reminded of something I once heard from a spellbinding preacher. He said God gave him his best sermons as He spoke to him when he was listening to other preachers preach. Well, in fact, although my preaching is now done with my pen, God still seems to be giving me sermons. And I would like to share this one with you. And my sharing will be most blessed, if at some point in reading this God gives you a sermon to preach to His people.
UNITY AMONG BROTHERS
I once heard a denominational leader say he could tell the spiritual temperature of a church by simply walking into a worship center as people were gathering for the service on a Sunday morning. I think he was absolutely right. You can sense excitement in the people or the lack of it. And most of all you can feel the love and unity binding the church together. Jesus said all men would know we are his disciples by the way we love one another.
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 133. The first verse of Psalm 133 calls us to see the goodness of unity in the family of God.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!”
The wording of this reminds me of the creation account in Genesis 1. There the Hebrew word tov, which translates to our English word “good” is first used in the Bible. Again and again as God creates, the scripture says “God saw that it was good.” But after He created man, we have His greater exclamation in verse 31 which begins with the word, “Behold.”
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
With this call for us to sit up and pay attention, Psalm 133 is calling us to see that in the unity of the family of God, He is restoring the goodness of His creation.
And he says it is good and pleasant. There is a sweetness that is not only enjoyed by our Heavenly Father, but that He shares with us in the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Verse 2 of Psalm 133 paints a vivid picture for us.
“It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!”
The Holy Spirit is comparing unity in the family of God with the consecration of the priesthood. What this must have brought to the minds of the Children of Israel is something very similar to some things God did in my early life.
I grew up in Oklahoma going to Falls Creek Baptist Assembly. You do not have to be from Oklahoma to have herd of the largest Youth Camp in the world. But I remember going as a young person with thousands of other young people and listening to the word of God preached. At the end of each evening service hundreds of young people would go forward in the altarcall to commit their lives to Christ. When they would finally bring that invitation to a close they would lead those young people to the chapel where where there was counseling space. And as they marched away we would all sing, I have decided to follow Jesus. I seldom sing that hymn without chills rising up on my neck and the the backs of my arms as I remember seeing those crowds of young people, and myself being one of those committing our lives to Christ.
The psalmist here is saying our unity is a God thing. He brings it about. And it is an expression of consecration to him.
But I said this reminds me of two things in my early life. The other is when I first sensed God calling me to preach. I struggled with His calling for an entire semester in college. And when I became convinced that God was indeed calling me, that became the driving force of my life. It is that to this day. You may not be called to preach. But as you sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ you have been given a calling by God. And like Aaron and all the priest who followed him you have a special anointing, a purpose that is to be the driving force of your life. This picture says the unity of the church is an expression of our
- PURPOSE AND THE GOSPEL.
The next picture given in verse 3 is very different but quite as vivid.
“It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the
mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
This is a picture of rich blessing from God.
Mount Hermon is a snow capped-mountain, part of a snow-capped range just north of Israel. We lived for 30 years in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by glorious snowy mountains. And the rain fall was a continual mist of blessing. We had a 90 foot Douglas Fir in our backyard. There was a hundred fifty foot tree in the park two blocks from our house. And our library had in a glass case a cutting of the largest Douglas Fir ever removed from the forest. The base of that tree was over 12 feet in diameter. In this picture God is saying unity the church grows from his continual blessing upon us. And it ends by saying this blessing is itself eternal life.
- ETERNAL LIFE
When we see and enjoy unity in the family of God we ought to immediately think of John 3:16. Let's say that verse together in the version we have projected.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Do you have a longing in your heart to be part of the unity of God's family?
The sermon that God gave me is different from the sermon our pastor preached. And I suspect if God speaks to you through this brief, the sermon you preach to your people will be much different than mine. However, I suspect any sermon preached on Psalm 133 would depend upon similar fundamentals. In the days when I was preaching week by week I always began with the basics listed below. With these basics in my mind I would usually take a walk. As I walked my sermon I would preach everything that came into my mind on these basic points. And so I actually composed my sermons out loud.
THE CENTRAL IDEA OF THE TEXT : The psalmist exclaims over the God given goodness of unity among brothers.
PEOPLE : believers who make up this church
Felt/Need : unity in the church
PURPOSE : Doctrinal; I want my hearers to know unity in the church is a work of God.
THRUST : Unity in the church is a God thing.
PICTURE : The Dew from Mt. Hermon
STORY : Oil on, Aaron's beard
Good and Pleasant
- Purpose, Gospel
- Eternal life
Please pray that the believers all over the AP will rise up in prayer, unite, inquire of God, and seek to come alongside His heart for the people of the region. Pray that believers will be willing to be God's hands and feet; to be His ambassador's wherever they are placed (2 Cor. 5:20). In the turmoil that surrounds the region, many people are unsettled and questioning their faith, thus providing opportunities to share the Good News. Pray for these connections.
I wrote last week that I am alarmed over the seriousness of our national disunity in America. But in that blog I pointed out that Jesus did not come to bring unity but a sword. Believers are called to certain convictions that we can never compromise and that the world may never accept.
But I believe it is more important that I write to you about how to interface with a society that differs from us at such crucial points.
Some years ago I read about some of western people involved in the Chinese church's Back to Jerusalem Movement being amazed that they were not praying for the fall of the communist government. They were instead praying for God to work in it.
1 Peter 2:13-15 reads
"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every Authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
Paul wrote something nearly identical in Romans 13. These men lived in a world where Christians were already being persecuted. Paul appealed to Caesar when he was arrested in Jerusalem. But he stood up to the authorities who wanted to quietly release him and Silas in Ephesus.
How does that speak to us today? Could King George have been as wicked as Nero who burned Christians alive on poles to light his garden parties? How do we know which to do in the circumstances that we face today?
We need to begin by saying we will have to struggle with the issues that we face. There are no simple answers to modern questions.
We will have to struggle with right and wrong. It will not always be simple or obvious.
And we will need to struggle over our witness and the glory of God. This will include decency, integrity, humility, and honesty.
And most importantly, we must struggle to discern the will of God.
I basically agree with Francis Schaefer's statement in The Christian Manifesto that a government that breeches its calling by God should be overthrown. But I believe he missed a point in his argument. That is the issue of God's timing. When God told Abraham he was going to give his descendants the land of Canaan, He said they had not filled up their sins. Four hundred years would pass before God said it was time.
I don't know where we are in America. But I know it is the will of God to pray for our country and for our leaders by name and by need. And I will struggle in prayer and God's word over the issues of politics and voting and our country.
During the month of October, thousands of people around the world are joining in and praying through the countries of the 10/40 Window. Today is prayer on behalf of Bahrain. PTAP is delighted to join in these prayers, especially for the seven countries on the Arabian Peninsula.
Praise God that there are very open expressions of the Lord Jesus in Bahrain, Christian Hospitals, Churches and Christian Bookstores (The Bible, Acts 22:15).
Pray that these different ministry centers will continue to have freedom to shine their lights and that many locals will seek out these places of truth (The Bible, Isaiah 45:19).
Pray that the government will have wisdom to care for people living in their country from both the Sunni and Shi'ite Islamic background. Right now the divide seems to be increasing (The Bible, 1 Peter 2:17).
Call to Salvation
Pray that God will bring Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims to Himself and they will dwell together in unity (The Bible, Colossians 3:14).
Qatar, Arabian Peninsula
Day 14 - July 1, 2015
As Muslims are praying and fasting during Ramadan, we pray for them.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one- I in them and you in me-so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Christians in the Arabian Peninsula are asking us to pray John 13:34-35 & John 17:22-23 over Qatar.
Qatar is a relatively politically stable country. But what we do see is a struggle to maintain its cultural and especially its religious values amidst ongoing and aggressive modernization and development. Pray that the government's response, which can often be influenced heavily by Islamic fundamentalists, will be driven by the desire to embrace that which is honoring to God-respecting and protecting the rights of especially the majority expat workers through the observation of international labor laws and basic human rights.
We praise God that Qatar has granted property for the building of churches and places of worship. But the reality is that there is simply not enough space on the compounds to accommodate the large number of Christ followers. Pray that the government will grant permission for groups to meet outside of the compounds in places like restaurants, hotels, etc. Please pray for the various fellowships, that God would bring increasing unity among them. Pray that God would use the existing fellowships to meet the growing needs of the very poor migrant communities, especially in the labor camps, and that they would be bold to proclaim the Gospel to these people.
An ongoing struggle continues to be unity and community among the Christian workers in Qatar. Several years ago, the government cracked down on Christian workers, resulting in a few getting deported and causing the community to fragment and become fearful. Most recently, one of our workers was temporarily detained. Since then, this particular couple has been under very obvious scrutiny resulting in many of the other workers cutting off ties with them. As you can understand, they are feeling very lonely and discouraged. Pray for God to break the spirit of fear and that He may rebuild the trust and unity of the workers so that they can begin to work in concerted effort again. Pray that the workers would even be willing to come together to pray and fellowship together. Pray that God would grant the different fellowships a united heart to impact Qatar with the Gospel. Source: Christian leader in the Arabian Peninsula
Qatar makes the news because of World Cup Football, their airlines, and their financial support of Daesh (ISIS), al-Qaeda and other violent Islamic groups. After the killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, Egypt criticized Qatar for their funding of such an organization. Pray that Qatar will stop any and all funding of radical Islamic groups. Pray that the grip that this form of Islamic terrorism has on them will be removed and be replaced with freedom in Christ. Pray for the very few Qatari believers in Jesus to grow in their faith and their love of God (The Bible, Ephesians 3:14-21). Source: The 10/40 Window Prayer Points for Every Nation (April 2015)
OK, so some of you have already branded me as a heretic. "How can this guy not care about revival?" Others are at least curious and will read on. Maybe one or two (my best friend and wife perhaps) can't wait to hear more.
Trust me, at least here at the start, when I say that I would love to see revival in my city (Austin), country and the world. I've read about the great revivals in our past (of which there have been few) and heard many messages and exhortations to pray for the next one. I certainly don't criticize others of you who long for a revival of some sort in your lifetime.
But let me tell you why I'm not currently spending a lot of time praying for one.
First, I'm not sure what I'm praying for if I do. Am I asking for large crowds to pack stadiums, for millions to suddenly march to their statehouses and kneel on the steps, for churches to suddenly be filled with worshipers? What would a revival in the classic sense look like? And if revival isn't going to occur like it has in the past then what do I ask God to do today? I would suggest most of us don't have a clue.
If some sort of spiritual awakening is going to happen then perhaps only God knows what it will look like and He wants us to simply till the soil well in our churches and communities so that fruit will easily grow.
Second, there are a lot of other things that need the passionate prayers of God's people right here, right now. In America we need our government leaders and politicians to get a grip on reality and start leading our country with wisdom, discretion and integrity. Marriages in our churches are tanking every day. Families are struggling and priorities are way out of line when it comes to the things of God and what really matters for eternity.
It seems to me that if we pray for God to work in lives and homes from the inside out that the revival we seek will more likely occur in some way than if we just pray for the revival itself.
Third, I don't see much Scriptural evidence or encouragement to pray for or seek revival. We are admonished to be holy, to go into the world and make disciples and to love God and people radically. I feel more compelled to pray for those things to be true in me and in other believers and see what God does as a result.
Finally, I think we are often praying for something that God can do much more subtly and slowly. I remember a man in my former church who was put into a coma to basically save his life. I don't remember all the details but I do know that he miraculously lived but had to be revived from his coma slowly. Revival isn't necessarily going to be quick or stupendous. We may never see the kind of revival, at least on the surface, that we've seen in the past.
However, God can still do something amazing in our churches, cities and country. Perhaps he'll do it one person or church at a time. Maybe we won't see it while it's happening but we'll look back five years from now and realize that Christians have been renewed and revitalized by the power of the Holy Spirit. I've written elsewhere that God is doing something special in my city of Austin, Texas. It's happening slowly but it's happening. Somehow I'd rather keep praying for that.
If you don’t believe we are in need of a spiritual awakening in our nation, you are not obsessed the news networks like I am! Seriously, you cannot live in this nation without some awareness that a movement of God is desperately needed.
Historically, this nation has experienced some powerful spiritual awakenings that have dramatically changed the spiritual climate of society. However, we are perhaps 150 years overdue for another nationwide, saturating awakening.
But there are hopeful signs! Before every great spiritual awakening, there were some common indicators that we’re beginning to see emerge once again. Billy Wilson of Awakening America Alliance shared some encouraging observations with me in an interview.
One of the first signs is an increase in the use of revival and spiritual awakening language. In the past few years, great movements of prayer have been rising up, including alliances of Christian ministries devoted to prayer for revival. Eighteen years ago I wrote my first article on revival. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I was aware that there had to be something more to faith in Christ than what I was seeing displayed in the Church. Now the call for revival is becoming commonplace in prayer circles.
Another sign is an increase in the fervency of prayer among the “remnant.” These are the pastors and intercessors who have prayed faithfully and sought God for a greater move of His power in our midst. More and more prayer warriors are joining the ranks of those praying fervently for revival. This is one of the most encouraging and hopeful signs, as almost all revivals have started with less than 12 people praying. God loves to work through a remnant!
As we close in on a desperately needed move of God in our nation, there are two more indicators that will increase just prior to revival breaking out:
- There will be an increase in united, extraordinary prayer. This prayer is passionate, fervent, and repentant in nature—and this is increasing exponentially!
- There will be a restoration of integrity to the pulpit. You will begin to hear greater boldness in messages based on the truth of the gospel, and it will include the message of repentance. Not only will the messengers of the gospel proclaim the integrity of the gospel more clearly, they will also experience their own repentance and transformation. This is something we should all long for our own lives.
Keep your eyes on the horizon. Revival fires are not far away. Keep praying; keep repenting. As we humble ourselves in brokenness, God will draw closer and closer to us. Come, Lord Jesus!