Praying With Christ Obviously Present

clasped-hands-541849_1920“Pray for our church. We may not be able to continue beyond this Sunday,” an earnest young man pleaded. He explained that his church was in a tailspin. Their interim pastor had left in the midst of a conflict. Attendance had fallen so low that the church could be forced to disband.

I offered to help. A “town meeting” had been scheduled for 4:00pm Sunday afternoon so the congregation could discuss the situation. When I talked with the elders I concluded there was no clear sense of direction.

I wondered, “How can this church experience a rebirth of faith, love, obedience and unity in Christ?”  The answer was clear. We needed to lead the congregation to an act of faith in our Lord’s promise to be in our midst when we gather together in His name and agree in what we ask Him to do. Reviewing Matthew 18:15-20, I observed that the promise of His presence was given to believers who are trying to restore a sinning brother.

We needed to lead the congregation to agree to an act of faith claiming our Lord’s presence to be in our midst. We must ask Him to be present, not as a mere figurehead like the Queen of England, but as the active Head of His church. We must pray that He would actively take charge and restore the church to unity under His authority.

So that’s what I proposed when the congregation assembled. They agreed and we went to prayer. For about forty-five minutes one after another earnestly prayed. When it was clear that they were through praying I prepared to close the meeting, assuring the congregation that I would seek to meet with the former interim pastor and the elders within a week to seek reconciliation since the conflict had centered in their relationship.

Before I could close the meeting I noticed a scowling man off to my right stand up. “Wait a minute! I want to say something!” Angrily he blurted out, “If these elders knew how to lead the church, they wouldn’t need to invite this man out here to help them!”

What could I say? What could the elders say? We were the targets of his attack. Defending ourselves was hardly wise in a situation like this. Yet this man was trying to rekindle the fires of strife. I knew only God could save this meeting and this whole reconciliation process. I knew only God could silence this man. So I began to silently pray, “Lord, don’t let this man break up this meeting in renewed strife.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard one member after another respond with gracious words of peace and support for the ministry of reconciliation that had begun. No one offered to join this disgruntled man’s attack. A brief discussion followed. The questions and comments were shared in a good spirit.

The meeting closed with prayer and my heart was overflowing with thanksgiving. Our Lord had indeed taken His place in the center of our meeting. He was obviously present and actively in charge because all but one man agreed in an act of faith to invite Him to do so. Like chicks who have obeyed the cluck of their mother hen and gathered together under her wings, so we had trusted Christ to unite us under His authority. There we found Him faithful to fulfill His promise, bless us with His presence and His great reconciling Power.

On Thursday evening we had the reconciliation meeting with the elders and the former interim pastor. Two other ministers joined me in moderating the meeting. Again we asked the Lord Jesus Christ to be present and take charge. This was not an empty formality. We humbly confessed our helpless dependence on Him to reconcile us under His authority. Many of the members of the church were praying.

When the discussion began to heat up we stopped and prayed for our Lord’s gracious, reconciling work among us. We returned to prayer a second time when we saw that we were deadlocked and midnight was approaching. Several men prayed. Then there was a pause. One man broke the silence by asking another for forgiveness. One after another followed his example until everyone had shared in reconciliation. We closed with the doxology and a benediction.

The need to repent and return to Christ is by no means limited to churches that are falling apart and facing closure. Churches that are large and growing can drift away from faith, love and obedience to Christ. No one may even notice that He is being reduced to a powerless figurehead, while the transfer of authority takes place and others take charge.

Obviously this is what happened to the church at Ephesus. They did a lot of good things, but they left their first love for Christ. This could be fatal unless they repented (Revelation 2:1-7). The church at Laodicea was doing so well without Christ, that no one noticed He was outside. His letter to that church did not indicate there was any immorality, false doctrines or church fights. Yet Christ was outside knocking. When He said “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me” He was not sure that anyone would respond (Rev. 3:20). He was ready to vomit that lukewarm church out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16).

There is no eternal security for churches. We must keep our love relationship with Him as our Head alive and well, or cease to be the church, the living body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23)! There are warning signs that evangelical churches all over North America are in urgent need of a fresh encounter with Christ as our Head. A Gallup poll revealed:

While religion is highly popular in America, it is to a large extent superficial, it does not change people’s lives to the degree one would expect from their level of professed faith. In ethical behavior, there is very little difference between the churched and the unchurched.

The small church in Acts turned the ancient world upside down (Acts 17:6). “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:20). The apostles ministry turned so many to Christ from idols that the idol makers in Ephesus feared their business would be shut down (Acts 19:23-28).

We are weak today because we have forgotten the importance and purpose of corporate prayer. The purpose of corporate prayer is to unite the church in meeting with Christ in humble submission to His all powerful headship.  Prayer meetings should be aimed at restoring and maintaining our corporate relationship of faith, love and obedience to Christ.

The Christian faith is unique. No other religion has a founder who has risen from the dead and is able to actively take charge of His church from His throne in heaven. If we love Him supremely we want Him to be obviously present in our midst as He promised. We know we need Him to take charge of us in His great wisdom and gracious power. We expect Him to wash and cleanse our churches (Eph. 5:26-27). We trust Him to lead us into heavenly harmony with Himself and one another so the world may believe our witness (John 17:20-23).

The power of our faith is in the headship of Christ. When the church ceases to unite in prayer confessing our humble dependence on Him, we lose His power to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. Then we become weak like any dead religion that has no union or partnership with God in heaven.

We can enter the way to recovery and revival by listening to His voice, repenting of past failure and opening the door inviting Him to come in as our beloved and honored Head. That’s the spirit in which great awakenings have always begun.

This post contains excerpts from Oliver W. Price’s book, The Power of Praying Together, which was recently re-released as Pray With Christ. You may order this book, as well as A Leader’s Guide for Praying With Christ Obviously Present And Actively In Charge, Forgotten Secrets To A Live Prayer Meeting, from Bible Prayer Fellowship

Advertisements

Let God Be God In Your Life

praying-1713281

I have prayed that God would have complete freedom to take up His loving role as God over me, my wife, and all of my offspring. I want us to love Him so much that we willingly let Him rule us as God. I began praying this way after I noticed a chain of references from Genesis 17:7-8 to Revelation 21:3 expressing God’s desire to be God to His people. Through painful trials which I have not always understood, I have learned how much the answer costs God and us.

If God merely wanted power over us without love it would be easy. God always has absolute power and authority over both saints and sinners. He exalted Joseph to be prime minister of Egypt and used betrayal by his brothers to advance him toward that goal. He used Jesus’ enemies to accomplish His death for the sins of the world, and then raised Him from the dead. He will some day crush all opposition and make Jesus king over all the earth (Psalm 2). God has the power to do as He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

However, God’s love finds no pleasure in simply having power over all opposition so that His will is finally accomplished. He wants to be God over His people in a union of love.

Let me explain this by an illustration. When a determined parent tells his child to mow the lawn, the child has to do the chore. He can, however, choose the spirit in which he will do it. He can do it willingly to show his love for his parent or he can do it grudgingly. Any parent would be glad to see him do it willingly. No parent enjoys compelling a stubborn child to obey.

More importantly, parents cannot give their best to an unwilling child. You can force a child to mow the lawn but you cannot force him or her to be kind and loving to the rest of the family. To build good character requires his co-operation.

How many parents see their children in trouble, causing the parent’s heart to ache to help their children? They are hindered by the child’s unwilling heart. For example, suppose your grown son is struggling in his business. You have money that you could spare. He would accept that gladly. But you know that this is not the real solution. He needs to accept financial counseling and learn to discipline his spending. He strongly resists this kind of help. Yet he is angry with you because you do not let him have more money. He wants your help, but only on his terms. Many prayers are like that.

God has paid the cost of something eternally better that He wants to give you. God has given Himself and all He has to His children. He did this at the greatest possible sacrifice. He sacrificed His Son so He could forgive all our sins and win our love. Romans 8:32 reminds us that inasmuch as He delivered His own Son to such a death for us, “how will [God] not also with [Jesus] graciously give us all things?”

The great barrier which holds God back from totally sharing Himself and all He has with us is our own self life. We may plead with the Almighty Father for help but we are oftentimes blind toward our real problem. The big battle in prayer is in removing the barrier of self and letting God take over as God in our life. This is usually very painful and oftentimes perplexing to us.

Another illustration may help here. A mother has to take her toddler to the doctor and hold him down while the doctor does a very painful procedure. How does she explain to the child that this hurt her and that she only did it because it was necessary? It was an act of love which was beyond the toddler’s ability to comprehend. God’s acts of love may likewise be beyond our ability to understand.

I heard Joni Eareckson Tada tell how God took over as God in her life. She said that her prayers as a teen were the kind of self-centered requests you might expect. “Lord, make that cute boy ask me for a date, Friday night.” However, even at 16 years of age she prayed one day, “Lord, I want you to have your place as God in my life, but I don’t know how to put you there.”

When she lost the use of her four limbs through her dive into shallow water, she remembered that prayer. Somehow she sensed that this loss provided an opportunity to put God in His place as God in her life.

Even so, she went through a battle before she could accept her condition and honor God in it. She said that she pouted, wanted to die, and struggled to find grace to give her best to God in her condition. The strong temptation to give up on life, lose interest and just drift in a sea of self-pity threatened to dominate her.

God seemed to whisper, “Don’t you think I knew what I was doing when I answered your prayer?”

Joni said she had to humble herself. Then the Lord lifted her up. Humbling herself meant accepting her paralyzed limbs as a part of God’s way of preparing her for glory. She must give God her best with her partially paralyzed body.

Her high quality art drawn with a brush held by her teeth, her singing, her books, her speaking and her cheerful face show what a great triumph God can bring out of great trials. She is one of those people who “owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties,” as Charles Spurgeon put it.

Your great difficulty will likely not be nearly as drastic as Joni’s. But whatever form your trials take they are opportunities for the display of God’s glory through your love, faith and prayers.

© 2017 Bible Prayer Fellowship, Oliver W. Price

When America’s Divisions Prevent Unity in Christ

stock-photo-standing-people-mountain-wood-mystery-malaysia-girl-trees-greenery-a3054664-02fa-41c4-b446-f357ebd110ddChannel Of Revival: Worshiping In One Accord

One of the greatest needs we have today is to become one in the Spirit with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus prayed that all of His followers might be one in the Father and in the Son (John 17:20-23). Jesus expected us to be “perfected in unity” so the world would know that the Father sent Him and that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus (John 17:23).

This unity is very important because a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). Needless to say, Satan knows this and aims to divide and conquer us.

Jesus’ prayer was answered in Acts. Even new believers had such love and oneness that they spontaneously shared everything they had to meet their brothers’ needs (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 4:31-35). They were of one heart and one soul.

Today this unity seems unreal. Many would wonder if such unity is possible in our time. We have had divided, competitive Christianity so long we have forgotten how serious our divisions are. Most importantly we have lost the conviction that we can be one and that we must once again become one in the Spirit or suffer disastrous losses. One of these critical losses is in our home life.

Christian marriages are breaking up at a rate that rivals the unsaved world. If we cannot claim the power of God to become one in the Spirit in our church life, what hope does our gospel offer to marriages and families that need to be united in love?

Bible prophecy warns us that extreme love for self will bring perilous times in the last days. Ruthless selfishness will invade the church and destroy the meaning of godliness among God’s people. Selfish people will have the form of godliness, but they will deny the power and reality of it (II Timothy 3:1-5).

The power of godliness is the power to live together as one harmonious family of God (Ephesians 4:1-16). All the power of God is available to unite our marriages, families and churches. How then can we receive God’s power for oneness in Christ?

First, we need to understand what the barrier to our oneness really is. To see this we must remember the first sin on earth. Satan tempted our first parents to consider the forbidden fruit and decide for themselves whether they should eat it. They looked and they ate. Thus they committed themselves and their offspring to self as the final authority in human life. After that, all mankind forsook the power and authority of God and each one lived as he saw fit. We were all born that way. We started life with a mind set on having our own way. This disposition is hard to change.

The second thing we need to see is that completely changing our natural bend of mind is possible only by deliberately yielding our lives to the power and authority of Christ through worship. Through worship our Lord takes charge of us and delivers us from the dominance of our old nature.

How can two or more Christians yield themselves to God to take charge of them? They can worship in one accord. In Acts 1:14 the Christians waiting for the coming of the Spirit prayed in one accord. In Acts 4:24-29 the church called on God in one accord. Their prayer was mainly worshiping Him.

Worship is bowing to God to let Him take charge of you because you realize you owe Him this honor as God and you love Him. At the conclusion of his presentation of the gospel in Romans, Paul appealed to us to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). This is “your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1). Worship is offering your life to God in love.

You notice that our many bodies are presented as a single living sacrifice. Through worship we accept our place in the one body of Christ. Romans 12:3-21 goes on to appeal to us to live in harmony as one body, sharing our different spiritual gifts for the good of the whole body.

Real worship must be offered with a true heart (Hebrews 10:22). In his excellent book, How To Worship Jesus Christ, Joseph S. Carroll explains what a true heart is. He cites Bishop Westcott who wrote that it is “a heart which expresses completely the devotion of the whole person to God. There is no divided allegiance, no reserve of feeling.” The whole person is devoted to God – the mind, the will and the affections.

We may wonder how we could possibly reach such whole heartedness? Joseph Carroll encourages us, “If you seek for a true heart with all your heart, you will receive it. It is entirely your decision, for God’s callings are His enablings. He lives in you by His Spirit to meet His own demands” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

So it is a matter of your will and your faith in God’s promise. Do you want to be made whole hearted? Will you trust God for the ability to yield your all to Him? The whole church did this when they went to God in one accord (Acts 4:24). They all agreed in submitting to Him. He took charge of them and gave them a fresh filling of the Spirit and made them of one heart and one soul (Acts 4:31-32).

In our marriages, families, communities and in all Christian relations we must worship God in one accord with our whole heart. We can make the first move by going to our Lord in one accord claiming by faith that He will take charge of us and unite us with Himself and with one another. This is what He promised to do in Matthew 18:15-20. This is why Christ is in the midst of the church.

 

Prayer Spreads Revival Fires

freely-85406Much has been written about the 1904-05 Welsh Revival, the largest revival to occur in the 20th century.  What is perhaps less known is the subsequent impact of Welsh immigrants to Pennsylvania, who spread the word of God’s amazing work in Wales, ultimately resulting in an American revival over the next two years.

In 1904 the Atlanta newspapers reported an amazing revival of prayer sweeping the city. On November 2, the Supreme Court of Georgia, stores, factories, offices and even saloons closed their doors so people could attend noon prayer meetings. Spiritual awakening was spreading all over America. One Kentucky pastor died of overwork after receiving 1,000 new members in two months. Out of a population of 50,000 only fifty unconverted adults remained in Atlantic City, New Jersey!

“For two hours at midday all Denver was held in a spell…The Marts of trade were deserted between noon and two o’clock this afternoon…”, The Denver Post reported on January 20th, 1905. The entire city on a busy weekday was bowing before the throne of heaven seeking God’s blessing.

God was moving on the college campuses all over America. In New York State attendance at Bible study groups doubled at Cornell. Two thirds of the men at Northwestern University in Illinois enrolled in Bible classes. 200 men professed conversion at Trinity College in Durham, North Carolina leaving no more than 25 unconverted.

God’s people were praying. A Methodist editor wrote in the Michigan Christian Advocate, “A great revival is sweeping the United States…The Holy Spirit is convincing the people of ‘sin, of righteousness and of judgement to come.’

“The regular prayer meetings and public services seem to be surcharged with convicting power.”

The Baptist Home Mission Monthly published a report that “There is a quickening of spiritual impulse and life in the churches and in our own educational institution…There is a remarkable responsiveness to the presentation of the claims of Christ upon the hearts and consciences of men.”

In 1904 in a far away India John Hyde and Turner Patterson prepared for a missionary conference in Sialkot by praying for thirty days and nights. God brought conviction and confession of sin and revival to both the missionaries and the nationals.

God has always used dedicated preachers and praying Christians to wake up the church. D.L. Moody was a firebrand for revival and evangelism. After a week of powerless preaching in one town, Moody declared, “Perhaps there’s someone cultivating an unforgiving spirit.” The chairman of the committee got right up and left the meeting to ask a man to forgive him. That night the inquiry room was packed.

In 1872 Moody went to the British Isles. After he preached in a Congregational church one Sunday morning a young woman rushed home to tell her bedridden sister, Marianne Adlard, “God has heard my prayers,” Marianne exclaimed. She had been praying that God would send Moody to her church. Britain’s greatest revival since John Wesley began in that church that night.

In 1878 a multitude of Telegu outcasts who had long rejected the gospel turned to Christ in India. This mass movement was traced to five people who had prayed all night. At dawn they knew their prayers had been answered. Confident that God had heard they waited patiently until the might work of the Spirit began.

In 1930 God moved in a remarkable way at a missionary boys’ school in South India. 100 out of 130 boys professed conversion. Most of the boys experienced deep conviction of sin and much brokenness. God was answering the early morning prayers of three boys under 12 years of age.

In 1927 civil war was shaking China. The American consul prepared to evacuate the missionaries. Spiritual apathy hung like a cloud over the churches. Many churches were simply dead. Some missionaries resigned in despair.

By 1930 missionaries in China began to see that churches were dying because many members had been converted to Christianity, but NOT TO CHRIST. Furthermore, there were even many missionaries and pastors who DID KNOW CHRIST.

A Norwegian Lutheran missionary, Maria Monsen, began praying with a great longing to see God’s river of life flood spiritually dry China. At one point, she wondered what good her praying would do? Then she realized that the mighty Yangtze River began with the tiny raindrops that came together in the top of the mountains.

She prayed for others to share her burden and they did. Their “tiny drops of prayer” coming together were the beginning of the great spiritual awakening which eventually flowed like a river through China.

In November of 1930 Maria said, “A great revival is coming soon and it will begin in the North China Mission.” She was convinced the missionaries had fulfilled the conditions for revival in 2 Chronicles 7:14. And revival DID come.

When God revived the dying church in North China in 1932, He filled the hearts of the people with joy and singing. There were also times when an entire congregation silently meditated during the worship service. Relations between husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters were healed.

About 40 Christians in one town in North China were meeting for prayer four times a day beginning at 5:00 a.m. Believers were convicted of sin. Two men repented of hating each other. Love was strong and deep. Joy abounded.

When revival came to North China in 1932 more people were born again than in any previous year in that area. Souls were being saved daily. One missionary estimated that 3,000 came to Christ in their town. Pastors, missionaries and Bible women experienced a deeper Christian life.

A spirit of prayer was poured out on the church. People loved to pray. Many times prayer lasted two or three hours. Prayers were short, fervent and sometimes tearful. Children’s prayers led to the salvation of their parents and teachers.

A girls school, touched by a spiritual awakening sweeping through North China, enthusiastically kept a 12-hour prayer watch in an upstairs room daily until school closed. The girls began local prayer meetings when they returned home. They also witnessed to the women. As a result many churches were revived.

Join with us and many others in praying for revival on the first Monday of each month.

Written by Oliver W. Price
© 2017 Bible Prayer Fellowship; All Rights Reserved. You may copy for free distribution without making any changes.

Jesus Shows Us How To Pray For Revival

Photo by Ben White on UnsplashThe greatest life ever lived was the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. What was His secret? He was a man of prayer. He lived by means of prayer. Fifteen times in the gospels, we find Jesus in prayer. Eleven of these references are in Luke.

Consider the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life. John emphasizes that without the Father Jesus did nothing (John 5:19, 30). He came into the world to represent the Father, not Himself (John 5:43; 8:28-29). He glorified the Father on Earth and finished the work He gave Jesus to do (John 17:4).

    Notice The Priority Of Prayer In Jesus’ Life.

Luke 3:21-22 tells us Jesus was praying when He was baptized. The Spirit descended upon Him and the Father spoke to Him assuring Him of His love and approval of His life. The foundation of His life and work was to live by prayer and thus know His Father’s approval of all that He did.

Luke 5:15-16 says that great multitudes were gathered to hear Him but He “would often slip away” for prayer. He refused to let His ministry take priority over His praying.

    Prayer Was The Key To His Leadership.

Luke 6: 12-13 reports that Jesus spent all night in a mountain praying. The next day He chose the twelve. Did He pray all night about this decision?

Luke 11:1 reveals that once when Jesus finished praying, His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. Did they sense that this was the secret of His human greatness and that they might follow His wise path in their own prayers?

Luke 22:31-32 shows how Jesus’ prayers went before Peter and secured his recovery from his upcoming, stumbling denial.

    Notice How Jesus Taught His Disciples The Glory Of The Cross.

Jesus’ followers had, all along, eagerly expected Him to bring a kingdom of great power and glory to Israel. They, of course, had argued about who would sit on His left hand and His right. They were anxious to claim the glory of the throne, but they needed first to see the glory of the cross.

Jesus knew very well there would be no crown or throne at this time. Instead, there would be a cross of shame. How could He protect them from disappointment, despair, disillusionment and bitterness?

Jesus had to prepare them to see the glory of His suffering. Significantly He brought this subject up when He was alone with His disciples praying (Luke 9:18-27). In an atmosphere bathed in prayer, He taught them of His own suffering (vs. 22) and called them to take up their cross daily (vs. 23-26).

Then He took three of them to the mountain to see His glory (Luke 9:28-36). Peter, James and John were with Him on the mountain when His body glowed with radiant light. They saw this physical sign of His moral and spiritual perfection. Notice that He had gone to the mountain to pray (vs. 28). It was “as he prayed” that His face was changed and His clothes became as bright as lightening (vs. 29). Moses and Elijah appeared with Him and talked with Him about His coming death (vs. 30-31). God spoke from heaven telling them to heed the voice of Jesus (vs. 35).

This demonstration showed that He was not going to die in defeat, but triumphantly. They were learning the honor of suffering persecution for obedience to God. This lesson took root in their lives (Acts 5:41) and in the life of the early church (Acts 7:59-60; 16:25; 21:13).

While they did not grasp this whole concept until after the resurrection, it was important for this truth to be planted in their hearts before He went to the cross.

How did He meet the test of severe suffering at Calvary? By prayer. Luke 22:39-45 shows Him winning the battle of Calvary as He agonized in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Three of the seven sentences from the cross were prayers.

Matthew and Mark record the prayerful question, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). He met loneliness as the suffering sin-bearer with a prayer.

He put forgiveness where weaker people would have yielded to bitterness. His prayer for the forgiveness of His persecutors gave depth of meaning to His death (Luke 23:34).

Finally, He laid His life down with a triumphant prayer that revealed that no man took it from Him (Luke 23:46; John 10:17-18). That prayer, committing His spirit to the Father, was shouted with a loud voice. He did not speak with the weak voice of helplessness, but with the loud voice of One in full command.

Like Christ, we must learn to give ourselves to God in prayer – both in life and in death. The prayers of Jesus, along with His teaching, prepared His disciples for the greatest revival of all time in Acts 2.

Real Worship Brings Revival

freely-81570
Edwin Andrade, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal

The spirit of man without worship is like a traveler in the desert without water.  But what is worship, and what makes it so crucial to our day-to-day relationship with God?

Worship is kneeling or prostrating yourself before the Lord to pay homage to Him as your God. The Psalmist cried, ” Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6) Sincere homage to God results in a habit of obedience that springs from faith and love. Jesus said, ” You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10) Serving is obedience. Jesus was the perfect worshiper because He was obedient unto death.

Acts of worship that do not produce loving obedience are an empty pretence, like a child insisting he loves his parents while he ignores their instructions. God wants our heart. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

Worship focuses on God as the only Ruler (I Timothy 6:15). Only God commands all the forces of nature and has complete power over all creatures. God does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). Nothing restrains Him.

God has the power to use the things His creatures do against Him for His own purpose. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery to keep him from ruling over them. God allowed them to do this to bring Joseph to Egypt where God intended for Him to rule over them. They meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). Wicked men put Christ to death but this was God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23-24).

God has the wisdom, knowledge and POWER to reign as absolute King over all. Furthermore, He has the RIGHT to do so. All creatures and all things are His. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Controller of all things. Finally, He is WORTHY to reign in absolute power. His character is pure, holy, Spotless, incorruptible and changeless. His love, His justice, His mercy, His faithfulness and His truth are perfect. He alone is worthy to rule all creatures and be their final  judge.

Worshipers rejoice and give thanks for God’s great power and for His excellent character. We are saved by His power. We are thankful that the Almighty is our Father. Worshipers sing, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4: 11)

We need someone with absolute power. Otherwise the world is like a bus speeding down the freeways of time with no one at the wheel. Our present pains have no eternal purpose and our destiny can come to no good end without a God like our Lord.

Modern presentations of the gospel and salvation have not emphasized that worship is the glory due to God’s name. This makes a powerful difference in our understanding of the gospel message.

Start, for example, with sin and mankind’s lost condition. Why are people lost and on the way to everlasting punishment? What sin have all men committed that deserves punishment for all eternity in the lake of fire and brimstone?

The answer is clear. All humanity has rejected the highest duty of man which is to glorify and praise God in worship (Romans 1:21). This is where Paul begins the explanation of the gospel. Man is without excuse. He ought to know from creation that there is a Creator to whom he owes his life, breath and all things (Romans 1:18-20).

Refusal to recognize the civil government over you by ignoring its taxes, its laws and its authority is rebellion. Man is in rebellion against the government of God. Total degradation comes from this sin which corrupts every aspect of man’s personal and social life (Romans 1:22-32).

This is why there is none righteous and none that do good (Romans 3:10, 12). A secular American who lives a nice life and gives much to charity is still on the wrong side in the moral war of the ages. Man must be reconciled to His Maker and worship Him before he can do anything good.

Modern presentations of the gospel do not bring people under conviction for the ultimate sin –failure to glorify the only true and living God through worship. I will never forget interviewing a man for church membership whose view of sin was extremely shallow.

“Do you realize you are a sinner?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you know that you are so bad Christ had to die a criminal’s death between two thieves to save you?”
“Awwww!” he replied, and with that he dropped the idea of joining the church!

How many people sitting in gospel churches today really see themselves as so sinful they deserve everlasting fire apart from the grace of God?

Such conviction of sin in the early church produced powerful conversions. Believing in God and in Christ resulted in repentance and a complete about face. When the blind man Jesus healed realized who his benefactor was he said, “Lord, I believe. And he worshiped Him” (John 9:38).

To believe the gospel is to have a complete change of your attitude toward God. We were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10). We may have dreaded God’s power, but the gospel has shown us His love for us. So now we are reconciled to Him and trust Him. We have seen that we owe Him worship as God. His love for us in the gospel has won our hearts.

Thus we have become obedient to God as devoted worshipers. ”But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:1). In Thessalonica those who believed “tuned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1 :9b).

When the gospel is preached by a church of devoted worshipers the converts enter the faith with a different slant on life. They want to escape sin like something worse than AIDS. They want to perfect holiness like an athlete perfecting his physical condition to win the championship. They search the Bible to learn obedience like Christ. They pray that God will teach them and lead them in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Worship was the great issue in the fall of man, in the temptation of Jesus and in the exodus. God sent Moses to demand release of His people that they might serve (worship) Him (Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 8:20).

In the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation worship is the key issue. Daniel risked his life by refusing the king’s meat and wine which had been offered to idols. He was cast into the lion’s den as punishment for praying to God. His friends were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol. Revelation prophesies that all mankind will have to worship the Antichrist or die. Yet if they worship him they will perish forever.

A worshiper’s prayers are strong enough to shake an empire. The reason is not hard to find. The worshiper is not asking the Lord to bless his own plans. He is waiting on God for His wise plan. President Abraham Lincoln had the right idea: “I’m not worried about having the Lord on our side, I’m concerned about being on His side. ”

© 2017, Oliver W. Price, Bible Prayer Fellowship

Joy to the World! The Lord Has Come!

pexels-photo-270890We pray that this season and through the coming year you will experience all the blessings the Lord Jesus Christ came to give us.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.”(2 Corinthians 9:8)

While He lived in heaven the Lord Jesus Christ was rich. He had everything that belonged to Him as God the Son. He reigned in majesty supreme in heaven. He was the owner of all things. He was full of joy and perfectly satisfied.

When He became a man He laid aside all His wealth. He spent His first night in a smelly place with the cattle. He grew up in a carpenter’s home. When He became an adult He said,

“The foxes have holes and the birds have their nests but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58)

When He paid the temple tax, He sent Peter to catch a fish which had a coin in his mouth worth enough to pay it. When He died, He had no earthly possessions but the clothes He wore. The ultimate poverty was His death between two criminals.

We in the western world often think of Christmas as a celebration of plenty; a gift-giving holiday.  In reality, it is a commemoration of the greatest depreciation in all of history. From His throne in Heaven, He deliberately chose a life of degradation and poverty under the heel of one of the most brutal regimes to ever exist.  He became poor and despised that He might forgive our sins and share with us His own wealth of spirit and His position of favor and power at the Father’s right hand. So we are rich. God has given us everything we need to share His abundant life here and to prepare for life in heaven for all eternity.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.”  (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Keep your heart in tune with God and enjoy all His blessings.

© Oliver W. Price, Joia Noël Lucht, Bible Prayer Fellowship, 2017

When God Breaks His Silence

freely-34295Abram, that great man of faith, experienced 13 years when God was silent. They were bitter years of rivalry between Sarah and her maid, Hagar, who had given birth to a son of Abram named Ishmael. Sarah herself had urged her husband to beget a son by Hagar. It was the custom of the day for childless wives to give their maid to their husbands for this need. She and Abram had waited 11 years for God to fulfill His promise of a son. Finally, when old age made it impossible for Sarah to have a son, she urged Abram to beget a son by Hagar. So he did. The consequences of his unbelief were 13 years of envy, jealousy, rivalry and pride that kept the fires of bitter strife boiling in his household.

During those 13 years there was no encouraging word from the Lord. At the fork in the road where Abram had to choose to trust God for the impossible, or solve the problem by natural wisdom, he chose the latter. With that act of self will and unbelief he chose a path that left him stumbling along, coping with daily life without God’s companionship or voice. He experienced the high cost of unbelief. It all began when he was 86-years-old (Genesis 16:16).

Finally, when Abram reached 99 years of age and he had given up hope of ever having a son by Sarah, God broke His silence. He revealed Himself as the Almighty God (Genesis 17:1) who is not limited by our age or any other human limitation. The Lord promised He would give Abram a son by Sarah (Genesis 17:15-16). Abram’s reaction was, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”

The Expositors Bible [1] commented that Abram was saying “‘Why call me off again from this actual attainment, to the vague, shadowy, non-existent heir of promise, who surely can never have the brightness of eye and force of limb and lordly ways of Ishmael?  …Must I cut my moorings and launch again upon this ocean of faith with a horizon always receding and that seems absolutely boundless?

“Why spend all my life in waiting and seeking for high spiritual things when I have so much with which I can be moderately satisfied?  For our complaint often is not that God gives so little but that He offers too much, more than we care to have: that He never will let us be content with anything short of what perfectly fulfils His perfect love and purpose.

“This being Abram’ s state of mind, he is aroused from it by the words: `I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be thou perfect.’ I am the Almighty God, able to fulfill your highest hopes and accomplish for you the brightest ideal that ever My words set before you. There is no need for paring down the promise till it square with human probabilities, no need of relinquishing one hope it has begotten, no need of adopting some interpretation of it which may make it seem easier to fulfill, and no need of striving to fulfill it in any second-rate way. All possibility lies in this: I am the Almighty God. Walk before Me and be thou perfect, therefore. Do not train your eye to earthly distances and earthly magnitudes and limit your hope accordingly, but live in the presence of the Almighty God. Do not defer the advices of conscience and of your purest aspirations to some other possible world; do not settle down at the low level of godless nature and of men around you; do not give way to what you yourself know to be weakness and evidence of defeat; do not let self-indulgence take the place of My commandments, indolence supplant resolution and the likelihood of human calculation obliterate the hopes stirred by the Divine call; Be thou perfect. Is not this the summons that comes appropriately to [us all]? …a new light is shed upon our condition when we measure it by God’s idea and God’s resources. Is my life God’s ideal? Does that which satisfies me satisfy Him?”

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless (whole-hearted).” This name indicated that God was fully capable of keeping His promise and that the time had come.

The father of believers needed to lean this crucial lesson. His experience is recorded in Scripture so that those who follow his genuine faith may learn a lesson and avoid the detour he took from the highway of faith.

Today, evangelical Christianity has drifted away from the highest hopes and brightest ideals that God’s Word offers us. The apostles told the church to chose men who were full the Holy Spirit and wisdom to serve tables (Acts 6:3). Today when the time comes to choose leaders, or even pastors, you will probably not hear anyone say they must be filled with the Spirit. The Bible commands all believers to be constantly filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5: 18). Paul prayed that the entire congregation would be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), but few pray or hope for this today. The church began with ten days of prayer in Acts 1. Prayer is mentioned 38 times in Acts. Every important event in Acts related to prayer. Today prayer meetings have disappeared from thousands of churches. Where prayer meetings still exist, few attend. Prayers are limited to surface needs, such as, sickness, search for jobs, finances, and safe travel. Pleading for the fullness of God in the church has disappeared. We have lost the heavenly vision. We have preferred our “Ishmaels,” rather than seeking the fulfillment of the supernatural blessings promised in Scripture.

The loss of the highest ideals and brightest hope offered the church in the New Testament threatens to sink the evangelical ship. We are experiencing the silence of God as we adjust our lives and our ministry to what we can accomplish by our own ability. We seem to believe that an active partnership with God is not necessary for current goals and strategies.

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Evangelical Christianity is now tragically below the New Testament standard. Worldliness is an accepted part of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship. We are not producing saints. Our models are successful businessmen, celebrated athletes, and theatrical personalities. We carry on our religious activities after the methods of the modern advertiser. Our homes have been turned into theaters. Our literature is shallow and our hymnody borders on sacrilege. And scarcely anyone appears to care.

“We must have a better kind of Christian soon or within another half century we may have no true Christianity at all. Increased numbers of demi-Christians is not enough. We must have a reformation.” [2]

We need to wake up and realize we are not even praying for the fulfillment of the highest ideals God has revealed for His church in the New Testament. Like Abram, we are experiencing an epidemic of strife. Many of our churches and marriages are like Abram’s conflicted household during those years of God’s silence.

We must humble ourselves and pray, turn from our wicked ways and seek intimate fellowship with God in earnest prayer (II Chronicles 7:14). Let us ask the Lord to teach His Word and apply it to our lives. God will break His silence when our hearts are broken before Him. This is revival.

[1] The Expositors Bible Commentary, “The Book of Genesis,” Dods, Marcus, A.C. Armstrong Publishing, 1899

[2] (The Tozer Topical Reader, Vol. One, 68. Compiled by Ron Eggert, Christian Publications, Can]p Hill, PA 10711, 1998).

© 2017 Oliver W. Price, Bible Prayer Fellowship

What to do When You Feel That God Has Abandoned You

jj-thompson-142809

Late one Saturday afternoon, a man opened the door of a small suburban church and, with faltering step, made his way to the front where the pastor was studying.

Between convulsive sobs, the stranger unfolded his story to the minister. He was driving home from the state hospital for the mentally ill where his son was hopelessly confined. The burden of this tragedy weighed upon his mind so heavily he could scarcely continue his journey. Observing that someone was at the church, he stopped for counsel and prayer. Perhaps, he could fine relief here. ”Why doesn’t God answer prayer for my son?” he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes.

The inquirer was a believer in Christ. However, months of brooding over this tragic dilemma had robbed him of all joy and assurance. His perplexity had driven him to the brink of desperation.

While there is much that we cannot understand concerning our disappointments, we do know that God has a gracious purpose in allowing His children to endure fiery trials.  Obviously, the hand of omnipotence could snatch us from the furnace, but higher wisdom has permitted some dark threads among the lighter strands in the unfolding pattern of our lives.

The oyster is said to form a pearl around an irritating grain of sand. In like fashion, the apostle Paul penned the gem of Christian comfort found in his Second Corinthian Epistle out of a trial that pressed him ”beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Against this background of deep personal affliction, the Holy Spirit disclosed God’s purpose in our perplexities. Three of the benefits God bestows on the afflicted believer are set forth in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians.

The first blessing, left in the wake of the ill winds that beat upon us, is an enlarged capacity for the tender consolation of God. Our little cup is limited in scooping up the oceanic fullness of God’s love, but the surgery of sorrow leaves us a vast aching void that He alone can fill. The greater the trial, the larger the room for the inexhaustible depths of His fullness.

Paul expressed it in his opening words to the Corinthians, “Blessed be God… the God of all comfort: Who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). A storm shelter is never fully appreciated until circumstances cause us to seek refuge in it. We know about the comfort of God from the Scriptures, but only in deep distress do we draw upon the soothing relief which He supplies without measure.

When H. G. Spafford received news that his wife and children had gone down on a ship at sea, he experienced peace from God equal to the sorrow.  Out of this trial came the words:

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

“It Is Well With My Soul” by H.G. Spafford

Paul found this true, too, “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5).

The second benefit that may be derived from our tribulations is an increased ability to minister to others weighed down with burdens.  God consoles us to make us comforters so “that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). No one can place such a tender hand on the shoulder of the sorrowful like one who has himself drunk deeply from “the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3) in his own hour of need.

Dr. George W. Truett, a Texas pastor credited with saving Baylor University from financial ruin, had a compassionate chord in his gospel preaching which attracted many to his Lord. This seems to have had its roots in a tragic experience which he had in his early years, when he accidentally shot and killed a companion on a hunting trip.

The third advantage afforded by our sufferings is greater power with God. Severe trials may be used to stop self (or, ego) dead in its tracks, bringing us to complete reliance on God. This explains why the weakest are so often the strongest. Paul reached the point where he “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8), however he understood the gracious purpose of God in allowing such severe stress to fall upon him. ”In our hearts we felt we were under sentence of death. However, this was to get us to rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead!” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Out of a frightening array of diseases and bodily affliction that plagued her tracks from childhood, Martha Snell Nicholson sent forth a ministry that would put healthy Christians to shame. Her poems in Christian magazines comforted thousands of fellow sufferers. During twenty-five years on a bed of pain, she mailed out over a 1.5 million copies of her tracts.

Where did she find the amazing strength to overcome such constant trials? Her answer is in the same vein as Paul’s: “Sorrow and suffering have assailed me with their armies and their chariots. As I stood and watched them advance, I have known that since the battle was the Lord’s, the victory was also His.” Thus, she was delivered from self-sufficiency to resting in God’s all sufficient grace.

Paul knew that self was Christ’s chief competitor in his own life. When self had every prop taken from it through suffering, Christ could have unhindered control. With this in view, Paul could say, ”Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me…for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It is not the plan of God to lift you out of all distress, making your life unique in the midst of your fellow men. You serve a higher purpose when you demonstrate what He means to you under the tribulations that are common to man. In the crucial tests of life, you have a source of support unknown to the world. As you draw deeply upon the consolation of God for your own heartaches, you will find you are being prepared to minister to the world which does not have direct access to Christ as the believers do. If your distress seems to bring you to the end of your tether, it is to introduce you to the fullness of His power.

When you understand God’s purpose in your afflictions, you can say with Paul, ”we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing” (2 Corinthians 4:8). Pain may be unavoidable, but the joy of serving the Lord through pain is your choice.

By Oliver W. Price
© 2017 Bible Prayer Fellowship

Is Prayer Really Necessary?

freely-10046Did you know that Jesus’ birth was an answer to prayer?   Did you think He was going to be born whether anyone prayed for His birth or not?  Luke’s gospel made it clear that His birth was an answer to prayer.  Simeon and Anna were among a small group who were still looking for His coming.  Anna was 84 years old and had spent many long years in the temple praying for His coming. She lived to see the newborn Savior (Luke 2:36-38).

In “Born for Battle,” R. Arthur Mathews reveals that Jesus could not die on the cross for our sins without prayer. “The Soldier of the Cross had taught His disciples the need to pray, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’  The obvious [implication] is that God has limited certain of His activities to responding to the prayers of His people. Unless they pray, He will not act.  Heaven may will something to happen, but heaven waits and encourages earth’s initiative to desire that will, and then to will and pray that it happens.”  Rather than forcing His will upon us, God holds His hand back while He seeks someone to request His intervention.  He then accomplishes His will through our prayers.

God has declared the awesome results of neglecting prayer. “And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.  Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, says the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31).

Without prayer the church would not have been born. A small congregation of 120 prayed ten days in preparation for the birth of the church that proclaimed the gospel with power and turned the pagan world upside down for Christ and His kingdom (Acts 1-2; 4:24-35; 17:6; 19:18-40). Do we need more proof that praying together in one accord is a matter of life or death for our homes and our churches?  Remember if we do not pray God will not act!  James 4:2 says, “You have not because you ask not.”

A concerned Texas pastor called Bible Prayer Fellowship seeking help.  His church had 1,500 attending their worship service but only 8 or 10 came to their prayer meeting.  This is typical. As a result we have lost the power Jesus gave His church (Matthew. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

God has summoned His church to put on the whole armor of God and be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, joining together in relentless prayer against all the clever deception of the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-20).  This is a command and is not optional.

Still, Christians are laying down the mighty weapon of prayer without firing a shot. As a result an estimated 10,000 churches are weakened by fights every year and Christian marriages are breaking up at the same rate as in the unbelieving community.

Let’s pick up this amazing weapon of believing, persistent, united prayer and see God work again!

© 2017 Bible Prayer Fellowship, Oliver W. Price