There are times when we are faced with very difficult situations. Those of us with a shepherd’s heart are required to work with those in the flock that have wandered into dangerous places and they must be rescued from the jaws of “wolves” who do not care about the flock (Acts 20:29). Spiritual death is imminent.
In Mark 9, the disciples were approached by a crowd and asked to deliver a young boy with an unclean spirit. “I asked you disciples to cast it out, and they were not able” (9:18). Jesus criticized the crowd for being a “faithless generation” (9:19) and later adds, “All things are possible for one who believes” (9:23). “And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again”” (Mark 9:25).
Later, when the disciples were alone with Jesus in the house, they “asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”” (Mark 9:28). It is so important that we ask the Lord why things are not working as we see in Scripture. It takes a certain degree of humility to honestly ask the Lord to reveal were we are weak and have failed.
Jesus gives a simple answer; “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). Even though conditions may be critical, it is so important that we stop trying to correct problems with human means and humbly come before God in prayer. There is nothing impossible with HIM!
You may be experiencing the same feelings I have when praying for certain individuals; I cannot find the right words to express my inner longings and desires for the person. This is part of our human condition that makes it so difficult to feel that I have prayed adequately or with the right words so God will hear and answer. God has an answer for this.
Paul had the same dilemma. “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27). WHAT A COMFORT!
Think of God’s plan, that His people would have a personal resource within them who more than makes up for our weakness. But this is only experienced by those who belong to Jesus Christ; those who have been bought by His precious blood. It is not a secret society; it is a personal relationship that is given all the divine resources we need through a Divine Person dwelling in us.
I will often ask the Spirit for the right words to use in prayer. There is an interesting work He does as I submit to His work in me. He often will adjust my heart and attitude so they line up with His. When this happens, words in prayer come much easier because He is the source, NOT ME!
Do you pray as a ritual, or because of a relationship with God?
As we gathered for prayer this morning, I was deeply burdened. There had been several in our congregation who had died and gone on to be with Jesus. One was an elderly woman who was a true ‘prayer warrior’ and so sweet in her love for Jesus. We miss her! A few of the young people weighed heavily on our hearts along with others who seemed to be going their own way.
After a brief look at Luke 24:47, “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations,” we went to prayer. I have never felt such unity of soul and depth of agony as I did in his time together. Tears were mingled with pleading for souls to repent.
It was said of Praying Hyde and those associated with him in prayer, that “they saw the one method of obtaining this spiritual awakening – even by prayer. They set themselves deliberately, definitely and desperately to use the means till they secured the result” (by Francis A McGaw, 2010, page 29). Are we this concerned about God bringing results from our prayers in souls?
At the end of the service, I spoke with a couple who needed to get right with the Lord. Something changed and they were willing to sit down with the Scriptures and get right with the Lord and with each other. My mind immediately went back to our time in the prayer room. We had prayed and expected God to work. He did! Though we had no idea these persons would be there at the service, the Lord knew, the Lord heard, and the Lord answered.
How important is the prayer room of your church? Do you even have one? Do you just make ‘prayer requests,’ or do you plead with God over souls?
After meeting here with pastors of Spanish churches, Tim was invited to Nicaragua for April 10th to the 15th to introduce GPHD and GPHC. Though events did not work out as hoped, what did happen is that Tim found spiritual hunger with the pastor he stayed with and a few others. In the midst of extreme poverty, we believe this will spread; not just in Nicaragua, but there are indications they want this training in Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
On May 7th, Jonathan is going to Managua, Nicaragua for five days to follow-up the introduction. With this new opportunity, we have been asked to print 1,500 GPHD and 1,500 GPHC. Because of the real poverty among Christians in these countries, we are asking you and churches here in the US to consider helping with the printing cost. I have no doubt the harvest will be great!
Since we have so many opportunities around the world to share the Word of God, we are exposed to many cultures and people groups. It is very evident from what we observe that the greatest hunger is found where poverty is real and circumstances are difficult. This should humble us who live in plenty and make us ask ourselves, ‘why don’t we have the same hunger?’
This is a subject that we do not like to address, but a necessary one. Consider some of the great servants God has used down through history and the various ways He prepared them for their assignment.
1. Abraham – God asked him to leave his country and family and trust that God would lead Him.
2. Joseph – Sold by his own brothers, falsely charged by a ruler and put in prison, and then forgotten by another prisoner after helping him.
3. Moses – Spent forty years with a family and culture not his own, and then another forty year in the wilderness.
4. David – The youngest in his family given the lonely job of tending sheep, and then served a king who wanted to kill him.
5. Jesus – Sent by the Father from heaven’s glory and was rejected by those He came to save.
6. Paul – Went into Arabia for three years before returning to begin a powerful ministry.
When it comes to God preparing us for our assignment, He never makes mistakes. We may not understand His ways or the reasons behind places of isolation, the times of suffering and rejection, or even misunderstanding by those we think should understand best. This is especially true when God’s preparation leads us to places we would never choose. Be assured, if you did not make the choice, it is part of His plan to teach lessons of humility that could not be taught anywhere else.
“Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked” (Psalm 94:12–13). Will you make these words yours?
As I continue to examine carefully the life of Paul the Apostle, we must agree that it is only God who can work such a miracle in such a short time as He did with Saul. From being a man bent on destroying the Church to a man in love with the gospel, Jesus and the Church, it is only the mighty grace of God that can do this.
His powerful preaching brought to light sceptics in the Church who could not believe that this Christ-hater could become a Christ-lover. NEVER underestimate the power of God’s grace! In Saul’s preaching the gospel of pure grace that touched his life, it stirred up persons who disputed what Saul preached and they wanted to kill him (Acts 9:29). This minor conflict revealed those who saw and understood this grace and moved to protect Saul, taking him to Tarsus.
Such maneuvers were not in vain. “So, the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and were being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Notice the five fruits from this new convert:
1. Churches that faced persecution were now experiencing peace. This is the peace of Christ.
2. The gospel was “building up” believers, making them stronger in their faith and practice.
3. Disciples were learning to walk “in the fear of the Lord” which showed reverence for the authority in Christ and His Word.
4. Though circumstances were difficult, churches received comfort and courage to press on.
5. The effect of the gospel through Saul was multiplication.
Are these characteristics true of you and your church? If not, honestly ask what is missing, then appeal to the Lord Jesus our Head, to bring you back to the pure gospel and its power.
In a world where power-struggles are the norm, and where body-building is the popular activity of many, God highlights weakness as a virtue. In a very small way, I have watched God teach me this lesson again and again.
Saul, who became Paul, had to learn this principle. R. C. H. Lenski writes, “Paul’s career began, like that of Moses, with flight and with a long period of waiting, waiting, nothing but waiting. This makes the flight from Damascus so significant. It forces Paul into the long wait in which he fully learned he was nothing, that his mightiest asset was utter weakness, weakness which enabled God to be everything with him and through him.” (1) Moses fled to the wilderness. Saul fled to Arabia.
Paul himself confirms this observation by writing, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:8). We could rightly conclude that the smaller we are in our own eyes and the greater Jesus and the gospel is, the more God can use us to accomplish His work.
This is not part of popular thinking today. I had the privilege yesterday to have conversations with two believers who are going through very difficult times. As I pointed them to trust in God, that He had a real and eternal purpose for them, one of them said; “this is hard for me to learn.” Yes, it is for any of us, but the reward of discovering God’s power in our weakness and His eternal plan is worth waiting until He shows us what His ultimate goal for us is – HIS GLORY!
(1) The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistle of the Corinthians, Wartburg Press, 1937, page 1287.
As we think about the subject of dependence, we realize this goes far beyond relying on God for direction, grace, help, comfort, and many other things He supplies. It may be more testing for us to depend on one another.
Paul addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 when he writes about the Body of Christ and our critical need of each other. This is a divine plan because “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (12:13). The inter-dependence of the body is a plan that created a necessary need for every believer in the body. None of us can say to another believer, “I have no need of you” (12:21). Each person has the same value – the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19). We are tested by this principle when we tend to look down on members of the body that seem weaker or have different understanding of Scripture than we do. (There may be many other reasons, but we will not go into them here).
Saul, in his early days of conversion learned the principle of dependence on other members in the Body of Christ. After his conversion on the Damascus road and preaching boldly “that Jesus was the Christ” (9:22), a plot was planned in order to put Saul to death. “But his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket” (Acts 9:25).
Would you fit in a basket? That question is not about the size of the basket, but whether your attitude is one of humility and submission to others in the Church. This principle is confirmed in Philippians 2:3-4; “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4). The Creator fit into our tiny world to serve us. Are we doing the same for others?
Before Easter, I blogged about the dangers of independence. The opposite is something we need to cultivate; dependence. From very young children we are encouraged, and even pushed, to become independent and learn to do things on our own without the help of others. The physical challenges I faced growing up caused my father to often say to me; “you can do it, just keep trying.” This attitude was good for me and for all of us, as long as it is used in the right way.
Our first real act of dependence is when we come to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to save us from our sin. That should be the beginning of a life-long walk of dependence on Him. We no longer can direct our own steps and succeed; as Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
There is a quote that many claim comes from the Bible; “God helps those who help themselves.” This is NOT in the Bible anywhere and is actually counter to what Scripture teaches. In the Psalms, David continually refers to “waiting on the Lord,” not just for help but also for instruction (See Psalm 25:4-5; 27:14; 31:24; 62:1, and many more).
The beginning of Paul’s new life in Christ was an act of dependence. Suddenly made blind from the intense light and glory of Christ, forced him to be “led…by the hand and brought…into Damascus” (Acts 9:8). God brought him to a brother, Ananias, who was ready to receive Saul and immediately begin the discipling process. A teachable heart is one that depends on someone else.
We will write more about this tomorrow, but for now, are you a person bent on doing things without the help of others, or the Lord? If so, you need to pursue a dependent heart in order to grow in your walk with the Lord.
For those reading this blog, Easter Sunday has passed. But that is just a day when most of the traditional Christian Church makes a special remembrance of Christ’s resurrection. It is true, this is an event that happened three days after His crucifixion, but I want us to consider that there is much more to the resurrection than an empty tomb or just one day a year to remember His resurrection.
It is the PERSON! “Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live,” (John 11:25). This simple statement was perhaps hard for Mary, Martha, or even the disciples, to understand until the Spirit had come at Pentecost. Peter, filled with the Spirit says, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus often instructed His disciples about His death, and then added, “and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). He knew that resurrection power was in Himself and that death and the tomb could not hold Him.
What does this mean for us who believe in Jesus as our Savior? Just before going to the cross, Jesus tells His disciples; “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). There was no question in His mind that He would rise into resurrection life. That would be the means of our living for God by His life in us.
This is why Paul counted everything in the past; all his accomplishments as rubbish. He wanted to “know Him [Jesus] and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). Resurrection power in the believer is experienced as we “live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). What power do you want to live by? Any other power accomplishes nothing for God!
Link To Our Old Blog: