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Tested and Tried

Plato attributes the famous saying, “Know thyself” (Γνώθι σεατόν) to fellow Greek philosopher and mentor, Socrates. Socrates’ notion seems to be the preoccupation of the privileged, an activity of leisure. Not so. Consider what Paul had to say to the church at Corinth when preparing to visit them:
“Examine yourselves; to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
While Plato was using Socrates’ teaching to make some philosophical point to other philosophers, Paul was writing to ordinary people, some of them really messed up and in need of transformation, in order to give them means to remain strong in the faith, to make a daily choice to stand.
To examine and test one’s soul is no easy task. Says commentator Simon J. Kistemaker: “True faith is active and constantly forces Christians to test themselves to see whether Jesus Christ through the Holy spirit lives in their hearts. True faith testifies to intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3).” (Emphasis mine.)
Yet this intimate fellowship we have with the Father and the Son draws us into deeper, more challenging testing. This fellowship takes us beyond our own conscience, placing us in the domain of the Father’s testing us. Consider what is written in Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
When we examine or test ourselves, we find either affirmation that we are in Christ or not. When God the Father tests us, he humbles us, removes our mistaken ideas that we exist on the merit of our own strength and genius, to see whether or not we will still follow him when it doesn’t make us look good in the eyes of those around us. What pride can we possibly derive from being fed and watered and lead, helpless and needy?
We are prone toward pride and independence, are we not? Hence the warning in verses 17-18: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
It can be easy to become discouraged in times of testing, misinterpreting the purpose of the test. We can feel attacked, forgotten, isolated, devalued. We can fall into the Satanic trap of feeling less than zero. But, in this case, truth trumps emotion.
Deuteronomy 8:16 indicates that God humbles us to do us good. He can use broken, submitted, humble servants: those are qualities ascribed to Jesus’ time in the flesh, on the earth. Our pilgrimage is to become Christ-like is it not?
Should you choose to take up the mission to shake the gates of Hell in your generation, you must take up the habit of examining and testing yourself, to see whether or not you are in the faith. You must take up the habit of submitting to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that Jesus might be represented well in this generation, that those who have ears to hear might receive the gospel, that those who choose to reject Him will do so not on the basis of ignorance, but having been informed of what they choose to reject. Friend, “Know thy faith.”


[1] Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Pg. 450. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997.

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An Altar in the Wilderness

There exists a deep sense of displacement in many of our hearts. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a tent to live in, but we are looking for a city with foundations, built by God. While we walk in the shadows of the dark valley, the enemy sneaks along the hillsides above us, spying and sniping, trying to kill us before we reach the open country. We are easy targets. We carry the Light through this strange country we wander in.

We do not, however, wander aimlessly. There are waypoints in the wilderness. Consider Isaiah 19:19: “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt.” In New Testament language, we might say, “Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This prophecy provides hope for the future and spiritual principle for the present.

As you journey, look around you and you will see people with strange customs, alien affections, and selfish pursuits. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, who worship all sorts of things. In ancient Egypt it was the Nile River or frogs or fertility. Today the gods have different faces, but the affections of the worshipers are the same. Whether by ritual or sorcery or science, fallen mankind desperately tries to control all that threatens or promises to promote.

We, too, face fear, but God has not forgotten us in this wild country. He has allayed our fears by releasing us from the overwhelming need to control all. He has given us an altar outside the camp , where Jesus suffered in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. In so doing, He has changed our affections, transformed our customs, and made our pursuits transcendent instead of transient. We have lost our place in this world, becoming pilgrims, aliens, and strangers.

We have become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts. This is our mandate, our role, our place. To paraphrase (or personalize) 1 Peter 2:9: “But we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are living witnesses of Jesus’ sacrifice, his resurrection, his ongoing intercession, his call to draw all people to himself.

Do you, too, feel your displacement in this world? What altar to you sacrifice at? Are your affections, customs, and pursuits the same as or different than those around you? Are you pursuing eternity or time? Are you a sign to your generation? A witness?

Take these questions before God in prayer … then go out and shake the gates of Hell today!

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What Does It Mean to Shake the Gates of Hell? Part 1

The early months of our missionary career left us with the indelible impression that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, that the water really does swirl in the opposite direction “down under”, and that the spirit world is not a state of mind, but a life-and-death reality. Our gates (and maybe our foundations too) were being shaken and we needed to learn how to live and—fight—in a whole new way. Rather than passively waiting to absorb attack, we needed to climb out of the trench and make the longest run across no man’s land to shake the gates of hell.

It is useful to have an operational definition of those gates if we are to wage a good warfare. In Biblical parlance, a gate is “a symbol of strength, power, and dominion,” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 2, page 656.) As such, when referring to “the gates of hell” (as found in Matthew 16:18) it is understood that we are not referring to the place of eternal punishment, but to those spiritual entities in league with Satan for whom hell was created.

Courtesy of Lightstock.com

Courtesy of Lightstock.com

To confront this league of evil, we must wage war in the spiritual domain, using spiritual strategies, tactics, and assets.

Like a tent spread over all of the following thoughts is Romans 8:37–39:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The principles offered in the next several posts depend upon the truth that our Father loves us and that there is nothing that can separate us from that love. Some of these principles may, at times, make us feel vulnerable, exposed to the enemy, at risk. Yet, we must risk suffering in order that we might truly know Jesus, that we might gain a better resurrection, and have our faith purified and made strong. Jesus defined eternal life as “know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Be Known By God

Shaking the gates of hell is a cooperative venture with the Lord that begins with being known (or acknowledged) by God. In a general sense, God knows everyone. This is not about being known in that way. I’m referring to the kind of intimate, relational knowledge that the Father has of the Son and for those who, by faith, have crossed from darkness to light. Turn your attention to these passages:

Mark 1:9–11, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ”You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

Job 1:8, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’”

Judges 6:11–12, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ”The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

Our authority to wage war in heavenly places is rooted in finished work of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection, and the mandate given us by Him. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), therefore we exercise delegated authority. Just as an ambassador serves as an extension of the government he or she represents, we represent the Savior according to His agenda, his power, his authority.

The difference in the Kingdom of God is that we are not just one of a host of bureaucrats carrying out the political agenda of a distant and unknown leader. We are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ, intimately known and loved by the One sending us to do his will. He has given us his Spirit to indwell and empower us, gifting us for the good of the body.

Christ’s finished work on the cross, his resurrection, even his mandate all exist under the great umbrella of God’s love for those whom He created. While these establish a foundation for shaking the gates of hell, they are merely the beginning. In the coming posts we will examine other elements of fighting the war in the heavenly places. Until then . . . may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you rest.

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Hope Amidst Chaos

God, from ancient times, has done unusual, unexpected, and sometimes unwelcome things in order to draw the attention of mankind to the fact that is is the one and only God and that He is at work in the affairs of mankind.

Isaiah 41:19 – 20 reads:

I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

Cypress is something that we have a lot of here in Florida. When Isaiah writes that God will set the fir and the cypress together in the wasteland, he is indicating that God is about to do something spectacular. Cypress is the quintessential tree of the vast swamps of Florida (OK, they call them hammocks down here, but that is for a different discussion). The cypress is the buttress-rooted tree that requires vast amounts of water to stay alive and grow–not something you find in the middle of the desert.

A blue heron among the cypress trees.

A blue heron among the cypress trees.

Easter Sunday 2007 the Gospel According to Mark in the Somau Garia language (Xoiteupo Asinaku Kuna Makie Xayawoki) was dedicated to the Lord and distributed. This book has been in circulation for seven years. Our family has been away almost as long. The desert has come in those seven years.

A major player on the Somau Garia team became gravely ill a few years ago with a medical condition that left him weakened and virtually crippled. There was a resurgence of animistic practice among some of the villages. Satan unleashed his forces, lashing out at those who would be changed by the Word of God in the heart language.

Yet God delights in planting cypress in the desert. He is a good Father who listens to the prayers of his children and leads them in the way of blessing. Last year the very team member left weakened by crippling disease continued to work on drafting books of the New Testament in the hope of help from the mission community. He dropped by the Pioneer Bible Translators office in Madang and asked, “Did you see the Owen family when you were in the U.S.?” The response dripped with the oil of the Holy Spirit. “No. I don’t think that they will be back. But, go back to your village and pray and see what God will do.” This friend did that very thing.

God did something completely unexpected. About the same time, I set aside a day for prayer and reflection, not knowing anything of what was happening on the other side of the Pacific. I was finished with the day and packing up my things to go home when, as clear as day, God impressed upon my spirit, “It is time to return to PNG and finish what you started.”

It has been an arduous journey, yet God continues to work. The wheels are coming off of the bus of this world and yet God is still concerned with the poor and forgotten. He still loves and cares for those whom the world despises. Here in the middle of the tempest of 21st century life, God moves, God loves, God plants cypress trees in the desert.

What an opportunity lies before all of us.

Our prayer and our hope is to be on the field again by October 2014. God is working. God is raising up partners. God is answering prayers. He loves to surprise us, “that the people might see . . . that the hand of the Lord has done this . . .” Wow!

What an amazing joy there is in participating in what God is doing in this generation!

How Best to Partner:

  • We are in need of monthly ministry partners. You can click here to go to our Donate page to find instructions on how to get involved financially.
  • We are in need of special donations to cover expenses like airfare, set up costs, and the purchase of a four-wheel drive.
  • We are in need of intercessory prayer partners to take the needs of the Somau Garia people and our family before the throne of God. You can download a 31 day prayer guide by clicking here.

Please feel to drop us a note by clicking here with any questions, comments, etc. We’d love to get better acquainted.

 

 

 

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Please Pray–April 29, 2014

Please Pray April 29 2014 Header

Imagine being stranded on a desert island in the middle of the south seas. You find two crates ashore. One contains three years’ worth of MRE’s (Meal-Ready to Eat: self-heating, preserved complete meals). The other crate contains only Bibles.

You have nothing to do but make your hut, build a signal fire, and wait for a rescue. You rip open an MRE, activate the little heater in it, and find some shade. You’ve never read the Bible before, though you’ve heard of it. You figure that it is good to simply start reading what appears to be the main text. Page 1. “In the beginning . . .”

The story grips you and you hang with it day after day, sipping coconuts, reading the Old Testament. Malachi ends the section marked “Old Testament.”

Do you think you’d have any idea that 1) the Lord would send a rescuer to his people? 2) that the rescuer would not be a political rescuer, but one who would rescue people from death itself? 3) that this rescuer would restore the relationship clearly broken between Adam and all his descendents and Jehovah?

If not, then check out this verse recorded by the prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  – Isaiah 25:7-8, ESV

The imagery used here reveals generosity, compassion, commitment, and ability to right our wrongs and restore to perfection what was broken by our sin and rebellion. He even goes so far as to get involved personally–swallowing up death. Death! What smothers all of mankind our Father is able to remove! Hallelujah! Furthermore, He has spoken to us by His Word and His Word is final. Death is removed, its sting no longer potent.

How fitting that God should turn our eyes to this passage in relation to missional prayer. In the Old Testament, God promised to swallow death up and wipe away every tear. Amen! In the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of that promise in Jesus, the Final Word. Notice:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. –Revelation 21:3-4, ESV

Please pray with us with this aspect of God’s character firmly in our spirits.

  • Ask God to open the eyes of the Somau Garia speakers who do not know him to the reality that He alone can take away their fear of death and the realm of the dead that so many fear.
  • Ask God to open the doors for the completion of the translation of the New Testament in the Somau Garia language. The Gospel According to Mark is in use, the rest of the NT remains to be translated.
  • Ask God to provide for our return to PNG in His time, in His power, for His purpose.
  • Thank God for people who are hard at work drafting and preparing further books for translation.
  • Thank God for mission partners who currently support this ministry.
  • Praise God for his compassion, for using his power to reconcile, heal, comfort, and establish his followers with life.

Many thanks to those of you who are moving with us into the trenches, standing in the gap, making intercession for a people whom God loves and desires to redeem.

Blessings!

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Incredible Opportunity!

Kakeri ipaki kanikina, “Tini sanawa sanawa xounari xokupa xuiapu Xoiteupo kuna meru utei kanika.”

These words carry profound meaning and deep impact to about 4,000 people on this planet. You see, these words are old, some of the last words that Jesus spoke on this earth. As He was getting ready to ascend into heaven, He took care of a few last but very important things. He uttered to his followers: “και ειπεν αυτοις, πορευθεντες εισ τον κοσμον απαντα κηρυξατε το ευαγγελιον παση τη κτισει.”

Do you feel the absurdity of trying to understand the Word of God when it is thrown at you in languages you do not speak or understand? Do these words communicate love and mercy? Judgment or call to repentance? Do they give you instructions on what to do in order to be a good servant of Jesus?

How about this?

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15, ESV.

This command is unambiguous when put simply in your heart language. There is no wiggle room here. It is uncomfortably direct for some. For others, it stands before us a door that Jesus himself has opened–and therefore no one can shut.

There are times when an open door is  inviting. The door is cracked, light pours in, a glimpse of blue or even slate gray appears, piquing our interest. Step to the door and look out onto . . . opportunity–incredible opportunity.

DCP_2746

Jesus invites you to step into the doorway and look out onto vast jungle covered mountains, creviced with deep valleys and spring-fed streams, foot paths, gardens, and a people plying a cash market trade between their cacao groves, coffee orchards, stands of vanilla and the road winding northwest to southeast to the major coastal ports of Madang and Lae. He invites you to interact with a people created for His glory; a people in need of a Savior and in need of His life-giving Word. Come, step through the door with us and help us laugh and cry with them, walk and work with them, and live life with them.

Lim Auwi and Todd Owen talk as they walk to a village meeting.

Lim Auwi and Todd Owen talk as they walk to a village meeting.

During April and May we are praying that God will greatly increase the provision of resources needed to place my family and I back in this incarnational ministry, living and loving through life lived out before the eyes of a watching people. Bible translation by nature is incarnational, it is transformational, it is multi-generational.

Won’t you join us in this great venture? Want to know more? If you’d like to hear our story and why this is so very important, click here. If you’d like to step into the doorway and get involved, click here to learn how. If you’d like to start a conversation about partnership in ministry looks like, email me by clicking here.

Before us stands a door that Jesus has opened and no one can shut. Come on in!

 

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Please Pray–March 11, 2014

There are basically two areas that I’d like to suggest for prayer today.

Spring Forward Campaign

First regards our ministry partnerships. As missionaries serving with Pioneer Bible Translators, we compose a budget each year which is reviewed by mission leadership and either approved or not approved by our board of directors. It’s an interactive process that usually sees the initial budget tweaked and streamlined. Faithful stewardship of resources is one of our core values and one reason we appreciate the ongoing accountability of the budgeting process and PBT’s commitment to an annual audit, membership in the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, etc.

spring forward campaign week 1 graphic

Currently, we have pledges that cover about 1/3 of our approved budget. Before we can leave for Papua New Guinea, we must be at or near 100% of our approved budget–so as not to get to Papua New Guinea underfunded, which has many, many negative results. In response to a strong conviction that God wants us on the field in 2014, we began the Spring Forward Campaign, an effort organized to increase our monthly pledges from 1/3 of budgeted needs to 2/3 of budgeted needs within the space of two months. We are asking God to provide the next 1/3 of our budgeted needs by May. Is God calling you to join the prayer and provision team? Click here to drop us a note or click here to visit the donate page.

Somau Garia Translation Committee

One of the major tasks that we had in the early days of our association with the Somau Garia people was training local Somau Garia speakers, most with little formal education, to do the work of Bible translation. Our team is a great picture of the way in which God uses people with all kinds of gifts and talents, in community, to accomplish His purposes. I bring formal training (like translation principles, exegetical skills, etc.) to the table. My Somau Garia brothers bring facility with the language, insiders’ knowledge of the culture, its history, and a great capacity for learning to the table. Each of the people we’ve worked with over the years has given sacrificially to see the translation of the New Testament into their heart language have even the slightest chance to become reality.

Todd and the SG men

Todd with Somau Garia Translators

Pray for God to protect each of these men from the deadly attacks of the enemy. They are threats to the diabolical kingdom and are generating threats to his grip on these people. Pray that their hearts will remain steadfast, that their energy will remain strong, that they will not give way to temptation or to despair as they draft. Pray that God will call them out and empower them for the ministry that He has prepared beforehand for them to walk in.

Thank you for interceding on our behalf. We are grateful for the prayer and provision team that God is assembling to insure that there will be a strong church among the Somau Garia people–whom He made for His glory!

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Please Pray, March 5, 2014

Grateful for the opportunity to call believers to faith and to good works which God prepared in advance for us to do–by means of the Spring Forward Campaign. Why is it a privilege? Hebrews 11:6 reads: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

If I truly care about my brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God, then it follows that any call to deeper faith and greater obedience to Jesus is an act of love, mercy, and solidarity.

  • Pray with us today and throughout the next two months that God will open doors and unleash the resources needed to get us to the field this year. 
  • Pray that God will show us clearly who to approach, how to connect them to this vital project, and when is His time for this.
  • Pray that we will stay encouraged and have the presence of mind to put on our spiritual armor each and every morning before launching our day.

Thank you for praying with us.

Blessings

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5 Assurances that We Are Praying According to His Promises

The faith that Abraham had in God’s promises was so great that in the absence of the written Word of God, in the absence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in the absence of the church or a national identity based on fealty to Jehovah, Abraham believed God would do what he said he would do–and it was credited to him, by God, as righteousness. In the previous article entitled Promise and Prayer, I reflected on the faith of Abraham and posed this question: “How can we be confident that we are indeed praying according to His promises and not merely according to our personal aspirations or desires?”

This  question is important to answer because prayer is the context within which our hearts are aligned to God’s heart. While our hearts and minds are informed by the word of God and our faith is worked out in practicing good deeds (rooted in right attitudes), our hearts are find those right attitudes and apply the Truth in the prayer closet. It is in the prayer closet that we confess our sins to God. It is in the prayer closet that we petition Him for a new heart–a heart of flesh instead of stone. It is in the prayer closet where we verbally submit our hopes and dreams, our intentions and desires, to his (as Jesus did at Gethsemane). It is in the prayer closet that we lay aside our personal agendas to take on His agenda for us. It is in the prayer closet that the words of Scripture become the catalysts of our hearts.

I believe that there are at least five components in answering the question, “How can we be confident that we are indeed praying according to His promises and not merely according to our personal aspirations or desires?”

First, we must practice confession of sins and the clearing of our conscience before God. Hebrews 3:12 and following states: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” This is done both privately in the prayer closet and also in community. Elsewhere we are exhorted to “confess your sins one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed. (James 5:16) If we are to be aligned with the desires of God, we cannot be walking in rebellion and hardness against Him.

Second, closely related to the first but slightly different, don’t put your own agenda ahead of God’s agenda for you. Jesus was wholly honest before His Father has he knelt there in the garden, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He dreaded the hour of is torture and murder, yet knew that God’s desires for him were preeminent. He submitted to the unthinkable to fulfill God’s purpose for his sojourn on earth. We must be very careful when facing difficulty and challenge not to assume that it is God’s will for us to avoid suffering. It is vital that, having confessed and cleared our conscience, that we lay our agendas on the altar before God and give Him the opportunity to choose our destiny. Sometimes we find ourselves in the crucible because He has created us for such times.

Third, keep the Bible before you–test the prayers you pray against the revealed will of God as found in the Scriptures. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13, ESV) As we confess our sins, as we submit our own agenda to His, we also must submit ourselves to the scrutiny of the Scriptures. The Word will sift and penetrate our attitudes, our thoughts and intentions. We must be yielded to the Word. When our heart’s agenda is found to be at odds with the Word, we must repent or change our course of action.

Fourth, do not assume that His promises are fulfilled in keeping with our timing. Abraham waited twenty-five years from the time of the first promise to the time of its fulfillment. Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Indeed, “. . . with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9, ESV) Don’t become discouraged and stop praying because of impatience. Don’t think that He is not answering your prayer because it is slow in coming. He alone has view of all past, present, and future and He alone has the wisdom to coordinate all things for good. If you are confessing your sins as needed, are submitting your agenda to His, are testing yourself with the Word of God (the whole counsel of Scripture–but that is another post 😉 ) then be constant in prayer on whatever matter you are bringing before God.

Finally, and perhaps this goes without saying, don’t assume that every answer is “yes”. There are times when we pray that the answer is clearly “no” and we need to accept that answer from the Lord. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden was “No, this cup will not pass you by . . .” Consider the experience of Paul and company as recorded in Acts 16:7ff (ESV): “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” The Lord did not say “yes” to their good and right desire to take the gospel into Asia and Bithynia because He wanted them to go to Macedonia to preach. He had the plan. They submitted to his plan.

I believe that as each of us applies these basic principles of prayer in our lives, we will be transformed in the secret place and will be real threats to the enemy of our souls. I believe that as we find ourselves walking in faith, in submission, in brokenness, and in humility we will shake the gates of Hell.

 

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Promise and Prayer

abraham stares at the stars

The old man stood in the cool of the night, stargazing as old men of many generations since have done. He turned the words over and over in his mind as he tried to take in the enormity of it all.

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  Genesis 15:5-6, ESV, emphasis mine

This wasn’t the first time Abraham had heard this promise. He’d heard the promise before he’d left Haran with his wife and nephew for parts unknown. He was already 75 years old then. He’d heard the promise again when Lot moved off toward the Jordan Valley and he moved further into Canaan. He heard it now and would hear it again before seeing its fulfillment. The promise came this time with prophetic words about his descendants and with an offering.

Abraham had difficulty in “seeing” how God would bring this promise about. Even so, he had no doubt whatsoever that God would do it. Further, he believed that God had power and will to do even the patently impossible to keep his promise.

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.  Romans 4:19 – 25, ESV

Both Old and New Testament references to Abraham’s faith connect God’s promise to Abraham with the coming of Messiah. It also connects the quality of his faith to being counted as righteous before God. Faith, in this context, is not merely mental assent to an idea, but a relational posture by which we gain access to God’s promised right to become sons and daughters, born of God (cf. John 1:12-13). Our basic posture toward God is that of functionally believing that God will do what he says. Period. No prevarication. No looking askance at crazy, impossible sounding schemes. We believe Him. And it is counted to us as righteousness.

Abraham-style faith changes how we pray. Paul rightly reminds us that the promise did not come through the law, but through faith “in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring  [that is, you and I if you believe]. . . ” (Romans 4:16)

In prayer, we “confidently draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV) We come looking for grace and mercy to help us in our weakness, knowing that it will be granted us. We come to God in prayer, confessing our sins, trusting that when he said that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” that he will cleanse us. (1 John 1:9) We come to God for wisdom, knowing that He will grant it. We pray for our leaders, for our comrades in the Kingdom, for victory in the heavenly places, that we will stand in the evil day and overcome the enemy of all that is holy. Our prayer life changes when our faith functions not only in the mind (mere lip service?) but in the hands and the feet (obedient action).

When we act on the belief that God has the power to do things in any situation, especially that we cannot even imagine, when all looks impossible or lost, we pray differently. We pray according to God’s character, not ours. We pray according to God’s ability, not ours. We pray according to God’s promise, not according merely to our intentions. We pray for transformation, not just to make it through. We climb out of our natural selves, with all its limitations and we dare to pray prayers that can only be fulfilled in the supernatural. We pray so that God alone, by His mighty power, gains glory for himself while we fade into the background. We pray in such a way that He increases and we decrease. Our prayer life becomes a genuine testament to Jesus’ life (at work in and through us).

If you want to pray prayers that transform first you and then those for whom you pray, adopt a posture of functional belief that God does what he says he will do and then act accordingly.

How can we be confident that we are indeed praying according to His promises and not merely according to our personal aspirations or desires? I will address this question in the next post . . . 😉