Lobbying God

Mar.11:15 NLT When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and He stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

What was so wrong in vss.15,16 that triggered the anger of vs.17? Why was commerce so distasteful to Jesus, especially if some directly related to temple rite? Technically, it provided a needed service (sacrificial lambs without blemish were specially raised & not plentiful) — people were actually benefiting. Shouldn’t this be a good thing? I know there was some price gouging going on but this discussion goes much deeper than a concern for exploitive trade practices.

Interestingly, Jesus immediately contrasts this as directly conflicting with the fundamental purpose of God’s house which He identifies as prayer!

Was Jesus denouncing any connection between business and the church? Was He saying don’t depend on the marketplace for your everyday needs — just pray? Or …if you need groceries, bring your list to the Lord? Actually, a list most closely reflects many opinions of the role of prayer in the life of the church and the believer (which is where this gets interesting).

The Mk.11 (Mt.21, Lk.19) references are all quoting Isaiah 56. Yet, while most “prayer” discussions highlight petitions and lists, the Isa. 56 passage has an entirely different perspective. 56:7 has nothing to do with a list of petitions & requests. It’s a discussion of worship – that even outcasts and outsiders are welcomed to have audience with God when their heart is toward worship.

Isa 56:6 NLT “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve Him and love His name, who worship Him… 7 … and will fill them with joy in My house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

The essence of prayer (and the “House of Prayer”) is not soliciting … lobbying for our list of appeals. It is an offering to God! Jesus’ statement was not to define the church as our “court of appeals” but as a joy-filled house of worship!

…What if you discovered a “No Soliciting” sign on your prayer room door?
What if…? Many would be utterly confused. Am I somehow disqualifying making our petitions known or coming boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy…? NO. Indeed, petition and appeal is an authorized part of our prayer lives but not the core, the heart. It is not the defining feature of prayer or the house of prayer.

The word Prayer (House of Prayer) Proseuche, which Jesus uses, does not mean a petition but the original Greek actually means an earnest face-to-face encounter, worship. Related terms are used in James 5 (…any afflicted, let him pray), Acts 16 (At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises) and Ph.4:6 distinguishes (…in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving…).

Thankfully, there is not a petition-ban on our prayer closets! Remember though, that’s not why they’re there! Remember also, God did not call it His house of spiritual guidance or trainging or preaching… it is His house of worship. Selah.\o/

Are You a Truth-Seeker?

Most who follow God, fit into one of two groups. I was recently pondering these two typical perspectives the Word describes — not including the casual observer, spectator & devoted bystander group.

There are those who are contented with an enthusiastic, fervent approach to some spiritual things, but without a depth of knowledge of the Word. There are even more folks who willingly accumulate spiritual knowledge (and often pride themselves in their wisdom) yet without any accompanying fire or real passion for the Lord.

Rom 10:2 AMP speaks of those who “have a zeal and enthusiasm for God, but it is not enlightened and according to [correct and vital] knowledge.” Yet, we also know that zealous, fervent fire is required, as Paul underscores 2 chapters later, “Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.” (Rom 12:11 AMP)

Similarly, while we know the vital nature of spiritual knowledge, there are many who are “…ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth,” 2Tim.3:7. The AMP says: “forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth.” (Described 2 vss before as a powerless “form of godliness.”) […forever gathering info, but never knowing personally and intimately the Truth.]

Neither is exclusive. Neither is acceptable in and of itself, apart from the vital accompaniment of the other.

This thought process brought me to this Acts 18:25 reference to the ministry of Apollos. “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and burning with spiritual zeal, he spoke and taught diligently and accurately the things concerning Jesus…” Note the balance of instruction and fire – diligence and accuracy. The marriage of knowledge/spiritual training with fervency/passion is vital to the life of every believer (worshiper).

In His Word, God is never redundant. ‘Instructed and burning’, ‘diligently and accurately’ are not just meaningless repetitions for added emphasis – they are exclusive references to the two vital aspects of our spiritual lives. …They that hunger and thirst …shall be filled! [Hunger for the meat of the Word / thirst for the flow of the Spirit.] Sitting at His feet and hearing the Word. These all directly parallel the John 4 “spirit and truth” discussion.

Are you a truth-seeker? To God, that’s not enough. He is seeking worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Joh 4:23 NLT But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Jesus turns a discussion about worship from a physical perspective (location – worship at this mountain or Jerusalem) into a personal, spiritual encounter. This is how true worshipers must approach Him.

There is a crucial relationship between recognizing and acknowledging Him as God (growing in His precepts, character and attributes) and passionately encountering Him as Abba. From my perspective, many today have an appetite for “revelation” (truth-seekers) yet minimize (or worse) the ‘spirit connection’, the fire, the “emotional” connection (any impassioned “emotional display”).

This is why true wisdom must be rooted in worship – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge! Selah! \o/

Shouldn’t Church Prepare Us For Heaven?

Heaven’s center-stage will not be filled with orators. The centerpiece and attraction of our Heaven-experience will not be a star-studded lineup of the spiritual voices and icons of the ages. ‘…Tomorrow afternoon will feature D.L.Moody, followed by Billy Graham, 45 min. w/ James the Apostle, then Charles Spurgeon, Abraham and Charles Finney.’ Wow, what a selection! …Can’t wait!

No! For many, this is their perspective of church — a showcase for eloquence, simply a platform for articulate, persuasive and motivating lecture. …Or at the very least, an arena for distributing and propagating beneficial information.

Yet, heaven won’t be anything like this. Heaven’s heartbeat, the atmosphere at its core, will be thunderously different! Its heartbeat and the joy of heaven will be all about “giving” not “receiving”!

God’s primary intent for the church is not as a mechanism to introduce us to compelling speech and convincing arguments … simply an instrument to keep parishioners better informed about God and kingdom principles. His foremost desire is as an incubator to prepare us for the lifestyle of heaven—a giving, not receiving perspective.

I’m reasonably sure heaven will include an education process (orientation) for every participant and for many this will require rapid and significant growth. We will all suddenly have “doctrinal revelation” & perfect clarification (illumination) of things we’ve been so doctrinally sure of. Eph.2:7 speaks of us being the example of His grace, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Doubtlessly, our spiritual growth process begins here. However as with heaven, we must learn to see church from a giving not just receiving perspective—from a passion to worship, not merely to be better informed (equipped). Indeed, it is better to give than to receive and this is not money-talk; it’s worshiper-talk. We were born to be givers! Selah.\o/

Apology… (If this is your favorite song)

When I find a song I enjoy, I tend to listen to it endlessly. I was on my 5th or 6th pass thru one the other day — you know the song — the one about needing a revelation… and not having a clue of what to do …great song – great feel – great hook – well constructed – good band & good music!

While it certainly seemed to capture and articulate things I’ve felt before, as I pondered, a revelation came. It dawned on me—here’s a clue, Jim! It’s like a lamp to my feet, a beacon, a light to my path … and it’s always profitable for correction, instruction, reproof… Wow.

One fairly obvious clue: whenever you pray, a. enter your secret place, b. shut the door, and c. commune with Father! If I accomplish that, Mt.6:6 guarantees me this result: Father will always respond and reward! I mean, it’s not like, “Lord, could You give me a better clue?!”

Don’t get too angry with me. There’s an clear reason why I was listening for the fifth successive time. My “revelation search” was in full stride when the light came on – again. ‘Jim… Jim…, just find the secret place and shut the door!’ Amen! Selah. \o/

Waiting vs. Attacking

Facing crisis, the natural tendency of human frailty is to retreat or if possible, ignore… to seek a diversion and any path of less resistance. Ministry leaders typically offer guidance that nicely blends psychology and social remedy with God’s Word. As believer’s, we are generally schooled to persevere, to take courage, to stand and face challenge with resilient defiance and be proactive—to attack! While noble and socially applauded, this misses a much greater point.

When life seriously appears to be coming apart at the seams, with adversity seemingly on every side and ‘Murphy’s Law’ the apparent rule-of-the-day, do not immediately begin gritting your teeth, frantically quoting scripture, waving your Sword wildly and hoisting your shield of faith. Time out!! Peace. Be still! Take just a moment and …wait. Collect yourself, refocus your heart and set your affections on things above! Worship.

Isa 40:29 AMP He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound]. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

Apparently, renewed strength, eagles wings and not fainting or being weary are blessings reserved for those who “wait” on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord is not a description of inactivity… It is the fundamental basis of spiritual pro-action, of truly standing—and at its core, it’s worshiper-talk. Selah.\o/

The Church’s Greatest Weakness

I am more convinced than ever that the greatest undeveloped area in believers’ lives today is not their ability to pray or stand in faith or quote God’s Word or resist the devil or walk in love or evangelize or… but it’s being able, when the going gets really tough, to seek and find peace—to locate and access a secret place with Father! …The ability and personal resolve to simply and genuinely set affections on things above, to exercise loving the Lord our God with all heart, soul, mind and strength—to cultivate sanctuary in the midst of the fire.

When under great pressure, most of the church is powerless to seek and find true refuge, to re-focus the desperately distracted heart amidst utterly consuming circumstances—to genuinely worship!

I’m not minimizing other areas that similarly need strengthening … just proposing that while those other subjects are regularly discussed and championed, this area is not only most vital to our foundation, but the most “under the radar” …the most overlooked and foreign.

Really, when embattled, I cannot effectively function in any other aspect of my Christian walk until I’ve crossed this bridge—until I have identified and addressed this core issue. I can’t resist effectively until I re-connected my heart to the “power source.” Truly standing in faith, praying authoritatively and confidently, loving others unconditionally, resting… all are hopeless if the power remains unplugged.

“Father, You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy!” Ps.16:11. (Thank you David, it couldn’t be said any better.) Selah. \o/

The Crisis Facing Today’s Church

The greatest challenge facing the church today is NOT a lack of cultural relevance. It is this: recognizing that there is a vast difference between discussion about God and genuine encounter with God. The church must re-prioritize between group therapy and personal encounter. Even in the “good” churches our services tend to focus primarily on instruction about kingdom principle and about principles for righteous living (all noble and valid) rather than becoming a laboratory—an incubator for encountering God face-to-face! The tragic result is that for any believer to truly discover the treasure of a secret place with God, they must virtually do it on their own, having heard rumors about it at church, yet never truly experiencing…

Is the purpose of the church to instruct about glorious God-encounters or to actually pursue them? …To discuss the depths from the riverbank—or to launch out into the deep? In truth, the “depth” of the discussion and revelation means nothing if it fails to inspire and compel a fervent personal pursuit.

God’s Jer.29:13 guarantee does NOT read, “You shall seek me and find me when you search for me as an appetizer to the main event, when your search is an hors d’oeuvre—a snack before the main course of learning more about the kingdom. ‘Missing the mark’ is how the Bible characterizes sin—an unfortunate description of the focus of much of the church today. Selah! (Reprinted from recent Selahgram)