Often, Christians create an image of God that suits their lifestyle and never allow His reality to transform their lifestyle. They emphasize certain aspects of God’s character and skillfully craft a 21st Century American, lukewarm, apathetic, halfhearted, Jesus. If all I ever see is the Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, I will miss the Jesus who commands the Armies of Heaven. Every character trait of God is perfect. However, when I take the perfection of God out of Biblical context, it is possible for me to create a humanistic Jesus programmed to love my preferences. He is not a mail order bride who cooks for me, brushes my hair, reads me a bedtime story or feeds me once a week when I am tired after a “long week”. He is an all-consuming fire with a fierce love that commands surrender. The comfortable American Gospel promoted throughout the dead church world promises much, but demands little. In Chapter 5 of the book “My Absurd Religion”, Steve Gray confronts the humanistic ideology that calls us to “love ourselves”, “forgive ourselves” and “hug ourselves”. This appealing, yet dangerous message leads many people to church but no one to Christ. While it increases church attendance, it robs us of knowing God and commands us to pursue manmade self-help methods. Self-help methods offer encouragement without empowerment and a pride driven system without His immediate salvation power. God is not distant in a far-off galaxy. He is alive and powerful, offering a new life now! The truth is, this humanistic ideology does not appeal to the lost, hurting, broken, oppressed, sick, and defeated. The desperate need more than a motivational speech or lukewarm church service. The desperate need the very power of God to infiltrate their lifeless situation and commence a new beginning. Without the presence of God, the church is simply living in a New, Old Covenant! As for my generation, most of us could care less if Jesus loves us. Many of us are bound in addiction, suicidal tendencies, fear, and torment. We need more than church sponsored movie nights with popcorn and chips. This cotton candy Christianity will not survive in an all or nothing generation. We are not taught to worship with passion at church so we do it at the clubs. We do not know how to be intimate with the Father so we pursue fornication. My generation is going all out for this world while most churches are trying to decide if Jesus is worth everything. If I am not going to give Jesus everything, I do not want to give Him anything. I refuse to misrepresent Christ and promote a humanistic message built on compromise. I cannot do that to my generation. More importantly, I cannot do that to God.
I don’t stand in the way of sinners of sit in the seat of mockers (Psalm 1:1). I stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) for dead men and sit in Heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). My prayers do not echo old circumstances. My prayers dictate the future of this world. The power of God’s Spirit upon my intercession and warfare transplants me across the world and empowers me to declare His goodness over every tribe, tongue, and nation. I pray with faith. God answers every prayer I pray and moves in power each time I utter “Abba, Father”. His hand is not too short. Therefore, my prayers are not too short. Time does not confine me to a short period of petition. I will keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. The door will be opened to me (Matthew 7:7-8). I pray with power, authority and strength. I do not pray as if the devil is winning. I do not say “God, please take the devil away” Instead, I pray “In the name of Yeshua, I rebuke the devil!” My prayer is not limited to the potential of human vocabulary. I can groan with deep passion in my soul and call upon His name in wonder. I can speak in the tongue of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1) and declare the mysteries of Heaven. I can present to God a broken and contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17) or silently yearn for His glory and goodness.
I have calmed and quieted my soul. Like a weaned child is my soul within me (Psalm 131:2). I am not disturbed by difficulties. Instead, I disturb the potential destruction of situations. My prayers cut off terrorist attacks, annihilate wickedness, and infiltrate empires with the Gospel message. My prayers are not weak, halfhearted, flimsy or breakable. The hand of God upon my prayers is powerful to uproot, demolish, and expose every principality and power of darkness in the unseen realm. I do not pray in vain. My prayers do not drop dead or fall like a weight to the ground. My prayers skyrocket to Heaven and draw upon the heart of God. His intervention is irrevocable. His power is indispensable. God will respond as I call upon His name and I will listen to His voice when He speaks! His words are refreshing to my soul, like endless rain from Heaven.
The power of Almighty God is upon my prayers to pull dead people out of morgues, save people from ICU, empty out hospitals, kill cancer with a word, and deliver people from chronic pain. My intercession and warfare is not limited to man made ideas or principles. My prayers are not nonchalant or inexpensive. They are Spirit led and empowered. I will fight, reach, push, pull, and roll with sweat dripping down my face as I earnestly intercede. As I intercede, I will rest in perfect assurance and confidence of His power to save. I will do whatever it takes to see His Kingdom come and His will be done (Matthew 6:1). I dive into the secret place of prayer. All of Heaven will find me here. No sound of man will interfere. God Himself is drawing near! I am not content with worldwide contention. Hear me running, O Lord! I come to seek Your face and pray as if it were my last day on this earth.
Matthew 7:21-23 ”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
My thoughts: A real relationship with God allows Him to access and transform every aspect of our lives. Currently, many American churches reproduce lawless Christians. Lawless Christians profess to know all about Christ when God knows nothing about them. Lawless Christians live in community with each other while neglecting intimacy with Christ. They do not follow the will of God or listen to His voice. As diseased trees, workers of lawlessness try to bear good fruit outside of a covenant relationship with God (Matthew 7:17). They try to manipulate the system of God and walk in the benefits of His power without submitting to His Lordship. They call out “Lord, Lord” when He is really their “Enemy, enemy.” Because of God’s great power and mercy, He allows lawless people to operate in miracles for the sake of His name. While this is true, our operation in the miraculous does not substitute our submission to His Lordship. The truth is, healing the sick, prophesying, casting out demons, and preaching the Gospel message means nothing to God if we do not surrender completely to Him. Leading worship, attending church and participating in mission outreach is meaningless if we do not walk with God. God does not know us because of what we do. He knows us for who we are in Him.
I do not find my identity in good works. I do good because I understand my identity in Christ. Everything I do for God will overflow out of an intimate walk with Him. It is dangerous to value good deeds over knowing Christ. God is not enamored with our works. He is the one who empowers us to work! God mightily loves who we are. If we do not understand who we are in Him, we will not reflect who He is in this world. Who we are in Christ is a direct reflection of who He is in us.
Do not sacrifice your relationship with God on the altar of ministry. Ministry is the byproduct of our walk with God, not the center focus. God still desires to walk in close fellowship with His creation. Anything but a close relationship with God will not survive in this day or on judgement day when we stand before Him. If we do not know God now, He will not know us then. To know Christ is more than to know about Him or develop a historical understanding of His works. To know Christ is to walk in close fellowship with Him and pursue an intimate relationship with Him everyday!
Luke 17:20-21 NKJV “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.””
My thoughts: In His statement “the Kingdom of God is within you” Jesus told the Pharisees both the time and location of His Kingdom. Other Bible translations say “the Kingdom of God is among you.” It does not matter whether the translation reads the Kingdom is “among us” or “within us”. In this statement, Jesus is emphasizing the closeness of His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is closer than we think! We can reach out and grasp it. God is not isolated from His people in a far off distant galaxy. He is in our midst, offering each person abundant life right NOW! If we do not see the Kingdom of God active in our lives, it is probably because we do not have an active relationship with God.
The Kingdom of God does not come with observation. We either experience and participate in His Kingdom or we observe and miss His Kingdom. Many people think they are “waiting upon the Lord” when they are really contemplating whether they should give Him everything. Many people think they are “waiting upon the Lord” when He is really waiting upon them to participate in His Kingdom. Waiting upon the Lord is not standstill observation. Waiting upon the Lord is an active step of faith toward Him everyday and a patient admiration of His beautiful workings.
Many people are content with spectating a move of God instead of becoming a person whom God moves. By His power, God enables us to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Through us, He wants to extend His grace and reach this world! If we do not participate in this Kingdom lifestyle then we are pretending He exists. Stop pretending He exists and surrender your life to Him!
The Greek word for “within” in this passage is the same Greek word used in Matthew 23:26 when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says “First wash the INSIDE of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too“. If we wholeheartedly seek God everyday, He will transform us from the inside out and change our lifestyle. This God-directed lifestyle is what distinguishes an individual observing God’s Kingdom from an individual participating in His Kingdom. His Kingdom is at hand to expose our hidden sin, character flaws, lack of love, unforgiveness and evil motives. Many churches emphasize operating in the power of God, yet never allow God to expose and destroy their lack of love. Power and love coincide with one another (2 Timothy 1:7)! If we really seek His Kingdom first, people will notice the difference in our walk and start listening to our talk. As we make changes and allow God to change us, we can offer both power and love to the world! As He cleans the the inside of the cup, the vibrant fruit of our faith will follow and people will indeed see that “The Kingdom of God is within us.”
1 Corinthians 3:5 “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.”
My thoughts: Notice how Paul uses the word “what” instead of “who”. There is a big difference between the question “What am I?” and “Who am I?” The word “what” is used to identify an object or function. The word “who” is used to identify a person. In this verse, Paul affirms that he and Apollos are mere mortals in humble service. Paul did not commend or encourage his passionate followers. Instead, he affirmed their misdirected passion and foolishness. He stated the power of God to work in and through His humble servants. The church of Corinth emphasized the function of men instead of the power of God. Despite the church fight over Paul and Apollos, the believers in Corinth trusted their leaders because the men developed in God. It is for a man to know who he is and for the world to see what he becomes. People will not really believe what we say until they see what we do. Who we become in God determines the authenticity of what we do for Him. What we do is a result of who we become. People will not believe what we do until we understand why we do it. In the same way, we will never understand the reason of our doing until we understand who we are in Christ. The question “Why?” asks “What is the purpose?”
Good leaders do not speak to a man’s potential. They speak to a man’s purpose in God. If a leader speaks to a man’s potential before the individual understands his purpose, he might see the plan of God without understanding to application necessary for its fulfillment. Before we discover our potential in Christ, we must understand our purpose in Him! Our purpose is servanthood to the most High God! Both Paul and Apollos were great servants for God because they were great servers of God. Are we content with being “servants through whom other people come to trust God” or do we demand a more sophisticated title? Do we want to become humble servants who live in surrender to God?
Before we ask ourselves “What am I doing?” we must first ask “Who am I becoming?” Is God an addition to our lives, or is He the center of our lives? Church attenders without an identity in Christ are people with an unlocked potential in Him. We cannot be what God is calling us to be until we become who He is calling us to become. As a child must learn to walk before he can run so a man must become before he can be.
Luke 9:18 “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him…”
My thoughts: I came upon this verse and could not move past it. How is it that a person can be alone and still have other people with him? Can someone defy the laws of human reasoning and be two places at the same time? Jesus knew the art of prayer- being alone with God in constant fellowship, even when other people were around. Though His physical body was caught up in the earth, His Spirit was united with God in Heaven. He was alone with God. To get alone with God, we must first find time in prayer, away from this world. Before we can pray alone with God in the midst of people, we must learn to pray alone when no one is watching us. When we pray, let us pray about everything and everyone. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ- those who are persecuted and in chains for their faith. Let us pray for our loved ones who need God to breakthrough into their seemingly hopeless situation. Let us pray for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior (both in the church and outside the church), but wander aimlessly in this world. Let us pray for revival, that the presence of God would be restored in His churches! Let us pray that God would empower us to do His will on the earth, no matter what the cost! Let us pray for all of this and much more! Prayer connects us with God. In prayer, God hears us and we position ourselves to hear Him. Let us pray at all times, even when our circumstances are ideal. Many people wait to pray until difficult times. Therefore, they delay their faith in the good times. We cannot have faith in the bad times if we do not pray to God during the good. If we do not have an intimate relationship with God, the devil will use our lack of passion for God as an opportunity to offer us the fleeting pleasures of this life. If we do not receive the strength of God which comes through prayer and reading His Word with faith, we will not be strong enough to resist the devil.
The amount of time we spend in prayer does not dictate the distance we go with God. Sincere passion and desire for God is what leads us closer to Him. Sincere passion and desire are not limited by time, but search for God everyday. Even in the busyness of saving the world, Jesus found time to pray. He was in two places at one time- caught up in Heaven with God and on earth with his brethren.
Do not allow what you see in the natural to stop Your from praying with faith! If our faith is in God, we will pray. If our faith is in the current circumstances, then we will blame the situation on God or pray a faithless prayer. Let us remember that God came into the world and we crucified Him on a cross. Still in response to rejection, He continued to pray! Let us learn from His example and pursue a lifestyle of constant prayer and devotion to God!
I conclude with this statement: if we are not praying then we will never hear what God is saying!
John 12:3 “Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.”
My thoughts: Jewish women were not supposed to let down their hair in public. When she cried at the feet of Jesus and wiped away the tears with her hair, it was a sign of humility. However, to her culture it was a sign of disrespect. Real worship lets go of dignity and social acceptance. Real worship is not afraid to look foolish in the eyes of men (2 Samuel 6:20,21). Foolishness is not a lack of proper etiquette. Foolishness is the result of empty living. Obviously Mary was full of something! Whatever she had far outweighed the cost of perfume that is equivalent to $10,000 in our day. How is it that we become comfortable in the house of God? Has our worship become nonchalant and senseless?
This is not about being proper, but about being reverent. Reverence results in relevant worship. Is our God-inspired and God-wired? How do we adapt when God Himself enters the room? What cultural line will we cross to enter His presence? What are we willing to give to the One who canceled our debt and led us out of bankruptcy? Is God more than a definition in the dictionary to us? Has He redefined our worship? We don’t owe God good manners. We owe Him real passion. God is not looking for political correctness! He is on the lookout for passionate individuals. Our social acceptance does not result in God’s acceptance.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume Mary poured out! In the same way, our passionate pursuit of God shifts the atmosphere. It changes the aroma of dead religion to the sweet perfume of Heaven! Pastors- The atmosphere of your church service won’t shift until your passion lifts! Stop expecting God to move when you don’t move a muscle. Many of us are not ready to pay the cost because we do not see the cross.
Mary poured out expensive perfume because she saw the value in Christ. She did not emphasize the cost because she saw the goodness of God. If we do not understand what Jesus did for us, then we will not give Him everything. Let us return to Calvary, where the blood of Jesus was spilt for our transgressions. Let us humbly pour out a meaningful offering of our affection for all that He has done. Let the selfless act of Mary be an inspiration in your walk with God today.