Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are You Prepared for Spiritual Battle?

Have you read the book of Daniel lately?  I love the insight and instruction Daniel gives regarding prayer and discerning the times.  Daniel found himself as a young man taken captive in a foreign land.  A land that served not the "Most High God." Daniel and his three friends were chosen to be taken into the king's service.  In preparation for this they were to be treated differently, given special food and education.  But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the Kings food or wine.  In a time and place where it would have been easier to keep quit and  go along with the program, Daniel made a choice, a choice that rather than leading to favor, could have led to death.  As it turned out, by obeying God, Daniel did receive favor, not only from the King, but more importantly from the Lord.  Daniel 1:17 tells us, "And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams."  Let's make up our mind this week, that we will not defile ourselves in this "foreign" land.  That while it may look like we have to go along with the King's system to get favor, our favor is granted by The Most High God, Jehovah. 

Daniel was prepared, not by the standards of the king, but by God's standards. I believe that we too must be prepared to do God's service in this world's system.  How do we do that? First, we make a choice, as Daniel did, not to defile ourselves.  We refrain from believing that it is the world's system that will deliver us.  As we see markets and ideals crumbling around the world, we keep our eyes on the Lord and trust in His deliverance.  Our situation today is not so different than Daniel's.  Daniel and his friends were prisoner's in a foreign land.  Every move they made, every word they spoke was under scrutiny.  If not by the king, then by the kings governors who were jealous of Daniel.  Jealous to the point of manipulating the King into issuing an order that could ultimately lead to Daniel's death in the lions den.  Daniel had so prepared himself by leading an obedient and Holy life, that even King Darius believed Daniel would be spared, stating "...Your God, whom you constantly serve, will Himself deliver you."  I love that!  The king, ruler of the world's system, while not serving God himself, knew by Daniel's life that a) there is one True God, and b) He would deliver Daniel.  And He did. 

Daniel not only prepared by not defiling himself, he prepared through prayer.  He prayed frequently and openly.  Daniel 6:10 tells us that Daniel knew of the King's order that no one should pray to any God but the King.  And yet, "... he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously."   As he had done previously.....he would not be distracted, he would trust God.
In Daniel 10, after 21 days of praying and fasting, Daniel finally receives an interpretation to a terrifying dream.   We need to pay close attention to what the angel told Daniel here in verse 12 & 13, "Do not be afraid, Daniel,  for from the first day that you set your hear on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days..."  The answer to Daniel's pray was sent on day one!  It was the battle in the heavenlies that had to be won before Daniel could get his answer!  Let us have the same response that Daniel had upon realizing that our God hears and responds.  Daniel 10:15 "And when he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless." 

Are we prepared or are we distracted?  Have we given up on our answer to prayer because we don't see it happening here and now?  Without defiling ourselves, let us pray for understanding and for perseverance in the spiritual task ahead.  "Do not be afraid.  Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Game Changer

 No, I'm not talking about the shift in the presidential primary.  And I'm also not talking about the HBO movie that came out recently demeaning Sarah Palin.  I'm talking about prayer!   I'm talking about the James 5:16 kind of prayer; "Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."  I like the King James version that says "effectual fervent prayer".  Are you praying fervently?  Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?  In other words, do you believe that effectual fervent prayer is powerful and effective?  I believe it. 

In 1996 I was in the jungle of Venezuela on a missions trip.  There was only one way back to our camp and it required crossing a rapid river that had no bridge.  This was a little dicey in good weather, but add a torrential downpour and the river would overflow the banks.  Your only option at that point was to wait it out until the storm passed and the water receded.  On the night before we were to depart, the rain began.  It rained all night long.  We knew that if it didn't stop, we could be stranded.  I began praying James 5:16 -18: "16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops".  I prayed for the rain to stop by 11:00 a.m., which would give the river enough time recede to a passable level.  The rain stopped just before 11 and we were on our way.  We got to the river banks where there were several vehicles pulled over waiting for the water to go down before chancing it.  Some larger trucks were creeping across.  We were in a 4 wheel drive SUV and our host believed we could make it.   So he went for it.  We arrived at the airport in time for our flight.  Now when I say "airport" I mean some little, brick building in the middle of the jungle, probably not what comes to mind when you read the word "airport".  When we checked in, we found out that our plane was the last one going out for SIX MONTHS!  They were shutting down for renovations!  The nearest airport was 200 miles away, across some not-so-safe roads and mountains.  

Do I really believe that what I believe is really real?  You bet I do!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

But for my Holy Name....

Israel had been taken captive and according to scripture had profaned God's name among the nations where they went. In Ezekiel 36, Ezekiel is instructed to prophesy to the land of Israel and then to the house of Israel. The "land" is the physical land and the "house" are the people of Israel. Because Israel abandoned God, their land had become desolate and taken over by other nations.

In verse 8 God promises that the mountains of Israel "shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people".   Further on in chapter 36 Ezekiel delivers the promise of God for the people.  "For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. verses 24-28  And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God".  Israel had abandoned God, they had "profaned" that is marked for contempt or disrespect, his name.  The nations are mocking Israel saying "These are the people of the Lord?"  

Does any of this sound familiar?  Is this a picture of America today?  Are the people of the world mocking the Lord through us and our actions?  Yet, God promises to restore the land and the people of Israel to that land.  Why?  It is not out of pity for the people.  It is not because they have suffered long enough without their "stuff".  Ezekiel 36:22 & 23 tells us why, " Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went.  And I will sanctify my great name, which hath been profaned among the nations, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, saith the Lord Jehovah, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes."  For HIS name, so the nations will know the He is JEHOVAH!   

Are we praying for our nation to lessen the burden on ourselves, to get our "stuff" back or are we praying so that the nations shall know that He is Jehovah?