1 Peter 1:22-25
A born-again Christian who has experienced the transforming new birth through the eternal, living, and redemptive power of the Word of God, will never be the same again. Read 1 Peter 1:22-25. Peter tells us here that the Word of God is incorruptible and imperishable because the Word of God is JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF, who is eternal, the fullness of truth and grace. He has always been and always will be! Aleluya!
The Apostle John, in his gospel that focuses on Christology, emphasizes and concurs with Peter. He presents Jesus as the Christ, our Savior, the Word, through whom we can be born again. John makes the clear and compelling argument that Jesus Christ is 100% God who took on flesh to become one of us…to become part of the human race. But without sin! He was never contaminated by the deadly virus of sin. Read John 1:1-5.
When the Word has transformed us, Peter asserts, we love anyone and everyone with a love that is sincere and fervent, responding to the needs and cries around us with truth, justice, mercy, and deep compassion, because born-again Christians have had their souls purified through their obedience to truth through the Spirit. Not to live this way is hypocritical and does not please our Father.
We must love the entire human race, our neighbors, as Peter says in verse 22. Remember that God created one beautiful colorful race, the human race, with different beautiful colors and cultures. We all have the same color of blood—red. We must celebrate and embrace God’s creation! Jesus is coming back to rescue His colorful and beautiful bride from every nation and tribe, including prison, to take her to His honeymoon suite forever. Aleluya!
In 1 Peter, Peter gives his born-again testimony, backs it up with the transformative message of the gospel, and reminds us that the Gospel is a consistent lifestyle. He wants us to examine ourselves to see if we are truly born again. Acts 4 gives us a glimpse of the born-again Peter in action, with evidence of distinctive and clear Christ-like character that stuck with him until the day he was crucified upside down as a credible, consistent, and committed born-again believer in Christ. Read how God mightily used Peter in Acts 4!
In Acts 4, Peter shows us by his example that a born-again believer has these qualities:
Operates in the power of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ (v. 2)
Counts the cost and is not afraid of even going to jail for proclaiming and living out the full Gospel (v. 3)
Influences everyone for Christ (v .4)
Is filled with the Holy Spirit (v .8)
Does NOT compromise that Jesus is the ONLY WAY for salvation (v. 12)
Is bold, fearless, and compassionate, reflecting Jesus (v. 13)
CANNOT stay silent, but becomes a credible, loving witness for Christ Jesus (vv. 19-20)
Focuses on hallowing the Father’s name in creative and greater ways (v. 21)
Becomes an active participant in regular corporate biblical prayer that flows out of the Gospel experience with power, anticipation, and expectation that miracles will happen. (vv. 13, 30, 31)
Is possessed by the heart and soul of Christ in Koinonia, compelled to love on others with tenderness across color, crime, culture, or class (like we all do so well at RTO)!
Overflows with the grace of God the Father and becomes a radical partaker of the grace of God (v. 33).
With these points from Peter’s example in mind, let’s examine ourselves. Do we live a consistent lifestyle for Christ? Are we truly born again? If so, how can we further glorify God the Father in our lives?
I am writing this message in the spirit of the late George Whitefield, with burning love, deep humility, and a single focus: to see our Father unite us around the Cross, to revive us in Christ Jesus that we may enter into the sufferings and uncertainty of millions of people in America, especially those in the Church who are hurting deeply.
Sin always has consequences, many times deadly, even when forgiven! We, the Church in America, are reaping what we have been sowing:
- Our sins of idolatry
- Ungodly amusement
- Breakdown and REDEFINITION of the family that leads to crime
- Corruption at many levels
- Lack of inclusion and rejection of those who look different than we are
- Defamation of the Gospel and abandonment of our identity of the Cross
- Silence and
Our sins are visibly spreading and impacting negatively with deadly force into every corner, strata, color, and culture in society! We need a radical reversal. We need to be taken over by the Holy Spirit to make us repent and stop suppressing Biblical truth, but rather to speak up with truth and grace driven by the Father’s love, TO DO GOOD, that we may not sin against the Father (James 4:17). Carefully read 2 Chronicles 7:1-18; Isaiah 56:7-8; Micah 6:8; Luke 10:25-37 and 1 Peter 1 and let these passages of God’s Word drive us to the Cross!
Our Father is reforming and awakening Jesus’ Church by making it into a consistent “House of Prayer” for all nations, including the nation of prison, because we just cannot go back to THE OLD NORMAL!!! These are the most urgent times most of us have ever experienced; hence, here is my prayer from Psalm 133, filled with the Hope of Glory when there seems to be no hope. Our hope comes from our Father to trust Him to refresh and revive us with oil from the Holy Spirit and His provision for our every need, especially for our souls:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there, the Lord commanded the blessing—
Please consider this message carefully and pray radically for repentance and reformation in the Church of Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with life forevermore!
1 Peter 1:22-25
There is indisputable evidence that the Apostle Peter came to trust and obey God, no matter the intensity of the crisis, the severity of the trial, the difficulty of the test, or the depth of the suffering he experienced. Never again was he going to deny Jesus, because he understood and believed, when he wrote 1 Peter, that Jesus had taken Peter’s shame on the cross. He would never be ashamed of the gospel ever again!
Prayerfully read 1 Peter 1:22-25. Peter tells us that a born-again Christian has a purified soul because of obedience to the truth. That truth will free him to love others without hypocrisy, with fervency and a pure heart, empowered by the Spirit. He goes on to say that when one is transformed by the gospel, he experiences a heart transplant in Christ and will never be the same again. Everything changes for good from within—desires, vision, appetites, temperament, mindset, language, conversation, focus, disposition, emotions, and perspective for now and into eternity. There is a new distaste and righteous hatred for sin. What an explosive and transformative combination—the gospel produced through the Word of God, empowered by the spirit! Peter earnestly desires this treasure for others!
In verse 23, Peter states that we have been born again “not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever.” Corruptible means perishable, having an expiration date. It has a limited period of being good and will spoil in the future, like milk, lunchmeat, etc. On the other hand, incorruptible means it is imperishable. It has no expiration date and is good forever and ever because the Word of God is Jesus Christ Himself, who is eternal! He always has been and always will be. Aleluya!
Peter wants us to know that we are to love each other with a pure heart. We can no longer be hypocrites. Remember, Peter was called by Jesus Himself, walked with Jesus, and saw Jesus perform miracles, yet Peter had been a hypocrite and made promises that he did not keep. As we see also in Romans 12, our love cannot be fabricated; rather, it must flow naturally from a regenerated heart. The love of a Christian is genuine, sincere, magnetic, consistent, unselfish, tangible, visible, welcoming anybody and everybody regardless of what they have done or where they came from. Not to do so is sin! You see, the gospel is not just a message, but it is a transformative supernatural rebirth from the inside that expresses itself clearly on the outside. It is a mysterious heart transplant that becomes visible as the born-again believer receives the very heart of Christ!
In his very first best-seller, Born Again, my mentor and hero, Charles W. Colson tells about his born-again experience. This man was brilliant and ambitious, driven by pride. He was his own god, an expert at deceiving others and himself. At age 34, Colson, a Marine captain, became the chief counsel for Richard Nixon; he was known as the hatchet man, the man who would do all the dirty work for Nixon. He would break anyone’s legs. Then he became a born-again believer, a genuine lover of people, including the prisoner. He became an unselfish, giving, loving person. As Peter so clearly defines in verse 22, Chuck’s soul became purified by his consistent obedience to the truth of the Word of God; hence he came back to love with fervency and a pure heart those he left behind in prison…and beyond. I know because our family experienced the new reality of his tender love. He called me his living monument. I graduated from Wheaton College with two degrees through the Chuck Colson Scholarship. At the birth of our son Howard Kenneth, now a Marine captain like Chuck, the first piece of mail and the first call Barbara received were from Chuck Colson. He also called Barbara when she lost her three fingers and almost died in her car crash. Those are just two of dozens of examples I could share, but I just wanted to share his born-again transformation experience. In Christ we become a new creation. God allocated the plan of salvation, Jesus accomplished it perfectly, and the Holy Spirit applies it. Aleluya!
A born-again believer is one who has declared an all-out war on sin and is committed to pray radically to love fervently and sincerely with a purified soul. Not to pray biblically is sin, especially now, as many Christian leaders are in the process of re-opening their church buildings. Pray that they will open their buildings for a very different church than before the shutdown—one that will make our Father happy…houses of prayer, as Jesus commanded in Mark 11:17. Let us then cultivate a radical prayer life of intimacy with the Father through Jesus, that will prevent us from making the church what He did not intend it to be! Peter wants us to remember that Jesus purchased and established His church with His precious blood! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Aleluya!
1 Peter 1:17-21; Romans 10:9-13
The Apostle Peter is one of the most radical and dynamic characters in the Bible. He does not hold back. Peter does not fake it to make it. He is for real. Every one of us has some of Peter in us; some of us more than others. I see a lot of Peter in me. In spite of the fact that Peter did not start well at all, he ended like a true champion. He saw that in order to hallow his Father’s holy name, he needed to become holy in all his conduct, which is what the Scripture requires of every Christian. Peter became consecrated to God the Father through Jesus Christ. The last 30 years of his life on this earth were very fruitful and demonstrated a consistent commitment to Christ, embracing the cross and Christ, like no other human character in the Scriptures.
You see, there is no gospel without the cross. We must never stop preaching the cross. To do so would be heresy…deadly…worse than the deadly impact that the Corona Virus pandemic has had on so many around the world. We must preach and live out Christ crucified and resurrected. Peter wrestled with the cross, but he finally surrendered. He experienced the cross in his circumcised heart, but he also crucified his flesh to the cross when he was crucified upside down on a cross for the cause of Christ. His objective and single focus was his obedience to Christ’s teachings. His desire was to live up to the example of the obedience God the Father required of Jesus, hence of Peter, and therefore of each of us as disciples of Christ, because we are possessed by Christ alone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Only the obedient believe and only those who believe are obedient.”
If there was ever a time in history when Christians needed to pray radically the Word of God, it is now. We need to become lovers of truth, grace, courage, and discernment in the midst of this deadly crisis. Read 1 Peter 1:17-21 and remember that Peter wrote 1 Peter during a huge crisis and suffering under the brutal, deadly dictator Nero. Peter reminds us that we pray to our Father, who is both a just judge and a loving, merciful Father, and the apostle wants us to comprehend that our redemption didn’t come from traditions, wealth, influence, idols, silver, or gold. Rather we were purchased at the incalculable price of the blood of Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “…Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). The precious blood of Jesus is the vaccine that defeated sin and death forever!
Peter masterfully introduces us to the absolute sovereignty of God the Father, who is in total control and governs with precision and perfection, driven by His love, for the sake of His glory, even today, as the world has been disrupted by the Corona Virus. Jesus was foreordained before the foundation of the world, Peter says, and was manifest in the last time. Jesus is God 100%! He has always been with the Father. He was the Creator, along with the Father and the Spirit. He has no beginning and no end. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega! Aleluya! Jesus IS the Messiah, the one who was predicted and prophesied since the fall of man, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. God told them that if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. God means what He says and says what He means; therefore, the moment that Adam and Eve disobeyed, the whole creation was turned upside down, totally disrupted, and contaminated by sin. It was in need of a radical redemption because sin produced death then and continues to produce death now. God was judging justly, but He was also loving us with mercy and grace by unfolding Jesus Christ as our everlasting Redeemer in Genesis 3.
Peter makes it clear that Christians must believe these four essential foundational gospel truths:
Jesus is the ONLY WAY to know and be reconciled to the Father. (See John 14:6) In Adam we all sinned and are guilty of treason, but in Christ we are forgiven and victorious over sin.
God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. He defeated death and sin forever so that we may be forgiven! Sin infected and contaminated the entire creation and its creatures, including us humans. Sin is death that leads to eternal hell…separation from God. (See Romans 3:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-28.)
God the Father glorified Himself fully in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who accomplished His mission triumphantly in total submission and obedience that drove him to the cross. (Philippians 2:1-11)
Our faith and hope must be placed 100% in God the Father, like Jesus did and continues to do. Jesus is the Cornerstone and the All-in-All for the Christian. (See Ephesians 1:23; Hebrews 1:11.)
Have you experienced the power of Christ’s resurrection, with the evidence that you have been born again, totally transformed by the power of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, so that others can see Him in you? Remember, Jesus’ resurrection is the permanent receipt of the Christian. No resurrection, no redemption. Read Romans 10:9-13.
Peter’s central teaching in 1 Peter is to trust and obey God the Father, no matter what, to experience His glory in suffering and crisis. Peter picked up and carried His cross. Will you?
1 Peter 1:17-21 Psalm 103:11-18
For many years, I worshipped idols, idols that were made with gold and silver, dead idols. I was a dead man walking with aimless conduct…no direction, hope, or vision. Then Jesus, through the Father’s grace, found me and rescued me, as the Holy Spirit revealed to me that Jesus purchased me with His precious blood. This led me to weeping repentance through the spirit, reconciling me to God, my Good Father, with a secure future and real hope in Christ for then, now, and forever, because Heaven is not just a place. It is also a Person, Jesus Christ, aleluya!
In 1 Peter 1:17-21, Peter wants us to experience the permanent liberating truth that will bring us to a credible FREEDOM that produces a consistent joyful attitude of gratitude. He reminds us that we have NOT been redeemed, or purchased, by corruptible things, like silver or gold, which always lead to aimless, destructive conduct. Instead, we have been redeemed by the precious, unmatched, and priceless blood of Christ Jesus, aleluya! Christians also have the sure, glorious hope that Jesus has purchased our new bodies, because these bodies are temporary and have been 100% corrupted by sin. Peter wants us to see the deadly consequence and devastation of sin that has impacted the entire creation, as the deadly Corona virus pandemic reminds us! But he also wants us to see, for our good, through the eyes of the Spirit, the glorious, incorruptible redemption of Christ Jesus and the unlimited redemptive power in His blood, that remains fresh for us at the foot of the cross, bathing ourselves in His blood and finding healing, peace, joy, and restoration.
The Apostle Paul refers to this also in Romans 8:22-23: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. …We ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
And in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, he explains, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.”
I remember clearly one of the last phone calls my late mentor and spiritual father, Dr. Kenneth T. Wessner, made on this earth, in his corruptible and very sick body, as he was close to meeting Jesus face to face forever. He called the late Ken Hansen, his predecessor as board chairman, CEO, and president of The ServiceMaster Corporation. The call had nothing to do with how the stock market was doing or how ServiceMaster was growing. Rather, the only topic of their conversation was the glorious, incorruptible bodies they were soon going to receive because Jesus’ blood had purchased those new bodies for them. Aleluya!
This is the eternal perspective and real hope people need to hear during this pandemic crisis. It is exactly the eternal perspective, hope, and vision the Apostle Peter wants us to possess and be driven by as we live as pilgrims in this corruptible world and anticipate the incorruptible heavens and the new earth that Jesus, our King, Lord, and Older Brother, purchased for us at the cross.
In light of this, let us NOT live with human worldly fear that produces unhealthy anxiety and joyless living. Instead, let us approach–with unwavering confidence in holy fear—our Holy Father, as both a just judge and loving, merciful Father who is waiting with open and strong arms, eager to receive and surprise us, as His children, with the sure hope of glory, Jesus Christ, the fullness of truth and grace. Prayerfully read Psalm 103:11-18:
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.
May the Holy Spirit increase our faith to trust in our awesome Father and cement our total confidence in Christ Jesus alone. Aleluya!
The Book of Lamentations
You probably feel that you have been caught up in a whirlwind about now. The virus threatens to overwhelm us…not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Things that were certain before now seem all too uncertain. We have had to postpone, rearrange, or cancel things in our schedules, many of which are significant events: graduations, vacations, birthday parties, weddings, and showers. We look at each other from afar, as necessary social distancing rules stay in place. We cringe every time a cough or sneeze is anywhere close to us. This is so far beyond what we have experienced before. We have never had to endure the lockdown of cities…the closing of all but essential services. Some of us have lost jobs or been furloughed. Some of us may have been sick with the virus or have a family member or friend who has come down with it. Perhaps we have even lost someone as a result of it. We are all going through this together though impacted in different ways. We know it will end…but when? When will we get our lives back? When will we be able to meet with fellow believers again?
As we wait for a possible breakthrough, the good news is that our God has not abandoned us. He is still with us. That may be hard for some of us to believe right now. We know it in our heads; the challenge during difficult times is to get that truth down into our hearts. Maybe it feels like God has left you to fend for yourself. He seems silent. Maybe you are not seeing your prayers answered. Anxiety and fear keep coming at you in waves. I’ve been reading through the book of Lamentations recently, and I must admit, though it’s not a very encouraging book on the surface, as you read through it you realize that you are not the first one ever to have suffered…or lived during a time of uncertainty…or had tons of questions that need answers. Lamentations is a book of extreme pain and suffering…where God remains silent throughout its pages. It doesn’t make sense, but I believe that it has a powerful message for us during these times.
Let me give you some background. It’s 587 B.C., and God’s people are in a desperate situation. The Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar marched on Jerusalem, the holy city of God. The Prophet Jeremiah had repeatedly warned God’s people to repent of their sins and turn back to God, but they had ignored him. In fact, King Jehoiakim of Judah took Jeremiah’s scrolls, which were the Word of God, and burned them. King Zedekiah followed him and continued to lead the people astray. When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem, he captured Zedekiah, killed his sons in front of him, blinded him, and carried him off in chains to die in Babylon. The people who had survived this siege were forced to march on foot a thousand miles back to Babylon. They are the ones crying out in the book of Lamentations. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the rest of the city. He defiled the Temple, the house of God, in unspeakable ways and stole precious items that had once been made holy before the Lord. Everything they knew about worship, about God’s protection and favor, about His presence…those were now gone. All that was left was tremendous pain…unbelievable suffering…and lots and lots of questions.
Read Lamentations 1:1-2. Can you feel the heartbreak? The desperation? Words like bitterness, tears, weeping, no comfort, and betrayal dominate these verses. Their questions and protests may not differ from some of ours…not just in these past days, but perhaps many times over the course of our lives. We know that God has the power to change things, and when He doesn’t, it gets confusing. It upends our lives. Lamentations, if it does anything, lets us know that we can have this kind of raw dialogue with God. The book even ends with questioning God and pleading with Him to act…to do something. (Read Lamentations 5:1-5, 20.)
In chapter 3, Jeremiah is mourning his difficult situation, but then…out of the blue…come amazing words of hope…faith…trust: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Read Lamentations 3:1-26 and rejoice with the words of praise, confidence, and hope!
There has been a lot of discussion during this Corona virus crisis about the importance of immunity. Health experts are embracing immunity as one of the keys to ending this pandemic. God has already given us a spiritual vaccine…a way to build up spiritual antibodies to help us get through the pain and suffering that life throws at us. Notice in verse 21 of chapter 3, the author says, “…This I call to mind.” His whole world is collapsing, but he searches his heart to remember the things God has done for him. Often when we are in pain, our minds and hearts are overwhelmed with negative and destructive thoughts. We can get stuck there. If we are not careful, we can end up bitter, anxious, and depressed every day. We must reach into the depths of our hearts and force ourselves to think on the things that God has done for us. His promises are still true, regardless of what we see around us. His compassions never fail; they are new every morning! Every morning I will proclaim, “Great is your faithfulness!!” Read this passage and apply it to your situation.
The Corona virus doesn’t get the last word. Neither does anything you are going through right now. GOD DOES! We have done a lot of waiting, but as Jeremiah says, “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (verse 26) Jesus is a powerful reminder of this. His disciples must have felt the sting and pain of Lamentations when Jesus had been taken away to be crucified. In their minds it wasn’t supposed to end that way. He died a horrible death on the cross. They had all run off in shame and fear. Little did they know that during the worst possible moment of their lives, Jesus was taking the wrath of God upon Himself so that they might live. But death didn’t get the last word; Jesus did…and He still does. Even in the mess we are in now. So what are you going to choose to think on? Here are a few suggestions:
Call to mind all the promises that God has made to you. Someone counted 7487 promises in the Bible; that’s a great place to start.
Write out your testimony. Call to mind when you received Jesus Christ as your Savior. Share it with others.
Make a list of how His compassion and love for you is new each day. Write down 3 as you get up in the morning and 3 before you go to bed at night.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:1-26)
1 Peter 1:17-21
Peter had experienced a radical, extreme makeover– a revival. Now in 1 Peter 1:17-21, he is speaking to the Church, to us, who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. He is exhorting us to stay focused on the Father, through Jesus Christ, at all times, to cultivate a vibrant, fervent, and intimate relationship with the Father through the knowledge of the Gospel. Peter wants us to know how we must live out the Gospel in practical ways.
Christians are Gospel-driven. People today are in desperate need to hear the Good News of the Gospel; we have been given the huge responsibility to deliver that message. Our single mission is to point as many people to God the Father as our Father assigns to us, through the Gospel of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit! Peter’s aim is to shape us into determined, risky, radical, loving, credible, consistent, sold-out Christians, convinced that we are pilgrims, just passing through on our way to our permanent home and honeymoon suite that Jesus purchased with His blood and has prepared for us to inhabit with Him, our faithful groom and husband. We are not citizens of the earth; we are here temporarily…for a brief time. (See also James 4:14.) Peter does not want us to allow the world to possess us. Rather, Christ’s righteousness should possess us and free us. This world is NOT our home!
At the time of writing, Peter has a magnetic and radical testimony for Christ, which he has built on and defended, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the last 30 years. He wants us to know that we do not need to continue limping along and denying Christ anymore, like he had in the past. We can experience the same grace and unspeakable joy that he continues to experience, in spite of crisis, suffering, persecution, or turmoil. He is also saying that God is not a respecter of persons: if you are in Christ, you qualify for the same blessings and benefits of the Gospel which Peter received.
Read prayerfully 1 Peter 1:17-21. May the Holy Spirit use this biblical text to empower us and to experience and clearly see the following:
Our essential necessity to be intimate with our Father, like Jesus is, in and with the Spirit, with the confidence of Christ in the beauty of His holiness
Knowing our Father equally as both a just judge and a loving, redemptive, and merciful Father
All this in the context and content of the glorious and incorruptible Gospel of Jesus Christ
We should appreciate and value the expensive cost of the blood of Jesus that redeemed and reconciled us forever to God the Father, aleluya!
The Holy Spirit tattooing our hearts with the basic non-negotiables and unchangeable components of the Gospel.
In verses 15 and 16, Peter has made it clear that we are required and equipped by God our Father to be holy in all our conduct because He is holy. In verse 17, he encourages the believer to call on the Father, an impartial judge. Christians will not be condemned for our past, present, and future sins because Jesus already made the necessary and permanent payment for our guilt of sin! He became guilty so we will be declared NOT GUILTY. Aleluya! Peter is telling us, however, that we will be judged and rewarded for our deeds as believers. God our Father delights Himself in SURPRISING AND REWARDING His children. He loves it when His children make Him happy by doing good deeds to fulfill the first and second greatest commandments: to love God the father and to love their neighbors. (Luke 10:27) Remember that we are not saved by our works, but our works confirm that we are saved. Peter doesn’t want the idols of the world, including self, to prevent us from worshipping only the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ Himself, consecrated only to Him in purity. Our time here is dangerous and short, and it must be redeemed. We must give to others the glorious hope of Christ and be ready to present to Jesus many valuable crowns at His coming.
Since God is both a loving, compassionate, and merciful Father and a just judge, believers, His adopted children, must approach Him with reverence and awe. Reverence means showing devoted high regard and respectful honor. In his concise commentary, Matthew Henry says, “Holy confidence in God as a Father, and awful fear of him as a Judge, agree together; and to regard God always as a Judge, makes Him dear to us as a Father.”
Peter really wants us to end well, like he did, so he exhorts us to die to self and live for Christ…not to have it any other way! Let’s determine to follow Jesus in REVERING THE FATHER, WHO IS HOLY, so that we may hallow His name in greater ways, with all people, in all places, and in all situations.
1 Peter 1:13-16
A couple years ago, our dear friend, Pastor Jim Liske, former CEO of Prison Fellowship, went to China thinking the pastors there wanted him to teach them how to minister to inmates in the Chinese prisons and jails. When he arrived in China, however, he found that the pastors wanted to be equipped to minister to inmates as inmates themselves, because their boldness for Christ would eventually put them all in prison. They wanted to be ready to suffer like Jesus for the sake of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, who became a prisoner for us. These pastors were looking to become holy in all of their conduct, even if they had to go to prison, so they would not bring shame to the Father’s name or deny Christ, but rather give a credible witness of the hope they have in Christ.
What better book and character in the Bible than Peter to teach us how to become a credible witness for Christ during crisis and deep suffering, navigating through uncertain times of tests, trials, and tribulations? Peter’s book is about thriving in exactly that kind of situation. Suffering is an integral part of what it means to be a Christian; it will shape us and test us to see if we are for Christ or against Him. Peter wants to be sure that Christ is our ALL IN ALL, like the Apostle Paul tell us in Ephesians 1:23. The driving force in 1 Peter is to TRUST AND OBEY God the Father NO MATTER WHAT…regardless of the intensity of suffering…like Peter did the last 30 years of his life.
Read 1 Peter 1:13-16. Note that Peter wants us to make up our minds once and for all to give evidence that we have received (1) the heart transplant we desperately need and (2) the Spirit to empower us to renew our minds in Christ, as commanded by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2. Remember, as the heart goes, the mind goes. The heart is our central station!
During this current crisis, terrible pandemic, and times of uncertainty for so many, the book of 1 Peter will help us develop and cultivate a theology of suffering with a deeper capacity to suffer with unspeakable joy and to care for others, as we enter into their sufferings in radical prayer to love them with unwavering integrity. Not only can Peter relate to most of us in his humanity, which is so real and refreshing, but he also wants us to know for sure that God will not abandon us in our time of crisis. Instead He will refine us as pure gold to love the Father as Jesus does. Peter does not want us to deny Jesus like he did when fear took over. He does not want us to become wimps in crisis, agony, and suffering. He desires rather that we respond with courage and security in Christ, so we may shine brightly.
The holiness of God compels the Christian to be holy in all our conduct. In this passage, Peter tells us that the command to be holy cannot be negotiated; God the Father will not compromise in the matter of holiness. Doing battle God’s way flows out of the holiness of our good Father and brings triumph! Aleluya! Peter is saying to us:
Make up your mind for good…roll up your sleeves…get to work and get dirty.
Be rightly positioned with and IN Christ.
Stop trying to be holy, but rather yield to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to empower us to be holy.
This call to action involves our transformed heart…renewed mind…our entire being and life in Christ. This holiness is required for God the Father to use us effectively.
Millions of people in the Church right now are losing heart and hope. They need the true hope that is rooted in Christ. Peter is asking us not to retreat out of fear or to just play it safe. He exhorts us rather to go all the way IN CHRIST, to risk everything, to do His exact will. He is giving us a Joshua type of call (Joshua 1:2) …to arise and go…to get ready for a vigorous and sustained spiritual exertion.
Matthew Henry comments on this passage as follows:
…Holiness is the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, in every condition, and towards all people. We must especially watch and pray against the sins to which we are inclined. The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian’s life, and by this rule we are commanded to be holy every way. God makes those holy whom he saves…. The main work of a Christian lies in the right management of his heart and mind; the apostle’s first direction is to gird up the loins of the mind. Here is a noble rule enforced by strong arguments: Be you holy in all manner of conversation. Who is sufficient for this? And yet it is required in strong terms–from his command…and from his example. Be you holy, for I am holy.
In conclusion, let us consecrate ourselves to our Father with a fresh commitment, as we pray 1 Peter 1:13-16, to experience His wonders in crisis, so our hope in Christ will become ALIVE, contagious, and magnetic. Aleluya!
1 Peter 1:10-12 and Luke 10:21-24
In 1 Peter, Peter is in the midst of a unique crisis, deep suffering, and unrelenting persecution of the Church. His intense desire is for each of us to be restored and revived like he had been, so we may trust and obey God the Father with a consistent, credible commitment and fervent zeal, like he did for the last 30 years of his abundant life with Christ. In the power of Christ’s resurrection, he developed a deep love for his Savior, and his discipleship is a testimony to the power of the resurrection.
One of the most telling evidences of Peter’s restoration and revival experience was that his emotions no longer led and betrayed him. Think of the scene of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. This included Judas, who betrayed Jesus like Peter did…and like we have done. Peter at first refused to have Jesus wash his feet, but when confronted by Jesus, Peter yielded and said, “Lord Jesus, you can wash not only my feet, but all of me!” I am praying for you, that you also will want Jesus to wash all of you. Aleluya! So read 1 Peter 1:10-12 slowly, and let the Word of God work in you heart, mind, soul, and your entire being, so the fragrance of our aroma will be pleasing to our Father and spread faster than the Corona Virus! Aleluya!
Notice in verse 10 that Peter puts a great emphasis and value on SALVATION BY GRACE. As we think about this, it is important to understand that we do not deserve salvation at all. Consider the following:
The justifiable wrath of God! God has the right to be angry with us, NOT US WITH HIM!
Our guilt of sin. But we have been declared not guilty because Jesus became guilty for us. He became our substitute, making the necessary payment for our sins, which required death. Jesus bled to death to save us from death. He satisfied the Father’s just wrath toward us.
Our slavery to sin. Jesus delivered us from sin’s enslavement.
Eternal Hell and the world, where the devil/demons reign. No longer our future.
Notice also in this passage that the prophets, like Isaiah, knew that the Messiah—Jesus Christ—was coming, but they did not know when or how! So Peter is saying to us, look how privileged we are to know the WHO and the HOW of the Messiah’s coming. Aleluya! We have direct and experiential knowledge of the Messiah. We know the Who, who knows the How! Aleluya!
Verse 11 tells us that “the Spirit of Christ” was in the prophets like Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. It refers here to the Holy Spirit, as Jesus reveals to us in John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I (Jesus) shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” The Spirit is referred to as the Helper…the One who reveals the fullness of Christ to us, the fullness of truth and grace. The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ act as one, applying redemption to believers like us! They are also together now interceding for us before the Father, NONSTOP, like we must be also…praying without ceasing. (Romans 8:26-28)
In verse 12, we read the phrase, “To them it was revealed.” Peter does not tell us when or how it was revealed to the prophets, but he does tell us the content of the Gospel when he says, “the sufferings and the glories of Christ.” What a contrast and tension we have in those words! Suffering brings about glory! So the events predicted by the prophets, who served us and future generations, are the events fulfilled in Christ and told to the Church by Gospel messengers like us. Aleluya!
Think also about the phrase, “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” The Gospel flows out of the Father. In other words, the Father allocated the plan of salvation, Jesus the Son accomplished it, and the Holy Spirit applies it perfectly and permanently. We call that the Economical Trinity, which must be our example to function as the Body of Christ—to proclaim the Gospel in true unity and fulfill the Great Commission, especially NOW, when people are desperate.
Contemplate the phrase, “things which angels desire to look into.” Angels are eager to know about redemption, but their knowledge and experience is limited to what is made known to them through US!
Luke 10:21-24 records for us a powerful prayer of Jesus that enhances for us 1 Peter 1:10-12, showing how privileged we are to know about this great and awesome salvation Peter experienced and wants us to possess. Read it and rejoice in our blessings! Aleluya! Let’s always be grateful for the Gospel!
By Pastor Dan Wegrzyn
There is a story recorded in Matthew 19:13-15, where children were brought to Jesus so that He could place His hands on them and pray for them. The disciples thought Jesus was too busy to take time for the children and rebuked those who had brought them. Jesus, though, told the disciples to let the children come to Him, and He blessed them, saying that the kingdom of Heaven belonged to such as these. But what if Jesus had in mind more than just the little children? What if the disciples’ role as hinderers here is played out far too often even among adults? What if we are making it harder for people to come to Jesus, rather than easier?
In the story, the parents wanted their very small children to have His blessing; they wanted them to know Jesus. This fits right in line with the Old Testament: the fathers would put their hands on the heads of their children and bless them. Think about the ancient view of children, though. They were considered unimportant and powerless; they didn’t really count until they had something they could contribute. So the disciples decided Jesus didn’t have time for them.
Jesus told his disciples to stop getting in the way. He wanted the children near Him! You see, unlike other rabbis and “holy men,” Jesus approached people not like Him, people on the fringes…crooks, women, tax collectors, prostitutes, children. This was what was radical about Him. He was–and is– vigilant to come against what comes between His rule and His children, no matter what age. How about our society today? Think about it. We have drastically changed our tune about children, but there are other groups that we have decided are unworthy of the proximity, attention, and time of the Savior.
Who or what plays the role of the disciples in your life? What might be hindering you from getting close to the rule of Jesus? What might be coming between you and the reign of Christ? (1) For some of us, it might be distraction. (I’m so busy: emails, appointments, phone calls, etc., with no margin to simply be with God.) (2) Needing to keep up an image might be an interference for others. (3) For some people it is the Church that makes it harder for people to come to Jesus. Are there too many rules and regulations that keep us from ministering to others? We need to look at the layers of insulation that turn people away. We need to make it easy for people to come to the Lord, just as our high school principal, with a key, was glad to make it easy for us to have access to the locked school gym in the winter so we could play basketball. (4) Or how about the mystique that the pastor is too busy to pray with you, to bring the Lord’s Supper, to sit with you in grief? If this is the case, he’s too busy with the wrong things. Buildings and budgets are not more important than hurting or lost people. (5) The Enemy (1 Peter 5:8) is real, looking to devour us, accusing the brethren, hindering us from seeing God as Someone we need. His goal is to keep us at such a distance from Christ that He appears small, disinterested, irrelevant. Satan knows that the closer we get, the greater Jesus will be in our lives. Satan doesn’t care if you come to church, but he trembles if you come to Jesus in repentance, under His touch, His intercession, the love of His people, or the Word of God pronounced.
This Jesus who prays, who touches, who blesses children, is the One who came to pray, touch, and bless you. He is vigilant against anything that comes between His rule and you. That’s why He came…to bring you to a holy God (1 Peter 3:18) who will never let you go. His mission will not be thwarted. How do you receive that kingdom gift? Like a little child! Sometimes adulthood gets in the way; we want to come to Him all put-together, powerful, and self-assured. No! You need to become a child…empty-handed… powerless. That’s when you understand how vigilant He is, how He stands against anything that comes between Him and His rule in your life. He always wants His children to come to Him!
When my mother, a former witch, was born again and hence delivered from the justifiable wrath of God, the guilt of sin, and eternal hell, she began to pray for me very radically. She prayed that God the Father would do whatever it took to make me become a born-again Christian. Of course, neither she nor I ever imagined or foresaw that I would lose everything and experience my own famine before gaining the fullness of Christ Jesus as my all in all!
No one saw the Corona Virus coming either. Everything was going so well. The economy was booming, and every industry was experiencing record years. BUT here we are, experiencing something none of us has experienced before! We were not ready to handle it, nor do we know what to do. There has been a remnant of Christians praying radically for a biblical revival to break through, especially in the Church in America, where it is desperately needed. Some of us have been praying like my mother did: Father, surprise us and do whatever it will take, including a famine if necessary, to bring about a revival to the Church in America, so Your glory will be manifested and your people will repent, so You will heal the land. And now we have the Corona Virus.
At the heart of biblical revival is the glory of God our Father for His greater hallowing. Forced through the Corona Virus, our personal and corporate revival experience will make us become as consumed, jealous, driven, and hungry for the glory of our Father as Jesus Christ is, and as God our Father is for His glory. (2 Chronicles 7:1-3; Isaiah 42:9) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) But we can pray for our thoughts to be more like His to bring glory to His name!
Read carefully the familiar parable of the prodigal (or wasted) son in Luke 15. Notice that he never saw the famine coming as God the Father’s vehicle to bring about the desperate personal revival he needed. It was unthinkable for a Jewish man to be living with the pigs, and as a pig. He needed to come to his senses and be born again with genuine repentance for the extreme shame he brought to his father and then experience the radical, unconditional love and unspeakable fiesta-type joy of his father! Aleluya! This parable is all about the glory of the waiting, praying, loving, forgiving father.
Let’s thank God our Father for the Corona Virus as the famine that brings us to our senses and to repentance, reviving us for the sake of the Father’s glorious celebration and eternal hope of Christ. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to make radical biblical prayer part of our DNA, hence much more important than the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe, so we can pray with credible fervency and consistency. Pray that the Holy Spirit will wake up the real Church of Jesus Christ in America, leading us to genuine repentance so He will heal us and make us no longer depend on SELF, but rather on HIM ALONE. This is the beginning of the revival experience.
In Colossians 4:12, the Apostle Paul introduces us to Epaphras. Paul says that Epaphras “who is one of you (one of us), a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” This is the fruit of the revival experience.
No matter what famine, temptation, or virus may come our way, let’s anchor deeply at the cross and position clearly in Christ! Aleluya!
1 Peter 1:1-5; 3:12; 4:7-9
During this time of crisis, great drama, and uncertainty for so many, Barbara and I are much more committed than ever to love each of you much more radically than ever by praying for you the living, all-transformative, and powerful Word of God, with much more fervency, consistency, commitment, relevancy, credibility, and passion! Here is our prayer in Jesus’ name:
Father, teach us your will through this Corona Virus crisis. Help us NOT to waste this crisis, so we can hallow your name. Infuse us then with your divine courage and empower us with your Spirit, to do your very will, no matter what!
What better books in the Bible than First and Second Peter to teach us the will of God our Father?! For me, Peter is one person in the Bible I can relate to the most. Here we will find real, radical hope in this time of crisis. I know that Peter was Jewish, but I also would like to think that he must have had some Cuban in him! He was emotional and radical. But he finally saw and experienced, in his moment of crisis, the irresistible Agape love of Jesus and His cross, like I did in my moment of crisis, in late 2010 and early 2011. Hence, Peter became 100% sold out, a totally committed, consistent, and credible Christian.
Here is my daily challenge and radical prayer as I relate to Peter:
“I don’t want my emotional, real passion for the Gospel to overshadow my authenticity and hence push people away from Christ. Rather, I desire to become radically contagious for Christ.” So I need constant divine discernment and Christ-control to become all things to all people and love them radically so I will not bring God the Father any shame. As we look at the two inspired books Peter wrote, we will pray them, applying them to our lives. Peter experienced a personal and permanent revival when he was confronted with Jesus’ love, and his letters are a testimony of this revival experience. Each of us in the Church in America desperately needs that now. We want each of you to become dangerously contagious by that type of revival, so it will spread to others much faster than the Corona Virus is spreading!
Let’s consider five contagious and transformative benchmarks that Peter experienced, realizing that we also must do the same if we are to experience revival as Peter did.
Peter’s fear of insecurity that led him to deny Christ three times was replaced by consistent, radical agape love for God the Father and all people, including Jews, Gentiles, and everyone else.
He became an overcomer and fearless lover of Christ and others.
Peter’s love for self was replaced by his compelling love for the cross. Tradition tells us that ultimately he died on a cross with unspeakable joy, upside down.
He experienced the confidence of Christ to live his Christianity with magnetic boldness.
Peter’s emotional, explosive, and at times uncontrollable passion, was replaced by an unwavering courage to trust and obey exclusively the voice of Jesus Christ.
He declared war on sin.
Peter’s complaining attitue, defective view of the Gospel, lack of peace, rebellion, and depression was replaced by the unspeakable JOY of knowing Christ intimately. As John Piper says, sin is the suicidal abandonment of joy. Peter life and revival demonstrates this truth.
Remember that Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” because he was trying, in ignorance and even with good intentions, to stop Jesus from fulfilling His mission of love as designed and commanded by His Father. (Matthew 16:23) But without the cross and Jesus’ blood, there is no redemption.
Peter became a tenacious defender of the Gospel and a fighter for his joy and the joy of others.
Peter’s prayerless life was replaced by a very intimate, dynamic, Spirit-filled prayer life and relationship with Jesus Christ that hallowed the Father.
His prayer life became his anchor and source of power and made him vigilant.
Our vice-president, Mike Pence, said the other day concerning the Corona Virus, “Don’t be afraid, but be vigilant.” Good advice!
Peter, a professional fisherman, also became an effective fisherman. He went from zero fish after fishing all night, to catchin 153 large fish after he obeyed Jesus and place the net on the right side of the boat.
He also became interested in fishing for the souls of men.
If there was ever a time when Christians must trust and obey God our Father 100% with a single focus, like Jesus did and like Peter finally did, it is NOW. In Christ we have bullet-proof security, protection, and provision, regardless of the Corona Virus and the disruption that it has brought to all of us. So let’s take a radical time out and reevaluate our priorities.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1Peter 1:3) Peter is known as the Apostle of Hope. Read the first five verses of 1 Peter and pray them practically for you and others you know. We pray for God’s grace and peace in your life, as Peter prayed for saints scattered throughout the world in his day!
2 Chronicles 7:14
Biblical prayer, as we pray radically the Word of God, is the tool to get to know the Father as Jesus knows him, in an intimate, fervent, confident and vibrant relationship. The Word of God is all-powerful and transformative. It infuses us with the confidence of Christ that our Father is all-powerful and able to do anything. In Psalm 40:4-5, we read, “…Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; …they are more than can be numbered.” In Jeremiah 32:26-27, the Lord told Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” God’s Word also gives us His precise, permanent prescription for spiritual healing and revival, which we desperately need today. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we read, “ If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways (repentance), then I will year from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
People today are hurting in and outside the Church. Many are dying from the Corona Virus, and people are scared all over the world. Fear, anger, and anxiety have taken over. We don’t know what to do. But in the midst of all these messes and urgencies, God is calling us to Himself. We need to fix our eyes on Him!
When we pray, we want to tell our Father again that He is a good, good Father, that nothing is impossible for Him to do for the greater hallowing of His holy name. We also want to admit that we are helpless, unable to do anything apart from His supernatural grace. Aleluya! We ask Him to make our faith more vibrant and real and forgive us for doubting. In our recent healing prayer meeting, we used the A-C-T-S format: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Let’s look at some Scriptures for each section to fuel our prayers.
ADORATION: (See also 1 Peter 3:9, John 4:24, Numbers 23:19.)
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death. (Psalm 68:19-20)
“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
(Begin popcorn prayers of adoration.)
CONFESSION: (Read also Acts 3:19.)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
(Prayers of confession here.)
THANKSGIVING: (Be sure to read also Psalm 107:8-9.)
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:3)
(Prayers of thanksgiving here.)
SUPPLICATION: (Read and digest James 4:2-3.)
“…Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
In the prayers of supplication, we tackle these five categories:
- Spiritual healing: for those whose spirits are crushed or quenched, or who need to know the Christ of Scripture
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 26:26) See also Psalm 41:4 and Psalm 51:10.
- Emotional Healing: for the discouraged, broken hearted. In despair
“The LORD heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) See also Psalm 34:18.
- Mental healing: For those with anxiety, worry, doubts, fears, insecurities, depression, and beyond
“Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.” (Psalm 6:2)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heatrs and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)
- Physical healing: (See Psalm 6:2 and 3 John 2.)
“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” Psalm 103:2-4
“…The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.” (Psalm 41:2-3)
- Healing from strongholds: for those who need deliverance from demon possession or oppression, addictions or strongholds (Study Ephesians 6:10-18.)
“Submit yourselves…to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
After each section, we pray for individuals with needs in that area. As we pray, though, we need to remember the following:
- We are coming before our all-powerful, sovereign God as our Father, NOT as our paramedic!
- We are coming through Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sin.
- We are coming in the unlimited power of the Spirit, with thanksgiving, anticipation and much expectation, believing in faith that God wants to surprise His children above and beyond with His unlimited “How Much More”…for the greater hallowing of His name.
- We are coming NOT with demands or manipulations, but asking, seeking, and knocking with deep humility, boldness, and persistence. As in the spirit of Luke 11:8-13, knowing that we are not talking to the air, but with our good Heavenly Father. Aleluya!
- We come knowing God has the freedom to bless and heal those with little faith or those with a much-matured faith. Because of His mercy, and to demonstrate His power, He may even grant the greatest of all healings—forgiveness of sins—to those who have entered with no faith.
Remember that we are involved in spiritual warfare. We must be prepared for this and not be surprised that life is hard. God has not promised us a life of ease, but He has promised us a life of joy in the midst of the trials and much greater joys to come in His future kingdom. Prayer is the weapon we must employ! Our objective is to hallow God’s name so He can grant us more visible testimonies of His powerful grace, so others may believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Aleluya!
Prayer Conference Report
By Barbara Mill 1 Peter 3:18
A big part of our motivation in holding a prayer conferences in prisons, is that we want our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated to know that they can truly live, even when they are inside prison walls. Many of us on the outside, however, are also incarcerated in our spirits or by our thoughts, so the same encouragement is helpful for us as well. It is important that we know what we believe. We all have a world view, or a framework that impacts our decisions and our thinking. Ravi Zacharias says that he likes to help the thinker believe and the believer think. He says that there are four questions that we each must answer in life:
- What is my origin? Where did I come from?
- What is the purpose or meaning of life?
- What is morality? How do I know right from wrong?
- What is my destiny? What will happen to me when I die?
Ravi holds that each of these questions must be answered coherently and must gel with all the other questions. We believe that Christ is the only coherent answer to all of them! We will look at each of these areas more closely, but first of all we must understand who God is.
God is a Spirit, intangible. He is one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let’s consider His instruction according to the Scriptures regarding life’s questions listed above.
Origin: God is the source of everything. He created and actively sustains the world. He is executing His master plan.
Purpose in life: Since God is the designer of everything, He created you, and you are part of His master plan. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are His masterpiece, and His plans for you existed long before you were even born. Your whole purpose in life should be to bring glory to God, our Creator and follow the plan He has for you.
Morality: Since God designed us, He can best answer the question of morality. Just as a manufacturer’s suggested use is helpful to a consumer, the Creator’s laws are essential and life-giving. His laws are not burdensome. We find these instructions for wisdom and soul revival in God’s Word.
Destiny: God will judge the world. Death is not the end. I need to have a relationship with Christ in a prayer life and be sure of my destiny. Do I know Him? Will my name be found in the Book of Life or will I be thrown into the Lake of fire?
Justice: We would add this fifth question to be answered. We are accountable to God. He is just! All of us are guilty of sin and deserving of punishment. God will not just sweep sin under the carpet; it needs to be paid for. That is justice. We will be held accountable in one of two ways: we ourselves will be judged guilty, or if we have come to faith in Christ, we can say, “Look to Jesus, who paid my penalty on the cross!” The resurrection is given to us in Scripture, not only as a hope for our resurrection, but also as a sign of His justice. Aleluya!
What do all these have to do with life? Let me apply them with examples from my life. I grew up in Philadelphia in a Christian home. Our life revolved around the local church and church people. My parents adored my sister and me and faithfully served the Lord and His people. I was taken to Sunday school each week, where I memorized verses from Scripture that said I was a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross, that God was a compassionate Father, abounding in lovingkindness. But it was in the fourth or fifth grade that the Lord was gracious to me and gave me the gift of faith and the understanding that even I was a sinner who had offended Him. Flippant answers, disobedience to my parents, cheating in school…these were all offenses to a holy God, and the only way to be forgiven was to believe that Jesus, His Son, had paid the penalty that I owed when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead. I also understood that since He had created me and the world, He had the right to determine the standards by which I had to live. I had come to believe that the God of the Bible was the answer to the questions of origin, morality, and purpose. My Creator had the right to speak into my life.
As I was in high school, and in the years after high school, I would come to wrestle with the question of destiny. In a period of about 15 years, I had to deal with the death of 17 of my closest friends and classmates—leukemia, car crashes, congenital heart defects, brain tumors, skin cancer, diabetes, and even a murder. These were not people my grandparents’ age; these were MY friends—12-year-olds, 18-year-olds, 23-year-olds. So I had to ask, “What is the meaning of MY life? Why am I still here, and they’re not?” So I was getting into the question of purpose. How could I reconcile my almost idyllic life with my friend’s life who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer during her second pregnancy? She was strongly urged to abort the baby so she could start fighting for her life. What could I say to her grieving husband after they decided to continue with the pregnancy and he lost both her and their son and now was a widower in his mid-twenties with a very young daughter to raise alone? I began to search the Scriptures and was confronted by the truth of God’s sovereignty.
God is sovereign. (See Psalm 135:6 and Isaiah 46:9-10.) He has the freedom and power to accomplish whatever He desires in His own time and way, in Heaven and on earth, from the beginning to the end. Our limited minds cannot comprehend it, but we must embrace the tension of His sovereignty along with man’s responsibility. A tension rod is a good illustration of these two working together. Two sides are needed if it’s going to work; without either one, we’re off the rails. God is sovereign, and we are responsible! This sovereign God, who also holds us responsible, has given us His Word as our infallible authority for life.
As I studied Scripture, I came to understand that sin means death, and death means separation. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they enjoyed intimacy with God; after sin, they were separated. Here is a warning: when you begin to isolate and separate yourself, it can be a sign that something is going on in your spiritual life. When men at the Koinonia House started to try to get out of coming to dinner, we knew there was something they wanted to hide. You may need a check-up if this is happening to you. Sin separates; the love of Christ brings us into relationship. Jesus’ mission was to bring us back to God! (See 1 Peter 3:18.) Our chief end is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever! How is your prayer life? Are you glorifying Him and enjoying Him? No one else is worthy of our worship!
Some of you know in 2010 I had a car crash and lost some fingers. I had to be rescued from the car; I was powerless to help myself. I needed someone to come close to me, someone like me, a person, yet it had to be somebody outside of the car and outside of my situation that had the power to get me out. If I could have gotten out on my own power, it wouldn’t have fit the definition of rescue. When we are rescued, it’s because we are powerless to change our situation. In the church, we sometimes say we were saved; we were rescued from the judgment to come. But, as Manny likes to say, God is not our paramedic; He is our good, good Father. I have not kept contact with the paramedics who rescued me that day. Is that how we treat God, our Father? “9-1-1, I need your help.” Then we ignore Him. “I can handle things. I’ll let you know when I need you again.” Colin Smith, a pastor in our area, says that true saving faith is being joined to God, and it creates a love in us that reflects His love. It’s a union of love, which means there is communication. So if you are prayerless, think about whether you really have saving faith. Believing is not enough; there needs to be a changed life, which glorifies God.
Bishop Eugene Tanniehill is a man we met in Louisiana State Penitentiary. He has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has taught us a lot about prayer. He was illiterate but learned to read so he could read the Scriptures. He was serving life plus 25 years; his pardon had been on the governor’s desk about nine years. He often told us, “I will get out of Angola not one minute sooner or one minute later than God decrees.” His faith was strong! He told us that he believed he would get out and come to our living room and pray a prayer of blessing over our children. He was already 70 and had been in prison some 45 years, so I wasn’t sure what to think about that. Well, four years later, he was in our home a free man and did pray a pray of blessing over our children. Three years after that, he blessed our grandchildren in our home when he came to do ministry at the Lake County Jail with us. He is in a personal love relationship with Jesus, and God’s love reflects from him to others. He believes in new beginnings and communion with God!
We who profess to believe need to know what we actually believe. We need to be sure that we have a true saving faith. Then prayer and reading His Word is the vehicle we must use to get to know Him. Do you love Him? Read through Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 2:9, 2 Timothy 4:8, and James 1:12 for promises for those who love Him. Colin Smith says, “Faith loves and trusts Christ, even when it faces great trials. You can’t see Him, but you love Him, and you find joy in Him.” Do an analysis of your faith life and ask, “Do I love Christ?”
Romans 12:13; John 1:14; Luke 10:33-37; Heb. 13:2-3
When Paul commands Christians to practice hospitality in Romans 12:13, he means that it should become an essential, helpful, good habit…part of who we are and what we do. Practice makes permanent! Loving with sincere hospitality becomes ingrained in our DNA. Our doing flows out of our being in Christ! In Luke 11:5-7, Jesus tells a parable to help us understand that as His people we have no choice but to be hospitable. As you read the passage, realize that you and I are the guy who goes out on behalf of the neighbor to advocate for his food and health. God is represented by the guy who is sleeping with his kids, and He says to come back later. But later won’t work, and He is the only one who can provide what we need, so we continue to ask with boldness and persistency! If we do not pray radically so His name will be hallowed in greater ways with the provisions He gives us, we will have nothing to offer our neighbor. In ourselves, we have nothing to offer to anyone; everything we possess has come from the very hand of God our Father by his grace. We are always eager to share it with others who are in need, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, aleluya!
What should Christian hospitality include? These are some of the definitely important requirements:
- A clean bedroom and a comfortable bed with clean sheets, clean pillow and pillowcases, blankets, and no bed bugs. Curtains should supply privacy.
- Edifying conversation and prayer time
- Food…like a tasty Italian soup with substance, for example
You see, the perspective of a born-again Christian is that everything we have, including our home, is not ours but has come from God our Father, where we have been invited to live as His sanctuary for us. It is to be used to glorify His name as we use it to bless others, including the ex-prisoner. That is why God called Barb and me to a very unique and radical ministry back in 1990 with the establishment of the Koinonia House in the City of Wheaton when I was a rookie Christian. We went against all odds, including the opposition of our neighbors, churches, Christians, and even officials from Wheaton College, my Alma Mater.
The first 10 years of our ministry, Barb and I lived out Romans 12:13b; we lived with up to four men, whom we met at the prison gate, crossing culture, color, class, crisis, and crime. We were committed to provide loving biblical hospitality for these men, and then women through two other Koinonia Houses we established. This provided for them the loving family structure they missed in their formative years, not only for their benefit, but for the benefit and blessing of their children and future family. We tabernacled with them 24/7, and they experienced biblical discipleship. Every one of their needs was met, with a fence of love from a local church, who provided them with mentors, families to meet with on Sunday, and even jobs after three months of intense training on how to live as a responsible Christian. We led the way and wrote the manual, and many have emulated and adopted this ministry as part of our Meet Me at the Gate model. The first five intense years really tested our faith and required our full trust in God the Father. The Devil worked against us. We had to fight for our joy, the joy of others, and in court, not only the City of Wheaton, but also the churches, the neighbors, and at times the very men we were serving. I’ll never forget a very prominent pastor in our area (a month later found to be unrepentantly adulterous) who told me that I was in civil disobedience and who made certain the rejection of financial support we so desperately needed. But we knew we were within the legal code of Wheaton and within the mandate of the Gospel, so we trusted God our Father and persevered.
Let’s remember that Jesus came to our level; being very God 100%, He became very man 100%. He tabernacled with us! Let His instruction in Hebrews 13:2-3 sink into your heart, soul, and spirit: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them…since you yourselves are in the body also.” You see, we have over 800,000 people being released from prisons every year in America. 10% of them are Christians…saints. Yes, rookie Christians, but nevertheless our family members. We must show the way of love by practicing hospitality that will glorify our Father in ways we have not yet seen. It may appear risky, but it is the Father’s command to us! We must obey!
Romans 12:1-2,13; Gal. 6:9-10
Born-again Christians have been cleansed by the blood of Christ and have received the heart of Christ. At the beginning of Romans 12, Paul admonishes us that this should produce in us a renewed mind. You see, as the heart goes, so goes the mind. If we change only our minds, we simply become smarter sinners who will defend and love our sin much more. We must have a heart transplant first!
With a renewed heart and mind, we are exhorted not to become weary at doing good, but to help wherever there is opportunity, especially fellow believers. (Gal. 6:9-10 and Prov. 3:28) We have no choice but to share with the saints in their need. This is at the heart of RTO (Radical Time Out, every Thursday evening) and has been our radical mission for Koinonia House for almost 30 years.
We are not, however, to cast our pearls to the pigs. Matthew 7:6 says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” We as Christians must discern who are the real saints and who are not. We know that there are many who fake it and even speak “Christianese” to get the goodies. Believe me, Barb and I have been taken many times, so we desperately need much more discernment from the Holy Spirit. So, who are the saints, and how do you become one? A saint is a sincere and consistent born-again believer in Jesus Christ. A saint has confessed with the mouth and believed in the heart that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, has repented from sin, and has been washed in the sinless blood of Jesus Christ, hence reconciled to God the Father, filled and secured with the Holy Spirit. A saint cherishes the cross and Christ together. (Rom. 10:9-10; 2Cor. 5:17-21)
Read and meditate on Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus taught that the commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” was second only to the command to love the Lord with everything we have and are. So here is the application I want you to remember: loving the saints, who are our neighbors and sharing in their needs means not only to share in their sufferings, as we do at RTO, but to want for them and pray for them what we have received by the grace of God…NOT second or third best nor the leftovers, but the very best! Let’s not forget that God the Father gave us HIS VERY BEST, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to invite us to enter into the inner glory of His Father, so we can experience the exact same love affair He and the Father experience together without interruption or distraction, so that we enjoy the same benefits and blessings as He does.
The mercies of God are new every moment, and His outrageous mercy leads to grace. Luke 12:48 tells us that TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN MUCH WILL BE REQUIRED. Christians have been saved from the justifiable wrath of God the Father to become vessels of mercy, so let’s extend to others the same mercy we have received. We must realize that we are debtors of grace (Rom. 1:14) to empower others to engage and participate in the Great Commission, including the nation of prisons and jails.
Let’s pray radically for the Holy Spirit to activate within us a fervent and unwavering burning desire for our neighbors, especially those who are Christians, to extend to them the same mercy and grace we have received, not the leftovers. In Acts 20:35, the Apostle Paul says, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Let’s remember that our prayers to love radically are the pathway to hope, joy, and glorifying Christ. Ask, seek, and knock on the One Door, for the Holy Spirit to surprise you and make you creative and generous in loving a saint tonight and tomorrow in practical ways that will knock his or her socks off! Surprise that saint to make him or her see Jesus in you clearly! Let your renewed heart and mind shine for the Father’s glory!
2 Corinthians 12:9 Psalm 40:5
Diego was a lifer in prison for drug dealing. He became a believer and always waited for me with water and a towel when I came to preach at the prison. He carried my Bible and my portable cross on my visits, and he loved my family. One day he had a hearing, and we were all prayerful and excited. When his request was denied, we were all disappointed, and I wondered if Diego would be at the service I was holding that same day in the prison where he was. Diego was there and ready to serve, as usual, in spite of the sad news he had just received. You know, Christians are known by how they respond to adversity. Diego did not react in fear or anger, but trusting the Father, he continued on in faith. In God’s sovereignty, six months later, Diego had another hearing, and this time they said YES!
Likewise, David had been in an adverse situation when he wrote Psalm 40:5: “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: …if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” In spite of recent troubles, he could praise God. A true Christian is always eager to praise God and give his testimony to others, as David did. Negativity will just put you back in the pit again. God’s mercies are not new only every morning, but every afternoon and evening too. They are good every moment of the day and are more than can be numbered. As John Piper says, we don’t listen to negativity and circumstances, but we look to the Word of God and trust in His grace. Remember, God wants to love us, bless us, keep us, and protect us. I challenge you to memorize Psalm 40:5 and with David praise God even in difficult circumstances.
We recently had an RTO (Radical Time Out) where people attending did just that; they testified to God’s working and blessing in their lives. One attendee told us how a health problem with his 97-year-old grandmother had brought his family together. Another testified that after depression, a suicide attempt, and difficulties even in alternative school, RTO had enabled her to feel Christ’s love, find newness in Christ, and see miracles happen in her life. After an RTO meeting, another was led to spend a half hour just thanking God…for her godly husband, for her family, for her job, for RTO, etc. A gentleman testified of past depression and substance abuse. He hated using these, but he couldn’t go more than 5 days without them. Then he was recently saved; he now has the peace of God and has been clean for six months! One sister in Christ who had been in ministry for many years, told us how RTO had rekindled her love for Jesus to watch what He would do through her at her current secular job; she now joyfully sees every day as a gift from God to do what He wants to accomplish with her life. A newcomer has been reading Peter’s epistles and rejoiced in noticing that God’s grace is multiplied, as opposed to just being added. (Read 1 Peter 1:2 and 2 Peter 1:2.) As John Piper says, this is real empowerment, what we long for. RTO has been an inspirational experience, making this gentleman more vocal about his faith; he describes RTO as a shot in the arm for his faith. Another first timer had a father who was not there for him; now he realizes there were particular things in his father’s background that affected him; he encouraged us to realize that the people we encounter have histories, and we need to forgive when they have wronged us and talk to God about them.
For all these RTO attendees, 2 Corinthians 12:9 is applicable: “And he (the Lord) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Let’s accept God’s grace in our lives so we can live as victorious children of the Father; let’s testify of His grace to bring glory to His name and hope to others.
When we want to honor God with all-out, non-pretending, fervent, radical prayer, the A-C-T-S format is an excellent one to follow. The acronym stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. If we are devoted to prayer, as Romans 12:12 commands us to be, these aspects of prayer are essential.
First, let’s be reminded of these things:
- We come before God, our ALL-powerful, loving, compassionate and sovereign Father as our Father, NOT as our paramedic.
- We come through Jesus Christ, the One who paid the penalty for our sin so that we can enter the Father’s presence because we are covered by His righteousness.
- We come in the unlimited power of the Spirit with thanksgiving and much expectation, believing in faith that God, our loving Father, wants to surprise His children above and beyond what we can imagine, with His infinite and unlimited How Much More…for the greater hallowing of His name.
- We come NOT with demands, nor manipulations, but rather we ask, seek, and knock with deep humility, boldness, and persistency, as instructed in the spirit of Luke 11:8-13, knowing that we are not talking to the air, but to our good Heavenly Father, aleluya!
- We come knowing God has the freedom to bless and heal those with little faith or those with a much-matured faith, and because of His mercy and to demonstrate His power, He may even grant the greatest of all healings, that of forgiveness of sins.
Let me remind you that we are involved in spiritual warfare, and we must be prepared, not taken by surprise. God has not promised us a life of ease, but He has promised us a life of joy in the midst of trials, and much greater joys to come in His future kingdom. In an article entitled “Life Is War: Why Many Christians Do Not Pray as They Ought,” in Decision Magazine, Dr. John Piper wrote this: “What have millions of Christians done? They have stopped believing that we are in a war. NO urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity.” He adds, “Prayer is the communication by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God. Prayer is for war.” (Ephesians 6:17-18)
Let’s look at ADORATION, reminding ourselves who God is. Consider thoughtfully the following Scriptures:
‘Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
I Peter 3:9 John 4:24 Numbers 23:19 Psalm 68:19-20
In the CONFESSION phase of prayer, look at these passages:
“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.” (James 5:16) I John 1:9 Acts 3:19
THANKSGIVING: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (I Chronicles 16:3) See also Psalm 107:8-9.
SUPPLICATION: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father. And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14) Prayerfully consider also James 4:2-3.
Let’s hallow the name of our Father with our prayer, so He can grant us more visible testmonies of His powerful grace, so others may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah!
The following are Scriptures to be applied with supplication in specific areas:
“…Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me for I have sinned against you.” (Psalm 41:4)
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 26:26)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
“The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
“The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)
“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:2-4)
“Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.” (Psalm 6:2)
“The LORD protects and preserves them; they are counted among the blessed in the land. He does not give them over to the desire of their foes. The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.” (Psalm 41:2-3)
“I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2)
Deliverance from addictions or demon oppression/possession
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints….” (Ephesians 6:10-18)
There is an inseparable and essential connection between Jesus’ required commandment of the Great Commission to take the gospel to all the world and His commandment to make His house a house of prayer for all nations. Without prayer, this would be an impossible task. With Christ, all things are possible! (Philippians 4:13)
Just as we recognize Native Americans as a nation, I contend that “ALL NATIONS” includes the nation of prisons and jails! I want to briefly give you a few reasons for this belief:
- They are a distinct group of people.
- They have a distinct culture and even a distinct language.
- They are a people group that has experienced deep pain, driven by rejection and abandonment by family, the Church, the world’s culture, and a grace-less and broken system.
- They are the most neglected and forgotten people group in America, especially by the Church, because of fear. This is contrary to the gospel of love.
- They are people who have been abused and hence have become abusers, in desperate need of God our Father’s grace.
- Over 80% of this distinct people group come from urban areas. Many have been raised in fatherless homes or have experienced homelessness. They need our Heavenly Father! 80% of them are fathers, leaving children at home fatherless. Many of them don’t know how to be fathers.
- 80% of this people group has been invaded by and hence become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Many suffer demon possession and oppression as well as mental issues.
In Matthew 25:43, we find Jesus’ rebuke, “I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” When questioned as to when this had taken place, He answered, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.” Are we guilty of the same thing, or are we doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission? Prayerfully cast that vision for your church to fulfill the mission God has given us for the nations—all the nations, including that of prisons and jails– for the greater hallowing of the Father’s holy name. Aleluya!
Matthew 28:16-20 Romans 12:12
Christians have no choice but to become totally devoted to prayer because we have been commanded by Jesus Christ Himself to fulfill what appears to be an impossible mission, what we call the Great Commission, in the midst of an explosive, anti-Christ, and very hostile environment, not only in America, but around the world, where Christians have lost lots of ground and credibility and suffered many casualties. Without 100% devotion to radical, biblical prayer, we will not be able to obey and engage in this clear mission for the Father. There is an inseparable and essential connection between this commandment and Jesus’ declaration that His house be a house of prayer for all nations.
You see, the Great Commission will NOT be accomplished by our humanistic efforts, strategies, and schemes, but by God the Father Himself through His conquering Son Jesus in the mighty power of His Spirit. GOD DOES IT ALL; we are privileged to have been invited to participate in the already finished redemptive work of Christ. We are only vessels of His mercy who must obey without delay as His bondservants. He is committed to saving His children from all the nations, including Syria, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, China, and those in prisons and jails. He alone does the choosing, cleaning, purification, redemption, and sanctification, all for the sake of His glory! Read Ezekiel 36:22-27 and notice that God says He will do the following for His name’s sake:
I will sanctify. I will take you from among the nations. I will sprinkle clean water on you.
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.
I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put my spirit within you and MAKE YOU walk in my statutes.
God transforms us, but our devotion to prayer validates our born-again experience. It is the crux of the Christian life. It requires out total commitment to being 100% synchronized with the Holy Spirit. This is the most glorious, essential RELATIONSHIP a human being can have. It will empower us not to drift or deviate from the way, truth, and life that Christ gives us. That is why the Apostle Paul, the most experienced, radical, and committed Christian and missionary, said the following about prayer:
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers (Romans 1:9).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day (2Timothy 1:3).
If we are to have this vital relationship with our glorious and awesome Father, we must do these things:
- Get to know Him as God, Creator, Sustainer, and Father through Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of truth and grace.
- Pursue Him aggressively with fervency, sincerity, tenacity, focus, and intensity to discover the unlimited and infinite power of His love.
- Become devoted to fulfilling the first and second greatest commandment (Luke 10:27), to validate the love of the Father by loving without fear and hypocrisy everyone the Father chooses to send our way.
Our devotion to prayer will take away our doubts and insecurities to infuse us with the unshakable confidence of Christ Jesus, to become committed 100% in OBEYING Christ’s command to reach the world. We can see the Father hallow His holy name as the Great Commission is fulfilled NOT IN OUR WAY, BUT IN HIS WAY. I want an eternal legacy when God chooses to retire me for good and my body is put in the ground. This is what I want inscribed on my tombstone: Manny Mill was a man devoted to prayer! Aleluya!
Non-Negotiable of Freedom for Christians, Number 11, Part 1
Romans 12:11-12 Mark 11:17
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans his list of non-negotiables of freedom for Christians, he included this very crucial one: be devoted to (constant in) prayer. This is a sweet spot for the Christian! Prayer leads to effective and redemptive action, NOT to human action driven by human strategy with a sprinkle of Scripture (humanism), but to an intimate relationship with God the Father so His name will be hallowed in greater ways. Previous to this command, Paul has given five others:
- Don’t be slothful in zeal. (Don’t be lazy.)
- Be fervent in spirit (BOIL).
- Serve the Lord (Jesus Christ as well as He serves us).
- Rejoice in hope (–the Hope of Glory, Jesus Christ).
- Be patient in tribulation. (Endure with joy!)
How in the world can we obey these commands without delay and with no excuses unless we become devoted to prayer? Not something mechanical, not from tradition, not a ritual, but radical, biblical, fervent communication with Yahweh, our deliverer!
According to the dictionary, being devoted to something means being focused on that thing almost exclusively. When you are devoted to a cause, you work to achieve its goals. When you are devoted to a person, you place that person’s needs above your own. The Christian’s heart has been redeemed, transformed, and revived by God, so it must be totally devoted to Him and to a relationship with Him in radical prayer…prayers of deliverance, intercession, and lamentation, as Jesus prayed and continues to do for us. The late Dwight L. Moody reminds us, “Jesus never taught His disciples to preach, nor to sing, but He taught them to pray.” We can conclude, then, that radical biblical prayer for a Christian must be much more important than the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. It’s what we do and who we are as Christians, personally and corporately!
Most churches, though, do not have an all-out weekly fully devoted prayer meeting. This should be our most critical, most urgent, best attended meeting of the week with everyone in the congregation present. In Mark 11:17, Jesus Himself so clearly and passionately commanded, quoting from Isaiah 56:7-8, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. When we diminish prayer and use the church for other activities, as good as they may seem to us and regardless of how they make us feel about ourselves, those other things take the place of prayer, and we become thieves of God and His glory. We must obey Jesus’ Word and be FULLY DEVOTED TO PRAYER…not to music, committee meetings, activities, even preaching, but to prayer. Not for what He will give us, but rather for who He is, His infinite, loving, holy value! This is radical biblical prayer that will lead us to deeper intimacy with the Father and bring glory to Him as we become addicted to Christ! Aleluya!
2 Peter 1:5-10
Nothing happens to a Christian that does not go first through the precise, sovereign and ordained filter of God, our Father. He has forgiven us from our past, present, and future sins (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) and given us the power of the Spirit to patiently meet tribulation. We must cultivate a radical prayer life with the Father, so that He will MAKE US love and obey the absolute truth of His Word whatever the circumstances. Tribulation should never surprise us because we have inherited the life of Christ…the life of the cross. We signed up for the life of affliction when we trusted Jesus, not the apparent good life the world has to offer, which opposes the cross. We should expect and accept tribulation, especially when we are obedient to the Word and living out the gospel, rejoicing in the hope of glory.
God-ordained tribulation is a test. It refines us and helps us experience Christ’s glory and joy as we learn to depend wholly on the sovereign good and perfect will of the Father, for our good and His glory. But much of our trouble is self-inflicted. Most of my failures as a Christian have come when I acted out of human desperation, motivated by self, rooted in pride and not in the Spirit, running ahead of the Father, becoming god myself for a moment, bringing on my own affliction. I was not patient enough to wait on God to act and to get me through my difficulty, so I lost the freedom I had received in Christ by allowing the devil and his demons and agents to steal my focus, joy, and peace with the Father and others, just like Peter.
Remember that the Apostle Peter always got into trouble, even with good intentions, because he acted out of human emotions that led him to desperation…until he understood the benefit of being patient in tribulation, as he became convinced that Jesus is the embodiment of absolute truth and that He was worthy of Peter’s absolute trust. He finally embraced the cross, died to self, and lived Christ out! Let’s look at Peter’s words about patience in tribulation. Here is absolute truth with a radical promise:“…Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10) What are “these things” Peter is talking about? Look at his explanation in 2 Peter 1:5-9 and pay attention to his emphasis and the appeal he makes for Christians to persevere (endure or be patient in tribulation) in order to succeed as Christians:
…giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance (patience in tribulation), to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even too blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
We must not forget what Christ has done for us. We are forgiven at the price of His precious blood. Remember who you are in Christ. You are a child of God and thus more than a conqueror. You can get through any and all of God’s ordained tribulations, just like Jesus did, in the power of the Spirit. You are a new creation with a bright present and future. Be diligent, but don’t take over. God is in charge. Don’t inflict any more tribulation on yourself. Sit under absolute truth and stand on it. Listen to the absolute truth of the Word of God and pray that God the Father will make you courageous to obey it. When tribulation comes, take a radical time out to analyze and study it, applying Scripture and praying for wisdom (James 1:5). Remember that sin always has deadly consequences, and we never sin in isolation. May God make us lovers of His holiness as well as believers who are patient in tribulation.
Romans 5:1-5; 12:12 2 Peter 1:5-9
Since genuine repentance leads to permanent forgiveness from our Father (Romans 5:1-5), Christians are forgiven from our past, present, and future sins (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). Therefore, we are grateful (Psalm 100) and secured people who are patient in tribulation by the power of the Spirit because we have been fully justified by Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1), declared NOT GUILTY of treason against God because Jesus became sin and took our tremendous guilt for us. Although Christians are NOT to self-inflict tribulations or inflict tribulations on others (2 Peter 1:10), we must welcome tribulation as it comes from the filtering, sovereign hand of God, our Father. We must rejoice in the glorious hope that is before us, knowing that our tribulations are to shape us with Christ’s character (Romans 5:1-5). Tribulations make Christians become credible, consistent, and committed to the cross and Christ (2 Peter 1:5-9). They are there to refine us and help us experience Christ’s glory and joy as we learn to depend 100% on the good and perfect will of the Father…for our good and His glory. Tribulation must become part of the Christian’s DNA…a part of our fabric. It should never surprise us.
The late Charles H. Spurgeon asked the question, “Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now?” Martin Luther said, “Smite Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if You have forgiven me, smite as hard as you will.” Spurgeon goes on to say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what You will. You have forgiven me, and my soul is glad. Christian, if you are thus saved, while you are glad, be grateful and loving. Cling to that cross that took your sins away; serve Him who served you.” Paul told the Romans (5:3-5) that “we also glory in tribulations, knowing (convinced 100%) that tribulation produces perseverance,…character, hope…because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Read Romans 5:1-5 and contemplate the many benefits of tribulation. Remember the absolute truth that if we have deposited our trust in Him, we can always go to the unlimited Bank of God our Father and receive all the blessing and benefits His bank has to offer: peace, access to God, faith, grace, security, hope, and victory. Tribulation will bring perseverance to shape in us the character of Christ. The Holy Spirit is always ready to lend us His unlimited power. With these benefits, what more could we need?
We often get into trouble because we bring on our own afflictions. When we make the truth of the Word of God become subject to our feelings and opinions, we let our emotions get out of control, we panic and start to fear as we allow other voices to speak into self, our worst enemy. Our pride takes over, and we act on our own, ahead of God, not waiting for Him to act and surprise us with Himself. We stray from the truth. We use our freedom to lose our freedom in Christ. That is the history of humanity. That is my history, even as a Christian. Most of my failures as a Christian came from acting out of human desperation rooted in pride, not in the Spirit.
So here is the main lesson from Romans 12:12: be patient in tribulation as we rejoice in hope and are totally devoted to prayer. Wait for God our Father to surprise us with His unlimited benefits and blessings. Filter every decision through Christ Jesus, who embodies absolute truth! Read 2 Peter 1:5-9 and pay attention to Peter’s appeal for Christians to persevere (endure, be patient in tribulation). Then I urge you to do the following:
- Remember who you are in Christ: a new creation with a bright present and future.
- Don’t bring tribulations on yourself, but be patient in God’s ordained trials.
- Don’t take over. God is in charge. Let Him be your Father.
- Take a radical time out to pray to the Father.
- Sit under the absolute truth of the Word of God.
- Pray that God the Father will MAKE you obedient to His Word.
- Remember that sin always has deadly consequences, even when done in secret.
Patience in tribulation requires our unshakable obedience to absolute truth. Samuel said, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” May we be humble, willing children of the Father who obey and joyfully exhibit patience in tribulation, availing ourselves of His more-than-sufficient grace! Aleluya!
I Thessalonians 3:11-13
If I leave any legacy for posterity, I want it to be that Manny was a man of radical prayer! Communication with our Father is of ultimate importance, and we want you to pray with us also, as God expands our territories and directs our way into more prisons (26 in the last 3 years), jails, and churches.
The Apostle Paul prayed with urgency for the Father to direct his way to the church in Thessalonica. Notice his prayer in I Thessalonians 3:11-13: “Now may God our Father Himself and our Lord Jesus Christ…DIRECT OUR WAY to you and cause you to increase and abound in love for one another…so He may establish your hearts without blemish in holiness before God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Notice this is all of God; He directs our way, and He makes us increase in love since we are powerless to attain this in ourselves. The reunion He refers to will be a great and radical family reunion! That is our glorious hope, aleluya!
You see, the gospel creates a sense of urgency with reliable, joyful HOPE, because Jesus Christ’s first coming assured us of His second coming, that indeed He is coming back as the Bridegroom, at any time, to rescue and enter into an eternal holy matrimony with His holy bride, who must be 100% vigilant and alert with radical intensity, singularly focused, with a wedding dress that must be clean, without blemish or wrinkle. She must be burning with love for her Bridegroom, in deep humility, with her lamp full of oil, so the bride can see the Groom come as a thief in the night. That oil comes into her lamp from the intimate relationship the bride (the Church) has with the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ).
As we serve with this glorious hope, we want the Father to direct our way to prisoners and their families that He would have us serve. We want Him to direct our radical prayer for those He will direct to us. We need Him to lead our hearts to peace instead of anxiousness, joy instead of anger, and love instead of fear.
So here is our radical prayer:
Father, surprise me and direct my heart with urgency to You alone. Make me love your holiness, so I can love you and anyone you choose to direct my way, with consistent freedom, credibility, commitment, fervency and passion. Father, establish my redeemed heart in Christ without blemish in the eternal legacy of your holiness, so I can be fully prepared, eager, focused, and alert to be rescued by Jesus Christ, my Bridegroom, at His second coming. Amen.
May God direct our way, our hearts, and our prayer!
No one wants to drink a flat soda! We would rather hear that instant bubbling gas fervency that explodes when we open the can. Ssssssst! This is a good picture of the fervency for the gospel that we should have when we are in 100% fellowship with the Spirit. You see, we become flat, ineffective, lukewarm, and passive when the Gospel is not our exclusive drive and focus. Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations, and when people partake of our message, it should not be flat. They need to taste and see that the Lord is good. They must know that with God all things are possible. In Philippians 4:13, the Apostle Paul writes from prison, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” John quotes Jesus saying this: “He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do….if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-15). As we become aware of God’s love and holiness, we must believe that reaching the world for Jesus is possible! We are engaged in an ugly war for people’s souls. This should drive us to radical prayer and action if we are to rescue souls from eternal hell and glorify our Father.
How do we keep our hearts on fire for the Gospel like the disciples’ hearts burned in Luke 24:32? How do we get a fire in our spirit to ignite a permanent fire that cannot be extinguished…a fire that is transferable to others…that will no longer let us be passive, silent, indifferent, lukewarm, or cold ever again? Paul tells us to be “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11), and the word fervent means boiling. If we are cooking food and turn the fire off under the boiling water, it is not going to do the intended job. In the same way, if our fervency for Christ and the Gospel dwindles and becomes lukewarm, the intended purpose won’t be fulfilled. We must fan the flame of the Spirit so that it is not quenched. (See I Timothy 1:6 and I Thessalonians 5:19.) We need to pray this prayer, make it our own, and tattoo it on our hearts: “Father, MAKE MY heart BOIL with the unquenching FIRE of the Gospel, to compel me to reach my world for Jesus with urgent and consistent credibility. Father, if YOU DON’T, it won’t. Father MAKE me desperate to boil with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Aleluya!”
Are you fired up for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rejoicing in hope? I am, because I am a joyful, grateful, chosen recipient of all the present and eternal benefits and blessings that come with the infinite package of the gospel.
• I was dead, but I became alive with Christ.
• I was lost, but Jesus found me and rescued me, aleluya!
• I was blind to the TRUTH of the GOSPEL, but Jesus gave me new eyes to see the glory of the Father.
• I was a slave to sin, in total bondage, but Jesus freed me to become His bondservant.
• I had no direction, but Jesus pointed me to my eternal, loving, gracious Father who promised to never leave me or forsake me, aleluya!
• I was very insecure, but Jesus gave me 100% security—then, now, and into eternity.
• I was hopeless, but Jesus filled me with the radical hope of His salvation.
You see, I became a brand new creation when the radical, explosive, transformative Gospel took hold of me. I was born again on January 28, 1986, while hiding from the FBI in Caracas, Venezuela, at my Cuban restaurant, facing 55 years in prison. By the pure mercy and grace of God, He used my mom, a former witch, a medium of the demons, to arrest me with His compelling love and life, giving me His life to live, through the power of the Holy Spirit. My father was born again the same day! (You can read the whole story in my book, Radical Redemption.)
Since then, Jesus is my ALL IN ALL…not just first in my life or at the center of my life, but the single object of my focus, delight, satisfaction, and total affection. The Holy Spirit did not come to rent my house, but He came to own my home to keep my relationship with Him BOILING with genuine fervency! If I am not living with my heart on fire for the Gospel, synchronized with the Spirit, I cannot proclaim it with integrity and passion to experience radical results that will count and that will glorify my Father. If I don’t live it with impeccable, visible integrity, I can’t give it! We must proclaim the Gospel with creativity, fervency, and loving passion, and in order to do that, we must often remind ourselves of its benefits and blessings, which increase daily (Psalm 68:19). It is the greatest Truth and Good News there is. It is a radical package of God’s infinite love, aleluya! We must know it well and prayerfully rehearse it to ourselves daily. We must believe it without compromising its truth and grace.
The Gospel is embodied in one Person only—Jesus Christ, 100% God who became 100% man to save humanity from the justifiable wrath of God, our guilt and the slavery of sin, the eternal hell we all deserve, the world and its ways, and self. He took upon Himself the guilt of all sin by drinking the full cup of God’s wrath so we can drink the full cup of mercy. He made FULL AND PERMANENT payment through the shedding of His sinless blood on the cross. What God promised Israel in Ezekiel 36:22-27, He will do for us today: “…I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes….”
Jesus never quit; He hung there on the cross in our place to the end, to complete the painful and excruciating mission the Father gave Him. That is a crazy Gospel driven by radical love; in the human paradigm it makes no sense. So we must persevere for the Gospel with urgency and fervency. Here is the Gospel and our mission in a nutshell:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn
the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore
you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin
to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
So we persevere! The late reformer Martin Luther said to God, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what You will. You have forgiven me, and my soul is glad.” Charles H. Spurgeon tells us, “Christian, if you are thus saved…be grateful and loving. Cling to that cross that took your sins away; serve Him who served you.” Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
For us to keep our hearts on fire for the Gospel, it requires our undivided, aggressive, and radical commitment to becoming intense with a single focus on what the Gospel is and its essential components to make sure we:
a. Know and rehearse the Gospel prayerfully to ourselves DAILY
b. Believe the Gospel without compromising its truth and grace
c. Live the Gospel with impeccable, visible integrity
d. Proclaim the Gospel with creativity, fervency, and loving passion
e. Remind ourselves of its benefits and blessings, including genuine repentance that leads to permanent
forgiveness and freedom from God’s wrath, eternal hell, the world, self, and slavery to sin and guilt.
We must be fully committed to loving others, praying for them, tabernacling with them, and entering into their sufferings. As John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” That includes prisoners and their families. It includes people of any culture, color, class, crisis, and crime. The Church has lost the fervency of spirit that Paul challenges us to have. We must burn with a firing passion, praying radically for the Father to give us an explosive commitment to cultivate an agonizing, relentless prayer life, driven and compelled by the Father’s love! Pray that He will make the impossible become possible through us as we reach the world for Jesus. Pray for the Father to ignite in you an uncontrollable, unquenching fervency, with fresh faith in Christ that will drive you with courage to become a joyful, obedient, consistent bondservant of Christ, so you will be a credible agent of change and mercy for Him in this world… fervent in spirit for the Gospel!
Romans 12; 3:9-26
The single drive of Romans 12 is LOVE. Love is the banner that covers this chapter. The Gospel of Love is the summary of the first eleven chapters of Romans. In Romans 12:9, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Love without hypocrisy.” He wants to get across: Don’t be a hypocrite. Be for real. Take off the mask. Love the Father and Jesus and others like the Father and Jesus love each other and like they love you and me! For that to happen, Paul says, we desperately need a new heart with new eyes to see the gospel clearly, without the hindrance of the world, traditions, human opinion, feelings, or our own world view…so our minds will be illuminated and transformed.
Recently I made the statement that we should not love through reasoning. A young friend asked me to explain what that means. Well, Romans 12:2 tells us to change our minds by having the mind of Christ in us, so we will think like Jesus and act like Jesus. If we do this, we will stop thinking and REASONING like the world with self always at the center, which is true of sooooo many Christians, who act like the world, especially when it comes to loving people who look different than we do or have different backgrounds. This is where xenophobia kicks in. You see, fear will paralyze us from loving, and then we begin to regulate love through human reasoning. Legalism steps in and creates human policies prohibited by the gospel of Jesus Christ…with no scriptural backing or perhaps with the twisting of scripture. It’s interesting to note that in 1 John 4:18, that fear, not hate, is the opposite of love.
So we are not to love people only when it makes sense to us. We may not filter the loving of people through our human intellect or reasoning like the world does. If we do, we will commit the sin of idolatry, loving self instead of God and others, changing the Father’s standards for love. Then we bring the wrath of God upon us. That is the type of affliction we certainly do NOT want.
We love people because God commands us to do so, regardless of what they have done or where they came from. You see, it makes no sense for God to love us because we all hate Him. Many of us came to Jesus for the wrong reasons. Some of us keep treating God as our paramedic or as our fortune teller. Read what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 3:9-26. In part, he says,
…There is none righteous, no, not one…there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside;…There is no fear of God before their eyes….Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Remember, you did not find Jesus; He found you. We don’t deserve His grace and mercy; therefore, we MUST NOT love people by reasoning. God does the choosing; we do the embracing and the loving. We have had so many examples of the way God surprises us and directs us to His choice of our ministry. A recent example was with a young man who had read my book and asked his fiancée to contact me. God had us right there at that very time. It turned out that she could not visit him, but we could. He was speechless, and we were blessed to meet him and pray with him. God’s timing was perfect!
Additionally, we are not to love people from a distance or on a hit-and-run basis. Rather, we must tabernacle with them and engage in meeting their needs and bringing them the Word of God. That is why the ministries of Koinonia House and Radical Time Out are so essential. We must continue loving and serving those who need our biblical love without hypocrisy, reasoning, or regulation so that they may join us in ministry to others and we can all bring glory to the Father! Pray radically with us for God to continue to bless His work! Aleluya!
Romans 12:12, I Peter 4:12-16
Tribulation must never surprise the Christian because we have inherited the life of Christ. There is no gospel, hence no resurrection for us, without the resurrection of Christ. We signed up for a life of tribulation and affliction when we trusted Jesus. It must become part of the Christian’s DNA…a part of our fabric. It is there to refine us and help us experience Christ’s glory and joy as we learn to depend 100% on the sovereign God and perfect the will of the Father for our good and His glory.
Tribulation must be expected and welcomed by Christians. Even Jesus, the sinless, perfect Son of God, experienced affliction and tribulation. He was confronted, betrayed, abused, falsely accused, disrespected, abandoned by his own, then disfigured and crucified. If Jesus experienced all that, why should we expect any less? For any one of us, sinners and rebels, to receive less tribulation and affliction than Jesus did, is pure mercy and grace.
In 30 years of ministry I have experienced lots of tribulations and trouble. They have mostly been from outside of me, mainly from other Christians. But sometimes they come from within me because I have acted out of desperation and have not been patient in tribulation as commanded in Romans 12:12b. When Christians are disobedient, we bring tribulation, affliction, pain, and agony to ourselves, hurt others, and bring much shame to the Father. Sin always has consequences, even when done in secret; we never sin in isolation. As the Apostle Peter exhorts us, “…Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:12-16).
Remember, fellow Christian, we are living the very life of Christ. We were dead in our sins with no will to accept Christ. Jesus chose us and gave us His life. He infused his life in us so that we can experience his abundant life, not only for our unspeakable joy, but also for the benefit of others. We are to become a living sacrifice acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).
Listen to this encouragement from the Apostle Paul: `
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory
(2 Corinthians 4:15-16).
That I may know Him (Jesus) and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, if by any means,
I may attain to the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).
Finally, consider the Apostle Peter, who betrayed Christ and then experienced God’s grace in restoration. His words and his example in later persecutions exhort us to embrace with joy the suffering which comes from following Christ.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s suffering, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Let’s glorify our Father by being joyful and patient when trials come our way. Aleluya!
Romans 12:9-13, Colossians 4:12-13
In Romans 12:9-13 the apostle Paul reveals to us from God the Father how each Christian, regardless of culture, class, color, crime, or crisis, must serve Jesus. We are to operate in the unlimited resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, determined with radical zeal to labor hard with urgency and joy in the biblical gospel. Loving radically, there is no room for hypocrisy. Boiling with fresh passion that is contagious and effective, we must function with a single focus that will prevent us from drifting. In I Corinthians 15:58, after 57 convincing verses of compelling evidence of Christ’s resurrection, with over 520 eyewitnesses, Paul tells grateful Christians who have been resurrected with Christ how to serve the Lord: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” And what is the driving force that makes this possible? It is “…Christ in you, the hope of glory…his working which works in me mightily” (Colossians 1:27-29). The desired result is that you and others “…may stand perfect (matured) and complete (fulfilled) in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12-13). Note here again Romans 12:1-2.
Let’s look at what serving the Lord is NOT. It is NOT serving people with the motivation of being a people pleaser. It is NOT serving human-devised policies or legalistic traditions driven by fear and human opinion. It is NOT excluding certain people from the House of the Lord (Isaiah 56:7). It is NOT serving our appetites, desires, addictions, preferences, and self. We must die to self.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ (I DIED!!!!); it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This was Chuck Colson’s favorite Bible verse, because just before he became a born-again Christian, he was an extremely proud mand and an evil master politician. He had to labor hard to serve Christ, not self. He was called “the Hatched Man.” Like Paul, he had to die to human appetites and preferences that would have hindered him from serving the Lord with a pure heart and redeemed mind. Have we done the same? Is Christ our All-In-All?
I have become addicted to Christ ALONE. I am determined with boiling passion to serve the Lord alone with a single focus. Jesus is radically delicious and fully satisfying, aleluya. In Him alone I delight! As Dr. John Piper says, “Jesus is the exclusive object of my affection. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Jesus did not shed His priceless, sinless blood so you and I can please man or be part of the majority so they can say nice things about us. A million times NO! Serving Him means that more times than not we will be alone, betrayed, and rejected by even our very own, the Church. I have often felt alone because our ministry makes the Church anxious. I feel alone, betrayed, unloved, and abandoned right now by many of my own.
Many Christians continue to live in the Old Testament code of the Law without grace. Let’s remember that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Dr. Piper says, “We have gone from Law (legal code) to a Person.” Moses was the enforcer of the Law, but Jesus is the fulfiller of it. Though we all died in Adam, if we are in Christ, WE LIVE FOREVER, ALELUYA! Unlike Adam, Jesus obeyed the Father with joy and defended His Father’s holy reputation, accomplishing triumphantly the mission He was given. His resurrection gave us a permanent receipt that death is forever defeated!
Read Hebrews 12:1-2 to fire you up with fresh hope and confidence. Let’s release all our anxieties and burdens so we can serve the Lord with untouchable joy, unfathomed peace, meekness, compelling love, a single focus, and secured confidence. We have been loved radically, served, and purchased at a high price, with Jesus’ blood. That means we can serve others regardless of what they have done or where they came from. We are now Jesus’ bondservants forever. Become a consistent, credible, committed, joyful, fervent, uncomplaining servant. “…whether you eat or drink, or WHATEVER YOU DO, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). We have been given a precious mission. There is no time to waste, no room to be lukewarm, no room to fail. Like my friend and classmate at Wheaton College, Todd Beamer, said on flight 93 on 9/11, Let’s Roll!
Romans 12 and Matthew 20:28
One of the distinguishing aspects of ServiceMaster Corporation is at the entrance of their headquarters. There is a huge statue of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The vision of that statue has always stuck with me. Dr. Kenneth T. Wessner, who served as President/CEO as well as board chairman for that corporation, Wheaton College, Prison Fellowship, and many other organizations, is my spiritual father. He helped me get into Wheaton, telling me strongly that I had no room to fail! I dedicated our first book to Dr. Wessner, and Barb and I named both of our younger sons after him—Howard Kenneth and Kenneth James. His consistent example as a servant of the Lord influenced and impacted me greatly. His legacy as a servant of the Lord will be with me forever. You see, that statue was just a reflection of his heart, a picture of his life of service to God and others.
Romans 12:1-2 are critical and vital to keep a Christian credible, growing, challenged, fluent, humble, and empowered to become a servant of the Lord. Then in verses 9-13, we find the 13 non-negotiables of freedom for Christians—freedom to be holy, acceptable to God, a living sacrifice, transformed by the renewing of our mind, not conformed to the world. We must be eager to serve with Christ’s attitude of the cross, giving ourselves up for others and entering into their sufferings with biblical compassion, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”( Matthew 28:20). Like Jesus, we need to serve with intensity and focus, praying all the time for God’s grace and mercy toward ourselves and others.
Christians are molded by mercy and driven by love, not by the culture or the ways of the world. We have received from the Father the permanent gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us to serve through the power of the cross (I Corinthians 1:18) through radical, ceaseless prayer of intercession with the Spirit. We are saved from the justifiable wrath of God, the guilt of sin, eternal hell, and the slavery of sin, the world, and the devil’s schemes. We can now become empowered, joyful, willing and eager slaves of Jesus. Paul is a great example for us. Remember how he hated Jesus and His followers with a passion before his conversion? But this is how the redeemed Paul starts the masterful book of Romans: “Paul, a bondservant (slave) of Jesus Christ….”
We have other examples in Scripture, but the most radical, practical, surprising, visible, tangible example of what it means to serve is found in John 13:1-17. Let’s remember that Jesus is 100% God, who became man to show us the way to the Father by teaching us how to love our neighbor with a pure heart, sincere faith, and good conscience (I Timothy 1:5). Jesus at this point is preparing to go to the cross to provide our ransom, for all the injustices all of us have committed against God the Father—sins which ought to take each of us to hell, separated from God forever. Read this passage and feel the tension in the room. Jesus’ magnetic love and desire to serve His disciples clashes with the disciples’ pride, fear, and hypocrisy that must be broken by the gospel. Feel His deep compassion for Judas, His betrayer, the hypocrite, whose motivation as a disciple was money, self, prestige, and reputation. His evil brought much shame to the Father. Friends, our churches in America are filled with Judases. Determine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, NOT to be a Judas, but to live as Philippians 2:3-8 instructs us: “…Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…who made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and says to them, “…I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” The entire Word of God is relevant, powerful, useful, and applicable for today. Ask yourself this: If Jesus did it, who am I not to? And always ask, “What else can I do to serve?”
When I think about serving the Lord, I remember attending a funeral with my mentor Chuck Colson and dear friends Dr. John Piper and The Honorable Al Quie, former Minnesota governor and US congressman (who, by the way, tried to serve Colson’s time in prison for him). On this occasion Chuck Colson’s shoelaces came untied, and I saw The Honorable Al Quie go down quickly on his knees, saying, “I got this,” to tie Colson’s shoelaces with love, honor, joy, and much care. He exemplified humble, uncomplaining servanthood. His love for God and his fellow Christians was obvious. Someone has said, ”Love is seeking and doing what is best for another by loving God completely, loving ourselves correctly, loving others compassionately, and loving our world courageously.” He exemplified this well.
Let’s make this our prayer: Father, MAKE ME into an effective, credible, gracious, loving, holy servant who will wash feet, just like Jesus, my older Brother, demonstrated for me. MAKE ME into a lover of Your holiness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
I Peter 1:15-16
The Apostle Paul had been a very unholy and unloving man, filled with rage, insecurity, and confusion before God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, made him a lover of Jesus Christ, the Father, and His people. Then he became a holy man in Christ Jesus. Here is his prayer in I Thessalonians 3:11-13:
Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints (Jesus’ second coming).
In this radical prayer and benediction from Paul, notice the type of relationship that Jesus Christ, as the Bridegroom, must have with His bride, the Church. This type of holy love is to be emulated by those in the church. We are to love each other in the Church and those beyond, as witness of this type of holy love we see in Christ. Our love should call others to come and enter into this perpetual love affair, as required by God the Father, so they also can enter into the wedding supper of the Lamb. We need to overflow with that love that makes our relationships credible and validates our redemption and pray, “Lord, make me increase in love as the evidence of Your holiness in me.”
Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, is ready and eager to come as soon as He hears His Father’s voice of command to arise and go. The honeymoon suite is ready, fully equipped, and 100% sanctified for the wedding night, but God the Father is the only one who knows when that will be, so we are commanded to be ready (Matthew 24:36 and 44). (Read also Revelation 19:9-16 and John 14:3.) We are to abound in increasing love with eagerness and 100% commitment for the Bridegroom. In I Peter 1:16, God tells us, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Because we are lacking in this area, however, and are not holy, we must pray with urgency, “Father, make me holy with increasing, indisputable evidence of love, so I can be a credible bride that abounds in holy, pure love! As Dr. John Piper says, “Love is the essence of holiness,” so may the Lord Jesus Christ make us holy with the visible and tangible evidence of radical love, without fear, towards everyone, regardless of what they have done or where they come from. Paul urgently warns that Christ is coming back for a bride whose dress must be pure, clean, without wrinkle or stain, having our lamps filled with oil, to bring forth the light necessary to meet the Bridegroom coming like a thief in the night.
Love is risky and compelling. It may not remove pain or death, but it does comfort. When Christ comes back for us, the pain, agony, sickness, injustices, and tears will be removed and replaced with the eternal, unspeakable, and untouchable joy of being with Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit forever and ever, aleluya! So pray for more love and compassion so that others will come to know Christ and the joy of spending eternity with Christ!
“God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (I Thessalonians 4:7-8). Let’s pray with a new mindset, resilience, focus, holy motivation, aggressive faith, and determination that God will make us increase and abound in love, make revival happen in our hearts, make our hope in Christ unshakable and our joy untouchable. May He become our supreme reality, our total satisfaction, and our exclusive lover. Pray for others as my mother prayed for me! I am a living witness to that radical prayer. Read the full story in Radical Redemption. Make RTO your consistent place of refuge for equipping and recharging, and tell others about it. Be a part of our community of radical love. And let’s heed God’s command: “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Radical Time Out is a unique family gathering, birthed and empowered by the Holy Spirit on behalf of God our Father, where each of us comes to become more like Christ, so we can pray more like Christ. We enter and commit to a faithful and perpetual relationship with the Father, to experience and feel His constant presence, through Jesus Christ. RTO is not a way of doing church; it is the way to be the church by praying radically to love radically in the healthy tension of truth and grace, embodied by Jesus Christ, as we seek to be revived (John 1:14-17; Ephesians 3:14-21)!
We come to RTO to find refuge to experience healing, unconditional love, unfathomed peace, untouchable joy, and refreshing rest, as we learn together in KOINONIA, to become partakers of the radical grace of God our Father, especially for family members whose worlds have been turned upside down by the incarceration of someone they love. We desire for them to see the impossible become possible and experience real HOPE IN CHRIST in the power of the Spirit!
We come to find effective networking with total and genuine acceptance, regardless of our situation or the situation of our loved one. At RTO we find sincere love, understanding, and compassion with reliable action and help. Here we regroup with friends with a front seat to redemption.
We come to learn from the most reliable playbook: the Bible! We reboot and recharge and find encouragement through fellowship over a meal and conversation where we are heard. We are prayed for. We hear testimonies of God’s mercy and grace. We hear strong teaching from God’s Word. All of this enables us to go back into the field of life with fresh confidence in Christ, as our relationship with Him becomes stronger, to serve our family and others with what they really need.
At RTO we can be ourselves…no pretending or faking it! RTO extinguishes hypocrisy because we keep it real (Romans 12:8). We value uncompromising truth. We keep it 100. Aleluya! We are driven by God’s heart of radical love.
John Piper says, “The heart of a Christian is not an organ of performance, BUT rather an organ of preference.” We come to RTO to be reminded that Christians prefer God our Father above all His gifts! If we prefer His gifts above God, then we are committing the sin of idolatry. God our Father must be our delight and our Gold, regardless of our circumstance or situation. He must be our Supreme Reality! He must be our preference above all else.
We come to RTO because we have realized that we are very needy and very desperate. We are extremely helpless and completely powerless. We are often perplexed in knowing what the right thing to do is. We know that we are unable to change ourselves or those we love, but we have our eyes fixed on the Father ALONE for enablement.
That’s why we come to RTO!
In June we celebrate Father’s Day, when we recognize, celebrate, and pray for fathers. Read Luke 15, where we find a parable of a prodigal son and a father waiting in agony for his son’s return. As you read, notice that this father is ready to show radical mercy and grace to the son who had rejected his love. And notice the story of the Gospel in the parable.
Repentance is the beginning of the Gospel. The first words of John the Baptist and Jesus in Mark 1:14 are calling people to repent. Repentance must become part of the DNA of a Christian. It is an awakening from God our Father in us to see and experience His glory…to come home, not as a slave, but as a son or daughter. God the Father desires a relationship with us which includes interaction with and pure affection for each other. There are tremendous benefits and blessings that come from biblical repentance and the radical response of a compassionate, longsuffering, and loving Father. He does not hold His love back from us sinners; rather, He is seeking us out and wants to receive us just the way we are. Even with the unattractive odor of our sin (like the smell of pigs in the parable), He is seeking to experience an instant and permanent reconciliation with us! If we are honest with ourselves and courageous enough to take a brief inventory, we will find out that parts of our hearts smell like pigs, because we have detached ourselves from the love of God here and there. We have found ourselves in misery, far from home, eating with pigs, in desperate need of the love of the Father, which is the only love that counts. And the Father is eagerly waiting to receive us as His son or daughter, not as a slave. Our hearts need to be cleansed…soaked in the pool of Jesus’ fresh blood here at the cross and scrubbed hard with the Word of God.
The father in Luke 15 hugged and kissed his returning son. Likewise, God the Father desires to give you a pure and very expressive embrace that for years you have longed for. His love is authentic, so each of us is compelled to love with a pure heart, clean conscience, and sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5).
God is also a joyful Father. He loves to throw healthy radical parties for His children who repent. Luke 15:10 tells us, “…There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Martin Luther said, “If I can only be assured that God the Father is not angry with me, I will stand up on my head with joy.” Let me assure you that God the Father really, really loves us. He wants an eternal and exciting loving relationship with you…starting right now. His joy is expressed in the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. Joy ties these three parables together. There is JOY when each is found. When the prodigal son returns, verse 24 tells us they ”began to be merry.” The root word for merry is the same as for euphoria, exuberance, gladness that breaks into dancing, uncontainable joy. The fact that God says, “I have chosen you” should put us into a permanent spin of joy!
How can we apply these truths? We need to return in total surrender to our Heavenly Father…and perhaps our biological father… putting aside all blame, anger, and resentment. We must be forgiving, with a humble and contrite heart. Even if our earthly father rejects us, we know our Heavenly Father will receive us with open arms!
The father in the story was the first to see the son; God’s eyes are fixed on the righteous, and His ears attentive to their prayers. The father was compassionate and ran to meet his son. This was very unusual in Jewish culture. Jewish men do not run; they glide. But this father didn’t care; his love was intense, even though his son had been living with the pigs. God is not reserved about His love for you either!
Let’s think about the older son who had stayed and worked for his father. He does not refer to his younger sibling as his brother, but as his father’s son. His father left the party and pled with him to join in on the celebration, accepting the returned prodigal. In the same way, you and I must accept anyone and everyone God the Father has chosen to make His son or daughter, those He gave to His Son, Jesus, to purchase and secure as His own. Is your love reflecting God’s radical, loving mercy and grace in your relationships with others?
Have you ever tasted a flat soda and then quickly discarded it for a nice, bubbly, carbonated, fizzy one? Well that might illustrate what Paul is talking about when he says in Romans 12:11 that we Christians should be fervent in spirit. When we have a bubbly, fervent spirit, we can obey without delay and with joy. We can display with consistent commitment and integrity our Father’s fervent love! A fervent spirit is one more way we can present ourselves as holy living sacrifices to God, transformed and not conformed to this world.
John Piper says, “Christians are mercy molded people, who are obligated to have affection for one another without hypocrisy.” As Christians, we have received from the Father the permanent gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us as winners with permanent and increasing fervency, or passionate, heartfelt intensity to love and serve one another. In Greek, fervent means to boil. In other words, our hearts should be ignited with a permanent fire that cannot be extinguished and will not let us be passive or lukewarm ever again! Read Luke 24:30-35 and notice that Luke says, “Did not our heart burn within us” while Jesus talked and read Scripture to them. That should be the effect Jesus and His Word have on us also.
A fervent Christian/church should have these characteristics:
1. Fully committed to fervently and creatively loving people without hypocrisy, across culture, color, class, crisis, and crime, to prove that our love for God the Father is genuine (Matthew 22:37-40)
2. Fully committed to loving people in the fervent tension of truth and grace (John 1:14-18)
3. Fully committed to loving those with the least of resources with the most fervency (Matthew 25:35-47)
4. Fully committed to enter the sufferings of others by tabernacling with them fervently (John 1:9-14)
5. Fully committed to pray for others with a radical, biblical, vibrant prayer in the Spirit (See Luke 10:21-24)
John Wesley expressed this so aptly when he wrote, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Remember, this includes prisons and jails, the prisoners and their families, RTO attendees, and beyond!
People in churches have become very passive, indifferent, superficial, and artificial because they have been playing games and looking for entertainment. They are not being taught deep spiritual truth. This passivity, lack of commitment, and laziness prevent us from engaging with an active, fervent spirit in ministry with a justifiable outrage that will bring about the necessary transformation in lives. Everywhere I go, I see people, in and out of church, wanting to do the least for the most; entitlement, comfort, and entertainment have become the norm and the focus of conversation. They want Jesus as a fortuneteller, who will follow them and take the monkey from their backs, so they can do what they want. That is NOT the attitude of a Christian! We should not be focused on self, but on Christ and His kingdom. We, the bride, should be passionately awaiting the Christ that will return for us.
Paul is telling us to burn with passion for the gospel, with an explosive commitment to an agonizing, relentless prayer life, driven and compelled by the Father’s love. We must believe that God will do the impossible in us to keep changing us, so we might hallow His holy name in greater ways, igniting in us an uncontrollable, unquenching fresh faith in Christ that will drive us to become obedient and consistent agents of change and mercy (Romans 9:23).
Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” Let’s pray radically for this in our lives as Christians and trust God to give us fervent spirits for His glory!
In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul gives us 13 non-negotiables of freedom for Christians. The banner that flies over this passage is “by the mercies of God,” and he is charging us to stop trying to be a Christian and just be one. Show that you are a Christian by doing what is required of you, as Jesus fulfilled the requirements of His Father. Stop being two-faced and engaging with the world. Be real. Be transformed by the Word of God to show and prove that the will of God is the opposite of the world’s ways. Get rid of all those deadly human traditions and the culture of performance. God’s will is not burdensome; it is good, perfect, and acceptable to our Father. He has equipped every Christian with all that we need to fulfill His requirements with flying colors. Micah 6:8 summarizes these requirements for us: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy (see Romans 12:1), and to walk humbly with your God?” As for His provision, in Ezekiel 36:24-27, God promises cleansing and says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.”
Read the passage in Ezekiel. Have you received all the transformational benefits and blessings of renewal? Go over this checklist to take inventory of your heart, mind, and motivations:
1. Have you been chosen?
2. Have you been delivered from slavery and imprisonment, where the world governs and sin reigns,
to a new identity where you can start tasting the milk and honey from the Father?
3. Have you experienced God’s cleansing?
4. Do you feel and appear clean, recharged, and refreshed?
5. Do you have a new heart with the capacity to love God the Father and others?
6. Do you have the Spirit within you to empower you to do what God requires of you?
These are necessary if we are going to fulfill the 13 non-negotiables from Romans 12:9-13. Let’s look in particular at non-negotiable number 6: not lagging in diligence. With this instruction, Paul is telling the Christian that he is to be radically diligent in gratitude, fully motivated and energized forever, remembering and being empowered by the Father’s unlimited grace! The Christian must firmly believe he has been delivered and live by faith in Christ, convinced that his former enslavement or imprisonment is no longer an option for him. He must be diligent in keeping pace with the Holy Spirit, making progress toward the Promised Land, as God instructed the Israelites to do. (“Go forward.” Exodus 14:13-15) A Christian must be diligent to become credible and committed, cultivating an aggressive personal prayer life that will love without hypocrisy, knowing that he will be rewarded by the Heavenly Father with His unlimited and infinite “how much more!” Aleluya!
If we are not going to lag in diligence, we must work on these disciplines:
In His pure and total mercy and grace, God gave me a totally undeserved second chance in life and gave me these areas of diligence to work on:
*Be diligent, not lagging, in walking with Me.
*Be diligent in establishing a consistent prayer walk.
*Be diligent in getting my temple in shape.
*Be diligent in writing a book.
*Be diligent in teaching and showing the Church to stop treating Me like a paramedic.
*Be diligent in lovingly calling the Church, by your testimony and transparency, to repentance for their lack of prayer and commitment to pray and love radically.
Will you join me in diligence? By God’s grace and with His Spirit and constant radical prayer, we can meet His requirements! Aleluya!
Romans 9:1-5; 12:10 Mark 11:17
How and why are Christians to love? The answer to this question must compel every Christian to become radically creative in how we love God our Father and anyone He chooses to send our way in His absolute sovereignty. You see, the gospel is a radical love affair between God the Father and Jesus as well as between Jesus and His bride, us, the church. Aleluya! So Christians cannot stay silent and indifferent on the sidelines. Neither can we let fear paralyze us from loving. Christians must always get in the game and get their uniforms dirty, always in desperate, radical prayer.
Let’s keep in mind that the Apostle Paul’s main objective in Romans 12 is to encourage Christians to love without hypocrisy by abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good. In Mark 11:17, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7-8, stating that His house is from all nations and people. This has a direct connection to the Great Commission: we cannot reject or refuse anyone because of where they were born, where they have lived, or what they have done. We must accept even the outcast, even those coming out of prison as ex-sex offenders, especially if they have become Christians. We must not create policies driven by legalism and fear, showing no grace, to keep some of these Christians from fellowshipping, with the false pretense of protecting children, when in fact these children are more at risk of sexual abuse by the clergy, elders, deacons, and the people creating these unnecessary and unbiblical policies. These restrictions bring the Father shame and rob Him of His glory. In Colossians 3:11, Paul emphasizes that “…there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” As you consider these things, read Romans 9 and Ask God to revolutionize your understanding and ability to know how to love as you pray radically.
So why do Christians love, especially other Christians? Clearly, we are commanded by the entirety of the Scriptures to love our brothers and sisters. God found and loved us first in His mercy and irresistible grace; therefore, we are debtors (Romans 1:14) and compelled to love God and others out of gratitude. We should have a burning desire to see others come to Christ and join in prayer in the house of God.
Paul’s non-negotiable #5 (Romans 12:10b) explains clearly how we are to treat others: “in honor giving preference to one another.” Now read Romans 9:1-5, realizing Paul draws from Moses in Exodus 32, when God called the Israelites a stiff-necked people. They had corrupted themselves and misappropriated the glory of God by worshipping the golden calf, misappropriating the money God had given them for His tabernacle. As you read in Romans 9, feel the deep love, compassion, agony, and pain which the Apostle Paul is experiencing. Then do the same as you read Exodus 32:30-32, remembering that Moses was a type of savior. Both men desired to take the deserved consequences of their people’s sins on themselves.
In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul says that “…the love of Christ compels us.” Let His love compel you to love and pray radically and specifically with agonizing prayers of intercession, expecting God to answer! Stand in the gap for others, as Christ did…as Moses and Paul were willing to do. If you are so wounded, hurt, disappointed, tired, or hard like cement so that you cannot love like that, then what? Ask, seek, knock, beg God to give you a new heart, heal it, reboot it, recharge it, revive it, or break your heart of cement to make it wet so Jesus can then imprint His name on your heart. Then you can find repentance and 100% surrender with deep humility, burning love, and gratitude.
Romans 12:9-13; 9:19-26
Micah 6:8 2 Peter 1:1-15
Christians must always love with the glory of God in mind…to see the glory of God fill those we are loving. This includes individuals in prison or jail, those getting out of prison or jail, and those going through the judicial system, as well as the families of all of these. And it goes for those who have been wrongly convicted as well. Here is God’s Word from Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” As God has loved us and revealed His love to us through Jesus Christ, so we must love Him and other people…”that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23).
Christians must keep loving, even when we don’t feel like it, just like Jesus did on the cross. We cannot take our baseball, bat, and glove home and hide. We must keep playing! Jesus did not feel like loving us on the cross, but He hung there, took our beating, became bloody…so we don’t have to take the burden of sin any longer. He loved us even when we were sinners! Christians don’t choose whom we love. God our Father chooses them for us—across Culture, Class, Color, Crises, and Crime. The Gospel, and thus our love, crosses all of these C’s! We love NOW, urgently, unconditionally so others feel our love and are pointed to the Heavenly Father for His glory.
This brings us back to Romans 12 and the fourth non-negotiable of freedom for Christians: “Be kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love.” Loving others inclusively—not selectively—regardless of what they have done and where they came from, must be our consistent aim and focus as Christians. That is the mission of the Church as prescribed by Jesus, and it is a product of our gift of faith consistently exercised with diligence, knowledge, self-control and perseverance through radical, biblical prayer to LOVE.
Read 2 Peter 1:1-15. In verses 1-4, Peter encourages us with the truth that Jesus Christ is 100% sufficient, powerful, and satisfying for everything pertaining to life and godliness. He secured for us salvation and precious promises through His crucifixion, resurrection, and the Holy Spirit! Verses 5-11 exhort us to exercise our faith to love without hypocrisy so we won’t stumble and bring our Father shame. In verses 12-15, he tells us to adopt an attitude of humility, teachability, and gratitude in remembrance of what Christ has done for us…to embrace the cross and Christ as our permanent and precise prescription!
In Ezekiel 36, God says, “I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations…and the nations shall know that I am the Lord when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. (verse 23) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a new heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes….” (verses 26-27)
Yes, God is 100% sovereign, but we are 100% responsible to labor in prayer as we point people to the Father with the light of Christ in and through us as credible, consistent Christians. The results are for God our Father to produce, so He will get all the glory. Our part is to love without hypocrisy with a brand new heart that God will give, so that we can love others instead of rejecting them. With a new heart we can persevere with joy and a faith that will not compromise godliness…a faith that is controlled by Christ, not self…a faith that is totally committed not to fear, but rather to love and pray radically for others and to love God the Father for His glory. Aleluya!
We come to RTO to experience Christ Hope alive as we cast a radical vision of God our Father’s glory, to be displayed and manifested in each of us, so we can be totally filled with that glory to experience with robust and strong faith the abundant LIFE Jesus purchased for us and promised in John 10:10b. Aleluya! Jesus is the Hope of Glory, our substitute, God’s son and deity Himself. Yet He communicated with the Father when He was here on earth. As He was hanging on the cross, He told the Father, “It is finished.” But even before then, He prayed radically and with deep agony and vibrant faith, as John 17:1-5 records:
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, (1) “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify You, (2) as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. (3) And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (4) I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (5) And Now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
As serious Christians, it is imperative that each of us also have a Radical Time Out each day to communicate with the Father and take a personal daily inventory. We must ask ourselves these two basic and compelling questions:
1. Am I satisfied with Christ? If not, why not? What Gospel components are missing in me so that my faith in Christ is not strong, vibrant, and real enough to make me totally, 100% satisfied in Him? Remember, faith is the Father’s gift!
2. Is Christ Jesus 100% sufficient for me? In other words, is Jesus enough, or do I need someone else or something else to supplement Jesus? Is my faith strong enough to believe that Jesus is my All in All, as the Apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 1:23? It is not Jesus plus; it is Jesus period. Aleluya!
When Christ is our All in All, we will recognize and cherish the precious gift of Faith He gives, die to self, and become bondservants. The world will not trap us any longer, but we will persevere with joy and experience brotherly love. We can be totally committed not to fear, but rather to love radically without discrimination those the Father gives us, across culture, class, color, crisis, and crime. We will long to communicate with our Father in radical prayer–individually and with others. May God grant us the faith serve Him, love radically and have a daily RTO! Aleluya!
Romans 12:9-12; 2 Peter 1:1-15
Loving like Christ loves is what Christians do! We love people, regardless of who they are, what they have done, or where they have come from. Dr. Kent Hughes, former senior pastor of College Church, fueled me with huge encouragement, grace, and fire when I was a rookie Christian, newly married to Barbara, and brand new in the ministry. His leadership was refreshing and radical when he said, “Manny, anybody from your ministry in the Koinonia House is welcome at College Church. We will adopt them and love on them. Manny, if 99 guys from your ministry fail, we will take the next guy. We will take the 100th guy!” This blew me away. Dr. Hughes is a Gospel lover, and so a lover of the Church and its people. It is imperative that we know Christ and His Gospel of love driven by grace if we are to move from faith to godly love. One of the Apostle Paul’s non-negotiables of freedom for Christians is found in Romans 12:10a: “Be kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love.” This type of love is humanly impossible, so it requires faith, a gift from God our Father, empowered by grace through radical prayer. So we look to the Apostle Peter to help us build on our faith to reach our ultimate duty to love, not selectively, but inclusively! Read 2 Peter 1:1-15 carefully.
Peter exhorts us to exercise diligently and consistently in God’s gym to add to our gift of faith these disciplines: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and–one step further—love! He asserts that if we have these in abundance, we will not be unfruitful in our knowledge of Christ, whereas if we lack these things, we will be shortsighted, even blind, forgetting that we were cleansed from our sin by Christ’s precious blood.
The church is in an alarming crisis because we haven’t heeded the advice of Peter and Paul. Instead of making sure that we are not conformed to the world (Romans 12:2), the American Church has been tricked and trapped by the world to join in its ways. Because of this, our disposition to love is not credible or effective; no longer is the Church the necessary refuge for sinners to be redeemed and discipled with unconditional love. The world has conquered the Church. Human performance, image, safeguards, and fear have taken over. We are in a state of paralysis and unable to love like Jesus does. But as Christians, we have been loved with a divine love we don’t deserve! We must love others in turn!
So what are some practical applications from the teaching of Peter and Paul that will help us to exercise our faith so that the Church can love without hypocrisy everyone God chooses to send our way? We must die to self, be 100% surrendered to Christ, bondservants. We need to recognize and cherish the precious gift of faith we have received. Believing all God’s radical promises and unlimited benefits, we need to work hard in His gym of disciplines so that the world will not trick or trap us any longer. We must shun all evil and make love our aim so that we will embrace all people, rejecting none. In faith controlled by Christ, we will persevere with joy and experience brotherly affection, totally committed to love and pray radically. We must love up close and personal with deep compassion, just like Christ, even when it hurts, never giving up. Christians love in the present with urgency, because people hurt in the present. Let’s love with the unwavering commitment of Christ and with an unwavering commitment to Christ. Then the 100th guy approach of Dr. Hughes can be ours also as we glorify our Father and bless others in His name! Aleluya!
2 Peter 1:1-15
Fellow Christian, the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ are a historical reality, but they must become a PRESENT and PERSONAL reality in us…in you and in me! The Cross and the Resurrection activate and increase our faith in Christ; they empower us NOT to doubt Christ’s finished work of redemption. Therefore, a consistent and increasing vibrant faith in Jesus Christ’s finished work of redemption, embracing Him as our Lord, Savior, Messiah, and older Brother who is 100% God and became man and sin for us, is essential and critical. Our strong and growing belief in the Cross and the Resurrection activates in each of us the unlimited power of our Father’s infinite HOW MUCH MORE…to experience personal miracles of transformation, not only in us, but in others as well, so they may believe that Jesus Is the only way to the Father, the Truth, and the Life, for now and ever.
Faith is a gift we received at the moment of our new birth. It brings us peace WITH God and the peace OF God. Faith is critical to believe the Cross and the Resurrection. The cost and damage of sin and the value of the Blood of Christ can only be grasped through faith. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the two most critical and essential events in history for Christians, because with them LOVE WINS! John 3:16 clearly demonstrates that God is a radical LOVING Father. On our part, when we are born again, we LOVE what and who we used to hate, and we hate who and what we used to love. The Resurrection is the permanent receipt of love and victory for the Christian. It is impossible to be a credible disciple of Christ, according to the Scriptures, unless we die to self and rise with Christ to operate in the resurrecting power of Christ with the unction of the Holy Spirit to love without hypocrisy. This brings us to Paul’s Non-Negotiable number 4 for Christians from Romans 12: BE KINDLY AFFECTIONATE TO ONE ANOTHER WITH BROTHERLY LOVE.
The Apostle Peter shows us the healthy tension between our diligence as Christians and the sovereignty of God. We are to increase our faith by exercising our gift of faith all the way…to LOVE. We must exercise our gift of FAITH and make it so strong that we will love with consistent credibility. To God’s down payment of FAITH, we are to add VIRTUE (integrity at the highest level), KNOWLEDGE, SELF-CONTROL, PERSEVERANCE, GODLINESS, BROTHERLY KINDNESS, and LOVE! This love for one another is one of God’s miracles in our lives; it is not natural, but a supernatural work of God in us. Peter tells us that if we do these things we will never stumble, and an entrance will be supplied abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So let’s become our very best by radically partaking of God’s grace by cultivating our personal and corporate prayer life so that our intimacy with the Father will have an out-of-this-world sweet aroma. We will no longer be conformed to this world but rather experience our entire satisfaction in renewing our minds with the Word of God, to prove that following God’s will is good, perfect, and acceptable to Him! And we will become radical lovers of God the Father and people, ALL PEOPLE, regardless of what they have done or where they came from. People will feel the Father’s love through us! Aleluya!
Romans 12:10a; II Peter 1:1-15
We are living in very dangerous, confusing times, when many Christians are hurting, quitting too soon, and putting their faith in people and the world. This is a time for the Gospel of Love to flourish and for revival to break through. We need a radical, fresh, glorious, tangible and practical hope that will make us winners and help us see and experience the Father’s “how much more” (Luke 11:13) so we can share it with others. We need a hope that will increase our faith in Christ, to trust in His finished redemptive work and in Him alone, aleluya! A humble, intentional prayer life that focuses on God’s promises with the expectation that the impossible will happen, will not only keep us from stumbling but will also hallow the name of the Father.
On April 6th, I celebrated 31 years out of man’s prison, by the pure grace of God, who has empowered me to stay out of that bondage and become a bondservant of Jesus Christ instead, like Peter (II Peter 1:1). Peter, who thought he had gone too far into his sin of denial and betrayal of Jesus, was fully restored with the unlimited grace of God and became totally transformed and reconciled to Jesus, finally becoming a lover of the cross filled with radical courage when he finally exercised his faith in Christ. He became bold for the Gospel and was even crucified on a cross, like Jesus, but upside down.
I will never forget that after being a fugitive of the FBI in Caracas, Venezuela, facing 55 years in prison, that on April 6, 1988, God surprised me with His MERCY (not getting the justice I deserved) and released me early from prison. Then He surprised me again with his GRACE (getting good things that I did NOT deserve) by choosing me, opening the door to attend Wheaton College though I was not qualified, and meeting Barbara on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem on the last day of my parole. All undeserved…BUT GOD! Aleluya!
When I was released from prison, I looked back and said, “I will always be an ex-convict, BUT BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I will never be an inmate again!” So here I am, 31 years later, celebrating God’s infinite grace and power that not only saved me, but has also sustained me and raised me to new levels of joy! I never want to forget this! And I want to make His calling and election sure by prayer and faith in God’s unchanging promises. Please join me in building on God’s gift of faith with the following essential character qualities: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and –the climax– love without hypocrisy. Peter tells us to add these things to our faith with all diligence. Though we were dead in our sins, God’s power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, and we must be careful and persistent in building these into our character so that we won’t stumble. Our faith must be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Paul and Peter both remind us that we are His bondservants (Romans 1:1 and 2 Peter 1:1). We are to kill the flesh, surrender willingly, and stay surrendered, so we will not keep stumbling and the Father can surprise us with the desire, as my friend John Piper says, to SEE JESUS AS THE ONLY OBJECT OF OUR AFFECTION! Aleluya! Then God promises that we will not stumble (verse 10). He will do the rest, and the Father will be glorified in our lives. Jesus Christ is our hope. Don’t forget! Make sure your hope is in Him!
Romans 11-12; Luke 10:25-37
The gospel of love is the Christian’s single compelling mission in life! But what is this gospel according to the Scriptures? There is great confusion among Christians about what the gospel is and how it must be lived out to bring glory to the Father, unspeakable joy to the believer, and great benefit to others who are watching us. The Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke lay this out very clearly for us.
Romans 12 is all about making sure we are ready to execute with the utmost excellence, full understanding, and radical commitment our gospel mission. A Christian is one who is chosen and invited to participate, by the Holy Spirit on behalf of the Father, in the redemptive work of Christ. This should create in us a sense of urgency to share it with others. We must be transformed and prove the perfect will of God. Our lives need to connect with our words. We must exercise and implement the gospel in practical ways. Romans 12:10 tells us to be kindly affectionate to one another; this is impossible in our own power. We are selfish hypocrites, angry, anxious, and fearful people. We naturally do evil to each other and disappoint one another all the time. We choose NOT to love, or when we love, we love from a distance because we haven’t yet experienced our security in Christ, the Jesus of the Scriptures. We need His power in our lives to really love others.
So Dr. Luke shows us how to love the way Jesus loves. We have to cultivate the discipline of repentance to be set free from self to love radically in Christ’s power; this enables us to love creatively with consistency and credibility with what our neighbor truly needs. Christians are required to love anybody whom God the Father chooses to send our way, regardless of where they came from or what they have done. That, my friend, includes the prisoner and his family…hence the ministry of RTO. Read Luke 10:25-37 ; here is the most important command in Scripture for the Christian: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” To further explain this concept, Jesus tells a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. This parable points to heaven; it shows the compassion of a man who, in their culture, would have been expected to despise the one he helps. In the same way, the gospel creates in us an urgency to love and bring others to King Jesus. The helpless man is a picture of us–dead in our sins. The Good Samaritan represents Jesus Christ, who rescues the sinner out of compassion.
Here we must look at two important essential doctrines of the gospel:
1. Justification is by faith alone. It is a work of Christ; there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
2. Regeneration, or rebirth, is a heavenly birth that results in spiritual life. In our
natural state, we are dead in Christ. This, too, is totally the work of God…nothing from us.
Like the traveler who fell among thieves in the parable, none of us can give our lives to Christ because we are dead in our sins until Christ quickens us with His life. We can’t accept Jesus; we are chosen and accepted by the Father through the finished work of Christ alone. None of us can call on God unless He calls us first. We have absolutely nothing to contribute toward our justification or regeneration. We were totally helpless, depraved, powerless, DEAD, 100% separated from God our Father. He came down to our level and rescued us, just like the Good Samaritan rescued the helpless Jewish man. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The priest and the Levite [Jews, like the half dead man] asked the question: ‘What is going to happen to me if I help my neighbor?’ But the Samaritan asked the opposite, more profound gospel-driven question: ‘What is going to happen to my neighbor if I don’t help my neighbor?'”
Love will cost us, but Christ has everything we need. We love Him…and others…because He first loved us. Let’s love others as He did…in tangible, visible, sacrificial ways and always think of our neighbor with brotherly love!
By Manny Mill – Romans 12
In the Old Testament, God granted The Israelites freedom from Egypt for good–with a one-way ticket! In the same way, Egypt is no longer an option for a Christian today. Egypt in the Scriptures stands for imprisonment, discontentment, addiction, joylessness, death, anger, anxiety, fear. But true freedom in Christ brings permanent security, stability, peace, and freedom in Christ Jesus! In Romans 12:9, Paul gives these non-negotiables for freedom in a Christian’s life:
1. Let love be without hypocrisy.
2. Abhor what is evil.
3. Cling to what is good.
Now let’s consider a fourth one that will put into practice the first three: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.” We don’t see enough modeling of this godly behavior today, even among our Christian leaders. Many of them are distant, bullying their congregants, misappropriating funds, sexually abusing women and young people, and refusing to confront their sin in repentance. We no longer see enough pastors loving and shepherding their people, protecting and overseeing them in humility and genuine service, teaching them by example the Word of Truth and how to pray. Thank God for those pastors who faithfully serve the Lord by truly shepherding and serving their flocks…loving them with brotherly love!
As we continue the journey of seeing hypocrisy eradicated from our hearts to experience freedom in Christ, let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture. Remember, we are to prove what is the good and perfect will of God as we seek to live out these non-negotiables. In Romans, Paul lets us know that Christians are bondservants of the Lord, always equipped, ready to respond with the full armor, eager and willing to display the love of the Father to our neighbors. The church is a family; brotherly love would be the feeling that exists between close relatives. Jesus said in Matthew 12:50, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” We are Christ’s family! So how can we show this brotherly love?
1. By knowing that the doing flows out of being in Christ
2. By being totally committed to abhor evil and cling to what is good
3. By being in “Koinonia” (living together in mutual partnership) with other Christians
4. By living with 100% transparency in the holy presence of the living God
5. By being grounded in and sustained and driven by absolute truth and grace
So what is at the heart of the command to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love? We need to be available and let Jesus show up and shine through us. We must love up close and personal with what our neighbor needs. Our love must be creative, intentional, passionate, consistent, unselfish, gentle, and aggressive. We must be inclusive, rejecting no one. Become a fervent and constant radical prayer champion for others, because that is our joyful duty. So…be, do, go! Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love! Do Christ would. Go shine for Him!
In the last part of Romans 12:9, God instructs us to “cling to what is good.” What a challenge for us sinners! We should be aware and grateful, however, that it is Jesus who is clinging to us because the Father, in HIs sovereignty, chose us as His adopted children. What an immense privilege! Thus, we become responsible to and inseparable with what is truly good, clinging to Jesus and the cross, the ultimate good! We are by nature sinners, but by the super-duper power of God’s grace, there is a heart transformation that will fill the Christian with the following:
1. Christ’s abundant life (John 10:10b)
2. Christ’s unspeakable joy, our trademark (I Peter 1:8)
3. Christ’s unfathomed peace (Philippians 4:4-7)
4. Christ’s motivation, encouragement with a sense of affirmation and worth from our good Father (Mark 1:11) leading to…
5. Christ’s radical obedience (Matthew 26:39) rooted in…
6. a Christ-type perpetual relationship with the Father (radical prayer) that compels us to hallow His name (Luke 11:2) and will always drive us to
7. a tenacious clinging to what is good.
In James 4:17, James tells us that if we know to do good and don’t do it, it is sin. In I John 3:4-10, John says that he who sins is of the devil. But he goes on to say that the Son of God came to destroy the devil’s works, and if we are born of God, we don’t have to sin. It is imperative, then, that we be convinced right now, by the Spirit, through the reliable and satisfying Word of God, that clinging to what is good…and doing what is good…is at the heart of God’s will. And we must say, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but yours,” because I know without a doubt that you love me! Aleluya!
Ambrose stated, “The will of God is the measure of all things.” What a yardstick for living! And it’s one we should actively seek after with joy, like Christ did. Chris Tieman, in a devotional, described it this way: Jesus didn’t seek to do His Father’s will only from a sense of obligation. There was no drudgery in it. It wasn’t a matter of gritting His teeth and getting it done so He could go about His other business. There was no other business. This was His food–His life, His breath, His passion. Doing the Father’s will was the entire preoccupation of His life.” If this is our passion, as Dante says, “In doing God’s will we find our peace.” This is true peace from our good Father.
Because we are not clinging to the good will of our Father, many Christians justify sin as good, in the name of “choice.” Abortion, homosexuality, and rejection of the prisoner, ex-prisoner, and their families are three important issues. Gambling, pornography, bullying, lying, divorce, fornication, hypocrisy, misappropriation of His money, adultery, and many more could be included. But let me assure you with 100% certainty that God our GOOD Father loves you if you have committed any or all of those evil sins and beyond. He stands ready to embrace you as you come to Him in genuine repentance with a contrite heart. And, Christian, we must intentionally embrace and invite to Jesus Christ’s Church those who have committed those sins. We must love them radically with the love of the Father and His unchanging Gospel of truth and grace…of Christ crucified and resurrected! We must let Him eradicate hypocrisy from our hearts and transform us to cling to His good, without letting go, as we encourage others to do the same. But remember, our best human good is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) so any good we do must be sifted through the cross and flow through the cross. Aleluya! John describes the ultimate good beautifully in I John 3:16-18: “By this we know love, because He (Jesus) laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed (GOOD DEEDS) and in truth.” Let’s cling to what is good! Aleluya!
As we start a new series, I want you to know that the messages are mainly for me. I want God to transform my sinful heart, to make me really real, 100%, to make me much more transparent and genuine, and to make sure that all MY hypocrisy will be removed by the Holy Spirit. This includes my sinful motivations to defend myself, to fake it from time to time, to make myself look good by putting up a false front, and to blame others when the fault belongs to me.
I can be loving–or LOOK like I’m loving– and really be hypocritical. I can give away 10 million dollars, visit every prison and jail in America, meet 100 guys at the gate in 2019, be part of RTO (Radical Time Out), …and still not love according to Scripture. I could take a bullet for Bob Wolfson, a very active member of our Board of Directors who actively loves the prisoners and their families…and still fall short of biblical love. Otherwise, the Apostle Paul, the most self-centered, angry former serial killer and chief of sinners, would not have given us the non-negotiable from God the Father Himself in Romans 12:9: “Let love be without hypocrisy.” I pray that this series, with the Holy Spirit’s aid, will help all of us to become much less hypocritical on all levels as we truly surrender and trust the Word to become REAL in each of us so that we can experience real FREEDOM that comes from our Father.
Non-negotiable means that it cannot be negotiated, changed, or compromised; there is no room to make a deal. No alterations! It’s either this or nothing. The non-negotiables of freedom for Christians are not up for discussion; they are required by Scripture. We must obey them without delay, with deep humility, so we will not be imprisoned by our sin of rebelliousness and pride. Dr. John Piper reminds us that sin is the suicidal abandonment of joy. And remember that joy is the trademark of a Christian.
Read Romans 12 for context, application, understanding, and for total freedom with integrity as a Christian. You should know that verse 13 was one of two verses of Scripture that the Holy Spirit used to call Barb and me to begin the radical ministry of the Koinonia House of Wheaton back in 1990, in a neighborhood where we lived with and loved the men we met at the prison gate joyfully, with practical and biblical love by discipling them in the Word of Truth and Grace, pitching our tents with them and showing them how to live as Christians as they were connected to local biblical churches with a tight and high fence of love around them. The MMV (Manny Mill Version) of that verse reads like this: “Distributing to the needs of the saints coming out of prison and jail, given to hospitality for the saints coming out of prison and jail” in the context of the healthy Christian family they never had. We will be concentrating, however, on verses 9-12 in our coming messages, where we find 13 radical non-negotiables of freedom for Christians. Remember, they are not merely suggestions but are to be obeyed radically and immediately, so we must take a detailed, deep inventory and throw ourselves at the mercy of God our Father for His Spirit to change us. We need for the Holy Spirit to help us stop reading the Word mechanically, but rather to take a radical time out to meditate, lament, intercede, and agonize over our sin of hypocrisy.
In Romans 12:2-3 and Romans 15:15-16, we find these God-given commands:
1. Do not be conformed to this world.
2. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
3. In this way, prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
4. Do not think more highly of me than I should but be humbled.
God gives us the grace to empower us to carry out His commands. We desperately need miracles in our lives and in our nation. We must pray radically over God’s Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to know His will and see His grace released to us. To experience the miraculous, radical transformation we need, we must recognize that the Word and the Spirit go together; they are inseparable. The Word is Jesus incarnate. Jesus did not do anything without the Spirit. The Spirit was always with Jesus on the earth, and He is now with Jesus at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us. He will help us with our desperate need to love without hypocrisy! Go to Him in radical prayer! We can pray as St. Augustine did: “Father, command what you will, and grant what you command.” He will change us. He will give victory in this first command in Romans 12:9-13: “Love without hypocrisy.”
Cling to What Is Good, Part 1
As we begin our devotional today, read Romans 12 and begin to hide it in your mind and heart. Paul’s third non-negotiable in verse 9 of this passage commands us to CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD. With this challenge, he is telling us to trust and rely on the Holy Spirit by partaking of the awesome grace of the Father (II Corinthians 12:9) for the strength, endurance, and perseverance that is required to hold fast with both hands, all fingers, both feet, all the toes, totally focused on Christ in heart, mind, soul, body, and spirit. Hang on to Christ and don’t let go! We know certainly that He will not let go of us! Aleluya! That is the radical example of the cross! All that is truly good is rooted in Him!
Romans 12:9 makes it clear that GOOD is the opposite of evil, and our good must be devoid of hypocrisy, which robs the Father of His glory. Christians cannot and must not hold on to good with one hand and evil with the other, which is exactly what happens to many Christians who are superficial and weak in biblical doctrine. As we cling to what is good, we must keep it 100% and cling with all our heart, mind, and soul. We are required to do good because we have been given the greatest Good that flows out of the love of the Father by His undeserved grace in Jesus Christ. For good to be genuinely good, it must be anchored in Him…in ABSOLUTE TRUTH and BIBLICAL GRACE. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 that God’s will is good, so we are required to OBEY ALL OF HIS WILL WITHOUT DELAY OR EXCUSES! Our excuses flow out of our humanistic beliefs based on human opinions, not on absolute biblical truth. So…our feelings, apparently good intentions, and opinions are not good enough! We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind to prove what is God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will! There is no gray area with good. It must be defined and obeyed in the context of what is acceptable to the Father. God’s Word is forever the final authority in what is good. God means what He says and says what He means. His children need to heed His Word and will, in order to enjoy Him in a perpetual relationship, along with His unlimited benefits and blessings.
The world keeps gaining ground on the Church by redefining what God has already defined as good. Absolute truth is on trial because we are not clinging to the good will of our Father. Here are some issues that all Christians must believe with deep conviction, embrace with 100% unity, and be willing to die for:
1. Only God chooses and gives life, which begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-14). Taking life is evil.
2. Marriage is sacred between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:21-25; Romans 1) God the Father
established the family in this context only. Doing otherwise is evil.
3. At the cross, in Christ, the justice and mercy of God the Father kissed. Therefore, justice is not
found nor experienced in culture, color, or class. (I Corinthians 1:18-2:6) Prejudice is evil.
4. Christians coming out of prison or jail MUST NOT be rejected as inferior church members or
restricted from enjoying ALL the full benefits and blessings of the church which Jesus Christ
established, purchased with His own very expensive blood, and fully owns! Jesus made FULL
payment for the guilt of sin by becoming our substitute on the cross, for all types , frequencies,
and degrees of sins! Refusal to accept these saints is evil.
THESE ARE NON-NEGOTIABLES FOR CHRISTIANS!
In Colossians 3:5-11, we are commanded again to put off the sins that bring the wrath of God and “put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” In Jeremiah 29:11-13, God says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” Let’s seek Him with our whole heart and cling to what is good! This is our future and our hope! John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Cling tenaciously to all that is good to bring glory to God our Father!
Romans 12; Ezekiel 36:23-32; II Cor. 10:5
As the heart goes, so goes the mind. The heart is the control center of our being, our central station. According to Scripture, we became Christians because we were given, NOT BY OUR CHOICE 0R DESIRE, a new heart with a new spirit, empowering us to abhor what is evil. When we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will no longer be conformed to this world. This is God’s work! Read Ezekiel 36:23-32 to see how God our Father displays His mercy and grace in the midst of evil and changes hearts! Do you notice in this passage that it is ALL Yahweh’s doing, and not a human effort? John Calvin said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Our minds constantly conjure up evil. We desperately need to be transformed. Read Romans 12, believing this is God’s Word and that through it He can change our hearts’ disposition and hence our minds, as Romans 12 commands, to be totally transformed. Work at hiding this passage in your mind and heart!
Here are the 13 non-negotiables of freedom for Christians in Romans 12:9-13:
1. Love without hypocrisy. 2. Abhor what is evil. 3. Cling to what is good. 4. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love. 5. In honor, prefer one another. 6. Be diligent. 7. Be fervent in spirit. 8. Serve the Lord. 9. Rejoice in hope. 10. Be patient in tribulation. 11. Continue steadfastly in prayer. 12. Distribute to the needs of the saints. 13. Be given to hospitality. As we look at this list of 13 non-negotiables as part of the command will of God, we must realize that our individual and corporate intimate relationship with God through radical biblical prayer, in the power of the Spirit, must become urgent and essential consistently!
Let’s focus on the second non-negotiable here, found in Romans 12:9: abhor (hate, despise, intensely reject) evil. Let’s embrace absolute biblical truth by staying SILENT NO MORE! The sin of silence manifests itself in our lack of prayer, our lack of repentance, and our failure to speak for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-9). When we do and see evil and choose to stay silent, that is the ultimate sin of hypocrisy, which tops our list of non-negotiables. Listen to John Calvin on this subject: “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” So once again, Romans 12:1-2 become massively important for us to grasp, cling to radically, and fully understand. (Hopefully, you have memorized them.) If we follow Romans 12:1, our lives in Christ will be a pleasant fragrance of worship that pleases our Father, “for in Him we live and move and have our being,” as Dr. Luke tells us in Luke 17:28. So TO LIVE CONTRARY TO ROMANS 12:1 IS EVIL!
What does abhorring evil look like?
1. We must recognize and believe that evil is within us and all around us. We are sinners!
2. We must consciously cleanse our bodies and homes from all filthy evil, confessing our sins and repenting.
3. We must adopt a radical, intentional prayer life that will become a vigilant discipline, so our love for the things of the world will cease, so we will not engage in what the world has to offer or seek any satisfaction from it.
4. We must seek and experience 100% satisfaction in Christ–and in Him alone!
5. We must replace our evil thought with the very oracles of the Word of God to quiet our souls with His peace, These evil thoughts can be pride, greed, money, unhealthy fear, anger, anxiety, unholy imagination, jealousy, human power, pornography, or illicit sex. Add to this list idolatry in many forms, including self-worship and material possessions like big houses or luxury cars. The list could go on and on.
6. We must recognize that God is a good, good, loving Father and cover ourselves with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But as John Calvin said, “We shall never be clothed with the righteousness of Christ except we first know assuredly that we have no righteousness of our own.” That brings us back to point number one above.
We are competitors for the worship that belongs only to our Father. If we have received a new heart with a new spirit, however, with the conquering power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ and the power of His righteousness, we will be able to abhor evil and cling to what is good, as defined by Scripture, not by us. We can obey God, come clean with Him, and be free! This will bring glory to the Father rather than to us. Remember, we have no righteousness of our own, so we must be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. Aleluya!
Let’s prayerfully apply to our hearts Romans 12:2 in the power of the Spirit, being intentional in our discipline of prayer and time in God’s Word so as (1)NOT TO CONFORM TO THIS WORLD but (2) TO BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF OUR MIND…”BRINGING EVERY THOUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY TO THE OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST.” (II Corinthians 10:5:b) This glorifies God and makes Him happy, which should be the sole pursuit and single aim of the Christian! This is our living sacrifice, our reasonable service. This is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God! (Romans 12:1-2)
Let me encourage you, as we begin the year together, with evidence in Romans 12:1-2, that it is possible for a Christian to please God our Father and enjoy His approval, affirmation, abundant blessings, and glorious benefits. Let me challenge you also to prayerfully memorize Romans 12 with us, hallowing our good Father by hiding His Word in our hearts. I John 5:2-3 tells us that we love God if we keep His commandments and that His commandments are not burdensome, so let’s understand our desperate need for transformation and come to the Word believing God will change us. May God help us to die to self and live for Christ alone with no hypocrisy.
Read and begin to memorize Romans 12. Let’s focus here on the second non-negotiable found in the passage: abhor what is evil. We need to abhor–hate! despise!–evil with a renewed radical passion, as much as Jesus does. We need an intense inward rejection of all that is evil, as we cling to what is good. Let’s overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Here Romans 12:2 becomes massively important, with its command not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This perfect will of God is not only acceptable to God our Father, but it is perfectly good for us! He has saved us from His justifiable wrath and empowered us by His Spirit through His word. Now He makes sure that we, His children, will be encouraged and motivated as we run this marathon for the joy that is before us. God is sovereign, and when we make choices that don’t conform to His will, we pay grave consequences for our sinful disobedience. Then we lose our joy, peace, and freedom; we hurt others and bring shame to our Father. You see, before one becomes a Christian, he is dead in his sins; his motives are evil. But in Christ we have experienced reconciliation with God and now, as God’s children, we hate the EVIL that we used to love and do, and we love the GOOD that we used to hate and did not do.
For many years I chose to do evil, as did the Apostle Paul. But my mother prayed with boldness, radically, biblically, with tenacity and persistency, and God the Father caused a reversal of choice in me. I was given a new heart and became a slave to Christ. Aleluya! The choice and the ability to create a new heart in an unrepentant sinner belong to God only (Ezekiel 36:26). But God’s compassion for desperate sinners and His unfailing grace are unlimited! Aleluya!
Jesus came to destroy ALL the works of the Devil. Notice that the word EVIL is contained in the name of the Devil. Jesus came, then to destroy the D in Devil and turn the E-V-I-L around into L-I-V-E, that we may live the abundant life of Christ Jesus, aleluya! So we need to ask ourselves: (1) what is evil? and (2) what can I do to stop engaging in evil?
Let’s remember that evil is profoundly immoral, wicked, wrong, sinful. It is rooted in sin that every human being has from conception since it entered the world through Adam and Eve. It is the opposite of good and anything that is contrary to God’s commands, including failure to pray. In this new year, pray radically Luke 11:4b and Psalm 121 and look forward to God’s working of freedom from evil in your life. L-I-V-E!
Love with No Hypocrisy
With the understanding of our desperate need for transformation, let’s approach Romans 12 today not just as a text book, but as the Word of God, knowing that through it, He has the power to change our hearts’ disposition and hence our minds, as this passage commands. Read it now with the goal to become totally changed as we die to self, live for Christ, and become much less hypocritical. After a thoughtful reading of the whole chapter, let’s focus on the first non-negotiable in Romans 1:9: “Let love be without hypocrisy.”
Hypocrisy has to do with theater, acting, seeming to be someone we are not. Hypocrisy is playing the deadly game of pretending. It’s all about me…self in darkness. And self is my worst enemy. It will always betray and defeat, and only Christ can eradicate it! The solution and breakthrough comes through praying the Word of God radically in the Holy Spirit to receive the power of grace that supersedes the stronghold hypocrisy has on us. We need God’s grace to have the courage to unmask, stop pretending, and become real. Then we can put on the real love of God, our Father. Then we can follow the command of Matthew 22:37-40: “…Put on the armor of light….Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh….” Jesus clearly demonstrated God’s love on the cross; He must become our all in all (Ephesians 1:23), our example, our power. He will revive our hearts, resurrect us with Him, and make us new.
What motivates hypocrisy? First of all, the approval of others competes with the worship that must only be rendered to God, our Father. We are thieves of His glory when we want the adoration and hallowing that belongs exclusively to Him. How often do we do good deeds with the wrong motivation? We need to help that person because…”what will others think if they don’t see me taking him a meal, giving money to pay a bill”–or whatever the case may be. We do a “right thing” but our motivation is really the approval of others. This hypocrisy misappropriates the Father’s glory. Isn’t this what Satan did with Jesus when he tempted Him in the wilderness? The motivation behind the things he was promising to Jesus was glory for himself.
Secondly, hypocrisy is motivated by a twisted and evil sense of ownership. Material wealth and money become too important to us, when in fact we as Christians are totally owned and possessed by Jesus Christ. We are His bondservants, and everything we have belongs to Him. He purchased everything we are and have on the cross with His expensive blood. So we hold tightly to Jesus, and we hold loosely everything the Father has provided by His grace. Remember, grace is receiving what we don’t deserve, and mercy is not receiving what we do deserve. And as sinners, what we deserve is only Hell. Hypocrisy drives us to twist the truth, compromising the integrity of the Gospel, bringing much shame to the Father’s holy name. We must remember that Jesus Christ owns the Church and the buildings where Christians meet. It is Jesus’ Church, NOT ours. Yes, we should be VERY good stewards of His property, but we must LOVE THE PEOPLE, not the building! We must never, ever reject anyone from coming into the church building because of their crime, color, class, culture, or crisis.
So we need to recognize and confess that we are hypocrites and repent. We must pray radically in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us into people who will love without hypocrisy by putting on the armor of light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we can live in such a way that we will not fear for anything to be exposed. No hypocrisy! 100% real! Aleluya!
By Dr. Ken Chase John 11
We are not to live and love for our own glory, as we are often inclined to do, but for the glory of God, our Father. In John 11, we find four ways to live fully committed to God’s glory.
First, we must believe in Jesus. When Jesus told Martha that He was the resurrection and the life, she responded, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Even in the grief of her brother’s death, she recognized that believing in Jesus was more important than anything else. Although she wished Jesus had come earlier and saved her brother’s life, she refocused on Him as her Lord and Messiah. She knew Jesus loved them. Whatever happened to her brother would be for God’s glory, and Martha knew that death and life are fully under the authority of God’s perfect will. Why had Jesus waited so long to come? So He could give glory to God and demonstrate to all that God had sent Him. Martha accepted this truth and did what we all should do–believe in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.
Second, we are to maintain hope in suffering. Even in times of pain and misery, we need to remember that God is not our servant, nor our valet; he is not a genie or a magician. God is in charge of all situations and events. We live with hope when we accept that God is greater than our hardships and that He is not controlled by circumstances. He knows what’s best and when, how, and why to do it.
In this passage, we also note that we should lose our fear of death. Trusting in Jesus and knowing that He is in control should change our view of life and death. Jesus said Lazarus was sleeping. To Him, Lazarus’ death was a nap, nothing permanent. It was not the end; it was temporary. When Jesus returned to Bethany, where Lazarus’ sisters lived, and where many of His murderous enemies lived, He was signing His own death warrant. Although Jesus knew His own death was coming, His bold miracle showed His trust in His Father. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus showed his power over death. When Jesus was crucified a few weeks later, God raised Him from the dead, proving that death is forever defeated. Death cannot hold us; it has lost its power. We give glory to God by living without fear of dying, and by knowing that when we die, God will wake us up.
Lastly, we should enjoy our relationship with Jesus. Jesus did not like what death had done to His creation. He wept. He loved these friends. He was God, but He was also human. Since God would be glorified through Lazarus’ miraculous resurrection, Jesus followed the Father’s plan. Later, after Lazarus was with them again, the Bible tells us they celebrated with a dinner party, enjoying each other and honoring Jesus. They had seen first-hand God’s power and glory, and many believed because of what had occurred. Since death is only sleep, then we too should bask in His glory. We should fellowship with our Savior, enjoying His presence as Lazarus and his sisters did. We can begin now by spending time in the Word and in radical prayer!
Luke 15:4-6; Proverbs 3:27-28; James 4:17; Mark 11:17
One radical vision of our board and ministry is that the Church outside of prison would learn from the movement of God within prison walls. GOD IS WORKING IN OUR PRISONS! As the shepherd in Luke 15:4-6 leaves everything to find the lost sheep, we need to be aggressive and intentional in finding the lost and leading them to our Good Shepherd. Many of these lost sheep are in prison. James 4:17 tells us that if we know to do good and don’t do it, we are sinning. In Proverbs 3:27-28, we are told not to withhold good when it’s in our power to do it.
More than 15 million people are in jail or prison in America, many of them because of our fatherless society. One of the main reasons we need Jesus Christ is because He is the only one that will provide us His good Father to become our Father! For this reason, we must MEET THOSE COMING OUT OF PRISON AT THE GATE with the radical love of the Father. We need to show them the Father’s love with the power of presence, up close and personal when they go through the court system, while they are behind bars, and when they exit the prison. We must also minister to their families, including their 7 million children.
Meeting them at the gate is the most neglected ministry of the Church in America. It is an essential ministry which needs our radical, courageous, and urgent response for the integrity of the Gospel. We urge you to respond radically by adopting and embracing God’s urgent, glorious vision for a supernatural REVIVAL, inside prisons and in the outside Church. In Mark 11:17, Jesus states clearly that God’s house is to be a house of prayer. To see the vision of revival become a reality, we need to experience the freedom to believe and worship our Father in RADICAL PRAYER, in spirit and truth, with the same confidence of Christ. This vision for revival has become much more real and attainable through belief and prayer, but God has so much more to surprise us with! Aleluya!
So our single mission and consuming focus is to BRIDGE THE GAP between the 1.5 million Christian inmates and the local church. Our desire is to facilitate the integration of former inmates into the Church, workplace, and society through biblical discipleship, thus reducing the recidivism rate as they become disciples of Christ and join the army of our Lord Jesus and become established in a local church. Then they and their families will become more like Christ and experience the benefits and blessings of Christ, with provision, purpose, deep humility, and burning love, to then respond radically to the needs of others. Perhaps they could contribute to eradicating the gang violence in Chicago! Aleluya!
As we deal with very complex, seemingly impossible messes in America and the world today, Jesus gives us hope for KOINONIA (fellowship) for our glorious future, but He also gives us a CHALLENGE FOR NOW…TODAY. If we want to experience the abundant life He purchased on the cross, He requires us to respond with abundant faith, deep humility, and burning love as the BODY OF CHRIST, where no one is left behind, and where God gets all the credit. In John 14:2, 12-14, He promises that God will do great things if we ask in Jesus’ name.
God is opening some UNIQUE, EXPLOSIVE, CLEAR DOORS for us, so we must believe Him and anchor more deeply than ever at the cross, as we go forward in the power of Christ. We are already seeing revival brewing in our prisons and jails, which will then transfer to our churches on the outside. We have already scheduled four weekend prayer conferences within prisons for 2019, with more expected (about $1200 each), along with our “Freedom God’s Way” with the Hortons. We will also present our two-day program on prayer at churches. Another growing and specific need is for literature distribution. Our books on redemption and prayer are now available in both English and Spanish. We distribute them at no cost within prisons. After 30 years in ministry, we are not slowing down; instead we are growing the ways we minister to people in churches and prison. There are many ways YOU CAN CONNECT with our ministry. If God leads you to support us financially, we are grateful. Most of all, pray for us that we will hallow the name of the Father as we serve prisoners and the Church. Together we can do those “greater things” Jesus promised and realize revival inside prisons and out!
II Chronicles 20
How many of us Christians find ourselves in prisons of our own making, paralyzed by fear? Though we are not possessed by sin because of the power of the gospel, we are oppressed because of a lack of total SURRENDER TO GOD. But Christ came to set the captive free! And if He sets us free, we are FREE indeed, not paralyzed by unhealthy fear.
Our Scripture for today is II Chronicles 20, where we read the story of Jehoshaphat. In verses 1-2, he finds himself in a real crisis, with a great horde of enemies coming against him. Read his response in verses 3-12: he turned to God in RADICAL PRAYER, remembering God’s character, power, and promises. His prayer shows that he TRUSTED GOD’S WORD, which is always infallible and inerrant. We are also commanded to trust God wholeheartedly. Whatever battle you have is not yours, but God’s. When you are helpless or desperate, do as Jehoshaphat did–pray and then trust God! How much more power do we need? The God who opened the Red Sea is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He indwells us; we are His temple! So we must pray in the power of the Spirit of God with confidence…with assurance…with anticipation.
Barb and I recently faced a crisis of our own. Our son, Howard, is a captain in the Marine Corps and is stationed in Uganda at present. He has an apartment, however, in Morehead, North Carolina, which was recently hit by Hurricane Florence and suffered terrific flooding. He called us on September 21, wanting us to somehow take care of his possessions in his ruined stateside apartment…on the East Coast! Well, as God had planned it for us A YEAR AGO, we were actually scheduled to be in North Carolina on the September 28, 29, and 30 for four speaking engagements. God’s sovereignty in details is often amazing! But how would we do this job successfully in the time we had and with no place to stay (no hotels available in the area), no storage place for putting the rescued articles, no boxes, and no help? Of course we felt the pressure, the urgency, the race against time, and sadness at the overwhelming devastation for the people of North Carolina. We would have only two days to accomplish this immense task. But we are believers, biblicists, radical prayer warriors…so we prayed with anticipation, expectation, and assurance that God would provide. And He did! He surprised us with wonderful housing in a dear pastor friend’s home, which alone in his neighborhood had survived the hurricane. Our amazing Father also provided us with boxes, an amazing vehicle at a good price, discernment, and storage! He led Amanda Mills to us, along with her friend and her Marine parents! With their amazing help and generosity, we were done in plenty of time to get to my speaking engagement on time! What a God! Our faith was tested…refreshed…increased!
God does not want us to be afraid; He doesn’t want us to doubt Him. He wants us to trust His Word. Let’s TRUST WITH CONFIDENCE and PRAY RADICALLY with abundant faith and deep humility, SURRENDERED TOTALLY to Him. Then we can hallow the Father’s name with greater passion and zeal. We can know and follow His will for our lives. We can live a life that is free indeed! Aleluya!
JOY IS THE TRADEMARK OF A CHRISTIAN! I am in a constant fight for my joy and the joy of others. We can only have this joy through radical prayer of lament and intercession. But what can take this joy away from us? Unhealthy fear! UNHEALTHY FEAR WILL SOAK IT RIGHT OUT OF US and rob us of what should be our trademark. This fear is our biggest enemy, and it is rooted in unbelief. It will prevent us from knowing and following God’s will and experiencing the abundant life Jesus purchased and promised. (Jn. 10:10 ) Note the following:
1. Unhealthy fear is SIN!!! 2. It HINDERS REVIVAL. 3. It ENSLAVES AND IMPRISONS.
Read Numbers 14 and note God’s command to Joshua not to be afraid. Note also how the people rebelled, full of fear and complaints, leading them even to the point of wanting to kill their leaders. They reacted foolishly because of their unbelief, even after God had delivered them from Egypt and demonstrated His power in so many ways, and even though Joshua tried very hard to reason with them and urged them to obey God. But notice the surprise rescue God brought to Joshua: HIS PRESENCE! He had an intimate relationship with Joshua, as He wants to have with us. The people were too selfish and fearful to know that relationship, but Joshua did.
Self-centeredness and fear will prevent US from entering into this intimacy also, and we so desperately need that close fellowship with Him. This fear will make us doubt God and be sick, anxious, out of control, and defiant. It can cause us to turn inward to self and escape to drugs, alcohol, pornography, and other addictions. This is not the path we want to take. WE MUST NOT FAIL GOD! I will never forget what my spiritual father, Dr. Kenneth T. Wessner, said to me, when he promised to get me into Wheaton College through a Charles W. Colson scholarship. Looking into my eyes and pointing his long index finger into my face, he strongly challenged, “BUT YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO FAIL.” That radical, bold statement started the process of replacing my unhealthy fears with the GOOD FEAR of God the Father’s holy character, building my CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST.
Please allow me to confess to you that FIGHTING MY UNHEALTHY FEAR HAS BEEN THE REAL FIGHT OF MY CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE for the last 32 years. You see, unhealthy fears come in all shapes and sizes, because we have an enemy who is 100% committed to his mission–for each of us to skip the cross. He would love to kill Christians, destroy our families, and steal our joy and peace. So we must WATCH AND PRAY! (Mt. 26:41)
Let me encourage you now with LIVING HOPE: when we are IN CHRIST and partake of the radical grace of our Father as we fight our unhealthy fears IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, then WE WILL WIN! THERE IS NO WAY WE CAN LOSE! God’s hand is on us, and He will fight for us because His reputation is at stake, as in Joshua 8:1. We must make a total reversal from unhealthy fear that is rooted in unbelief (darkness) to a HEALTHY, HOLY FEAR that is rooted in the right belief (bright light) in God the Father, who IS infinite, real, radical love.
In 2 Cor. 7:1, Paul is telling us to:
(1) Consecrate ourselves fully to and soak fully in the Word of God…100%!
(2) Believe the Father’s 7,000+ promises for us.
(3) Adore the Father with holy reverence, fully confident in and through Christ.
(4) Fulfill the Great Commission in the fullness of His will– to love the Father and our neighbors
of His choosing (Mt. 22:37-40) with unspeakable joy, courage, and integrity.
Then the Father can activate and unleash through His Spirit, His explosive unlimited blessings and benefits to us, with IRRESISTIBLE POWER AND GRACE… with a permanent breakthrough. And UNHEALTHY FEAR WILL NO LONGER OVERTAKE US! Aleluya!
As Christians, we should have a burning desire to become more like Jesus Christ. Since Joshua is the Old Testament picture of Christ, he is an excellent example for us also. Joshua was motivated to obedience by God’s love for him, and by his love for the Father. When you feel loved, you will do anything for the person demonstrating that love. Joshua felt loved by God. Jesus knew the Father loved Him. The immediate obedience that God the Father required from Joshua, Jesus, and hence from all of us, must lead us to the cross. As His children, we must be driven by the kind, radical, unselfish, fearless love we see clearly displayed and demonstrated in Joshua and in Jesus Christ, empowered by the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit given to us by the Father.
MOSES, Joshua’s mentor, did not want the Israelites to perish after their sinful complaining in the wilderness, so he lifted up the bronze serpent to spare the lives of all who would look upon it. (Numbers 21:5-9) JOSHUA in turn wanted to save the Israelites from destruction, so he turned to God in prayer for them. He had an intimate relationship with God, as we should; the people did not, so they asked Joshua to talk to God for them, and they were saved from the justifiable wrath of God, as we have been. GOD LOVES US IN CHRIST and does not want us to perish, so Christ was lifted up on the cross to bring us eternal life. Aleluya! God’s healing solution is still “LOOK TO LIVE.” Too many are dying without this prescription God has given for eternal life. They need to hear the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected, with a tension of grace and truth. This is our mission.
In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus summarized God’s requirement for us: love God with all our heart, soul, and mind…and our neighbor as ourselves. How are we to love our neighbor? We cannot love God or our neighbor from a distance. Rather, to follow Jesus, our love must be UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. God the Son became human like us and tabernacled in a wicked world that hated Him. Likewise, we must pitch and equip our tents with our neighbors ‘ needs in view; we need to be willing to go where they are and do what their needs require us to do…whatever that may be. Often it seems that everything is against us, and obeying is not easy, but God gives us the strength and grace to persevere.
Additionally, we need to love CREATIVELY. When Barbara and I started in ministry, God had been so gracious to us. We knew that where much grace is given, much grace is required. We desired to love our brothers who had experienced prison, and to love them in an up close and personal way. Thus came the creative ministries of (1) meeting prisoners at the gate upon release from prison and (2) Koinonia House. We wanted these men to live where we lived, eat the food we ate, and enjoy the benefits God has given us. It has often been difficult to find people to help us, but God has helped us persevere by His grace. Aleluya!
Ask God how to help you love UP CLOSE and CREATIVELY with our Father’s love. Pray radically. He will show you. Remember how many times and how many ways He has loved you. He is a creative God and wants an intimate relationship with you so that He can lead you creatively for His glory, as He did Moses and Joshua. Don’t allow pride, laziness, or selfishness to dim your view of the goal. Obedience will bring blessing to you and others! Joshua arose! Let that be a challenge to you. Let God’s awesome, sacrificial love motivate you to arise and obey without delay.
A critical objective of every Christian who knows Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and older Brother is to pray radically, as Jesus does, so we can become more like Him and enter into the joy of the Father’s unlimited blessings. (Luke 10:13; Hebrews 9:11-15) Three essential areas of prayer to deepen and strengthen our intimate relationship with the Father are intercession (Exodus 32, 33; Romans 8:26-27; 9:1-5), lamentation with deep agony (Romans 26:36-46; Joshua 7; Psalm 13:80), and praise with gratitude (Colossians 1:9-14). By empowering us through a precious and invaluable relationship with the Father, this radical prayer will enable us to conquer without casualties (Joshua 1-8) so that we do not bring shame to the Father.
Every prayer must be driven by the Word of God. Our aim must be to become like Jesus so we can pray like Jesus to experience our Father’s constant presence and approval. We desperately need His presence with us at all times, so we must make sure His hand is not removed from us because of willful sin. In the Old Testament, Moses did not want to go anywhere, even to the Promised Land, without God’s presence.
Look at Colossians in the New Testament; it is a prayer book. It indicates in the first chapter that a genuine Christian is one who has been cleansed and forgiven by the Father. He lives, moves, eats, drinks, sleeps, feels, thinks, and operates in the spirit of prayer. The Apostle Paul says that he prays unceasingly for his fellow believers, and notice that his radical prayer is not shallow, anemic, or superficial; rather, it has substance and depth to it. He prays for the following on their behalf:
1. wisdom and spiritual understanding based on knowing God’s will
2. a walk worthy of the Lord to fully please Him
3. fruitfulness in every good work by knowing who the Father really is, the Creator who has given us purpose and moral standards, with justice and a secure destiny
4. strength from His glorious power that raised Jesus from the dead
5. patience and longsuffering with joy (I Peter 1:8)
6. thankfulness to the Father
7. an inheritance with unlimited resources for the saints
Paul ends his prayer with a crescendo and doxology of praise to describe who this Father is. He is Yahweh, who has “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” THIS IS FREEDOM, FOLKS! Aleluya! We are free indeed! Even if you are in prison, you need to thank God for rescuing you. It is much better to make it into Heaven by way of prison, than to go to Hell through your apparent freedom in the street. For this reason, we don’t stop radically praying for you…and thanking the Father for the freedom in Christ that He has given you…and us! Aleluya!
Joshua 8 and Psalm 80
The Church in America is full of people who are quietly, deeply hurting. Many are losing heart as they experience terrifying fears. We know that we–the Church of Jesus Christ, this country, the world–find ourselves in a very deep, dark, hopeless, indifferent, perplexing, and visible crisis. We have scores of casualties. Absolute truth is no longer considered part of our convictions, and that is affecting and negatively impacting everyone. In the Church, this includes the uncontrollable, tragic sexual epidemic, and sexual assaults by the clergy; this is all redefining our morality and identity by breaking up families and gravely hurting and ripping apart people’s souls. Historians have seen nothing like it before, and no one seems to have the answer. This crisis is hitting every strata, every class, every neighborhood, and every arena and area of society. It is unmasking the Church in America to the reality that we are not driven by God’s love, which would lead us to love our neighbors; instead we are driven by unhealthy and selfish fear that is not based on truth, but on subjective human opinion and feeling. As the Church goes, so goes the rest of America…and the world. If the people in the Church are angry, anxious, and fearful, then the world will be also. So what does a Christian do when facing adversity, persecution, and crisis? How can we revive the Church?
In Psalm 80, God gives us the precise diagnosis for our malady…prayer that angers God, and perhaps prayerlessness. Then He renders the permanent and precise prescription for healing, the surgery or circumcision that will deliver us from our misery to a healthy outcome, when David prayed, “Restore us, O God; cause your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” Then the Psalmist resolves, “We will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name.” Christians must be prayed up, eager, and ready to arise and shine with a clear voice, as David and Joshua did. They must engage the Church and the culture, as Chuck Colson did so well with “an urgent call to revival that is birthed by radical prayer, living in the healthy tension of truth and grace with the highest level of biblical integrity and transparency.” This will lead the Church to the permanent position of the Cross, to anchor our conscience deeper and deeper at the Cross, starting with our pastors, elders, and deacons…to confess sin and repent as a consistent practice; the people in the pews must catch it as they see our Christian leaders model biblical Christianity.
People are very confused today about what real Christianity looks like; they need to know who Jesus really is. They are not being radically loved because they are not radically prayed for. This brings shame to the Father’s name. Each of us must be consumed and driven by the conviction that our single purpose and corporate mission as Christians is to pray radically to love radically so the Father will be pleased to grant us personal and corporate revival, which we so desperately need. Remember, we are the salt and light of the world!
Do you realize that YOU are today’s Joshua, and therefore a representative of Jesus Christ…to some people, the only one they’ve ever known? Joshua is an excellent example of immediate obedience to God the Father because he felt God’s unfailing love for him. Jesus Christ knew the Father’s love for Him, and He is the ultimate, perfect example of total obedience. Do YOU feel the love of your Heavenly Father? Does it compel YOU to obey? Then does God’s love flow through YOU to others?
If our love is to be effective, it needs to be CREATIVE and PERSONAL. We must commit to pitching our tent where He leads us and use whatever tools we might need to love and minister to others. In order to do this, we need to soak in the Word of God and immerse our lives in prayer…enjoying an intimate relationship with the Creator and Ruler of the universe. We need to know that God’s ears are attentive to our prayers and be sure OUR ears and hearts are attuned to His voice…and then quickly obey. We must be persistent–push hard–do our part creatively–and then let God work out His purpose. In our ministry, we have seen God reward our creative obedience time and time again.
In order to obey quickly and thoroughly, we must trust God 100 percent. Remember, nothing is impossible for our Father. He is the God of the impossible! In Christ, we have God’s strength 24/7. In Christ, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can fellowship with the One who knows the Father best and will intercede for us. So Joshua reminds us to be strong and courageous (1:18). In Christ, we can conquer so that we don’t bring the Father shame. In this world of cell phones, texting, Face Time, and Twitter, we need to realize that we need time face-to-face with God and with those to whom we are exhibiting His love. We desperately need time with the Father in a close relationship with radical communication and faith in His sovereignty.
Joshua trusted the sovereignty of God without questioning Him. Let’s follow his example. God has the best in mind for you. How much do you want it? Love the Father more than you love yourself. The Gospel is a call to DEATH TO SELF to LIVE FOR CHRIST. Christ came to this sinful world to serve, not to be served. We must emulate His example. Let’s not be complainers and whiners. People who complain most pray the least. It’s all about knowing the Father and obeying Him like Jesus did. Let’s arise and shine, praise Him, trust Him, and give Him glory. No doubting! We have seen the Light; we live in that Light! Let’s shine it to those in darkness!
Joshua is the Old Testament picture of Jesus. It is important to notice that he obeyed completely and without delay. We must do the same if we are to bring glory to the Heavenly Father. That obedience must be driven by His love for us and our love for Him in return. We need to continually examine ourselves, however, because pride often prevents obedience.
Pride is the presumption that I can be happy leaving God our Father out of the equation, and leaving out also the need for the joy of the Lord in others’ lives. It’s so easy for us to say, “I want others to be good to me, but I don’t have to be good to them, and I don’t need God.” Pride is the passion for happiness contaminated and corrupted by two things: (1) the unwillingness to see God as the fountain of all joy, and (2) the failure to see others as the recipients of that happiness also. It is so easy to love ourselves way more than we love others.
Jesus starts with self-love because we naturally have this desire. Everyone has an impulse of self-preservation, self-enhancement, self-fulfillment, and the security of finding significance of life. We all have the desire to eat, sleep, shower, vacation, and have friends who will take time for us and listen to us. We want our lives to count for something. Self-love is not an evil if our love is drawn from God. But His command is to LOVE OTHERS AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. As I long for food, a secure and comfortable place to live, and clothing, I need to equally long for these for my neighbor. Jesus makes this the measurement of our love: give to others what I want for myself with the same creativity and energy that I would pursue it for myself. I must empty myself, as Jesus did on the cross, trusting that God will fill me up again! I desperately need to make God the focus of my heart in order to be completely satisfied. I want to embrace Him with all my heart, mind, and soul so that every part of me is filled with His love. Then I will have a deeper capacity to radically radiate His love to others. Let’s arise, as Joshua did, and love others in obedience to our Father.
Joshua’s experience with Achan at Jericho shows us that DISOBEDIENCE brings crisis. Think about it, though: OBEDIENCE can also bring crisis. Jesus is the perfect example of this, as He found Himself in Gethsemane, abandoned by His three main disciples, betrayed by Judas, and then hanging on the cross to die. Daniel, the Apostle Paul, and Peter (after he was restored by Jesus) also found themselves in crises after obeying. In the same category would be Christians around the world today who are killed because they choose NOT to deny Jesus, but to obey Him. So Christians must always be ready for war. An essential part of that preparedness is an INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, who gives us the victory.
God blessed and rewarded Israel because of Joshua’s relationship with the Father. The Father looked at the people through the lenses of Joshua, who is the Old Testament representation of Jesus. With immediate and joyful obedience, we can be more like Joshua. Here is Matthew Henry’s comment on Joshua’s character:
Observe Joshua’s conduct and prudence. Those that would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease. Probably he went into the valley alone, to pray to God for a blessing, and he did not seek in vain. He never drew back till the work was done. Those that have stretched out their hands against their spiritual enemies, must never draw them back.
Then Matthew Henry explains how Joshua is a type of Jesus:
Joshua conquered by yielding, as if he had himself been conquered; so our Lord Jesus, when he bowed his head and gave up the ghost (His Spirit), seemed as if death had triumphed over him, and as if he and all his interests had been routed and ruined; but in his resurrection he rallied again and gave the powers of darkness a total defeat; he broke the serpent’s head by suffering him to bruise his heel. A glorious stratagem (a plan, scheme or tactic)!
From crisis to victory! Jesus and Joshua are excellent examples for us. In their OBEDIENCE and PERSEVERANCE, they lead us to give our entire hearts to the Father, so He will make our hearts pure, tender, and credible. Then we can make Jesus Christ our exclusive desire and the sole object of our affection, with REVIVAL as our vision, radical biblical PRAYER as our mission, and a VIBRANT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD as our lifeline.
Because of Achan’s disobedience and rebellion against God, Israel was in crisis. But because of Joshua’s prompt and willing obedience, The Lord turned away from the fierceness of His anger. Yahweh’s wrath must be fully satisfied in His way. His justifiable wrath for our sin was fully satisfied in Jesus’ permanent sacrifice on the cross. This is the Gospel! Then the resurrection of Jesus Christ gave us the permanent receipt that death, caused by Adam’s sin in us at conception, was conquered forever, aleluya! This is our message to share with the world. We are free from God’s wrath because of Christ’s obedience, just as the Israelites were given victory because of Joshua’s obedience.
Here is Matthew Henry’s commentary on Joshua 8:1-2:
When we have faithfully put away sin, that accursed thing which separates between us and God, then, and not till then, we may look to hear from God to our comfort; and God’s directing us how to go on in our Christian work and warfare, is a good evidence of his being reconciled to us. God encouraged Joshua to proceed. At Ai the spoil was not to be destroyed as at Jericho, therefore there was no danger of the people’s committing such a trespass. Achan, who caught at forbidden spoil, lost that, and life, and all; but the rest of the people, who kept themselves from the accursed thing, were quickly rewarded for their obedience. The way to have the comfort of what God allows us, is, to keep from what he forbids us. No man shall lose by self-denial.
So how do we move from a life of crisis to a victorious, abundant life in Christ as we face numerous trials, troubles, and tribulations? In Joshua 8:1-2, we find the answer in four simple commands:
1. DON’T BE AFRAID. Fear paralyzes God’s people from conquering and making progress. Here Yahweh confirms that His anger has ceased, giving confidence to trust Him because His favor is with us.
2. ARISE. One cannot conquer unless he rises to the challenge.
3. GO. Yahweh’s people are a people in motion. Israel had a nation to conquer; we are to make disciples of all nations, a huge mission! (Matthew 28:18-19)
4. SANCTIFY. Consecrate exclusively for Yahweh and make Jesus the exclusive object of your affection!
Moses had given God’s people a final, very long sermon before he left them. It covers 32 chapters in Deuteronomy, and he ends by telling them to set their hearts on the instruction from God that he had shared with them. They were to command their children to be careful to observe all of it, every word! They were life-giving words and would prolong their days in the promised land. This is indeed a radical promise rooted in His covenant that Yahweh will always keep. Obedience brings God’s blessing. Aleluya!
Joshua 7 is full of lessons we need to remember not to forget. One of extremely important urgency is, to borrow from the Puritans, “the explosive power of our new affection–PRAYER, which is that intimate, loving, sweet and perpetual relationship with God our Father.” Joshua is all about that relationship with the Father, and we can become like Joshua, and like Christ…rescuers when so many in the Church, especially Christian leaders, are falling down and not finishing well because of a lack of that close relationship with God. In crisis, we can become a casualty like Achan, or a conqueror like Joshua. We can choose death and separation from God, or we can come humbly before him in a close relationship to communicate and listen with burning love and a desire to honor His name. We may, like Achan, continue on our own, or we may ask for His mercy and grace to overcome and deliver us from sin’s consequences, as Joshua did. Yahweh never grows tired of new beginnings, and with confession and obedience, we can have the joy of the Lord, the trademark of a Christian! We must have an intimate relationship with our Father so He can direct us by His Spirit’s power to the work that will truly hallow His name and count for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Joshua 7 we see the AWFULNESS OF SIN. Sin hinders revival. It brings death. Most of all, it offends the Father. Yahweh is bilingual: He speaks in love and in wrath. In his commentary, Matthew Henry gives this convicting challenge:
Times of danger and trouble should be times of reformation. We should look at home, into our own hearts, into our own houses, and make diligent (rigorous/thorough) search to find out if there be not some accursed thing there, which God sees and abhors; some secret lust, some unlawful gain, some undue withholding from God or from others. We cannot prosper until the accursed thing be destroyed…and forsaken.
We must not take the grace of God for granted. A crisis should bring conviction, confession, and then contagious revival. We must admit that sin is sin. Christ did not die for our mistakes, but for our sin. Let’s get serious and stop playing church. God doesn’t expect perfection from us, but He longs to see us progressing, moving in His direction! Don’t be a Lone Ranger. We need personal and corporate prayer continually in our lives. Real PRAYER is the toughest discipline, but it is the HEARTBEAT OF MINISTRY. Don’t forget to remember that Christ gave His all for us. He wants a close relationship with us in return. Let’s abide in Him with effective, agonizing prayer from grateful hearts! Remember not to forget!
We Christians tend to forget very quickly. What do you want to be remembered for? At the end of your life, what will the dash between the date of birth and the date of graduation into our Father’s glory stand for? Will you be remembered as a person of prayer…with an explosive relationship with our Heavenly Father, as Joshua was? Are your eyes and God’s eyes fixed on each other when you pray? Are your ears attentive to His voice in order to please Him?
Joshua shows us that sin is deadly and will create crises and conquer the soul. Sin must be identified and eradicated completely and quickly if we want to be conquerors instead of casualties. In order to not become an Achan, we need to take on fresh humility and a burning love for God and His name. We have to focus our prayer life on the Father, as we find Joshua and Jesus did. We must be aggressive, vigilant, and biblically sound in our prayers. As we come 100% clean, we must become aggressive intercessors for others and pray radically with others on a regular basis. We should embrace the grace of Jehovah and fight for joy! Good Christian activities with prayerlessness lack the Spirit’s power and guidance; an abiding relationship with Christ will bring blessing and fruitfulness to our work for Him.
In Hebrews, Paul warns us to guard our hearts and to exhort one another regularly in order to guard against the deceitfulness of sin and be steadfast to the end. He joins Joshua in reminding us to remember not to forget the devastating effects of sin and the absolute necessity for radical prayer to bring glory to the Father’s name. Let’s become, like Joshua, a type of Christ to those around us, praying aggressively for them and bringing God’s message of repentance and life to them. Ask God to help you not to forget!
Joshua 7:6-15 and Hebrews 3:1-18
The church and families in America are in an urgent crisis today because of our arrogance and resulting prayerlessness that has led us to all kinds of idolatry. Remember that this sin of idolatry causes dangerous anger in God our Father and does not hallow His name. An annual Day of Prayer and lots of good activities–even in ministry–are not enough to bring Him glory. We must have a daily radical, intimate relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, our High Priest, so that He can direct us to the activities that will glorify Him the most. This way, we can avoid the casualties that we are seeing so often today.
St. Gregory of Nyssa defined prayer as follows:
The effect of prayer is union with God, and, if someone is with God he is separated from the enemy. Through prayer we guard our chastity, control our anger and rid ourselves of vanity. It makes us forget injuries, overcomes envy, defeats injustice and makes amends for sin. Through prayer we obtain physical wellbeing, a happy home, and a strong, well ordered society….Prayer is the seal of virginity and a pledge of faithfulness in marriage. It shields the wayfarer, protects the sleeper and gives courage to those who keep vigil….It will refresh you when you are weary and comfort you when you are sorrowful. Prayer is the delight of the joyful as well as the solace of the afflicted….Prayer is the enjoyment of things present and the substance of things to come.
Brutally honest prayer of discovery, inspection, and confession will lead us to engage with the Holy Spirit for a deep cleansing of our hearts and homes to extinguish any accursed sins that offend Yahweh. We must not minimize or excuse sin by becoming angry or defensive. Instead, we need to experience conviction, forgiveness, restoration, and revival. We must act swiftly, as Joshua did, to bring God’s blessing. If we harden our hearts in rebellion and unbelief, we bring God’s fierce anger.
Let’s look into our own hearts and homes and search diligently for anything that God abhors. Times of crisis–danger, trouble, or temptation–should cause conviction and change, NOT CASUALITIES! Remember not to forget Joshua’s example of fervent, agonizing prayer and immediate, complete obedience. Don’t be a casualty, whatever you are facing right now! Pray!
In Joshua 7, Achan knowingly disobeys God and keeps some of the treasures from Jericho instead of destroying them. With plenty of opportunity to confess, he is unrepentant until he is caught and confronted by Joshua. Because of this, the Israelites lost badly in the next battle at the town of Ai, a battle which should have been an easy win. This brought Joshua great concern for the great name of Yahweh, and we can feel the depth of Joshua’s deep agony, distress, and pain. He cries to the Lord, “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will you do for Your great name?” Friend, do we have this same burning compassion and honor for God’s name and reputation?
Please look carefully at Matthew Henry’s commentary on this subject:
Note, nothing is more grievous to a gracious soul than dishonor done to God’s name. The name of
God is a great name, above every name and, whatever happens, we ought to believe that he will,
and pray that he would, work for his own name, that this may not be polluted. This should be our
concern more than anything else. On this we must fix our eye as the end of all our desires, and from
this we must fetch our encouragement as the foundation of all our hopes. We cannot urge a better
plea than this: Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name? Let God in all be glorified, and then
welcome his whole will.
In Exodus 32:7-18, Moses had also agonized over the dishonor that the Israelites’ disobedience brought to the Father’s name. We can see the same intensity, fervor, pain, and persistency that we observe in Joshua. This mentor of Joshua’s had begged God not to consume His stubborn, disobedient people. He pleaded, “Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your people.” He, like Joshua after him, wanted God’s name to be glorified.
What were God’s directions then for Joshua, to preserve the honor of the Father’s name? He told him to get up and take care of the sin because He wouldn’t be with them until the guilty sinners were destroyed. Joshua’s radical prayer and high reverence for Yahweh’s great name had to be followed with immediate obedience. God demands the same from us today. Radical prayer and immediate, total obedience is a must if we are to bring honor to God’s name!
30 years ago on April 6th, God our Father surprised me with early release from prison, so we recently celebrated His radical grace of DELIVERANCE. I don’t want to forget to remember! We Christians cannot afford to forget so many things. Think about these: (1) our BORN AGAIN EXPERIENCE in Christ by faith and grace alone; (2) God’s irresistible and radical GRACE THAT SAVES, DELIVERS, AND SUSTAINS us to new levels of unspeakable joy, or the Doctrines of Grace, as George Whitefield called it; (3) our BONDSERVICE TO CHRIST Jesus and the absolute truth of the Gospel, with no compromise; and (4) an attitude of GRATITUDE that will make us teachable and consistent in our individual and corporate prayer life.
In Joshua 7, we are reminded not to forget to honor God the Father and HIS GREAT NAME. We are to spread it all over the world until everyone hears. We must REMEMBER His PROMISES, along with the UNLIMITED BLESSINGS He provides. As we become partakers of God’s grace and bring honor to HIs name as credible witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, He will keep surprising His consecrated children with His wonders.
I will never forget how God surprised me with a quadruple breakthrough miracle by His grace!
1. He RELEASED ME FROM PRISON early.
2. He bestowed on me the huge blessing to enroll in WHEATON COLLEGE as a Chuck Colson scholar, where I received two degrees.
3. He sent many INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE, including Donna Peltz to help me with my financial aid; amazing professors like Dr. Tim Phillips, who told me, “Manny, with Jesus we always have new possibilities”; fellow students like Dan and Micah Lindquist, who are great supporters of our ministries; President of Wheaton College, the late Dr. Richard Chase, who took a huge risk with me; and Dr. Hutz H. Hertzberg, who not only became my chaplain at Wheaton College, as well as my lifetime mentor, but also my pastor and later the first board chairman for our ministry.
4. Our Father sent me to ISRAEL with Wheaton College to study, on parole, to surprise me BIG TIME and meet on top of Mt. Zion the love of my life and ministry partner, Barbarita. Aleluya!
I will always remember April 6, 1988, the day I was released from prison, as I took a radical time out, turned around, looked back, and reflected on what had just happened to me…release from prison! I reflected on how I had left Cuba as a refugee via Spain at age 14, just in time to avoid serving in the Cuban military. I had left with no possessions, made it to America, and accomplished the American Dream with the devil. Then I had gone to prison and lost everything, including family and so-called friends. But there I GAINED CHRIST, my all in all. At that point, I said, “I WILL ALWAYS BE AN EX-CONVICT, BUT BY THE GRACE OF GOD OUR FATHER, I WILL NEVER BE AN INMATE AGAIN.” And today, 30 years later, that is still true. The pure and radical grace of God that saved me from God’s wrath, eternal hell, the guilt and slavery of sin, has also kept me out of prison and sustained me to new levels of joy! Aleluya!
Moms, wives, sisters, and daughters, listen! It was my mother who prayed radically and persistently for my salvation. She encouraged me to face the FBI and gave me my very first Bible verse with a promise, where God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5, a direct quote from Joshua 1:5) My mother had been a witch and devil worshipper before she was radically transformed by the Gospel of grace and truth, which she then presented to me. I don’t want to forget the grace of God in my life through the witness of my mother.
As Christians, we are compelled by the love of Christ to remember God’s grace and provision for us! He delivers sinners, sustains us, brings us joy, and drives us with gratitude to radical prayer to bring honor to the Father. Read Ephesians 1:15-21, which PAUL wrote from prison. A former angry serial killer of Christians and chief of sinners, Paul is now in prison in Rome, a debtor to grace and a slave to Christ and writes about “the riches of the glory of HIS INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS.” Everything we need is found in the body of Christ, so corporate prayer becomes essential to grow and mature in Christ together. So don’t jump the fence and abandon the saints. We need each other. I am a very wealthy man because I find my riches in the inheritance of the saints, including–among many others–my Chaplain Manny Cordero, who discipled and ministered to me and who poured a solid foundation for my love and appreciation of the saints. I could spend weeks telling you of the many saints God has used to bless, challenge, counsel, and equip me. Some have saved me from wrong decisions; others have saved me after I made the wrong decisions. God has sent some to protect me.
One man who always had my back since we met, ministering together in East Moline Prison, was the late BISHOP MICHAEL CARTER. He later served on our Board of Directors for over 15 years, until he graduated with high honors into Glory due to pancreatic cancer on October 28, 2011. He was an ex-convict, ex-dope dealer, and ex-gangbanger, but God saved him and made him a trophy of grace and a godly example of persevering with joy, no matter what. God can change anyone! God can do anything! Bishop Carter became a respected pastor and leader in Chicago, and a loving father of 11! He and his wife Gerri planted a church in the hood, a school, post-prison ministries homes in Chicago, and have blessed hundreds of adopted children and many others who came to Christ through them. Bishop Carter and I ministered in many prisons together, including Angola Prison in LA. His Christian walk had a profound and eternal impact on me. His face and memories are forever tattooed on my heart. He is part of my great and rich inheritance!! His legacy will forever live in our ministry and many others.
Friend, are you influencing others for godliness and His kingdom? I’ll never forget what Chuck Colson told me, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis: KEEP YOUR POST AND DO YOUR DUTY! Dr. Ken Wessner taught me the example of Jesus Christ not to quit, but to PERSEVERE WITH JOY, which has been the legacy of our ministries. So let’s persevere and obey, working together and praying radically, so we may conquer without casualties, as Joshua did. John tells us in John 14:12-14, “…If you ask anything in MY NAME, I will do it.” DON’T FORGET TO REMEMBER the power of God in prayer! As we REMEMBER NOT TO FORGET God’s grace in our lives, let’s pray radically for His grace in the lives of others, current and future members of the body of Christ.
Joshua 7 is a very devastating, sad and sobering story. The Israelites have just experienced for themselves the radical, victorious conquering of Jericho without any casualties! Remember also that these people had crossed the Jordan without any casualties as God made a way out of no way with His protective hand. Aleluya! The book of Joshua is about territory and the radical grace of God our Father empowering us to conquer without casualties when we choose to obey Him without delay. In chapter 7, Joshua’s message is simple: DON’T MESS UP. DON’T LET YOUR SIN BRING SHAME TO YAHWEH’S NAME OR TO HIS PEOPLE. We need the power of the Spirit to distinguish and obey–without delay or deviation– the distinct and precise voice of Yahweh. In order to recognize the voice of the Lord, it is essential to cultivate a radical and intimate relational prayer life with Him. He is the only One capable of delivering us from sin, self, and the world. He will make a way where there seems to be no way!
The times we live in are very dark and confusing; we are experiencing way too many casualties in the Church. The devil and his agents are masterful at strategizing new ways to trick us. Their objective is to kill us Christians, steal our joy and peace, and destroy the family. They want to move us from the cross to a defective, humanistic , quick-fix type of gospel, which is no gospel at all. This puts us in bondage and decreases our fruitfulness. So let’s wake up, stand for Biblical truth, and call sin what it is!
Sin is sin. Not a mistake. Jesus did not shed His precious blood to make payment for our mistakes; He made full payment for our sins to vindicate the name of God, the Father, declare us not guilty for the sins we have indeed committed, and save us from the justifiable wrath of God and eternal hell, which we deserve. He frees us from slavery to sin. Just like Joshua, we are free to conquer without casualties! But Christians compromise way too much and give up lots of territory that is not ours to surrender. This brings shame to our Father and other believers and renders our testimonies less credible.
Joshua 7 makes it very clear that sin kills and destroys. It has no place in the House of the Lord and must be eradicated. Fakers and quietly defiant rebels must go! But Joshua also wants us to remember that defeat is not an option for Christians. Although we cannot overcome sin on our own, we must not hinder others’ progress toward the Promised Land. We must examine our hearts and motives carefully and then act swiftly and aggressively, like Joshua did. We must become partakers of the Grace of God, which is the power that continues to free us from the slavery of sin and addictions. He defeated sin, the devil, and the grave in His resurrection and reigns victoriously now forever and ever! Aleluya! This gives us a hope that energizes us with fresh confidence in Christ! We cannot afford to forget God’s radical mercy and amazing grace toward us depraved sinners.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-15 and notice how Peter emphasizes being reminded of the truths of Christ. This is Peter, who forgot to remember his promise not to deny Jesus, but here he is a fully restored, transformed, grateful, and courageous Peter, who is willing to die upside down on the cross for Jesus. He wants to remind others not to forget the grace and power of God and the necessity of persevering in godliness. God hates defeat because He is a winner! He does not want His people to be defeated; He wants us to become consistent winners. When we lose, it reflects on His character and brings His anger.
Forgetting the grace of God is not an option for the Christian! Forgetting and falling into the habit of forgetting is devastating and destructive, because it indicates that we no longer depend on Christ and His cross for our source of power and contentment. We fall back and depend on self, the world, and the devil for our source of temporary contentment, entertainment, and quick little fixes that lead to death. Therefore, we must hold each other accountable to remember God’s clear warning against sinning and forgetting His holy character and commands. Otherwise, we will experience HIs clear, devastating wrath with real consequences, even after there is confession. Remember not to forget! Read Joshua 6 and 7 and notice how Rahab is an example of God’s grace during judgment, while Achan, on the other hand, is an urgent reminder of God’s holy character, which we must take very seriously.
Remember this: Yahweh God means ALL that He says… and says ALL that He means as commandments, not suggestions. So stay away from evil things that will contaminate or kill you, and embrace what is holy and good, so you will live (Joshua 6:18-19; 7:1, 11-26). The wrath of God is only lifted when sin is dealt with promptly and swiftly (Joshua 7:9). Christians never sin in isolation; our sin brings defeat to everyone else. So get up and consecrate yourself (Joshua 7:10,13; 3:5). Pray radically for genuine repentance, consistent transformation, hatred of sin, and a radical love for the Father and for people. May we always remember not to forget!
God’s grace is so amazing! He brought the Israelites through the Red Sea and the Jordan River and helped them conquer Jericho with no casualties. He made a way where there was no way with His hand of provision and His supernatural, irresistible power of deliverance when the people obeyed Him. Joshua, their leader, thought it was essential that they remember what God had done for them. We also must remember what God has done for us and apply His grace and sovereignty to our lives minute by minute, continually. We must become 100% COMMITTED TO GOD’S TRUTH, no matter the intensity or consequences of the cultural and traditional pressure of our peers and the world, inside and outside the Church. Truth must pull rank over self-interest, fears, family, business associates, or friends. Absolute truth found exclusively in Jesus Christ must be our single focus. It will set any captive free from self, the world, and the worst of sins.
In Joshua 7, we see that Achan becomes a casualty to evil; this leads to many other casualties, including his own family. Let’s look at Achan’s relationship to sin. First of all, we see PASSIVITY WITH SIN by his lack of aggressiveness against it. Secondly, he COMPROMISES WITH SIN by giving in to pressure and by his silence. Thirdly, he is BLINDED BY SIN when he exalts his human thinking over biblical truth, even after clear and repeated warning from Yahweh. Fourthly, he exhibits a LACK OF KNOWLEDGE as to what sin really is by minimizing its deadly, devastating power. Fifthly, he has a FALSE PERSPECTIVE OF SIN, thinking that he can handle it or hide it on his own. Lastly, he FORGOT TO REMEMBER what sin did to his ancestors. It has no place in the believer’s life, but it is a super power we cannot overcome on our own. So we must not forget the mercy and grace of God toward us depraved sinners. We must not forget our urgent need to embrace biblical truth and live by it with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Notice in Joshua 7 that Achan did not have a do-over because of his compromise and selfishness. Think of the consequences of his sin! 36 of his countrymen and their families died! Israel lost that battle. Joshua and the elders were put to shame. But above all and most importantly, Yahweh became extremely angry because of the shame Achan’s sin brought to His name. This is an urgent reminder that we cannot afford to forget to remember God’s holy character; we must filter every decision we make through His holiness.
Read Joshua 7 and notice that we do not sin in isolation. Achan sinned, and God’s anger burned against Israel. When we choose to sin, we drag many with us. R.C. Sproul points out in his commentary that Yahweh’s wrath is never arbitrary or capricious and is part of the New Testament, as well as the Old. (Matthew 3:7; John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Colossians 3:6) Read John 3 and notice that God’s wrath abides on those who do not believe on the Son. This makes us slaves to sin, self, and the world…without joy, peace, or security. BELIEF IN JESUS is our permanent solution, and to avoid casualties, we must be in radical, biblical communication with Him.
Notice the difference between this story of Achan and the account of the capture of Jericho in Joshua 2. At Jericho, the spies were 100% confident and brave, because their obedience activated the all-powerful hand of Yahweh. They believed and obeyed God, and God gave them victory! By contrast, in Joshua 7, the spies did not want Israel to go in to conquer. There was sin in the camp instead of trust in and obedience to God. When they finally did go to Ai, they turned and fled, and there were casualties. Sin brought reversal and defeat. Just ponder the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EFFECTS OF OBEDIENCE AND SIN!
Let’s remember not to forget the grace of God and the importance of obedience. Peter remembered Jesus’ words only after he had denied Jesus, and he grieved (Luke 22:60-62). But when he remembered later, he wanted others to be reminded always of their calling into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He urges us NOT TO FORGET TO REMEMBER, BUT REMEMBER NOT TO FORGET. Forgetting is not an option for the Christian. Let’s cultivate a radical personal and corporate prayer life to keep us from falling into defeat and becoming a casualty or a stumbling block to others. Scripture demands that we remember!
Until the whole world hears…and believes! That is our burning desire for the gospel message! But let’s think about the opposite of believing. According to Dr. Colin Smith, it’s not simply unbelief; it’s DEFIANCE. This means open resistance, bold disobedience, subversion, rebellion! If we do not believe that the gospel is reliable and good for ALL OF LIFE, letting it impact every decision we make as we follow Jesus, we are resisting God! Do you believe and obey Jesus 100% to experience His peace and strength in trials?
Read John 3:16-21; 31-36 and notice how many times John uses the word “believe.” He makes the evidential case that Jesus is who He said He is: the fullness of truth and life, the only begotten Son of the Father, the only way and hope to know the Father to experience total forgiveness and eternal life. The beloved Apostle John shows us that as the body of Christ, in our radical mission, we are compelled by the love of Christ, who was compelled by the love of the Father. (See also II Corinthians 5:14-15.) When people truly meet our Father, they will experience this love and permanent deliverance from the wrath of God. This guarantees eternal life and total freedom from addictions, fear, anxiety, and anger so they can rescue others. Aleluya! John presents us with a real life or death choice every human must make: believe 100% or don’t believe at all the credible testimony Jesus gives about who His Father is.
Why does John make such a critical, urgent case for the world to HEAR and BELIEVE? Because if they
DON’T BELIEVE, they will:
1 – be CONDEMNED and perish forever, with Hell as their permanent home and no hope (v. 16-18)
2 – be in constant DARKNESS forever (v. 19-21)
3 – be in BONDAGE to evil and sin forever (v. 20)
4 – be CONFUSED and IGNORANT to the truth, joyless, with no peace forever (v. 21)
5 – be forever BLIND AND DEAF to the One from Above (v. 31-33)
6 – be POWERLESS and bankrupt forever (v. 34-35)
7 – be lifeless, WITHOUT THE LOVE OF GOD and under His wrath forever (v. 36)
Now look at the contrast John lays out for us. If they DO BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, they will then:
1 – be FORGIVEN and experience eternal life with Heaven as their permanent home (v. 16-18)
2 – be in the LIGHT of Christ forever; no more darkness! Aleluya! (v. 19-21)
3 – be permanently FREE from evil and the guilt and slavery of sin (v. 21)
4 – be CLEAR IN UNDERSTANDING and totally aware of the truth of Jesus Christ forever (v. 21)
5 – be able to SEE AND HEAR the truth of Jesus and experience His life and freedom (v. 31-33)
6 – be MEEK (power under control) and PROSPEROUS in Christ through the Spirit forever (v. 34-35)
7 – be FILLED WITH THE ABUNDANT LOVE OF GOD through Christ, because His wrath is removed (v. 36)
Contemplate these two extremes! It is a matter of great urgency that the whole world will hear and believe in Jesus’ finished redemptive work! And radical prayer is essential in our mission. Andrew Murray, a well-known South African pastor and writer, who lived about the same time as Dwight L. Moody, said, “Nothing so reveals the defective spiritual life in minister and congregation as the lack of believing and unceasing prayer. Prayer is in very deed the pulse of the spiritual life. It is the great means of bringing to minister and people the blessing and power of heaven. Persevering and believing prayer means a strong and an abundant life.” Let’s pray radically and be credible witnesses to bring others to our good, loving Father and the credible testimony of the resurrected Jesus Christ! Count everything loss to be found in Him! Warren Wade, founder of the ServiceMaster Corporation, said, “If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it!” No defiance! Only 100% belief! Aleluya! Christ has promised never to LEAVE us; now let’s BE-LIEVE Him radically and reflect to others His magnetic example of the Father’s love!
My dear friend and partner in the Gospel, Pastor Derek Neider, serves as Senior Pastor for Calvary Chapel in Las Vegas. His passion for the Gospel is contagious, and his vision is radical, so this year’s theme of his Missions Conference is “Until the Whole World Hears.” This has given me fresh passion, vitality, and focus to preach the gospel more diligently. In Matthew 24:14, Christ said, “This gospel shall be preached in all the world….” I need this conviction for myself so that I can in turn share it with others continually. There are way too many hurting people in the Church and in America. My heart is heavy, but there is HOPE! You see, our problem is NOT about GUN CONTROL, but about satisfaction of the HEART that only occurs through a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ! The Church in America needs to see our desperate need to radically consecrate ourselves to God the Father so He can do His wonders as we pray radically and love our neighbors radically. Otherwise, school and church shootings and all other kinds of crime will continue to increase because people are angry, anxious, and fearful. The reality is that society reflects how healthy or sick the Church in America is, so we need God’s impeccable, glorious truth and grace to shine through us. No defective, Mickey Mouse gospel, but the all-powerful gospel of Jesus Christ is what we need: it gives life with eternal security, circumcises the heart, gives sight to the blind, radically transforms the worst of sinners, makes our crooked ways straight, forgives, reconciles and heals the brokenhearted, heals the worst of relationships, sets the captive free from prison cells, brings unspeakable joy and unfathomed peace,and brings bright light in the darkest places. (Read Isaiah 61.) It is effective and essential for all of life, because it IS LIFE! Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life….”
Recently one of our disciples who was facing 40 years in prison was delivered by God’s grace! We are now surrounding him with a fence of love so that he will know best how to respond to the grace of God and not bring any shame to Him. Rather our desire is that he should hallow God’s name with gratitude, which should be the burning desire and single objective of every Christian. For this man, there were not enough witnesses to convict him. But the evidence for Jesus as our Messiah is overwhelming, credible, convincing, impeccable, flawless, indisputable! His resurrection after three days sealed the deal. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that He was seen by more than 500 witnesses! We need an unshakable belief and unwavering confidence in this risen Christ to experience His blessings without interruption. So Christian, pray radically for the impossible to become possible to bring glory to God. He will make a way where there is none; He will open a door when it is locked…or non-existent. There are so many obstacles to overcome in fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to take the gospel to the whole world, but Jesus gives us this mission and promises to always be with us. So we are compelled to go in the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the gospel as credible witnesses, in the healthy tension of its grace and truth, believing that Jesus finished HIS mission of redemption for people from every tribe and nation! Aleluya! Now let’s be faithful to finish OUR mission to the world for His glory!
The world desperately needs to hear! But we don’t want it to go in one ear and out the other. We want the gospel to reach the heart. They need to BELIEVE what they hear. You see, the gospel I believe is the gospel of indisputable evidence, not just someone’s opinion. For me, the evidence is personal, and no one can take it away. I was blind, but now I see. I was dead, but now I’m alive…more alive than ever! I was lost, but now I’ve been found and am part of Jesus’ rescue team to find others everywhere, including jails and prisons! Aleluya! My testimony as a credible witness of Christ is fresh every day with new miracles, blessings, and benefits from my good Father, who keeps surprising me with His wonders. I don’t want to tell people about my God who did something for me 30 years ago, or even last week. I want to tell them about Jesus, whose hope is alive this very second and who keeps showing up when I call on Him, so my faith will become much more abundant, credible, fresh, and contagious. Aleluya! So not only must the message be pure and credible, but the messenger must also be a credible person of impeccable, Christlike, indisputable character. We must reflect HIM so others will BELIEVE. Let’s radically reflect His love!
How do we become more like Christ so that our lives will become superabundant in the testimony of Jesus? We must pray radically to love radically, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We must follow hard after the abundant life Jesus purchased and promised for those He came to rescue with His own sinless, expensive, redeeming blood. Joshua’s example and teaching will help us in this transformation.
Radical determination to become more like Christ makes us dangerous, contagious, and unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: Christ crucified and resurrected. We become eager to count everything as loss for the sake of Christ Jesus, aleluya! That’s practical, credible, and radical revival! Joshua is calling us with his magnetic godly example, reflecting the legacy of the Father’s love. He even utilizes the loud trumpets to get our undivided attention. He wants us to know that revival is imperative, urgent, and a top priority for Christians, aleluya! So let’s see Christ as manifested and reflected through Joshua and the heart of devotion God gave him. Note the critical sequence here: as the heart goes, so the mind goes, and so our actions go. In other words, our heart determines our thinking and then our behavior. So we desperately need the heart of Jehovah!
Dear Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ and through the power of your Spirit, grant us the same heart of devotion for you that you granted Joshua. Help us to delight ourselves in You alone, our Father, as much as Joshua did. We will willingly trust and obey you without resisting ever again. Please forgive us when we fail. Holy Spirit, empower us with the clear testimony of Jesus Christ in the fullness of His glory, so we will not bring shame to you. So, Father, we totally surrender to you and consecrate ourselves to You again because we want to experience the wonders of your permanent presence. Bring down all the walls of resistance that we may be free to tell the world that You are a good, loving Father who delivers, provides, and protects Your people. Aleluya!
Read Joshua 6, where God gives instructions for marching around the city of Jericho. As you prayerfully consider this story, think about these two action words: ATTENTION and CONSECRATION. We must pay attention with the teachable attitude of Christ in order to receive, retain, and respond to the truth and relate to the Father as Jesus does. We must consecrate ourselves, becoming fully connected to Him and uncontaminated by the world so that sin will no longer enslave us.
Just like the advertisers paid millions of dollars during the recent Super Bowl to get our ATTENTION, so the things and people of the world are constantly competing to get us to focus our attention on them instead of on Yahweh. The Apostle Paul calls them the enemies of the cross. They set their mind on earthly things and end in destruction (Philippians 3:17-21). But think about the great price Jesus paid to glorify the Father, obtain our redemption, and defeat death forever–death on the cross, shedding His priceless, sinless blood–for us! Joshua is calling us to pay full attention to Yahweh’s big show so we can stop pretending and have Yahweh smash all our walls flat! We must not interrupt and distract ourselves and others from Yahweh’s redemptive story by compromising to amuse people with the temporary fixes of life. We need to become accustomed to the sound of His voice and make Him the sole focus of our attention.
Let’s stop being defeated and wounded by the enemies of our souls: self, the world, Satan, and fear. Yahweh has His perfect, bullet-proof plan for us, so we must trust and obey Him for victory and for His glory. The enemy of our souls is real, evil, tireless, crafty, and destructive, but remember–the battle is the Lord’s (Joshua 5:13-15)! We are participants in the battle by His invitation, and He will not forget or leave behind those He invites. (Semper Fidelis!) Anyone He chooses and invites is welcome, no matter what they have done or where they have come from. Think of Rahab, the prostitute, who became a type of savior as she and her family were saved from the destruction of Jericho. Then contemplate this: she became part of the lineage of Christ, aleluya! God does not forget His people or His promises. Does He have your undivided, uncompromising attention?
When God has our undivided attention, in response to His unfailing love for us, we must respond by CONSECRATING ourselves radically to Him alone! We need to stay focused on Him to prevent committing spiritual suicide, which will allow the enemy to conquer us, destroying our peace and joy, as well as our credibility to present and live out the Gospel. Because we are NOT taking the devil and his mission to destroy us seriously, many in the church are compromising truth and grace, and we are seeing way too many casualties. So just like those who diligently keep vigil 24/7 over people on suicide watch in a psychiatric ward or prison, we cannot relax. We must not be amused or entertained by distractions. We are at war! We must be vigilant!
In Joshua 6:20-21, the Ark of the Covenant was before the Israelites with the priest calling them to consecrate themselves to engage victoriously in Yahweh’s battle, and those walls were destroyed! We may have many spiritual walls: resistance, lack of trust, blatant disobedience, rebelliousness, doubt, an unforgiving spirit, prayerlessness, anger, rudeness, anxiousness, fear, fill in the blank. We need to see them fall flat as the Spirit of God conquers all the enemies of our soul that are hindering us from experiencing the abundant, joyful life Jesus purchased for us! Aleluya! Our life here is a rehearsal of our eternal life in Heaven with Him, so we must get used to each other now, because we are going to spend eternity together in KOINONIA. When we follow Joshua’s prescription of paying attention and consecrating ourselves to Yahweh alone, our hope becomes super alive and secure, even when things seem hopeless (I Corinthians 15:56-58).
We desperately need permanent revival! Joshua 5 gives us some fundamental teachings that we need to embrace, be consumed by, and constantly apply in order to see God’s blessings in this area. Like Joshua, we must recognize God’s voice, trust Him implicitly, and obey immediately in order to cultivate with deeper intimacy with our Radical Prayer Life! It is our responsibility to pray radically that we might love radically for the greater hallowing of our Sovereign God. He wants to bless us beyond our imagination. He knows what we are going to ask before we pray, but He wants us to ask him anyway as our Good Father, not simply as our paramedic or fortuneteller. He has so many blessings for us from His powerful hand!
We recently experienced this personally in our prison ministry. We were on our way to Stateville Prison and received a text that Fred and Janice Mandoline were also heading there to give their son Todd the news that his grandmother had passed away. We knew this would hit him hard, so Ben Evangelista and I went to our Father in radical expectation and meek confidence that He would surprise us with the wonders of His favor…unlimited access and radical grace in the maximum-security prison, where so many things can go wrong. When we arrived, the front gate was packed with people, BUT GOD…! Aleluya!! In short, although Ben and I had no previous approval to see Todd, we had the full freedom, unlimited access, and breakthrough grace from the senior chaplain at Stateville, whom I have known for 28 years, to go anywhere and see anybody in that prison, including Todd at his cell on the most critical day of his young Christian life. His parents had just given him the news of his grandmother passing, and we were able to bring him the comfort of the Lord (2 Corinthians 1). Aleluya! Todd was surprised and tearfully grateful as we listened, prayed radically, and loved him radically. Barb and I were then able to represent him at his grandmother’s funeral in Chicago on Monday morning. Do you see Joshua’s teaching in practical radical form here? It was a priceless and precious experience…trusting implicitly, obeying immediately, and praying radically.
We’ve seen that Joshua is the Jesus of the Old Testament, not only because he is a type of savior, or rescuer, but most importantly because he is 100% possessed by God and 100% in sync with the Father’s will. He is eager to obey the voice of Yahweh and fully prepared and committed to become a CONQUEROR, under the total command and authority of the Commander of the Army of Yahweh!
It’s time for us to conquer, too, in this world of sin, confusion, and bondage. We need victory over the Devil and his demons! Biblical revival is imperative and urgent for the Christian in America today! It must be a top priority for us, especially during this dark epidemic of sexual corruption we are facing, that is impacting all levels and facets of our society, even the church. We are losing over 16,000 evangelical pastors per year, many of them to sexual sin. So if there is a time in the history of the church when we must experience a corporate revival, it’s today! You see, we too often compromise. We compromise in NOT preaching the Word of God in the tension of truth and grace. We also compromise in NOT living and applying that Word, hence not reflecting and projecting its glorious light to expose our sin and bring us to repentance, radical prayer, and revival as Jesus Christ becomes the exclusive object of our satisfaction and the Lover of our souls!
In Isaiah 55, Yahweh invites us to experience His abundant life now and forever and to live in His freedom every day. Aleluya! In verse 8, He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” So Joshua 5:13-15 makes it clear that revival does not happen unless:
1 – we come face to face with Jesus Christ, who gives us reconciliation and eternal life, aleluya!
2 – we recognize Him as our only Commander, worship Him in total reverence, and
3 – most importantly, we trust and obey Him without delay, even when we don’t understand
His strategy, which will always defeat the enemy, as seen in the conquering of Jericho.
Now look at Joshua 6:1-21 in the all-satisfying, powerful, and sufficient Word of God to help apply these truths to our hearts, thinking, and practice. Especially notice the biblical tension between us becoming 100% responsible and God being 100%sovereign. This truth is seen throughout Scripture! We trust and obey; He conquers! Aleluya! Read this passage and notice these truths clearly presented.
Joshua is reminding us about the immense grace of God our Father, driven by His love, and that God does not forget about any of his over 7,000 promises, including His covenant with Abraham!! We will see in chapter 7 that the Israelites, almost immediately after this tremendous victory, brought much shame to God’s name. Read that chapter and pray radically and earnestly for God, through His Spirit, to grant us the burning desire, deep humility, and fresh commitment to consecrate ourselves to our Father. We desperately need these if we are to be granted the heart of devotion that God gave to Joshua.
Dr. John Piper says,” Sin is the suicidal abandonment of JOY.” Let us pray with deep agony that, like those on suicide watch, we will be radically diligent to willingly trust and obey always…and have the joy of the Lord as our strength as we conquer for Him!
It’s Time to Conquer!
Joshua was the Jesus of the Old Testament, a type of savior and 100% in sync with the Father’s will. He is eager, prepared, and trained to honor God by becoming a CONQUEROR of the territory the Devil and his people had stolen from God and His people. He was compelled by the Father’s love.
Biblical Revival is the end game and not an option for every Christian. It is an urgent, imperative priority for the Christian. We are in a very real, ugly, and bloody battle. It is a spiritual, physical, and mental war where our souls and the glory of God are at stake. The Word of God is on trial in the court of our pulpits and hence the public square in America. We need personal and corporate revival that will call us and sustain us to consecrate ourselves to a Holy God so we will be driven by His Spirit.
We are reminded through Joshua of these truths:
1. The enemy is real, evil, furious, and destructive.
2. The battle is the Lord’s.
3. We must trust and obey the Lord as He trains us to conquer with His strategy.
In Joshua 5, we find the story of the Israelites’ new place of beginning and their new diet (no more manna!) after their immediate obedience to God’s commands. Way too many Christians are not conquerors, but slaves to sin in the world, trapped, hijacked, engaged in all kinds of addictions with no shame. They are joyless, hopeless, blind, confused, anxious, fearful, angry, and without peace. But let’s look at Joshua 5:13-15, where Joshua obeys without delay. Here are some important applications:
1. Joshua is representing us–you and me! (vs. 13)
2. We must always have our eyes and affection fixed only on Jesus, the Warrior, the Holy One of Israel .
3. We must recognize Him as our God and our Commander in Chief to whom we give our total allegiance. Notice in verse 14, this MAN came to Joshua as the pre-incarnate Christ. Therefore:
4. Joshua and his army are under the total command and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at some practical applications from this Scripture.
1. We must recognize the holy character of our Lord and Commander, as Joshua did. He worshipped Him immediately with a sincere, genuine humility. (vs. 14) We must do the same. He experienced a refreshing revival that was clearly recognized by others. He became a credible and contagious witness of what a Radical Revival looks like. Biblical revival is driven and sustained by loyal humility cultivated by Radical Biblical Prayer with the Commander of the army in order to conquer and not be conquered.
2. We must obey our Commander without delay, just as Joshua did. Holiness is the fundamental quality of Yahweh, so we must keep our worship focused on the cross 100%.
Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that God our Father is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His holy character is unchanging. We are part of the Holy Army of the Lord. We are responsible to be holy by trusting and obeying the Lord Almighty without hesitance, just as Joshua did! It’s time to conquer! Aleluya! Let us pray and act! –Manny Mill
“God Our Father’s Radical/Everlasting Loving Vision of Hope and His Precise, Permanent Prescription for His Children for 2018 and Beyond” – Exodus 15:22-27
The Israelites were a complaining people. They were God’s people who had seen and experienced His amazing wonders through His mercy and grace towards them time after time. God had delivered them, provided for them, and protected them, even when they were whining, arguing, and complaining. Yet in our passage they are complaining again because the water is bitter. In chapters 14-15, the people were dancing, praising Yahweh, and affirming Moses as their leader. But they forgot quickly. They praised God only when everything was going well, and there was no testing. We are often the same way.
What is the value of testing from our Heavenly Father? When we are tested, we grow in character and endurance, and our faith in the Father becomes much more abundant. We come to know more deeply His holy, loving character. Our testimony becomes more substantial. Our integrity and unspeakable joy are evident to others.
People who complain the most pray the least. They become bitter because of an unhealthy, self-focused, not cross/Christ-focused relationship with God. They often have regrets or disappointment over something in their past…maybe something that has happened, or a loss, or a missed opportunity.
In our passage, they are on their way to the land of milk and honey that God has promised them. And here they are complaining about bitter water. I want to suggest that the physical waters were an indication of their bitterness of spirit against God and Moses, who is representing God with utmost integrity. Note that regrets (1) hinder our experience of God’s blessings and benefits; (2) hinder our freedom in Christ to do our Father’s will; and most importantly (3) bring shame to our Father and drive us away from Him, affecting our prayer lives.
Let’s make 2018 a regret-free year! Aleluya! First of all, we must keep the cross and Christ uppermost throughout each day. Secondly, we must respond with radical, biblical prayer to testing and adversity. We must keep our post at the cross and our position fully in Christ. We must obey Him without compromise, complaining, or delay. Then He can release his instant abundant blessings and benefits for us. Notice in Exodus 15:25-26 this requirement of obedience in order to experience blessing.
How much of the water was bitter before Moses prayed radically on behalf of these complainers? 100%! How much of it became sweet after Moses obeyed God without questioning or complaining? 100%! That piece of tree that Moses threw in the water represents the cross. Is the cross with Christ a permanent and constant ingredient in your water to keep it sweet and to empower you with our Father’s supernatural grace? Do you know anyone who is thirsty for that fresh, cool, sweet water? Matthew Henry wrote, ” Even true believers, in seasons of sharp trial, will be tempted to fret, distrust, and murmur. But in every trial, we should give our cares to the Father and pour out our hearts to him. The bitterest trial becomes tolerable with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. God is the Great Physician. He keeps and heals us to be His servants. He is our life. Let’s not faint at tribulation.”
In conclusion, Moses prayed radically with confidence instead of complaining. Jesus did the same when He faced adversity, and He, along with the Holy Spirit, continues to intercede for us. Radical prayer is our legacy, as we make it our aim to become more like Jesus, believing that God will heal and deliver us from our regrets, as promised at the end of Exodus 15:26.
On January 1, Barbara and I took a Radical Time Out and did these 4 very practical things:
1. We prayerfully studied John 17. 2. We prayed radically as fueled by the text. 3. We wrote down our regrets and placed them under the blood of Jesus at the cross. 4. We wrote personal and ministry goals that we believe to be in sync with God’s will for 2018, for God’s glory.
Look at Exodus 15:25-26. Embrace it and experience it for you, and pray it for others, as a gift from God. Let this be your year of revival, refusing to live with regrets. Let’s heed God’s radical warnings and embrace His radical hope in Christ with His radical vision for the Gospel. This will create an urgency to take radical Time Outs daily so that we experience God’s consistent healing and a year free from regrets.
At the end of Job, he tells the Lord, “I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1,2,5). Wow! He experienced the Father with intimacy and NO REGRETS! May this be a regret-free year as we are healed individually and corporately, because our Father said, “For I am the Lord who heals you,” (Exodus 15:26b). Aleluya!
Our loving Father’s will for us is to be and believe like His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we can pray in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27) and love Him and those He brings across our paths with the love of Christ. Jesus’ clear commandment to make His Father’s house a house of prayer can only be obeyed as we have a personal and corporate relationship with the Father, as Jesus does. (Mark 11:17) We must believe and obey Scripture. This includes the truth that God raised Christ from the dead. Because of this divine, infinite power, you and I can be resurrected to life and given new life. (Romans 10:9-19 and Ephesians 1)
Many Christians, perhaps including you, are in some type of bondage, really hurting, in deep pain and agony. You may be very confused, extremely disappointed, in despair, suicidal, feeling defeated. Are you very angry, anxious, tired, sad or extremely fearful? Some are very ashamed, unworthy, and filthy. A great number are in bondage to our culture, addicted to many things, substances, and people!! Many are being abused by other Christians who misuse their power. You may feel trapped with no way of escape. Even Christian leaders can be trapped by easy believe-ism, fear, and dissatisfaction. Prayer is often what we are missing. This brings shame to the Father and to the Gospel.
The amazing, freeing news for you is that there is hope; there is ONE Way Out, One Time with No Recovery, with no going back to EGYPT! Recovery ministries are temporary. They are quick fixes. Jesus came to Deliver us ONE TIME! You see, in Exodus God appears to Moses, a former criminal at age 80, and calls him to what appears to be an impossible mission of DELIVERANCE, to save His people out of Egypt ONE TIME. They have been in prison– slavery– for 430 years under the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Yahweh, the only One who delivers, uses Moses, a type of Christ, to deliver the Israelites from slavery. This is the miraculous story of Exodus, the EXIT, the way out!
Jesus Christ is our way out! (Ephesians 11:3-14) He is our peace (Philippians 4:4-7) and our unspeakable joy (I Peter 1:8). In His mercy, He delivers us from God’s wrath, the slavery and guilt of sin, and eternal hell. By HIs grace, He gives us new life, a home in heaven, and the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. (Matthew 26:36-46) Feel this freedom! Rejoice in it and thank God!
Read Exodus 14:13-31 and notice that Yahweh gives us a commandment to obey without delay, connected to a promise that will deliver a visible and tangible outcome for us. Hence our trust is required! Our Father’s commandments are connected to His promises, which He will always deliver when we obey Him without delay. So it requires us to believe. This trust in Yahweh flows out of our relationship with our Father. This relationship grows through radical biblical prayer. Our rebelliousness will remove the hand of the LORD from us. Our obedience will move His hands towards US! God promises to protect and provide for His children. He is our eternal fortress; all fear should disappear with this knowledge. It is when we are still before our Father, in sync with Him, in His Will, in radical biblical prayer, that all of our fears and insecurities will be overcome by the blood of the Lamb. We must pray, confess, and repent radically. Then our hurts, disappointments, and real wounds will be healed, all to the glory of our Good Father, because nothing else matters.
Listen to Revelation 12:11: “ And they overcame him (The Devil/Fears) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” The Gospel is an invitation from the Father to die to self, hence not to skip the Cross. So, cherish the Cross as much as Jesus does! Keep your post at the Cross and do your duty as you pray radically to love radically.
My friend, the late Chuck Colson, who discipled me with his life and example, used to tell me, “Manny, keep your post and do your duty.” So, what is our duty, or our mission? Our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ, as defined by Barbara Mill, is to introduce people to the Father. She says, “If they truly meet Him, they will have salvation, DELIVERANCE, and know their real identity!”
When we have met the Father, how do we cultivate our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ in the Power of the Spirit? We must devote ourselves to radical biblical prayer, maturing new disciples and teaching them (1) Who we pray to, (2) why we pray, (3) what we pray, and (4) how we pray. ( See Luke 11:1-13.)
Our lack of Prayer will put us in Bondage!!! Let’s be free in Christ through radical, biblical prayer!!!
What a Radical Prayer Life Looks Like
The central message of Mathew 26:36-46 is found in verse 41 where Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. He knew he would soon be betrayed and arrested. He needed to spend time praying to His Father. He chose three of His disciples to accompany Him as He moved a distance away from the other disciples to pray. He showed those three disciples how He prayed to His Father.
Notice in the Biblical passage that Jesus fell on His face as he prayed. He became humble before His Father. He told His Father the true condition of His heart and how He felt. He cried out to God asking if it was possible that He would not have to experience what He knew was coming soon. He did not feel like drinking the cup of His Father’s full wrath. He was not pushing God into a corner but offered a simple request. Then with an obedient spirit He continued His prayer, “Not as I will, but as you will.”
After His prayer, Jesus went to the three disciples and found them sleeping. He specifically singled out Peter and asked him if he could not watch with Him for even one hour. This is the juncture when Jesus said to them, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus then prayed in deep agony to His Father the second time. Going to His Father again displays the urgency of the matter. He told the Father that if He had to experience the pain and agony He was facing He was prepared to follow His Father’s will. We see from this that He was coming closer to obedience.
When Jesus returned once again to the three disciples, He found them still sleeping. He did not rebuke them this time. Prayer will make you gracious and merciful. It will make you less judgmental, less accusatory, and help you point your finger less at others.
For the third time Jesus prayed the same words to His Father. He found the disciples sleeping again and asked if they were still sleeping and resting. Then He told them that the hour was at hand for Him to be betrayed into the hand of sinners.
We are living in a time when we cannot be sleeping. The church in America needs to be awakened. We are performing but not praying. We need to act like Jesus. To be like Jesus is to pray like Jesus. At the heart of Biblical discipleship is radical Biblical prayer. The oil needed for our lamps to be burning when Jesus returns comes out of our prayer life.
From the context of this passage we find loving advice from Jesus. He is saying:
I know how you feel. I can sympathize with you one hundred percent. I am also one hundred percent human. Without the Spirit I am as week as you are. Therefore,
Watch like I watch with aggressive radical vigilance in the Spirit and with the Spirit overcome the desires of the flesh for the sake of the reputation of our Father. Consequently,
Pray like I pray. Agonize in radical prayer in the Spirit to put to death the flesh, to obey with joy, and to do the will of the Father. When this happens, the Spirit can overcome the flesh for the greater hallowing of our Father.
If we do not watch and pray, we will enter into the temptation of not trusting our Father and will go to sleep. Then we will be led into a paralyzing and unhealthy fear that will prevent us from doing our Father’s will.
In obedience, Jesus drank the cup of the full wrath of His Father on our behalf. Matthew Henry points out that the Father did not ask His Son to drink an ocean of His wrath, but only a cup. That cup was concentrated and very hard for Jesus to endure. In communion when we remember what Jesus did for us, we don’t take the cup of wrath but we take the cup of mercy. Jesus took the cup of wrath so we are saved from the justifiable wrath of God, the guilt and slavery of Sin, and eternal hell.
Persistent Biblical prayer is essential for us. After praying the same prayer three times, Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will. His desires became His Father’s desires for the sake of His Father’s glory.
Gethsemane means “the place of the press.” It was a place where olives were pressed to get olive oil. Olives went through the press four times. Each time they were pressed, the oil was used for a different purpose. They were pressed until the last drop of oil was extracted. Likewise, Jesus bled to his last drop of blood as he hung on the cross. His blood had a redemptive purpose. He felt the deep press/pressure because the salvation of the lost depended on His obedience in that situation.
How do we face pressure? We must allow the Holy Spirit to press us in the same exact way that Jesus was pressed in order for us to be cleansed and purified. Then we can hallow our Father’s name. We are filthy and need to be pressed hard to get the filth out of us.
The prayer that agonizes is the prayer that hallows our Father the most, because it is prayer that always leads to doing His will. Jesus paid the price at Calvary but we must be willing to pay the price of being pressed. Enduring suffering and testing produces sanctification in our lives. Jesus was willing to suffer and pay the price because of the joy set before him. We must watch like Christ and pray like Christ so that we will not be tempted and thus, bring shame to our Father.
Obedience as radical men and women of prayer brings God’s blessings into our lives. This is experienced as God releases into us His unlimited power, the fullness of His blessings, and His undeniable benefits. These flow from His unfailing promises that lead us into victory upon victory for the greater hallowing of His name. Experiencing this grants us the privilege to be credible testimonies of His astonishing wonderful wonders.
Joshua and the Israelites experienced God’s faithful fulfilling of all of His promises. This is verified in Joshua 23:14 where Joshua writes, “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.” God fulfilled everything He promised to Joshua.
Our obedience to Christ must not be selective or based on feelings. God our Father requires us to keep our word, even when we don’t feel like it, or even when we think it is too hard. We must not allow our tainted subjective opinions override His word, seeking to experience a quick temporary fix and/or fake satisfaction. Doing so that will make our Father unhappy and then we will feel terribly discontent and guilty. It is a big concern that many Christians are deeply proud of their disobedience.
Saint Augustine was a sexual addict who had a dramatic radical conversion to Christ in 386 AD. Augustine said “How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure” Then St Augustine goes on to say through his signature quote, “Our Hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Dr. John Piper stated that “Saint Augustine found his permanent freedom from lust and lechery in the superior pleasure of God our Father.”
C.S. Lewis wrote that, “We are far too easily pleased.” We often seek our pleasure in places other than in our Heavenly Father. We must constantly be aware that our Father delights in seeing His children seek and experience the fullness of His pleasures in Him alone. However, we must do our part in obeying our Father one hundred percent of the time just like God our Father keeps His word one hundred percent of the time! This is vital because His glory is always at stake.
The Apostle Paul is another credible witness. He helps us see the explosive and inseparable relationship between God our Father’s promises and our faithful obedience to the unchanging Word of God. From him we learn that such a relationship will produce the following characteristics in each of us:
A consistent credible:
Abundant faith to lead us into an unshakable confidence in Christ Jesus with a
Magnetic Testimony that will clearly demonstrate and extend the unlimited grace of our Father to anybody and everybody with an
Aggressive, passionate, and irresistible drive to make disciples of Jesus Christ, by helping others cultivate a radical personal and corporate prayer life, that will enjoy a relationship with God our Father, just like Jesus enjoys with the Father, so that
We will all learn and practice our essential ministry, which is to pray radically to love radically.
Joshua 5 gives an account of how Joshua obeyed God’s commands as they were preparing to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Because of his obedience, God showed His power. We find in Joshua 5:1 that because of God’s power the Canaanites’ hearts melted and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.
We must constantly remember and practice Joshua’s simple and powerful message from Joshua 5:1 as we live out our Christian lives. We must strive with unrelenting aggressiveness and with a single focus to become a consistent radical Christian whose legacy is clearly defined and cemented. Be encouraged with the following truths of scripture:
The battle is the LORD’s (Yahweh’s). He will fight for us. However, our obedience moves His mighty hand. We must share with others His consistent testimony of His mighty grace in and thru us. When others hear about it, their hearts will melt and their spirits will no longer fight the LORD, but rather they will repent and surrender to Him at once.
Only Elohim, our Triune God, is God. We are not God. Idols and pride in our lives are one hundred percent out of bounds for Christians.
Our one hundred percent obedience to the Word of God is always required, because
Our obedience to the Word of God will always produce the necessary victory for the
Greater hallowing of our Father, who will conquer the territory and the people. He promised this to Joshua and hence, to us as well. Following Him will lead us to His Promised Land that flows with milk and honey. This provides us with the ability to
Taste now His abundant nutritious milk and His delicious sweet honey, to share with others.
In Psalm 34, King David was in great distress. He recounted what he had learned about God and what he had experienced from the hand of God. This account meshes well with what we have learned from Joshua.
Three truths to remember and observe as we pursue our quest to become Radical Christians:
Taste the LORD our Father
Trust and obey the LORD our Father, and
Fear the LORD our Father.
Joshua and the Apostle Paul were both one hundred percent saturated and fully driven by the radical love of the Father. From this we learn that the Old Testament and New Testament have a common focus and aim. Both of these men had the goal of making their Father, our Father, very happy. They pressed on regardless of how they felt, in spite of the intensity and severity of the test, trial, suffering, pain, and agony they were facing. Their aim was to hallow the name of the Father in bigger and better ways every time the opportunity arose. They could accomplish this because they understood our Father’s faithfulness and His unlimited sufficiency of grace.
The Apostle Paul was and is the most radical Christian in the Scriptures and in Christian dome. He was a serial killer of Christians and was the number one enemy of Jesus Christ and His Church. He had a profound encounter with Jesus Christ and had a radical conversion. He wrote thirteen books of the New Testament. Paul was and is the most radical missionary ever. He traveled over fifteen thousand dangerous miles in terrible conditions. He was put in prison for Christ.
Because of his actions before he became a Christian, Paul declared himself to be the chief of sinners. He professed this to be true because he did not know me, the real chief of sinners! He was a legalist of legalists, with no concept of grace until his conversion to Christ. He was a Jew, who had the knowledge, but not the heart.
Paul endured severe suffering as he served Christ. He was not a complainer and he counted it a privilege to suffer for Christ. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we find the account of a thorn in the flesh being given to Paul to keep him humble. Three times he asked God to take it away from him. God’s answer was that His grace was sufficient for Paul and His strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul accepted God’s answer and wrote that when he was weak, then he was strong because the power of Christ rested on him.
Paul presents important lessons for us in the 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 passage:
1. In verse 7 we find that our Father uses suffering and pain to keep us humble, consecrated, and one hundred percent dependent on Him alone.
2 In verse 8 Paul tells us that we must pray persistently and precisely. He says to listen and be confident to know that our Father listens to the prayers of His righteous children all of the time. He also tells us that he pleaded three times for God to take the thorn away.
3 In verse 9 Paul’s instruction is to teach us that our Father always answers the prayers of His righteous children. So, He told Paul that He was not going to heal him, but He wanted him to keep praying radically for His strengthening grace. Then with that strength he could persevere with joy, so he would not bring his Father any shame. Afterwards, his testimony would become even much more powerful.
4 In verse 10 Paul is saying that our pain and suffering must not and cannot paralyze us or stop us from our single mission of hallowing our Father’s holy name. They also must not hold us back from advancing and spreading the Gospel, the name of Jesus. We must endure with the greater eternal joy that is before us.
In the context of the Apostle Paul’s experience, I want to tell you a compelling story of what happened to my dear wife Barbara. I am not bragging about Barbara but I am boasting about Jesus Christ who dwells within Barbara and empowers her to carry out her responsibility to get the job done regardless of how she feels.
Barb is not one to complain. Rather, she absorbs a lot of pain daily, especially after she lost three fingers in an automobile crash. She suffers daily from phantom pain. When we have long days of ministry, she gets up very early to prepare her body to endure the pain she knows will be coming. But Barb also realizes that pain, suffering, and the absence of three fingers are not her major problem. Her biggest problem is her sin problem. She also acknowledges that she must not react in fear when the turbulent times come because that can paralyze her and bring shame to our Father.
I am a very intense and passionate person as I strive in ministry to do the most with the least for the least. I put in long and hard hours to do what it takes to get things done. I expect the same in others and get frustrated when they don’t meet my expectations. I am told that I can be difficult to live with or to be around. My biggest challenge is to not let my intense passion overshadow my authenticity for the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The day after we returned from being out of the office for sixteen days an intense rain flooded our office. It created a big mess and brought our work in the office to a halt. Barb was under intense pressure to get caught up and to get major projects completed. This created deep internal stress. With much expense and hard work, the office was put back into working order. Right after that another big rain came through and flooded the office again which put Barb even further behind.
Barb has been experiencing back spasms with some degree of intensity but not long lasting. I took dinner to Barb who was working late in the office trying to get caught up. As I was cleaning up after the meal, I brought up a couple of ministry issues and ministry related items that needed to get done. Suddenly, an avalanche of almost unbearable pain moved into Barb’s back, right on the center of her back, that totally paralyzed her. She was clinging tightly to the chair and she could not move. Her face was in total agony, and her eyes were closed. She even screamed a couple of times but she could not talk. This was the worst pain Barb had ever experienced and for two hours nothing could ease the pain.
I realized that I was the cause of her pain. In retrospect, I should have been more sensitive and should not have brought up those ministry issues or things that needed to get done because doing so brought more tension to her already stressed life. Not being able to do anything to ease her pain affirmed to me that the only effective thing that Christians can really do is to labor in agonizing radical persistent Biblical Prayer.
I prayed for Barb and she followed the Apostle Paul’s Biblical example and cried out in anguish to Jesus. The more Barb prayed in the name of Jesus for the pain and the suffering to be taken away, the more the pain intensified. The added stress had momentarily paralyzed her. Finally after two hours, the pain subsided enough so that she could slowly walk to the car.
Please pray that I will not cause unnecessary stress to Barb. Also pray that I will be much more sensitive in my prayer life to my wife’s needs for greater cooperation and partnership in ministry, especially in listening to her with much more acuteness.
The Bible, God’s Word, helps us as we define our legacy. It tells us that to be like Christ is to pray like Christ. We are directed to radically pray the very will of God with persistency, deep humility, burning love, fervency, and boldness, regardless of how we feel. Doing so compels us to pray in the Spirit, in agony and anguish, pushing like a pregnant woman until God our Father delivers the petition we are requesting. We do this for the Greater Hallowing of His Name.
As Christians, we are required to soak in the Word of God. When we are in the Word, we will discover that we are commanded, fully compelled, and irresistibly driven with a radical invitation from our good loving Father. He invites us to enter in the same perpetual relationship and love affair with Him that Jesus enjoys, without interruption and distraction.
The Bible makes it clear that we are engaged in a very ugly, evil, and destructive spiritual war. It is impossible for us to fight and win this war by ourselves because the Devil is more powerful than we are and he hates us with unlimited evil passion. When we do not have the full and constant protection and direction of our Triune God, we are very vulnerable prey for the Devil. Satan’s goal is to bring shame to God’s name. He knows he can accomplish this by keeping us away from our post and from our duty to pray radically and to love radically.
Therefore, in order not to bring shame to the name of our Great God, our legacy as radical Christians must be defined and constantly practiced. We must have an explosive, contagious, genuine, and sincere, individual and corporate relationship with our Father. It is essential that we be fully dressed in the armor of God, with radical vigilance, knowing that we have a very evil adversary, who knows how to scheme and confuse us. What a privilege it is to always be able to anticipate with full expectancy and assurance our Father’s eagerness to protect us and fight for us. He is willing to surprise us with His astonishing wonderful wonders, as we consecrate fully to Him in obedience through radical Biblical prayer!
Joshua is a type of Christ. He is the Jesus of the Old Testament. We must become like Joshua in obeying our Great God. The Book of Joshua is about war. God revealed to Joshua how to prepare for war and how to fight to win with the least number of casualties. He needed God’s help because the devil is very serious about his mission. He is extremely furious and he is radically relentless as he is after our souls and our worship (Matthew 4).
God made Joshua successful because he followed God’s orders. God requires that we take full responsibility, like Joshua, in not shortchanging or in cutting any corners in our uncompromising commitment to Him. It is our duty to obey our absolute sovereign Good Father one hundred percent of the time. It is essential that our obedience flows out of a relationship that aims at hallowing His name all the time and every time by becoming like Christ.
Remember that radical Biblical prayer is not one thing we do as Christians, but rather it is what we do and it is what defines us. It is who we are in Christ. Therefore, radical Biblical prayer must become for the Christian much more important and essential than the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. We know with certainty, that our relationship with God our Father through Jesus Christ, is real. He not only listens to our prayers for as long as we want to talk to Him, but He acts on our prayers because we are praying His very will. How comforting to know that this is possible because He loves us radically and we are His child. That is great news! Our security as believers is found exclusively in our relationship with our Father that happens only through radical Biblical prayer.
This devotional is a continuation of Radical Christianity, Part 2, which started the process of helping us focus on defining our legacy as Joshua had done. Joshua’s legacy is clearly defined and displayed in Joshua chapter three and his legacy must become our legacy.
Epaphras was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. Paul was in chains in prison when he wrote to the church in Colosse about him. Paul’s desire was for us to become disciples of Christ Jesus just like Epaphras. His description of Epaphras is seen in Colossians 4:12. He tells the church in Colosse that Epaphras was a bondservant of Christ who always labored fervently for them in prayer. The goal of his prayer was that they would stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
The Apostle Paul and Epaphras were both bondservants of Jesus Christ. A bondservant is a slave with no rights to complain or argue. They were servants like Joshua, who obeyed without delay. Because Epaphras was a bondservant, he had no choice but to labor fervently in prayer. In the sentiment and words of the late Pastor David Wilkerson, Epaphras clearly reflected in his prayer life the baptism of anguish by the Holy Spirit, so he could labor in the painful anguish agony of others and for others, so they could stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Therefore, it is our Christian duty to be involved in a laboring, exclusive, and effective ministry of fervent, agonizing prayer. This ministry in us must be true, consistent, real, transferable, contagious, and lasting as consistent disciples of Christ. This will provide a deeper capacity to suffer, so others may also stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, with impeccable integrity.
When that happens, it is like accomplishing the Great Commission, which every Christian is required to fulfill. Regrettably, this will not be fulfilled unless each of us and our churches become houses of prayer as Jesus commanded us in Mark 11:17. The Great Commission is an impossible mission that requires prayer!
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Notice how this passage synchronizes with Colossians 4:12. We are to rejoice, so we can pray with joy, fight for our joy and the joy of others, without ceasing, and with genuine gratitude because that is the exact will of God. We cannot pray to a God to whom we are not grateful.
Each of us should want to do the exact and precise will of God our Father, out of gratitude, to please Him, to make Him happy, to hallow His Holy Name, and to adore Him. Jesus has done this and continues to do this without interruption or distraction. When we do this it makes us followers of Him. Bondservants of Christ Jesus must obey without hesitation because there is radical and permanent transformative power in our obedience!
Chuck Colson stated that Christian leadership is about three things: Number one: Integrity, Number two: Integrity, and Number three: Integrity!! Former Minnesota Governor and US Congressman Al Quie stated that he has lived his Christian life with aggressive integrity. Integrity is required in each of us as living gospel examples or living monuments to live what we believe. It is also required in the content of the Gospel we proclaim and believe. Our gospel must always contain Christ crucified and resurrected as seen in I Corinthians 1:18-2:6. It also must be fueled every time by radical biblical prayer in the biblical tension of truth and grace.
What is our legacy? What is required for each of us to become people of compassion with impeccable integrity, who are not paralyzed by human fear? How are we developed into people who are filled with grace, valor, truth, and courage? What does it take for us to be seen as loving, joyful, peaceful, real, fervent, genuine, transparent, giving, and obedient Christians? It all hinges on us becoming and being remembered as women and men of prayer! Remember that to become like Christ is to pray like Christ.
People of prayer are radically grateful, always teachable, enveloped with visible consistent meekness, gentleness, and compassion. They are driven by our Father’s radical love and are faithful ambassadors of reconciliation, always forgiving, and are trustworthy. These people are one hundred percent committed to persevering in Christ with unspeakable joy, and unfathomed peace. They never quit, nor leave anyone behind, and they never deny the grace of God to anyone. The aim in becoming people of prayer who demonstrate these spiritual qualities is that everything is done for the greater hallowing of our Good Father. (Mark 11:17; Romans 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 4:6; Hebrews 12:2; I Peter 1:8)
Recently, as I have been on my prayer walks, I have been asking God to reveal to me the one single focus and engine that will define and drive all of our ministries forward towards the Promised Land. One that will define my legacy and the legacy of all Koinonia House Ministries for the greatest hallowing of our Father with visible, explosive, eternal, effective, and tangible results.
Joshua is a great example to follow in this quest. When God told him to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River, he obeyed without delay because he had an unwavering trust in Yahweh. Yahweh was the exclusive object of his affection, because Joshua felt fully secure in God his Father alone. In Joshua 4:23-24, God told Joshua that his legacy of following Yahweh’s commands would be a testimony of God’s might to all the people of the earth. Joshua became a credible witness exclusively for Yahweh. Remember, Joshua is the Jesus of the Old Testament.
In Romans 8:26-28, we read that the Spirit helps in our weaknesses and makes intercessions for us according to the will of God because we do not know what to pray. Because of the Spirit’s intercessions, all things work together for good for those who are called according to God’s purpose. God the Spirit and God the Son, Jesus, hit the target of hallowing our Father every time because they pray the will of God. Our simple aim as Christians is to become like Christ in His humanity and learn how to pray radically in order to love the Father and His children radically. Jesus awaits to come back, at any moment, to rescue us, His bride, once and for all. For us to become like Jesus, we need to wait in expectancy with eagerness for Jesus’ return for us, His bride.
The discussion above now leads to the answering of the question posed above regarding the one thing defining our legacy. The Holy Spirit clearly told me: Manny Mill, here is your single legacy for your life in Christ. I want people to remember you exclusively as a man of prayer, for the greater hallowing of My name, to empower you and all the ministries of Koinonia House to do My will!
Joshua 3:17 defines Biblically what a radical Christian looks like in the context of the definition of our legacy. The priests held the Ark of the Covenant on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until all of the people had crossed over to the other side. Let me remind you that every Christian must become a priest, whose responsibility is to intercede on behalf of others, before our Holy Father’s throne of grace just like Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing right now. We need to have our hearts transformed and in tune with our Father, fully synchronized, as we make supplications on behalf of others.
A radical Christian believes what God our Father has said and stands in the gap and intercedes for others. Notice that the priests stayed in the middle of the Jordan until everyone had crossed. As my friend Chuck Colson told me, “A radical Christian must keep his or her post and do his or her duty without complaining or arguing, never leaving anyone behind.
In Joshua 4:1-7 we find that God commanded Joshua to have stones taken from the middle of the Jordan River from which a memorial was to be made. It would be a reminder for years to come of what God had done in bringing the Israelites safely across the Jordan River. Radical Biblical Christianity produces unforgettable and radical memories we cannot forget, but rather remember, because radical Christians are grateful, teachable, meek people, and ambassadors of reconciliation. They are one hundred percent committed to persevering in Christ with unspeakable joy, and they never quit, for the greater hallowing of our Good Father. They are committed to becoming effective and credible men and women of prayer. Note Hebrews 12:2 and I Peter 1:8. Are you in the habit of making memories that hallow the name of our Father?
There are three words that describe real, practical, consistent, credible, and radical Christianity: messy, but joyful. When one receives, believes, embraces, lives out, and proclaims Christ Jesus, the Christ of the Scriptures, one receives the Father’s radical love with the hope of glory that produces unspeakable Joy. We must fight for our joy and the joy of others!
Therefore, radical Christianity is about our radical obedience as Christians, rooted in the absolute truth of the word of God. Hence, we must not be driven by our unguarded feelings, paralyzing fears, unstable emotions, nor human opinions, but practice our radical obedience to our Father in a non-negotiable and non-compromising manner! Radical Christianity seeks and aims at cultivating and developing, through hard, precise, and specific training, our new heart that we received from God our Father the day we experienced our new birth in Christ.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Based on this verse, we see our urgent problem: we don’t have the ability or the know how to change. Consequently, radical Biblical prayer is essential, urgent, and critical. Radical Biblical prayer that hallows our Good Father says, I cannot change myself, but I know and trust that God My Father can. He is able and He will, because He is a Loving Father and He has done it before.
God our Father gives a radical promise and a permanent solution to our urgent problem: He gives us a heart transplant. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
God is saying that He loves you radically and that He is going to deliver you one hundred percent from your slavery of sin. This includes all of your addictions to sin, to the world, and the guilt of sin, in order that all of your affections (one hundred percent) will be for Him. You are His child, and His alone. He expects you to trust Him and immediately obey His word alone, by consecrating one hundred percent of yourself to Him.
God is also saying that He will not abandon you and He will always provide for you and surprise you, because His reputation is at stake. He is sufficient for you. He is your security and protection and He will satisfy you fully. He will take you on an adventure that will last forever, beginning now, so you can marvel at His astonishing wonderful wonders.
That is what Yahweh commanded Joshua. Joshua’s aim and only objective was to make God the Father happy (hallowing His name) by training his ear to obey His word, His voice alone, without delay or hesitation. Therefore, Joshua obeyed without delay because he knew the WHO that knows the HOW and also because he had seen Yahweh accomplish this in the past. Joshua had tasted of the Promised Land that flowed with milk and honey and that was the only milk and honey he needed.
Joshua also knew that Yahweh did not promise a temporary freedom, nor a quick fix type of help. He had promised a permanent, one time freedom with a one hundred percent joyful deliverance and with no permission to ever go back to Egypt (the world, addictions, slavery and imprisonment.)
God told Joshua that since Moses was now dead, he was the new leader of the Children of Israel. God’s promise to Joshua was that He would help him and fulfill the same promises for him that He has promised to Moses. Yahweh wanted Joshua to radically trust and obey Him. He also gave him two radical promises. 1) He would give them all of the land the sole of his foot touched, and 2) He would fight for them and no one would be able to defeat them.
The secret for Joshua, and for you and me, to be strong and courageous, so we will arise and go every time we hear His voice is found in Joshua 1:8: This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. The only exclusive source from which the radical grace of God our Father flows with unlimited power and unlimited supply is The Word of God—the Book of the Law.
Every time God our Father gives us a mission with a command, He also gives us an abundant promise with a lot of benefits and blessings. Following His commands requires our absolute trust with radical obedience to arise and go. Joshua, a type of Christ, and then Jesus Christ clearly demonstrated for this us, as they both relied in the unlimited super powerful grace the Father supplied through His Spirit, to make them strong and courageous. If we want to be strong and courageous, we must do the same.
Yahweh desires us to become a radical partaker of his unlimited grace, by cultivating a much more intimate and effective life of radical, Biblical, bold, persistent, fervent, and passionate prayer and lamentation. Doing so enables us to become stronger and much more courageous in doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord, regardless of the consequences. It also empowers us to trust and obey our Father without delay.
Many nations have plotted and planned to annihilate the Nation of Israel but Israel still exists just as God promised. Become knowledgeable of God’s word, pray radically, and trust God one hundred percent for Him to fulfill His promises to you just like He has for Israel.
As Christians, we have been guaranteed a wonderful future! When Jesus comes back to this earth, we look forward to receiving our new bodies, having the consummation of our marriage to Jesus Christ, and living in the new heavens and the new earth. This fantastic future has been paid in full and will take place because God has promised that it will and He keeps His promises. He will never default on His name. He keeps his promises one hundred percent.
In Joshua 3:9-13, we find that God is about to repeat an astonishing miracle that He performed at the Red Sea when the Israelites fled from Egypt. It is not only that God keeps all of His promises that is wonderful, but the way He keeps them is amazing. Based on His promises we can keep anticipating and expecting greater surprising and astonishing wonders from Him. When He does things that can only point to Him alone as the only source, it serves for the hallowing of His name and holy reputation.
In verse 10, God promised that He would without fail drive the people living in the Promised Land out of the land. Later on in the Book of Joshua, we find that He fulfilled that promise. No one can stand against our God. He will defeat all of His enemies. We must depend on God to defeat our enemies. When we go against them without Him, we will be defeated.
The Israelites needed to cross the Jordan River in order to enter the Promised Land. Another of God’s mighty miracles loomed on the horizon. In verse 13, God promised that when the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord entered the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan would be cut off and the waters coming down from upstream would stand as a heap. What happened at the Red Sea was repeated here. Once again God turned impossibility into possibility. Big things happen when Yahweh shows up. He went ahead of the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. We truly desperately need and want Him to go ahead of us as we face life’s problems.
In verse 11, God is titled the Lord of all the earth. In other words, the crossing of the Jordan will not only impact Israel, but also will have worldwide and eternal impact for the greater hallowing of God our Father’s name. Likewise, we are witnesses of God’s wonderful wonders and He wants to include and use us as participants to proclaim His name to the world. We are His missionaries.
God our Father is looking for credible, loving, and courageous witnesses that will carry on the legacy of hallowing His name with holy and consistent reverence. He does not want to use those who constantly complain, doubt, and compromise the gospel of truth and grace and argue with God about what they deserve. God cannot use people who keep going back to Egypt again and again with their idols, to become slaves to sin again. Those who look like the world and engage in worldly addictions, with self-satisfaction as their aim, cannot be used by Him: To be used as His witness God requires that we fear Him with a holy reverent fear.
God has given us His word to instruct us in living godly lives. It is important to read, know, and live God’s word. In verse 3, Joshua told the Children of Israel to listen to Him and hear the words of the Lord their God. In Deuteronomy 32:46-47, Moses instructed the Israelites to pass on to their children what they learned from God’s word. We need to soak in the word of God and become aggressive in collaboration with the Holy Spirit in training our ears to listen. Then we must put what we learn into action and act only on one voice–the voice of Yahweh manifested in Christ Jesus and revealed by the Holy Spirit.
What types of Jordan Rivers do you desperately need for Yahweh to open? Are you burdened with addictions, depressions, doubts, insecurities, disappointments, etc.? Yahweh can deliver you from them and put you on the road to the Promised Land so you can taste the milk and honey. Then when God has delivered you, your permanent response must be one of gratitude with constant joyful and exuberant worship in adoration of God our Good Father. Doing this will lead to the greater hallowing of God’s name.
What else do we need or want to satisfy us, if we are filled with the “how much more” of the overflowing powerful power of our Father’s powerful glorious presence? The one sacred duty of the Christian is to make certain not to bring any type of shame to God our Father. We must not violate the two essential and non-negotiable ingredients of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Those two ingredients are truth and grace. Jesus Christ is the fullness of truth and grace. He was crucified and resurrected for the Father’s glory in order for His Father’s grace to abound in us and through us. Thus, others must see the Glorious presence of God our Father demonstrated in us.
Hallowing God’s name is essential to the walk of Christians. We are not left alone to figure out how to make that real in our lives. Jesus came to earth as God’s only begotten fully human son and also as our older Brother. He showed and told how to hallow His Father’s name. Joshua is a type of Christ. He was the leader of the Israelites. He was a mere human who understood, and was totally committed to not rob God our Father of His glorious glory. Unfortunately, the Israelites refused to follow his example and they did not hallow God’s name. They were double minded and lukewarm. They wanted Yahweh for the benefits, but they also worshipped idols of their own making.
We must be careful not be like the Israelites and make decisions that are not radically driven by radical biblical prayer with the affirmation, confirmation, and approval of God our Father. God expects our motivation to be pure and sincere to make our Father happier. When that does not happen, it robs God our Father of His glory. Hallowing the Father’s Name is what must motivate us and hence drive us as Christians.
As Jesus agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He demonstrated that He was one hundred percent satisfied in the Father alone and that He was one hundred percent motivated by the Father’s love for Him. When Jesus said, “Not My will but Yours be done” He was saying, I came exclusively to make sure that no one, not even Me, will ever bring You shame or be ashamed of You. We cannot afford to be disconnected from an intimate and inseparable relationship with God our Father through Jesus Christ for even one second. That is possible only by having a personal biblical prayer life that prays with boldness, persistency, and in the power of the Spirit. We have nothing to offer, nor can we do anything for ourselves or for anyone else, without the powerful power of our Father’s glorious powerful presence. His presence and His glory are inseparable.
Our aim in life should always be to live in the tension of truth and grace as commanded in John 1:14-16. God wants us to be sincere and not hypocritical. Hence, the Christian is required to live his/her life with impeccable, transparent, and visible integrity. What sets the Christian apart from anyone else is that we are required to love in the same way we have been loved by God our Father through Jesus Christ. We must not just talk but we must put what we learn into action.
Why does God our Father want us to listen to Him? It is because He does not want us to miss His surprising good news and wonders. It is our duty to hear God’s word so that we can obey it with no excuses. We are commanded to become doers of the word! In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we learn that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that God bought us at a great price. Therefore, we are to glorify Him in our body and in our spirit, which are His. As God’s purchased people we much listen to His word and obey it.
King Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple he built for Yahweh is recorded in 2 Chronicles 6. When reading chapters 5-7 for the full account, it can be seen by the number of times Solomon refers to the name of Yahweh that Yahweh was his motivation for that prayer. Chapter 7:1-3 show how God responded to His prayer. Fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice. This caused the Israelites to bow in worship and praise to Yahweh. Consider these lessons to be learned from II Chronicles 7:1-3:
Verse 1: Our radical prayer life must be biblical and carefully crafted to make us constantly aware of our shortcomings. Then the fire of the LORD can consume and burn our self/ego and pride. Doing so will make more room for His glory to fill our temples, our bodies, with fresh fire from the Spirit and to fire us up to make our Father greater.
Verse 2: The clear evidence of the glory of the LORD in our temples must be visibly noticeable, irresistibly attractive, and tangibly manifested through our radical prayer life.
Verse 3: The glorious powerful presence of God our Father in us, must attract others like a magnet, so they too will make radical prayer their priority and will hallow our Father’s name in worship because He is good and His mercy endures forever.
Are you desperate to see a genuine Biblical revival breakthrough in your lifetime where the powerful power of our Father’s powerful presence will be manifested through the body of Christ and spread like a wild fire? We must take regular radical time outs in order to experience a fresh, noticeable, and undeniable radical revival that will be characterized and witnessed by others with a:
1. Consistent deep hunger and
2. Burning radical desire
3. For Jesus Christ to become our all in all,
4. To Experience a consuming fire of self and pride from the Spirit,
5. That will burn deeper within our souls, to
6. Awaken us and drive us in exuberant worship of our triune God, where
7. Radical, Biblical, intense, intimate prayer becomes much more important than the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe, to
8. Experience the “how much more” of our father’s irresistible, lavishing, and relentless powerful, loving presence, and grace, for
9. The greater hallowing of our Father.
Our Father desires and keeps pursuing us in order to enter into a permanent relationship with us, without interruption or distraction. His longing is for us to stop running away from Him and make it our desire to worship Him and Him alone, not for what He will give us, but rather for who He is. He is our Good Father! That is why our Father makes it clear in Isaiah 42:8-9, with a firm, yet tender voice, that infuses us with great hope, that He wants to surprise us with His wonders, because today He wants to make us great so we can make Him greater.
When Yahweh says in Isaiah 42:8, “My glory (My powerful presence) I will not give to another”, He is saying, I have created and chosen you for my glory, before the foundation of the world, as my children alone! Therefore, I will not deposit nor share my glorious seal of my Powerful Presence with anyone else. It is either you or no one else. I have My eyes fixed on you alone. I will not leave you nor forsake you. I will wait here for you while you are in captivity, until you get tired of running and sinning against Me, and become fully repentant. Only I set the captives free, open the eyes of the blind, release the prisoners from their prison cells, and bring light to those who sit in darkness.
Because of who He is, our good, holy, and loving Father requires our radical consecration with a consistent vigilant one-hundred percent commitment to take radical time outs for personal inventory and purification in our relationship with Him. Hence, Radical Prayer is essential!
The Ark of the Covenant, in the Old Testament, was the most sacred object of the tabernacle and also of the temple in Jerusalem. It was kept in the holy of holies. It represents and reflects the powerful power of the powerful, glorious, and holy presence of God our Father, which has been deposited in us, His temple, through the Holy Spirit. All Christians are priests who, according to Joshua 3:8, have the responsible duty and sacred function to hallow the name of our Father. This is accomplished as we stand in the gap and labor in love, interceding for others in prayer (Colossians 4:12) with the sacred truth of the holy word (The Ark of the Covenant). God our Father can then use us as His vessels of His mercy who carry the presence of His glory (Romans 9:23) to accomplish great things for Him, making Him greater.
It behooves us then to pray that the Holy Spirit will:
1. Awaken in us a deep desire and hunger that will devour the scriptures with prayer, so that we will become
2. Consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, in each of us, our churches we represent, and beyond, as we
3. Become a house of prayer for the nations, where
4. Christ then becomes our all in all, moving from the center to the all, and moving from first place to all.
5. That only happens when we brake unbiblical human traditions and human protocol, as we arise, go, and prepare for Biblical prayer to become not the one thing we do, but become what we do and who we are. As Christians, this needs to be part of our DNA. This is clearly commanded in scripture by Jesus Himself in Mark 11:17 and it takes place when we cultivate a radical, deep, personal, and corporate prayer life in relationship with our Father, Eph. 1:23.
During the Children of Israel’s journey in the wilderness, Moses begged God to go with them. In Exodus 33:14, God responded that He would go with them. Joshua was now the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses. He must have found it very comforting when God told him in Joshua 3:7 that just as He had been with Moses, He now would be with him. He also told Joshua that He would make him great in the sight of all Israel. We need to understand that Yahweh is telling us that just as He was with Joshua, He will be with us.
It is interesting to see how God began to validate Joshua to Israel. Moses brought the Israelites to the Red Sea. With Pharaoh’s army closing in on them, they needed to cross the Red Sea. God opened the waters and they safely crossed. Now under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites needed to cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. God opened the waters and they crossed into the Promised Land. The New Geneva Study Bible’s notes state, “The LORD, Yahweh, validated Joshua’s leadership by repeating the wonders He did at the Red Sea through Moses. The God of Joshua is the God of Moses.”
Are you in need of a radical and powerful freeing truth? Here it is: The God of Joshua and Moses, Yahweh, the Deliverer, is also our God! He wants to make us great so we can make Him greater. This is accomplished through the irresistible powerful presence of God our Father residing in us.
God our Father is telling us with an urgent firm voice, in Joshua 3:7, that:
1. His mission, the gospel, of calling and radically consecrating His children back to Himself, has not changed or died just because Moses died. Hence,
2. We must then be the type of Joshua to arise, go, and always be prepared to defend, proclaim, value, and cherish our Father’s holy presence. This is accomplished through a one hundred percent committed radical holy Biblical prayer life that is characterized by radical intimacy and consecration with our Father. Consequently,
3. His presence will validate, empower, and give credibility to our ministry, like it did with Joshua, of hallowing His holy name among His people and leading others to do the same.
4. Therefore, we must be fit to serve Him, not tired or sleeping, or complaining, or amused by this world. We must not forget what our mission is or who we represent. We do not have the luxury of waiting any longer to fulfill His mission, because TODAY He wants to make you great, so you can make Him Greater.
God our Father wants to deposit His permanent glory in you, His consecrated cleansed house, TODAY. Without God our Father’s powerful presence, we have nothing to offer. Hence, we would have no ministry. We need to ask God our Father for the impossible. Not to do so offends Him.
My Father and my God, I am desperate for your presence NOW. I want your presence to be much more valuable to me than all the material possessions of this world. So, Father make me hungry for your presence. Make me desperate for your presence. Father, empower me with the same power and love for you, that empowered Jesus Christ to endure the cross with joy, for the greater hallowing of Your holy name. Give me a distaste for this world, and the things of this world. Increase my burning desire to be one hundred percent saturated by your presence. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Radical Consecration will produce radical and permanent deliverance with lasting transformation that will lead to personal revival. Consider this example from the Bible. Paul, a former serial killer, was surprised, delivered, transformed, and revived when confronted by Jesus Christ as he was on his way to kill more Christians. Through God’s grace, Paul became radically consecrated to the Father and His gospel. The body of believers today needs to experience this same revival and radical consecration!
Radical consecration requires us to soak in the all-sufficient, all-reliable and yes, all-delicious, Living Word of God, our play book, so we are enabled to pray the Word of God with boldness.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all of the Bible is inspired by God and it prepares us in every way for every good thing God wants us to do. We must know the Word of God in order to live the Word of God.
Jesus was radically consecrated when He came to earth. He came primarily to vindicate the holy name of his good and holy Father. He was crucified in order to save us from the guilt of our sin. Consequently, we are required to be one hundred percent consecrated, vigilant, and super radically aware that at any moment, Jesus may come back. We must make every effort to be pure, clean, and spotless when He returns to take us to the home He has prepared for us. John 14
In Isaiah 6:1-8 we encounter Isaiah’s very painful yet marvelous, radical, and glorious consecration ceremony. When he saw the awesome holiness of God he said that he was undone, meaning that he had totally fallen apart because he was a man of unclean lips. God’s provision for Isaiah’s radical consecration was to have a seraphim take a live coal from the altar and touch Isaiah’s mouth and lips with it. This act took Isaiah’s iniquity away and purged him of his sin. Because of this, Isaiah was filled with radical consecration. When God asked who would go Isaiah said, “Here am I! Send me!”
Please note two important practical applications and deep insights for us to immediately apply to our lives in Christ, as we compare Joshua with Isaiah in verse 8 when Isaiah said, “Here am I! Send me.”
1. Isaiah, just like Joshua, responded with a radical consecrated response of immediate obedience, as he arose, fully prepared and ready to go when he said, “Here am I! Send me.”
2. Furthermore, in verse 8 we read that Isaiah responded with “Here am I.” He did not say, Here I am. Here am I is not only a geographical position like we saw in Joshua, but most importantly it is also a personal consecrated position indicating that he is all in; one hundred percent in!
Isaiah and Joshua were both totally and radically consecrated and devoted to fulfil Yahweh’s mission, not their own, without ever giving up, regardless of how hard, difficult, or discouraging the mission became. That is exactly the position we should be in. It is Jesus we utter out of our mouth and through our lips. Hence, like Isaiah, in order to cleanse our hearts, tongues, minds, and lips, we need to experience the same radical, painful, yet glorious and marvelous consecrating ceremony.
Psalm 96:9 announces that we are to worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness and tremble before Him. That requires radical consecration in every area of our lives, including our marriage. We are told in Hebrews 13:4 that marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled. It goes on to say that God will judge fornicators and adulterers.
We must be one hundred percent radically consecrated to our Father. Doing so will cause us to believe and behave with meekness as chosen by the Father, purchased by the Son Jesus, sanctified and set apart radically by the Spirit, to become exactly like Christ. We must then value, cherish, adore, revere, esteem, exalt, worship, glorify, sanctify, and lift up real high the majestic, holy name of our great and good Father. This is accomplished as we bow our knees to Him with deeper humility, meekness, a gracious attitude, and a burning love for Him and for our neighbors. Then we are enabled to fulfill His great commission in the context of the first and second greatest commandments for the greater hallowing of His holy name.
We read in Deuteronomy 32:44-47 that Moses spoke all of the words God gave him to the people of Israel and told them to make those words their life. He followed this up by telling them that God would bless them if they did so. We need to follow Moses’ instructions and consecrate ourselves radically by making the Word of God our very life so, we can pray the Word radically to love radically.
For God, our Father to surprise us with His wonders and unlimited blessings, He requires our unwavering and intentional, radical consecration to Him, with a commitment to obeying Him with a willing and grateful heart. Doing so will then make us realize our desperate need for radical, fervent, bold, and specific Biblical prayer, to infuse us with the necessary power to make our Good Father happier as we do His will, not ours.
What did Jesus Christ do when He experienced temptations, trials, abandonment and betrayal by others? We find in Luke 22:44 that when He was in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then in verse 46 when He found the disciples sleeping he told them to rise and pray, so they would not enter into temptation. He was repeating his command from verse 40 which the disciples had ignored. They were to follow His example. Jesus asked the Father to take away the cup he was facing yet he also said He was willing to endure the suffering if it was His Father’s will. He was willing to endure the suffering and not skip the cross. We must be willing to endure the hardship and suffering God allows into our lives just as Jesus did. This is accomplished through radical prayer and by staying consecrated fully to our Father.
Radical Biblical prayer is not just one thing we do. It is what we are to do all the time. It is who we are. It is our devotion, culture, and lifestyle! It is our very life! We exist, so that in every breath we take seven days per week, twenty-four hours per day, we aim at being consecrated to our Father, so we can be true to our commitment to make our Father happier.
Jesus taught in Luke 11:2 that we should pray for the hallowing of God’s name. When we pray in that fashion big things happen. This is the prayer that drives every other prayer we pray. It is the prayer of priority. In order to hallow God’s name we are required to be one hundred percent consecrated to our Father as we value, cherish, adore, revere, esteem, exalt, worship, glorify, sanctify, and lift up real high His holy name. It also requires that we bow our knees to him with deeper humility, meekness, a gracious attitude, and burning love. It is necessary that we be committed to obeying Him without delay.
If we are not consecrated to the Father, then we are consecrated to the devil. That is deadly! Our Father is eager for us to get rid of all of our messes and all of our idols. He is zealous for us to ask Him to perform a deep power cleaning within our spirits, to hit all the corners and clean the entire house. He purchased this cleansing for us with the very expensive sinless blood of Jesus Christ. His command is for us to repent with godly sorrow. He will not approve our behavior that is not in line with His clear specific commands.
We must not do the right thing in the wrong way like Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. God prescribed very specific guidelines for how the Ark of the Covenant was to be moved. Long poles were to be inserted through the rings on the Ark and it was to be carried by the Levites. It was not to be touched. Instead of following God’s guidelines for moving the Ark, King David had it set on a new cart. The oxen pulling the Ark stumbled and Uzzah took hold of the ark to steady it. God’s anger was aroused against Uzzah and he died right there by the Ark of the Lord. He didn’t want the Ark to fall yet he did not follow the precise guidelines of the Lord. An important lesson to be learned from Uzzah is that excitement and zeal for the Lord can never replace simple obedience. Our lack of consecration and our disobedience devalue the gospel. We must be convinced and believe that Yahweh means all He says, and then comply in obedience to all He commands.
What sin and idols in our relationship with Yahweh are preventing us from one hundred percent consecration, so our Good Father will surprise us with His wonders and unlimited blessings? Let’s make King David’s prayer of confession and consecration in Psalm 51 our prayer as well.
God is eager to surprise us with his wonders when we pray radically to love radically. We need to pray with great anticipation, radical expectation, and unwavering confidence in the finished redemptive work of Christ Jesus. Then God will surprise us saying, “Here my son, here my daughter, this is what you really need!” God expects us to be one hundred percent strong, real, set apart, consistent, resilient, obedient, humble, teachable, and dedicated. This leads to a readiness to arise, go, and be prepared to engage and lead others into any battle He sends for the greater hallowing of His name.
Joshua 3:5 does not leave any room for negotiation with God. It eliminates any excuse for bringing shame to our Father’s name or for hurting the people we say we love. It presents a very critical, urgent, and super important message for today because the church is being defiled, the gospel misinterpreted, and America is in spiritual ruins. The key is consecration to God. The definition of consecration is to be set apart for a holy use; to dedicate to God our Father and to Him alone. It involves being sanctified and purified; to devote ourselves one hundred percent to our Holy Good Father alone!
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, because the LORD will do wonders among you tomorrow.” This also is a personal invitation from Yahweh Himself to Christians today and we must obey without delay. Yahweh means the God who delivers. Yahweh is making you an amazing irresistible promise today. He wants to deliver you and free you from whatever handicap, slavery, addiction, oppression, falsehood, misconceptions, or imprisonment you are experiencing. He is offering to heal you from mental, emotional, or physical handicaps by transforming the disposition of your heart, which is the central station or the control room, for a Christian.
Yahweh delivers one time without any type of recovery program. Jesus came to make us brand new. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (one hundred percent consecrated), he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It is sad to see a great number of Christians allow their emotions to control them and paralyze them with fear. In Ephesians 1:17-20 God tells us that He will open our eyes of understanding so we will know that His power that raised Jesus from the dead is available for us. We have no excuse to live in spiritual paralysis.
We find the account of Moses leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt in Exodus 14. Moses told the Israelites to stand still and see the salvation of the LORD (Yahweh.) When they crossed the Red Sea and saw the dead Egyptians on the seashore they believed in Yahweh and in Moses. How sad that their belief lasted only three days. Then they went back to their complaining.
For God, our Father to bless us and to surprise us with His wonders time after time, we must consecrate ourselves to Him and to Him alone. He will not share us with the world or with the things of the prince of the world. It is either all or nothing; one hundred percent in or one hundred percent out!
Since God has offered us the help we need to live consecrated lives, why do we continue to live in the danger and misery of uncertainty and insecurity? We must stop bringing shame to our Good Father and stop being a double minded agent. We need to consecrate ourselves to Yahweh immediately so we can enjoy His transforming powerful wonders. Ask Him to make you hungrier and thirstier for His righteousness. You do not need to keep faking it or continue to live in the dumpster. Take your mask off, surrender now to our Good Father, repent with godly sorrow and become real because Jesus is the real deal.