Friday, October 16, 2009

Divine Evaluation

Revelation 1:12-13, “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.”

Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands, moving, working, ministering to His church. That’s what the lampstands represent (Revelation 1:20). Christ Jesus is in the midst of His people, but I wonder if there is something else, some other reason that Jesus navigates among the lampstands and so I offer this question: is the Lord Jesus looking for something?

In 2 Chronicles 16:9 the seer, Hanani, spoke to Asa, king of Judah, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” This statement comes as a rebuke to the king, for Asa had relied upon a worldly solution to his dilemma rather than trusting the Lord. These words come to the church today as a reminder that the Lord still searches the hearts of His own people. But what is the Lord Jesus looking for? Might He be looking for that lampstand, that church, even that Christian, which glows with no other light than His own? A light fueled by nothing less than the oil of His own Spirit?

When in the military, it was not uncommon for the commanders to gather their troops for inspection. They walked through the rank and file with their keen eyes set upon each soldier. They offered no encouragement, no pats-on-the-back. They inspected their troops and brought each soldier into compliance with their standards. Jesus doesn't walk in the midst of the lampstands simply to encourage but to examine, to evaluate the church and bring it into compliance with His standards. The second and third chapters of Revelation make that abundantly clear.

Jesus is looking at your life right now… what does He see? Does He see the flames of bitterness? Or does He see the darkness of doubt? Does Jesus see in you the embers of lost hope? The ashes of a forgotten faith? Does He see the missionary fires burning brightly? Does He watch the passionate flames of faithfulness despite the grip persecution? Will Jesus need to come into your life with the sword of His word and cut away the dross that diminishes your life? Will Jesus move through your church with encouragement or does he stand outside at the door, and knock?

They eyes of the Lord are upon you and He watches in order to commend or correct, to reward or rebuke. The Lord Jesus walks in the midst of his people and He is looking for something—He is looking for faith.

Rev. Michael Duncan

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Spiritual Dinosaur - The Prayer Meeting

What ever happened to the prayer meeting? Churches across the country have either canceled their prayer service or curtailed it to such an extent that it might as well be canceled. I’ve spoken with many pastors who have acknowledged the need for prayer but who have also decided that due to a lack of attendance, the time can be used for other endeavors. So, the prayer gathering of the church goes the way of the dinosaur, extinct with only fossilized remains to remind the church of what was.

Now I would agree that the dinosaur extinction is, perhaps, a necessity. I mean, who wants to go hiking in the mountains only to have a T-Rex disrupt a glorious morning? It ruins the entire experience. But is that the same for the prayer meeting of the church? Is the prayer meeting nothing more than a hindrance to spiritual growth and development—a disruption of other, more suitable activities?

First, prayer is the very breath of the Christian life. In the model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, the entire scope of the Christian life is conveyed: Recognition of God as Father, yielding to His will, seeking His provision, receiving His forgiveness, living with forgiveness toward others, and following His lead through life (Matthew 6:9-13). As Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray.” Perhaps many churches have abandoned this model and degenerated into selfish, whim-based prayers? If so, the church must return to this model for the prayer meeting.

Second, prayer is one of the four devotions of the church (Acts 2:42). “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” These four devotions of the church (and I mean by devotion: that which is an anchor point of faithful living) must play out in the congregations of God’s people. If you will allow the illustration, these are the four legs that support the altar of the Christian life: the word of God (the apostles’ teaching), the people of God (the fellowship), the worship of God (the breaking of bread), and communion with God (prayer). Without prayer the life dynamic of the church will collapse like a table with a missing leg.

Third, prayer is the place where the church begins to see the power of God manifested. The great revivals of old all had at their foundation a collection of praying Christians. It was the group who gathered in prayer that originally received the outpouring of God’s Spirit (Acts 1:14; 2:4). The ground shook when the church prayed (Acts 4:31). Peter escaped miraculously from prison as the church prayed (Acts 12:5). The Bible says, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-15).

Christians want to see God respond mightily to the circumstances that are in the world. But I believe that God just might be waiting on the church to respond humbly to Him in prayer and repentance. The prayer meeting of the church is not a dinosaur, lost to the ages past. It might very well be the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), needing to hear the voice of God again and rise up on their feet, a vast army—prayer warriors all.

Rev. Michael Duncan