Spiritual Apathy
FAITH INSPIRATION, Revival

We Have Been Comfortable For So Long

“If the world hated me, it will hate you, too.” (John 15:18)

Our 21st century, North American culture is a veritable “freedom utopia” for Christians, at least as far as it compares to the rest of the world. (So far, anyway. It appears that voters in the US signed themselves on for some drastic changes in the last number of years; Canada has recently joined the fray with the young, boyish, idealistic and inexperienced Trudeau junior, and it’s going to change the political and “political-correctness” landscape very quickly, and for a bunch into the future. I wish them luck.)

IT WAS SO GOOD, FOR SO LONG

Christians have long been imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith in other societies, both throughout history and in our modern world. Christians in China, not too long ago in Soviet Russia, and currently and in other places like North Korea suffer persecution and abuse at the hands of atheistic tormenters who hate Christianity and want to wipe every trace of it from their cultures. And these communists see the torture and abuse of other people as a necessary evil to rid the world of the fantasies of religion.

From a Christian perspective, Europe is in shambles, falling fast to the influences and the dominance of Islam. Places like Denmark and Norway are overrun by Muslims dominating the culture. The police in Oslo, for instance, will tell you that they have lost the city to the Muslims. Churches in England lay dormant and are selling on a regular basis to Muslim groups who are turning them into mosques and Islamic outreach centres.

NORTH AMERICA MAY WELL GO THE WAY OF EUROPE

Here in North America, we seem to be on the downward slide in many ways. We have been living on the fruit of our forefathers faith and relative spiritual righteousness for some time; but the fruit is rotting on the vine. The influence of political correctness has overrun the political system. And people (the majority of them, anyway) have abandoned a biblical world view. The fringe elements (as measured by their percentages in the population) have screamed the loudest, and politicians, for whatever reason (whether through ignorance or a wish to satisfy the loudest screamers to maintain their hold on power) have catered to the 3% minority at the expense of the other 97%, with the result that we are in a mudslide toward a moral abyss.

Gay rights and other special-interest groups are finding ways to have their proclivities entrenched in law, with the end result that people are effectively being muzzled from even having a legal right to speak freely to the fact that they believe what these groups are doing is immoral. It is now labelled “hate speech” to say that you think what they are doing is wrong, even if you try to tell them with the best of intention and with concern for their soul because of a biblical world view.

THERE ARE POCKETS OF REVIVAL, POSSIBILITIES FOR OUR FUTURE

Not all is lost. God is on the move. There are places where the church is exerting influence in the culture. There are churches and Christian groups that are taking it upon themselves to go to city and state capitols, simply to be present there to pray for the leadership of the cities and states. It is not with an agenda to evangelize; it is to lift these people up and bathe them in prayer because of their responsibility to govern wisely.

South Korea is a majority-Christian population. One of the fastest growing churches, according to some statistics, is the church in Iran. Christianity seems to flourish in countries where persecution runs high; pain drives us to our knees, and so, in times of desperation, the church grows strong with the Spirit of Christ moving them to selfless love and hearts of worship and praise. But that only explains Iran. The current church in South Korea is not because of persecution, but because of prayer, in spite of their freedom, but because of their zeal.

Here in North America, there are churches that are burgeoning at the seams because they were incubated and bathed in prayer. If you stop in for a visit on a Sunday morning at Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, you will be blown away at the passion these people have for praise and worship. They are over-the-top in love with Jesus, and the hands are raised and the faces are joyful, even at the back of the auditorium, even from the very first song. And they’re not in a hurry to leave that service early, either.

There are churches like Bethel in Redding, California that are mega-centers of revival and outreach, seeing miracles taking place, reaching their communities and seeing the miraculous, seeing lives changed, seeing people coming to Christ on a regular and consistent basis.

However, it is critical that we do not miss this point:

WE HAVE SO FAR MISSED THE CRITICAL MASS TO TURN THIS SHIP AROUND

Many in the North American church seem to feel that if we can just get the right guy in the Oval Office, we can get legislation in place to stop the moral decay in the country. It is true that when people do not live holy lives within the liberty that the Lord provides, it is necessary to restrain lawlessness from the outside, lest people who are self-serving and bent on evil will make the world a bad place for those who will be taken advantage of.

But there have been pro-life presidents in the White House over the last number of decades, on and off. And yet, they have never had the political capitol and/or the political will to force sufficient change through the courts and/or through the legislature to turn that ship around. Millions of babies have been sacrificed on the altar of convenience over the years since Roe vs. Wade, and there doesn’t seem to be much standing in the way of that. Republican presidents haven’t done much more about that than democratic ones. The same record has happened in Canada. For all the years there was a conservative prime minister in parliament, abortion laws never changed to where it became illegal to kill a baby in the womb.

Our country is divided because the heart of the people is divided. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and not many are willing or even interested in voting for the greater good of the society in general rather than voting on the basis of “what’s in it for me.”

The bottom line is these problems will not be fixed in our courts and legislatures but on our knees.

If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chr. 7:14)

But it will take a LOT of prayer – the kind of prayer that breaks us out of our complacency, our self-serving, our desire for ease, comfort, safety and security. As goes the Church, so goes the culture in which it blooms (or withers and dies).

Be the change. Be the church.

And if we, as the church, do not learn to take seriously our calling to prayer and to holiness, God will not be stopped from conforming us to His image. He may just end up using the pain and suffering of persecution to put us there. Either way, God will have His way in us, if we want Him to move.

(Last updated by The Cognitive Man – 2016-07-09)
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Church For the Big Screen TV
FAITH INSPIRATION, Revival

Church For The Big-Screen TV

There might be something wrong with pastors in America. But you could be doing some things that don’t help. And maybe, you could do something to make a difference.

In a recent post by Mario Maurillo Ministries about why American Preachers will not unify against the anti-God White House there were some thought-provoking points made about what seem to be some critical problems with the church in America.

Church For The Big-Screen TV

In brief, Pastor Maurillo mentioned what he thought were 7 specific reasons why church pastors in America shying away from standing boldly as a united front against the godless agenda that seems to be spewing out of the White House and the administration and plowing across so much of what the church holds precious. His 7 reasons, in brief, are these:

  • Fear of losing non-profit status – losing status means probably losing revenue;
  • Many do it because it is merely a paycheck – apparently, 50% of pastors would do something else if they could;
  • Some are as racist as those to whom they preach – self-explanatory, and sad but true.
  • Many do not value or even believe in the inspiration of scripture – many do not see the bible as “good news” so much as good advice; so the thorny issues might not be worth dealing with if we can’t even really know they are that big of a deal.
  • Many do not value that America is great because of the history of the church –  and if they don’t appreciate how America came to be great, they won’t recognize what will take her down.
  • Apathy, whether from exhaustion or from self-sufficiency – some feel it’s pointless; some feel there is no problem – we are just all golden children of God, no matter what.
  • Competition – sometimes pastors are not in it for God as much as they are in it for themselves.

It’s quite a list. There is a lot to think about there.

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the devil wants you dead
FAITH INSPIRATION, Revival

The Devil Wants You Dead

The Devil Wants You Dead. And God does, too. They just want it for different reasons.

The devil wants you dead because he hates you and wants to destroy you. He hates that God loves you and that God wants you to reflect His glory in the earth and for you to be a part of God’s plan. Simply put, God loves you and the devil hates what God loves.

God wants you dead, too. He wants to crucify your old man so he can bring out of  you a reflection of the saviour, allowing you to walk into what His desire is for you. It’s what His desire really has been for all of humankind, even since before the fall – that we would walk with Him, and Him with us, able to enjoy each other’s company.

We Need To See Ourselves As God Sees Us

God is desperately looking for friends with whom he can share his heart. He wants to spend time with us. That self-will you hold on to – all that stuff where you don’t really believe Him when He says, “do this,” or “don’t do that,” is killing you, a little at a time. And the guilt, shame and self-loathing it causes you creates a barrier between you and God.

The devil loves that stuff. But God wants to crucify that sin nature and that self-will so we can enjoy spending our time with him. He wants to free us from guilt about the past, anxiety about the future, and feelings of inadequacy. But to get there, you have to “die.”

Don’t be limited by only seeing the failures of your past

You think you’ve messed up? Maybe you have. Maybe you have really messed up. But do you realize that not one, but two people denied Christ? As Kris Vallotton says, one hung himself; the other ended up being the head of the church.

The point is that there are many people in the bible who had failures in their lives. But those failures don’t have to define you; they don’t have to mark the limits of who you can become in Christ. King David had great moral failures in his life, but David was known as a man after God’s own heart.

The devil has a clever way of messing us up and keeping us locked in patterns of self destruction. It’s one of the ways he tries to kill us. When you’re struggling with your choices, and you’re wrestling with a temptation, he tells you before you do it that it’s not that big a deal. But after you’ve given into it, he uses the guilt to shame you into thinking you’ll never change. When you’ve fallen, you feel guilty. You make plans to do better. But when you fall into the same patterns, you convince yourself you can never change. Or you measure your “success” by how well you’ve done since the last time you fell. Until you fail again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Don’t focus on that. That’s from the devil and he’s just trying to kill you. Focus on Jesus.

There is a part of us that wants to offer our own sacrifices to atone for our own sins. We can get into a trap where we believe that if we can just demonstrate that we’ve done enough “obedience” to outweigh our disobedience, then we can take ourselves seriously and somehow believe were are then worthy of the grace of God.

But that is a subtle form of pride. And that’s from the devil, and he’s just trying to kill you.

Peter’s remorse ran deep. For three days and nights after he denied Jesus, he had to live with who he really was. Jesus told him who he was. Peter thought that even if everyone else denied Jesus, he would stand firm. But Jesus told him he was very weak and that he would not be nearly as strong as he thought he was. We have to see who we really are. But we can’t stay there; that is only part of the story. Peter also had a promise from Jesus, in that Jesus told Peter He prayed for him:

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.(Luke 22:31-32)

The moral of the story is that you need to learn to “die to self” before you’re dead. To live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil 1:21). “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). “He who keeps his life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake will keep it” (Mark 8:35).

God does not see you merely in light of your past; he sees you also through the lens of eternity future, through the lens of your destiny. And so, as you learn to die to yourself, do it quickly. See yourself from your position in Christ.

Your bad decisions are either stumbling blocks or stepping stones

The difference has to do with pride; if you insist on seeing yourself as good enough, you will see a failure as “uncharacteristic” of you; it is a subtle trap from the devil, where he entices you to keep “trying” until you can see that you get it right. Your ratio of success and failure becomes the whole measure you use to determine your worth before God. But it’s still about you.

And focusing on YOU all the time is a trap of the devil. And the devil wants to kill you. Focus on Jesus.

If you simply acknowledge that you are not good enough, but you acknowledge that you need Jesus to do it in you, he will. The beautiful irony is that recognizing you are not “good enough” positions you to receive His grace. And when you surrender to Him, then He is able to see you as both beautiful and “good enough” – because it is his grace that is sufficient to cover your sins.

But this is the trick

The trick of the devil is that whether you spend time being proud of how Christlike you are, or spend time being humiliated by how sinful you are, you’re still spending your time focusing on you. Constantly beating yourself up about how you’ve failed again and that you’ll never change is a subtle form of pride (if you can hear that). Because it’s still about looking at you.

Just look at Jesus. Focus on Jesus. God wants you to learn to enjoy spending time with Jesus, focusing on his faithfulness, his love for you, his sufficiency for you. And as you spend time with Jesus, in prayer, in meditating in the word of God, He changes you. Jesus said, “if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you can ask for anything you wish and it will be granted” (John 15:7).

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

It’s that as we spend time with him, we just naturally become like him. And as we spend time with him, becoming like him, the things He wants become the things we want. And then it becomes the Father’s good pleasure to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32), because you and God want the same things. And His greatest desire for you is that you fulfill your primary destiny of being conformed to the image of Jesus. As you spend time with him, you enter into an awareness of having been crucified with Christ and raised again from the dead. And you fall in love with that condition. And then, as you do, you bear the fruit that will last.

Agree with God – quickly – that you must die.

If you agree with God that your old man needs to die so that the life of Jesus can transform you into a new creation, then you’re in the safest place you can be. It is there that you learn to live as a dead man, brought back from the dead.

And the devil can’t hurt you when you walk in that. And, pardon the pun… but that just kills him.

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why do i not hear God
FAITH INSPIRATION, Revival

Why Do I Not Hear God

People often ask me, “why do I not hear God?”

For some time now, I’ve tried to get up early in the morning to pray. I believe, as most Christians do, that it’s important to try to spend time in the word of God and let Him speak to me as I read quietly, in His presence.

On this particular morning, I had been meditating on some of the ideas that The Lord had shown me in my reading. I was in my office, trying to be quiet and still before The Lord. And then, I heard a ticking noise.

I Never Noticed It Before

I didn’t know what it was, at first. But it was a curious sound. I noticed now, as I actually LISTENED to the noise, that it was rather slow and methodical. It’s not unusual to hear noises in a house – you can sometimes hear wood creak and crack a bit as boards shift on one another in the structure. Sometimes, you can hear the water pipes click and crack as they move around a bit from heating up and cooling off with the water running through them.

But this sound was different. It wasn’t changing. It was rhythmic, steady, unrelenting. I focused on it now, and was curious to know where it came from – how does a sound like this persist for so long without changing or giving some clue as to its origin? And on top of that, I noticed it wasn’t a constant tick. It was a tick with two pitches – high, low, high, low – very slow, methodical and repeatable. I just had to know out of curiosity, where this sound came from.

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People worshipping Toronto Vineyard
FAITH INSPIRATION, Revival

It’s not always what it looks like

I remember, back in 1994, hearing a bit of a hullaballoo about the “Toronto Blessing” (a revival that is purported to have broken out at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in 1994, now known as “Catch The Fire“). It is one of those stories that, depending on your persuasion, leaves you with some very positive or very negative feelings about what was going on there at the time. For those of a charismatic leaning, it was really something. For those who lean more toward the baptistic side of the fence, it was really something else. But like I said, it’s not always what it looks like.

For better or worse, the “Toronto Blessing” has left a lasting impact on the church

Like it or not, it really made a mark on the church, and has continued to do so for the last 20 years or so, and whether or not it has had a net positive effect is something that many people have opinions about. I have my own opinion. And I have to position myself here, probably warming some of your hearts in the process and alienating others at the same time. But we all have to stand (or fall) before God based on what we know, and what we do with what we know, and so I write the following, knowing that people will all process it differently.

The reason I want to put this out there is because I know that, at the time, I had some very negative emotions about what I was hearing; having changed my views over the last 20 years or so, and having now heard some inside bits and pieces to some of the stories, I thought it might be good to share what is, by some means, a story to which I have some inside info, and hopefully sharing it will move some people in a direction of being open to what God might be doing in situations, even when we don’t see all of what He is doing. But rest assured, my end goal is in mind as I write. I hope you will come along for story time and we can arrive at a good place by the end. So, here goes.

Opinions differed greatly about whether this was God or the devil.

I have visited the “Catch The Fire” fellowship in Toronto now, probably a half dozen times, and have attended a five-day conference there in the past. But I did not always see the place in the same light that I do now.

Toronto Blessing

Back in 1994, when I first heard of what was going on there, it was while I was attending a baptist church, having read and pretty much bought into what was in John MacArthur’s book, “The Charismatics: a doctrinal perspective.” I was, at the time, pretty much convinced that the Charismatic churches were very much driven by emotion, and very light on doctrinal strength. And so, when I friend called and left me a voice message at the time, telling me there was a “massive revival sweeping the Toronto Airport Vineyard church, and that it was heading our way,” I was a tad skeptical. I figured if a revival was coming, and it was really revival, the fruit would soon be on its way and I would see it when it got to my town.

How I wish now that I had made a trip or two to Toronto at the time.

But I digress.

What bothered me at the time was the news that seemed to make the TV and radio about it at the time – people crawling on their hands and knees; people barking like dogs and roaring like lions; gold fillings appearing in people’s mouths. I had already been to some healing meetings in some major US cities and had been present as people would parade across the stage, speaking into the microphone at healing meetings as they proclaimed what God had done for them.

Being curious, and considering myself open-minded at the time, but wanting to see confirmation about whether or not what these people were saying was true, I actually approached the stage at one of these meetings to get a better feel for what was really going on. And I wanted to get up close and personal. So I picked one person as a test case. I wanted to witness first hand what I was told was happening.

There was a young lady who went across the platform, saying that God had straightened her teeth. She said her teeth were crooked and now they were ALL STRAIGHT!! Praise God! I wanted to see this!! So I went to the end of the platform, and approached her as she came down the stairs. I asked her if God had straightened her teeth. She said, “yes. He did. I can still feel Him straightening them.”

I looked at her supposedly “straight” teeth. It was hard to share her enthusiasm.

I was looking at the proverbial picket fence in her mouth. They did not look straight to me. Not at all. I was disappointed. I wanted to see straight teeth. I really did. But they were not to be seen. At least not in this mouth.

I’ve heard of the stories of gold teeth appearing in people’s mouths. And they’ve done some investigating at places like Toronto (I say good for them) only to find that there were a lot of these people thinking God had given them gold fillings only to find out, when returning to their dentist’s office that the dentist had to tell them that he himself had installed those fillings, those crowns.

But not all of them. Not all. Some were, apparently, unexplainable by the dentist. The dentists suggested maybe they drank some funny orange juice or something…..

Anyway, back to the roaring and barking.

Because sometimes, you have to hear the rest of the story.

A couple of years ago, I heard testimony from a man who says he was at the Toronto Airport Vineyard back then, and he was the guy who was reported about in the paper who roared like a lion. He is a personal friend of someone I know intimately in ministry, and someone I trust very much to be of good character and not given to unnecessary emotionalism or hype. He spoke at a morning meeting, telling them that HE was the one who roared like a lion. He says God spoke to him in that moment to do it; he felt foolish doing so, but was just doing what he very distinctly thought God was telling him to do. I can appreciate obedience to what you believe God is telling you to do. Others have done it. God told Abraham to lay his son on a pile of wood and offer him as a burnt offering. He told Hosea to marry a prostitute. He made Isaiah walk around half-naked for three years prophesying against Israel. So if a guy believes God is telling him to do something, he is maybe not in bad company.

Anyway, I had occasion to speak with one of the ministers at the Toronto Vineyard about a year and a half ago, and asked him about this person (mentioning him by name). He replied, “why, YES. That was NUTS. We just didn’t know what to do with it at the time. We were all just coming out of the baptist church at the time, and we didn’t know WHAT to do with the guy. And then, we asked him his story, and he said he was a pastor! And we thought ‘a PASTOR? WHAT the heck are we getting into here?!?!”

Here, from this man’s website, is his personal testimony about the event.

New members flowed in to Zion as the Father’s heart poured out in what is known as the Toronto Blessing, bringing refreshment to many. At the October 1, 1994 “Why Encounter” event, which joined key cities across Canada through a satellite network, Pastor Gideon, was invited to pray for China. The Lion of Judah “roared” through him against the dragon of China, and by God’s design, this day coincided with the day known as China’s National Day. Months earlier, when God touched Pastor Gideon so deeply in Toronto and he began to roar, what he witnessed in the spirit was Almighty God making a decree to Satan, saying, “Let My people go.” He knew then that many things in God’s divine plan were about to unfold.

So now, as Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story.

I had previously published this blog as a post on another site. When I first published it, I thought this person should remain nameless, because I didn’t feel I had the liberty to broadcast who he is because of the nature of his ministry. He has been very influential in ministry to the Chinese church. But then again, he has a web site where I do believe he discusses this anyway. So I will say that the man’s name is Gideon Chiu.

And lest you think he is just some Joe off the street who might not have it all together, you will see on his web site that among his list of credentials is:

  • a B.Ed. from Simon Fraser University
  • an M.Ed. from U of BC
  • M.Div. and Th.M. from Regent College
  • a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary.

And he was ordained, after having obtained these degrees, about a decade before God told him to roar like a lion.

Gideon Chiu

Since then, has been instrumental in establishing a world-changing outreach to China. Gideon is involved in mobilizing MANY (I won’t mention numbers, but it’s HUGE) to go into the middle east to evangelize Muslims and to lead them to Jesus.

This man says that the moment of his roaring like a lion was instrumental in this ministry opening up for him.

He would tell you, if he knew you could hear it with an open mind, that in that moment, he saw in the Spirit that God was making a decree to the devil, saying to the devil, “let my people go.” He knew that God broke something loose for him in the spirit realm in that moment and opening a vast area of ministry.

God has been using this man in his ministry to China and to the Chinese church, and he, with all his education and experience, attributes some of what is happening to a moment in time, when he obeyed what he believed was a leading of the Spirit to do something that, to many people looking on, and not knowing what was happening between him and God in the moment, simply wrote it off to silliness and emotionalism.

Sometimes, you can’t always tell in the moment what is of God and what is not.

Sometimes, you can only fully see the reality of it with the ultimate ripening of the fruit. But sometimes, that’s just the way God works. And if you believe God is telling you to do something, you just need to step out in faith and do it. And if you missed it, God is big enough to handle it for the both of you. But you’ll probably be surprised that it really was Him all along.

(Last updated by The Cognitive Man  2016-05-01)

PS: for another similar story, I stumbled upon this one when I was doing some research for the article. You can make your own judgements about it, but it is interesting to see how God works. This was another fascinating story that sounded much the same.

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FAITH INSPIRATION, Revival

My Problem With The International Day Of Prayer

Christianity Today sent out an email recently about the annual “International Day Of prayer” which is April 23rd of this year. I have to confess that in times past, I’ve not paid much attention to these events.

It’s not that I don’t believe in prayer. It’s just that I don’t always get the concept of “uniting in prayer with everyone around the world.” In reality, what often comes to my mind is a picture of all kinds of people with all kinds of liberal, self-centered or even downright ungodly slants, vaguely praying in hope their prayers might somehow be answered, but not having any grasp of  who this God is that they are praying to or how or why He answers prayers, let alone that their prayers shouldn’t really be about them, but about Him.

I’m just being honest here.

And if you’re an evangelical Christian as I am, you might be able to identify with how frustrating that thought can be.  How do you come together to pray with people who don’t share anything like a common understanding of who God is? After all, as the bible says, “how can two walk together unless they be agreed?”(Amos 3:3) Can a Christian even unite in prayer with those who don’t know the God of the bible?

But then another thought occurred to me as I read that email.

In a moment, in a flash as I was reading that email, I recalled a story that I read long ago in a book called “Risky Living” by Jamie Buckingham. In that book, Jamie tells the story about how God spoke to him while he was visiting a mainline denominational Christian campground somewhere in New England.

At this point in Jamie’s life, he had been rediscovering God in a whole new way through experiences he had in the charismatic movement. He felt close to God, intimately connected with Him and truly enlightened about who God was – both in the world and also personally in his own life.

And as he had been growing in this new relationship with Jesus, he also felt that there were so many others who had a very cold, distant relationship with the Lord – particularly many of those he had left behind in the denominational church.

But on this particular day, as he was walking across the grass at this campground, he noticed a hill with three large wooden crosses planted at the top. And as he stood there for a moment, looking at those crosses, he started to wonder what it would have been like for his savior to hang upon a cross.

So he walked to the top of that hill, turned his back to cross in the middle, raised his arms and hung his hands over the horizontal beam to hold himself in that place so he could imagine what it was like for Jesus to hang there, bleeding and broken, his life ebbing away and feeling betrayed by His heavenly father.

But as soon as he placed his hands there, he quickly discovered something that was both shocking and revealing.

In that moment, he discovered that the wood on the top of that cross had been worn smooth.

This rough-hewn crucifix had been worn down – almost to a polished finish – by countless others who had done this same thing before he ever did. Those stuffy, liberal Christians from those mainline, denominatiional churches who attended this campgound also wanted to try to imagine what Jesus must have suffered when he hung there, dying in their place, for their sins.

That moment when you suddenly realize just how judgmental you have become….

Jamie realized in an instant that perhaps this “problem” those stuffy, denominational Christians had was not what God was wanting to deal with in that moment. Jamie was suddenly confronted with the reality that God needed to deal with Jamie’s heart about his attitudes. What became clear was the shocking revelation that along with this new-found intimacy with God came a subtle pride about how much more spiritual he had become compared to all those others he had left behind in the denominational church.

And when I read this recent email about the international day of prayer, and then thought of this passage in Jamie’s book, I had my own instant flash of revelation. I had a slightly sickening, uncomfortable moment of self-honesty:

My problem with the international day of prayer is really more of a problem with me.

I’m just being honest here.

The apostle Paul spoke freqently of his heart breaking for the lost; of his heart being joyful when others came to know Jesus; of his heart being burdened in prayer that others would know Jesus as Paul himself did.

I would like to say I’m there with Paul, heart breaking, heart joyful, heart burdened in prayer. But if I’m at all authentic with the God that both I and many others serve, I need to admit that all too often, I have a very cold heart and am all too often filled with a subtle arrogance and pride. And it shows in oh, so many ways.

Let me count the ways.

If I’m honest with myself, I sometimes think of myself as more “in the know” than so many of these other people who are also praying.

Spiritual pride can be such a subtle thing. And one of the ways it can sneak up on you is when you confuse spiritual knowledge with virtue. Peter said,

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,e and virtue with knowledge…. (2 Peter 1:15)

Spiritual pride creeps up on me when I grow in knowledge of the faith but I forget that knowledge about God is really a means to the end of knowing him better so I can enjoy my relationship with him better and walk more in holiness and humility. As James said, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

Guilty. It’s so much easier to learn facts than to spend time on my face before God. But time with Him is what I need, and what I am all too often lacking.

And then, there is this problem that Francis Frangipane calls, “the sin of cold love.”

Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you….

The measure of one’s love is found in the depth of his or her commitment to others….

Many people will stumble over little faults and human weaknesses. These minor things are quickly pumped up by the enemy into great big problems. Oh, how frail are the excuses people use to justify withdrawing from others. In reality, these problems, often with a church or pastor, are a smokescreen which masks the person’s lack of love.

Too often, I don’t think of the other 6 or 7 billion people on this planet as real people with real hearts that might well also be in tune with the living God.

It is all too easy to confuse culture and taste with the hard realities of how spiritual other people are. I realize that I have all too often looked too easily through culturally colored lenses, confusing what is spiritual with what is worldly, but acceptable because I have become a product of my culture. But when I surround myself with only like-minded people in my little echo chamber, only associating with friends who think and feel like I do, I can start to see those differences as “spiritual inferiority” in others when they might have nothing to do with any level of spirituality at all.

And while I’m so busy focusing on their lack of spirituality, I don’t adequately appreciate God’s heart of passion for these same people to know Him at least as much as I know Him. I don’t feel God’s desire that all these people be pursued and won to Jesus. My heart doesn’t ache for the lost and for their hearts to be made to look like my heavenly Father’s heart.

There is that uncomfortable passage in first John that says, “whoever says he is in the light and yet does not love his brother is still in darkness” (1 John 2:9).

Unfortunately, I realize that in many ways, I’m still the center of my universe.

People are relatively unimportant to me if they don’t play a personal part in my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize no one has the capacity to know everyone, or to love everybody perfectly. We are human and limited by time and space.

But it is also human nature to dwell more on what we don’t like about people than on how we are to love them anyway. And while that is human nature, it is human nature that Christ empowers us to overcome.

It’s time for a self-importance purge.

Just being honest here.

I’m going to make an effort this year – a real, honest-to-goodness effort – to pray this year during the international day of prayer. I will determine to pray, not as the one who is at the center of my universe, but as one who chooses to see God in that place, and all the others (of which I am only one) being of equal significance in my savior’s eyes.

Because it’s not about me.

I’m going to make an effort to pray for others who may not know Jesus as lord and savior but who are praying to God as they know Him. And instead of looking down at them for not having the spiritual enlightenment to know Jesus, I will be on my knees in my heart, interceding for them that Jesus would reveal Himself to them too; so that, if they become aware of their sin, arrogance and pride, and drop to their knees seeking His face for forgiveness, I will already be on my knees there beside them, having waited for them to show up.

I’m going to pray as one who likely has far more needs than I am aware of, in all those places where I’m probably too self-absorbed to even look, asking God to teach me – about who He is, about how much I need him and about what he wants to change in me.

And if one of those stuffy, old, denominational Christians shows up praying shallow prayers with very little understanding of who God is for them, then I pray that my heart will not be one of subtle arrogance and pride for how much more enlightened I am than they are. I will pray that my heart will be filled with joy that they’re trying as best they can; that God will give them light as He has given me; that they will all be able to find God as He is, and not merely as they want Him to be.

I will try to have an attitude that J. I. Packer speaks of in his book, “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.” I don’t want to be, or to even mistakenly come across as the person who is superior and shining my infinite light and wisdom for all to see. I want to more consciously walk with a simple attitude of one beggar showing other beggars where he found bread.

And if, on the other hand, one of those old, denominational Christians shows up with a depth of relationship with the God that I know and love, with a thing or two to teach me, with insights into the spiritual realm that I don’t yet have, then I pray that I will be open enough to sense God in their words and in their heart, and that I will have the humility to learn what God may want to use them to teach me.

I can see the need for the international day of prayer in my life, if for no other reason than to fix MY heart and reign in MY ego and pride.

I’m just being honest here. And I pray above all, that everyone who prays on that day will get a gift of honesty from the Lord, no matter how much it hurts, for how it will change them; and by that, change the world for God and for His glory.

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