2 Chronicles 7:14
January 4, 2009
Love Worth Finding Ministries sent this devotional thought on January 1st. Listen to it: “Helen Keller had lost her sight at 19 years of age. A reporter asked Miss Keller, "Is there anything worse than being blind?"
"Yes," she said, "It is to have sight and no vision."
My message to start 2009 is about vision. Do you have a vision for your life at the threshold of 2009? It is good, at the beginning of a new year, to review the goals for your life: spiritual goals, intellectual goals, physical goals, and financial goals. It’s wise to ask that God’s will be done in your goals. It’s also wise to hold your goals in an open hand and ask God to give wisdom and direction. I do! I don’t want to be a person without vision and I don’t want you to be without vision either.
So, let’s ponder the vision and goals of Good Shepherd Community Church this morning. When we arrived in Cut Knife in November of 2006, God led us to a significant verse, “Revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you (Ps 8:5-6). Do you remember our Christmas letter from 2006? If you do, stand up and tells us what it said. If no, I’m not surprised! Well, this verse was in that letter right above our key question to you, “You do want to be revived, don’t you?” Keep in mind that in order to be revived, you must have been “vived” in the first place. If there never has been spiritual life, the need is for salvation, not revival. All through 2007, we felt God urging us toward complete restoration and repentance so we could move on. Last year, our key verse was 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We truly hope you are on board with growing closer to God as we step out in year 3 to “God and make disciples …” (Matt 28:19-20)
In Experiencing God Day-by-Day, Henry Blackaby asks, “Have you based your life on God’s revelation?” Why does he ask? Because Proverbs 29:18 says: Without revelation people run wild, but one who keeps the law will be happy.
We Live by Revelation
The world operates on vision. God's people live by revelation. The world seeks grand and noble purposes and goals to achieve. People dream up the greatest and most satisfying things in which they can invest their lives. Institutions establish goals and objectives and then organize themselves to achieve them. God's people function in a radically different way. Christians arrange their lives based on the revelation of God, regardless of whether it makes sense to them. God does not ask for our opinion about what is best for our future, our family, our church, or our country. He already knows! What God wants is to get the attention of His people and reveal to us what is on His heart and what is His will, for God's ways are not our ways! (Isa. 55:8–9).
Whenever people do not base their lives on God's revelation, they “cast off restraint.” That is, they do what is right in their own eyes. They set their goals, arrange their agendas, and then pray for God's blessings. Some Christians are living far outside the will of God, yet they have the audacity to pray and ask God to bless their efforts!
The only way for you to know God's will is for Him to reveal it to you. You will never discover it on your own. When you hear from the Father, you have an immediate agenda for your life: obedience. As the writer of Proverbs observed: “Happy is he who keeps the law.”
God has a constant vision for us – His people. God is calling His people to return to Him and be a highway of holiness over which He can come to the lost world. But before we can become a highway of holiness, we must understand the issues of sin. In order to understand sin, we must see our sin from God’s perspective. We must build our relationship with God in such a way that our lives can be a highway over which God reaches the rest of our nation in a great revival among God’s people, and in a sweeping spiritual awakening in the hearts and lives of those who do not know Him.
There is an urgency that we should carry within us. This urgency has at least two major directions. If I understand the Scriptures correctly, God will judge any nation that neglects His direction. It may very well be that we are under the judgment of God or certainly will be soon.
If I were to attempt to find the beginning of what I believe is a national neglect of God, I would return to the early 1960s. It seems as though God removed the hedge of protection from around North America in that decade. We began to see unrestrained things take place from the ’60s to this present day. There seems to have been nothing to hold back the tide of injustice in society. A deep departure from God in the churches has continued since that decade. It is as if the hedge of His protection has been broken down, and God is letting us experience the consequences of our own sin.
There is an urgency in the Scriptures when God said, "If My people who are called by My name will 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 Chron. 7:14). That great passage indicates clearly that the redemption of Canada & the United States waits on the repentance of the people of God. The salvation of the nation has little to do with Washington or Ottawa or Hollywood – it has to do with the people of God! If God’s people do not sense that the problem is with them, then we as nations do not stand a chance of revival or survival. And so, understanding in ever-increasing measure what God says in His Word, we should carry with us a deep sense of urgency that we are closer today to the judgment of God on our nations than we were last year.
Do you believe that when God’s people pray that God hears, responds, and brings about a deep change? Are you helping your family and the people in your church to pray for the condition of their lives, families, church and nation? Is that your vision for 2009? I hope so, because I’m sure it’s God’s vision. Remember, God said, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chron. 16:9). He also said, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (Jas. 5:16). Jesus said, "And whatever you ask in My name [consistent with everything I have taught you], that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). In light of these promises – with which God’s people can change the course of a nation’s history – what has become of prayer in your own life, in your marriage, in your family, or in your church? You can be sure God will be delighted if you delight yourself in Him. And if you do, Psalm 37:4 says He will grant the desires of your heart. Now, let me ask you a very profound question. If revival in Canada depended on your prayer life, would there be a revival? If you have to say, Not my prayer life, then you must change your prayer life. To have a renewed prayer life requires a simple personal choice. Your life is the product of choices you have made. Your church is the product of choices it has made. Your nation is a reflection of the choices that have been made by the people of God concerning their relationship with God. Do you deny that God’s vision for His people is to be a people of prayer? It is undeniable that God’s vision for Good Shepherd Community Church is that we are to be a house of prayer! (Matt 21:13) Do you think 2009 could be the year when this building you are sitting in right now, will be called a mighty house of prayer? You are the only ones who can prevent that from happening!
That is one of the reasons why this kind of message has a sense of urgency about it. I believe there is a lot at stake. In fact, eternity is at stake for many in Cut Knife. In Good Shepherd Community Church alone there are enough of God’s people – if they were serious with God – to turn the course of our community and our nation. Do you believe that?
There were only 120 people in the Upper Room who were wholly yielded to the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:15). God used them to turn the entire Roman Empire completely upside down. In 1904 God used a young man from Wales named Evan Roberts. God broke him and shook him through a specific time of prayer – with others who had been praying across the land – and 100,000 people came to faith in Jesus Christ in six months. The great revival of 1904 began with prayer. Thousands of people ended up on the mission field as a result. Roberts, at twenty-six years old, was focused on prayer and revival, and that revival set in motion a great missionary movement.
What could God do through your life? Do you sense that Canada needs the mighty touch of God? What about Good Shepherd Community Church? Do we need a mighty touch from God? Do you believe God could work through your life as He has done with others? Would you be willing to make the kind of choices required by God to be that kind of person who could pray and be shaken? Your response to this message will be a reflection of the choices you are willing to make concerning your Lord and your vision for 2009.
There is another reason why there is such urgency to being completely yielded to God here and now. I believe we may be the generation that is still living when the Lord Jesus returns. I believe that God may now be calling the last generation of those who will go with Him on a mission to the ends of the earth. Most of the leaders I have encountered in the last few years – whether a pastor of a local church, a leader of a ministry group, or a leader of a denomination – have joined in saying they believe with all their hearts that we may be the generation that is still living when the Lord Jesus comes back. Where do we get this idea? Well, it comes out of Scripture. Turn with me now to Matthew 24. Let’s start at verse 4: And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Does any of this ring true for you? Now look at verses 33 & 34: So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. No one living when Jesus spoke these words lived to see all these things come to pass, did they? What makes better sense here is the preservation of the Jewish race. Those who see Israel as a nation – “this generation will not pas away”. That’s my generation, as Israel became a nation in 1948, just a few years after I was born. I don’t want to delve into prophecy here, but I do want to impress on you the urgency. Time is running out for us, for our community, for our nation, for our world. Do you believe that! Ido!
Since the Father knows the time, the day, and the hour when He will say, Enough – time shall be no more; My Son will come in the clouds, the judgment will begin, and eternity will be ushered in. Do you suppose He could be causing an urgency in the hearts of His people and His churches, knowing that the hour is short and there is limited time for people to respond? Do you believe we will face our Lord and give an account to Him for the way in which we have lived? Do you suppose if our Father knows the time of His coming that He may have already issued the instruction to the Spirit of God to, make My people understand the urgency of the hour, that when they hear My Word, there will be a different kind of urgency in their hearts? Cause My people to understand that to invest their lives with the world that will pass away is not as important as investing their lives in the kingdom that will never pass away. (Paraphrase).
God is stirring the hearts of children, young people, college students, and those in midcareer with a call into missions as never before. In recent days one foreign mission board processed over 9,000 names of people who were inquiring about the pursuit of foreign mission appointments. Did you know that just a few years ago in the Southern Baptist Convention alone, more than 300,000 people volunteered for missions at home and abroad? And more than likely, within a few years, they could see 500,000 from their churches on missions to the ends of the earth.
In recent times many have said, In an amazing way, over the last several years, God has stirred my heart and caused me to go on a mission trip. I never dreamed I would be on a mission trip in another part of the world, but something happened in my heart, and I went, and I have never been the same. Ask Jamie Rowswell if she will ever be the same! This calling of volunteers is happening all across the people of God. I do not believe this is accidental. I believe this is under the direction of God, and I believe it has something to do with the near return of our Lord. Because of these urgent times we must stand before God and His Word and see things from His perspective.
It is not enough for God to speak to you from His Word, because all the head knowledge in the world will never change your life. When what you know in your head hits your heart you will not be able to rest day or night until God’s vision has become a priority in your life.
I hear many people say, "Well, I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He is the Savior of man." All the Truth believed in a person’s head is also believed by all the demons in hell, yet they are one step ahead of us. At least when they know the Truth in their heads, they tremble. They know Jesus died for the sins of the world. They know He was the sinless Son of God. They know He was raised again. They know the power that raised Jesus from the dead has been given to every one of us who believes. They know He is interceding. They know He is coming back. There is not a Truth you and I believe in our heads that they do not believe and tremble. But the difference between the demons and us is that when we take it from our heads and let it hit our hearts, we cannot rest night or day until what God shows us in His Word is lived out in our lives.
Second Corinthians 1:20 has made an incredible impact on my life this past year. The passage says, "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." The promises of God find their fulfillment, their Yes, in Christ. And all God’s people say Amen! I didn’t hear you. All God’s people say Amen! The moment you became united with Jesus Christ in the saving work of God through the death of Jesus on the cross, every promise God ever made in the Bible has become yes for you. Now, many of you know that in your heads, but let me tell you how to know if it has ever hit your hearts. The moment you know that promise is true, it ought to be an obsession with you to find every promise God has ever given and live it out. We become living testaments..
If it is in your head only, it will not change in your life. But when you hear the blessed Lord Jesus say, "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" (John 14:12), and that Truth hits your heart, your life will never be the same again.
Can you imagine what would happen to change the course of Canada if we believed just that one promise with our hearts? And there are hundreds of promises given in the Word of God. Are you letting what you hear in your head go eighteen inches lower to your heart, and begin to change the way you live? I surely hope so!
You and I have the greatest single possibility of making a difference because God has given us His promises. God says He will respond when we have responded: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (Jas. 4:8). Then why do we not draw near to God, and keep in that direction until we know God has drawn near to us and His presence has literally changed everything about us? You cannot be in the presence of God and remain the same. That would be absolutely impossible. The Scripture, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," is simple but profound. It is God’s vision.
Are you taking the promises of God and literally standing before Him until He is in you exactly as He promises in His Word? The tragedy is that many of God’s people can know they are living their lives the same as the world around them without it disturbing them. Did you know that it deeply disturbs God for us to live our way instead of His way? For God’s people to go their own way is called sin. The Scripture says, "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). The Scripture further explains, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jas. 4:17). Another Scripture states, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). One of the laws is that you, "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). Sin is when you see your brother with a load, and you do not help him carry it – that is sin, and that grieves the heart of God.
There is nothing I see in the Scripture that burdens the heart of God more deeply than sin in the hearts and lives of His people. So I want us to look at sin from God’s perspective – not from our perspective. How does God look on sin? Scripture says sin is coming short of what God has required. That is sin.
"Oh," you may say, "I’m just human." No, you are not; you are indwelt by almighty God if you have been born again! You are dead! Dead to self; alive to Christ.You used to be just human, but now you are a child of the King of kings, indwelt as a temple of God, and now your life is not yours – it is now Christ living out His life in you. Is not that what Paul said? "I have been crucified with Christ; 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" (Gal. 2:20). That is not a figure of speech – that is a fact. For me to know that and to resist Him is sin.
A definition of sin in 1 John 3:4 is that "sin is lawlessness [rebellion]." Rebellion is when one knows what God says and yet chooses not to obey. I have often said the two words that cannot go together are No, Lord. One of those words has to be removed. If He is Lord, there is no possibility of your saying no. You cannot call Him Lord without saying yes. What God is looking for are His children who constantly say, "Yes, Lord."
If we have received the powerful indwelling presence of God, we must cease living in rebellion and walk in obedience. John the Baptist was God's messenger to help people prepare to receive the Savior of the world. John preached unwaveringly: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). Those who heard John's message and prepared their lives recognized Jesus when He came, and they left all to follow Him. This was especially true of the disciples, whose hearts God Himself prepared (Matt. 16:17). Preparation must precede God's presence! God has a vision for us to be prepared for His Son’s second coming. Ephesians 6:18 states, 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,
God's first for preparation is specific: repentance! This involves a complete change of mind, heart, will, and behavior toward Him. He is Lord, receive Him as your Lord. Anything less is inadequate.
If you are unprepared, you, too, will miss the opportunity to experience Jesus. You may practice religion, but you will miss God. While others encounter the Lord personally in worship, your heart will remain unmoved. As others receive a fresh vision from God, you will experience painful silence. Religious activity can never substitute for a heart that is pure before Him. Purity comes only through repentance. Pray, as the Psalmist did, that God will examine your heart and reveal your need to repent of your sin In Psalm 139:23–24, David prays: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Lord it is the desire of each of our hearts to walk before you in humble submitted obedience, so Lord we ask that you would teach us to pray. Teach us to pray, Lord Jesus, as you taught Your disciples to pray, and may we be faithful and obedient in learning and applying what You teach us. Lord Jesus , we want to be like you; we want you to change us, to mold us and shape us and conform us to your will so that you might use us as a shining light here where You have placed us. Use us Lord to bring Your Kingdom to Cut Knife. We pray Lord that we would be faithful servants, so again Lord Jesus we ask you, examine our hearts, convict us, lead us to repentance, and teach us to pray Lord, knowing that your power is released through prayer, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Remember Jesus parting Words to us as He rose to be with the Father: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
How will we ever make disciples of all nations when we haven’t even shared the good news with our family, neighbors, and friends? Make 2009 the year that every person you know hears the Good News!