More from Jon Moseley, I’ve been meditating on something similar since last fall.
We had a rather extraordinary service in our Assemblies of God church last Sunday. Our Pastor, Pastor Bill Van Metre, has served in various posts around the country before settling in this small town. He has seen mighty miracles and supernatural healings both from his own prayers and the prayers of others, including healing of the deaf (instant, supernatural creation of eardrums missing from birth), etc. He nearly always prays for an in-filling of the Spirit of God, without even touching people. Point is believing in God is not a stumbling block or a question. He is confident of God’s power. And yet he has grown fed up — as have I and others — at reading in the Bible all of the things that are suppposed to be happening, but we are not seeing what is written in the Bible happening in our lives. He, like many of us, has been going through great personal trouble, bankruptcy of his son’s business, working a day job to supplement the church income, where that business is in trouble. And for all the members of the church, he has prayed and is waiting to see results. But Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” So, a week ago, Pastor Bill went out to take a walk with God, and said I am not going to stop until I meet God. He walked all night, for 10 hours, praying, until 6 in the morning. (And it was a cold night.) He was determined that either God was going to show up or he was going to keep on walking and die in the process. He prayed that if God was not going to do what the Bible said, God may as well take him home. He came to Church the next morning prepared to resign the pulpit if God was not going to be with hiim, miraculously. After preaching, he prayed for 100% of the church membership individually, one by one, and about 99% of them were slain in the Holy Spirit, overcome by the power of God, and most of those without even being touched during the prayer. We know it is only a small beginning, but we believe God has met the urgency of our faith. This is very tricky because he is NOT saying that God is wrong, but that we have not been desperate enough and have not really been moving in faith. We simply go through the motions, week after week, on autopilot. In a sort of cruise-control Christianity, we have let our faith fade away, as we just do things by rote and routine, never expecting any change, never expecting the miraculous, never really, truly calling upon God for God’s miraculous power. Our Pastor started out praising Christian habits and practices, that it is a good thing to do the right things week after week. All of our routines of praying and reading the Bible and going to Church — often without even thinking about it — are certainly very good things. But those habits create the danger of merely flying on auto-pilot, in which our faith is not engaged, but our minds are switched off and our faith is not really being applied. IN OTHER WORDS, WE *EXPECT* THAT THIS SUNDAY WILL BE JUST LIKE LAST SUNDAY, AND THE SUNDAY BEFORE THAT, AND THAT NEXT WEEK WILL BE JUST LIKE LAST WEEK. WE DON’T REALLY EXPECT ANYTHING TO CHANGE. (And if we do, we have to come to terms with our feelings about the past, as I have had to work on.) The key seems to be that WE ARE NOT DESPERATE FOR GOD. We will see miracles happen when we get serious, and are desperate for God to move and are seeking Him. (NOTE that this is a condition of our heart. It is not about when God sees us in need. It has nothing to do with how bad our need is, but with how hungry our heart is for God. It is not about God waiting until our circumstances are really bad, but God waiting for US to get serious in our hearts — which can happen at any time, without waiting.) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Pastor Bill based his sermon on Revelations 3, which says — 15 ‘ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 ‘Because you say, ” I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ So God is fed up with us being lukewarm. This is about US, not about God. If we don’t get serious about God, and stop just playing Church, we cannot expect miraculous power and supernatural answers to prayer. And as we see the nation deteriorating around us, it seems that God really is getting ready to “spit us out of his mouth” unless we stop being lukewarm. But NOTE: We are not talking about activity, but the heart. This is not a “try harder” message. It is about our hearts. In Isaiah 1, God says how he is fed up with all the religious ACTIVITY of Israel (even though they were doing what God had commanded), because it was not sincere, not from the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 “‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEARTS ARE FAR FROM ME.'” quoting from Isaiah 29:13 13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Because it was just empty gestures and insinere actions, God said He was fed up with all their sacrifices and festivals and prayers. GOD WAS TIRED OF LISTENING TO THEIR PRAYERS, their sacrifices, their festivals, their activity — BECAUSE THEY DID NOT REALLY MEAN THEM. It is like one of my favorite moments in all of Christianity: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2 Kings 2:12-15 (New American Standard Bible) 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, ” My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “WHERE IS THE LORD, THE GOD OF ELIJAH?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. 15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Elisha KNEW where the God of Elijah was. So why did he ask “WHERE?” Elisha had served the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all his life, from boyhood. He had spent years among the other prophets, and studying under Elijah. He was not asking because he did not know. But, there is such an URGENCY about this cry “WHERE IS THE GOD OF ELIJAH?” It is not someday, somehow, maybe, if you see fit, O Lord, make me more like Elijah, may it come to pass. There is a NOW in this cry. “Are you here, with me now… or not?” And there is an element of supreme confidence that God WILL answer, that it surely is the will of God. There is not a trace of doubt. Elisha was practically DARING God, but in a way that only good friends can talk to each other. Elisha was crying out “ARE YOU WITH ME, OR NOT?” But it also meant “I WANT YOU, here, now…” You were with Elijah… and.. “I WANT THAT, TOO!!!” There is nothing lukewarm about this. He was crying out “I WANT IT!” from his heart. Remember that God does not want to go where God is not wanted. God will let us wander off our own way if we choose not to be with God. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I can’t remember which church it was in, but I heard a missionary telling the story of a revival in Scotland. I don’t remember it all, but I got the impression that the missionary telling the story had been there when this happened, maybe I am wrong on that. He told of a “revival” they held in a town in Scotland (meaning a man-made event scheduled by people hoping to win some souls). Almost nobody (unsaved) showed up. They prayed and worshipped and preached to themselves, but to no avail. Finally, a brusk old Scotsman went up to the pulpit and prayed. Respectfully, but blunt and to the point, he prayed: “Father in heaven, you said in your word that you were going to pour out your spirit, Lord. You haven’t done it.” His attitude was clearly “You haven’t done it YET” and “We want you to.” Most of the town woke up. Lights came on. People couldn’t sleep. At 11 AM, midnight, 1 in the morning, people started streaming in to the church, unable to rest, uneasy, drawn by the Holy Spirit to repent. They came to the church and got saved. =================================================== I was hoping for Christian ministries to respond to the current economic crisis by holding a national, public day of prayer according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. But then I felt in the Spirit that this is sort of the problem. If we have “a day” for God — that leaves the 364 other days for the world, not for God. We need to give the whole year to God, not just a day. God will answer our prayers for our economic and spiritual crisis when we give the whole year to God, not just one special day (if that). =================================================== Pastor Bill preached about the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years who touched Jesus’ garment. She made a choice: She was ritually unclean under the Law of Moses. And after 12 years, everybody knew it. Therefore, she could be stoned for simply entering the city among the people, much less touching a Holy Man. Under the Law of Moses, if she being unclean touched someone else, they would also become unclean. (Recall how the priest did not want to stop to help the Samaritan wounded by the side of the road, and become ritually unclean, such as by touching a dead body.) So for her to go and intentionally touch the cloak of a Holy Man, would mean that she would make Jesus ritually unclean. She knew she would probably be stoned to death for coming into the city and making everyone else unclean. But she was either going to get healed or she was going to die. If she got stoned, she would get stoned. So be it. But she was going to grab hold of God no matter what. Even if it cost her her life, she was going to touch Jesus’ cloak and see if he would heal her. She was going to get her miracle whatever it took, at the risk of dying. There was no half-way position left with her. She did not straddle the fence or hedge her bets. She was going to see God heal her, or let the crowd stone her. And, in Mark 2, there was obviously something DIFFERENT about the people who tore through the roof of the house to get their friend healed, when Jesus was teaching inside the crowded house. There is something far more than routine about ripping off someone’s roof because of being so determined that NOW he is going to get healed. NOW. And surely they must have wondered if Jesus would scold them for ripping the owner’s roof open, possibly then REFUSING to heal their friend because they were hoodlums ripping up the guys roof. And yet they took that chance. And I can only speculate that they KNEW they were going to have come back and FIX the roof! There were many witnesses. But they didn’t care. They were going to get their friend healed. AND NOTICE.. We barely see that kind of faith for ourselves in crises. Can you imagine being that determined FOR SOMEONE ELSE…? They were willing to tear a hole in the roof, not even for themselves, but simply for a friend. And when we are praying for a miracle, there is something more than just ordinary faith to look someone in the face and say “Get up and walk” or to receive that miracle. Imagine saying “Get up and walk,” and seeing it REALLY HAPPEN! Too often, we don’t really take that seriously as a real possibility. During Pastor Bill’s sermon and following prayer, I kept thinking over and over about Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water. Routine Christianity or Church life is a lot like being safely tucked in the boat with the rest of the disciples, who did not risk walking on the water. Safely wrapped in a blanket perhaps, not even standing up in the boat. Imagine that moment of putting your leg over the side of that boat, to walk on the water. All the other disciples are nice and cozy in the boat. And you are just about to have a miracle happen. You are putting your foot over the edge of the boat, about to leave that boat behind, and step on plain water. Believing for a miracle is radically different from what we think. Imagine what it would be like for situations to change SUPERNATURALLY — FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE TO HAPPEN. It is almost SCARY. If you were staring face to face with the eternal, supernatural power of God, doing something IMPOSSIBLE — THAT BLOWS YOUR MIND !!! It is tricky what Pastor Bill was preaching, because it’s not about striving in the flesh, like Avis “We try harder.” It is about FAITH: “Do you really believe this stuff?” It’s about FAITH — REAL FAITH — not working harder, or striving, or getting under the law. (The letter of the law kills.) In our routines, it can almost be as if we DON’T REALLY EXPECT God to answer our prayers, or keep His word, and we would be shocked more than anyone else if God actually did a miracle. It’s like God is sitting there waiting for us to REALLY ask, for real, and stop fooling around. If we throw a prayer up at God, BUT THEN ACT LIKE WE DON’T REALLY MEAN IT, is that faith? My pet peeve is prayer meetings where there is little or no prayer. So, for example, if we come together for prayer, and spend 40 minutes gossiping and the last 5 minutes asking the King of the Universe for favors from his throne, how important is it to us? And if it is not really important to us, why should God take it seriously, either? If you could have an audience with the King of the Universe, would you keep Him waiting for 40 minutes? Do we really mean it, when we ask God for a miracle? If you went to make your petitions before the King, at 7:00, and kept Him waiting for 40 minutes, and then haphazardly threw a few disorganized petitions at the King, and then went out for brownies and more gossip, would the King think you are really serious about it? Would the King grant your requests made in such an apathetic, sloppy way, as if you didn’t really mean them? ======================================================= Pastor Bill talked about being “all in.” Of course, that is a poker term. I have never played poker, and don’t have any interest in it, and I wish I could explain this without seeming to encourage playing poker…. But that is exactly what it is. There is a poker bet of “all in.” One can bet some of their chips, and hold some of their chips back, close to their chest. Or they can bet “all in” and place all their chips in the game, holding nothing back. As a matter of faith (not “trying harder” like Avis), we need to bet all our chips. We need to be “all in” — betting everything on God. (Note this does not mean acting foolishly, but in our hearts placing our faith totally on God.) I really feel like I have not had all my chips on the table, in the game, at risk, trusting in God, but have been holding some chips back, not completely trusting God. I was in a church that preached total commitment to God, to the point of going too far and thinking we were the “Green Berets,” and I made many commitments to make Jesus Lord of my life in every area, and made many actual decisions for real for what I thought God wanted instead of what I had planned. I would never have thought that I had held anything back or failed to recognize Jesus as Lord over my life. But I realize that, due to hurts and disappointments, I have some of my “chips” in the game, at risk, but I am still holding some chips back close to my chest. Emotionally, being angry or bitter about what happened is sort of betting on God not doing what He promised, not fixing it. It’s like I have one bet on God and one bet against God. Almost hoping that God will fail, to vindicate my bad feelings from the past. And again, this is all INTERNAL — faith — and emotional, this is not a question of depending upon our own works or doing anything externally. Indeed, to have faith partly means to STOP trying to do it all ourselves. It is not about works or the law. The letter of the law kills. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Meanwhile, I have been struggling with the timely question about our current economic crisis: When God chooses to let a society like the USA go through hard times, even judgment, MUST Christians necessarily suffer through what is happening to the society as a whole, or can Christians be blessed in the midst of it? Can we watch our nation go through discipline and justice and not experience it also as Christians? JEREMIAH 29 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Now I “feel” very strongly, more than just the logic of it, but feel it in the Spirit I believe, that “it depends.” Or rather the choice is up to us. Pastor Bill preached about not being a mediocre, lukewarm, Christians and Rev. 3’s warning that God will spit us out of His mouth when we are only lukewarm, for an extended time. I think that is the answer. When a society is going through hard times, even enduring judgment, if we are little better than the society around us, then we will participate with the society around us in what is happening. I feel like in the nation right now, and in my life, God is sort of sinking our boat. So, either we will walk on the water, so to speak, or we’re going down with the ship. But the old, familiar, cozy boat is not going to be there any more. The boat is sinking. And we have to get out of the boat and walk on the water — like it or not. God is forcing us to get out of the cozy boat, embrace the supernatural, and miraculously walk on water. If we don’t, we are going to sink. And that is part of the motivation to get out of our comfort zone and truly embrace God. Sure there are examples of when Christians have suffered through what society is going through (as well as examples of when Christians have been blessed in spite of their circumstances). But that is irrelevant. It depends on us, on our faith. If we have the faith and determination to not be lukewarm but to sharply separate ourselves from mediocre faith, mainly in terms of faith not works, then I think we will “walk on the water” in the midst of the storm and rise above whatever else is going on around us. We can point to lots of historical examples where Christians did not escape the suffering around them. But that does not mean they were SUPPOSED to share the same fate as the sinners. Perhaps they just did not do enough to separate themselves and distinguish themselves spiritually from the sinners around them. It is sort of like the boat again. When “society” or the boat sinks, do we go down with it, or do we rise up in faith and walk on the water? If our faith (at least active faith) is not much different from the world around us, we’re not going to experience the miracles to rise above. I know I still need to do a lot of praying and being persistent in faith and I do have to change in my attitudes regarding certain sins I have tolerated, and believing that it really is possible for God to take care of those areas. But I do think it’s the right approach. Jon Moseley (910) 231-2528