Season of Preparation Part 4

Foundations of Prayer

We are in a War of Holiness that covers the Universe, our whole world, our nation, our community and our very lives. This is a war of Evil against Good. It is that simple. In this War of Holiness, we are in a Season of Preparation for that which is to come, for the future. And we are called to a Solemn Assembly in that Preparation. We will have an extended service next Sunday, Dec. 13, here at BFF+, with a covered dish feast afterwards, in the Name of the Lord.

The Members of BFF+ are encouraged to seek God (Deut 9:29) for instruction in a form of fasting suitable to God and each individual for the time, or times, between now and the Assembly next Sunday. And then each Member is called to enter into such fasting, to be broken in our feast next Sunday.

In addition to fasting, God wants us to be preparing this week for the Solemn Assembly in other ways, primarily in Prayer. This is because God wants our attention, He wants to communicate with us, and for us to communicate to Him, to prepare us individually for the Solemn Assembly, and to prepare us, as individuals, to contribute to the greater unity in the body, by sharing words from the Holy Spirit during the Solemn Assembly. The foundation of this whole process is Prayer, and that is why we call today’s message, “Foundations of Prayer.”

The concept of Prayer is an interesting one. Somewhat like Professor Smith in his Bible Dictionary, I think of Prayer in these five ways:

  1. First of all, because nowhere in Holy Scripture is there any word of explanation of the reason for prayer, but the fact of prayer is dealt with just as a fact, like day or night.
  2. Second, Prayer is the free expression of the wants and concerns of the soul of a man to God, the Father, expressing thanksgiving and praise, and asking benefits and interceding for benefits for others.
  3. Third, Faith is touched and strengthened by Prayer.
  4. Fourth, Prayer is an expression and an application of Faith.
  5. Fifth, Prayer is an indication of the spiritual condition of the soul, with Prayer being to the soul what breath is to the body.

I see that Prayer is an opportunity to sit at the breakfast or dinner table with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What a meal! It is an opportunity to talk and to listen and to learn. At table, we forge relationships, because we are focused on the company of the table. And we learn of the past, and the present. We share not just the food of the table but the hearts of our table companions. We learn of the lessons of the past, the snakes in the woodpile, and how to avoid them and when necessary, how to deal with them. We learn the big things that the others at the table will share with us about their lives, and often times, but no less interestingly, of the little things. This always gives us insight into the future.

When Kerry and I were first dating, she lived in Florida and I lived up here. On several occasions, I went to see her, and took her to lunch at a restaurant and we stayed until they closed the restaurant late at night, talking and learning about each other right through lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner, and dessert – all at the same restaurant, the same table, the same company at table – just Kerry and me – as we learned about each other and began to develop a vision for God’s plans in the future for us. And we grew in trust and love and commitment.

Prayer is much like that. Prayer is just communication. That is both ways: talking and listening. Now there is a difference: God is not going to learn from us, but we are going to learn from Him. Part of what we learn in Prayer, and in Holy Scripture, is that God created us to be in relationship with Him and He will not reject those who seek earnestly to be in relationship with Him. Matthew 7:7: “. . . seek, and you will find . . . .”; Amos 5:4: “For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: Seek Me and live.”; Deuteronomy 4:24-29: ” . . . (Prophecy of the Dispersion) . . . . But from there (places of idolatry) you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

And God understands us, and understands our past already. He does not need an ice-breaker with us or to ask us about our past and present. He already knows all that. He only wants us to talk about that in order that we acknowledge the sins of our past and present in openness, transparency and honesty. He is not interested in our excuses and whining – only in our honesty, and in that honesty, in our taking responsibility for our past and present. He knows about our sin nature; He knows about generational curses and sins; He knows about strongholds; He knows about deceptions, and blind spots and deaf hears and hard hearts; He knows about temptations. He knows all those things, and He knows how all those things have written the history of our lives, through the decisions and choices we have made.

In Jesus we have a sympathizer because He, too, was tempted by Satan, and knows the places where the human flesh and the human emotions and the human will are weak, or blind or deaf and subject to deception and sin. That is why it is written in Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need.”

We needed a door-keeper, an ice-breaker, to get us to God, the Father, and that ice-breaker is Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, the mediator between God and man, the one who came to destroy the works of the devil. And He continues to intercede constantly for us saints at the right hand of God the Father.

And, when, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have met Jesus as our Saviour, and He has broken the ice, and opened the door to God, out of Grace and Mercy, and as we have declared our faith in Him and His Name, and have repented from evil and set ourselves to a life of sanctification, and purification and holiness, then, the Holy Spirit moves in us afresh, to help us grow up in maturity in Jesus Christ.

First the Holy Spirit moved to convict us in regards to “sin, and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8); and second, he moved, and moves, to guide us even further “into all truth” (John 16:13).

Now, let’s put these pieces together: all sin is idolatry, and when we come to God, earnestly seeking Him, we are coming out of sin, which is idolatry, and asking His forgiveness anew, and asking for His provision and we are interceding for others. (See Romans 14:23b, “for everything that is not of faith is sin.” All sin places something else in priority ahead of God, and that is the very definition of idolatry.

Hence, Jesus explained to us how to “. . . come boldly to the throne of grace . . . .” (Hebrews 4:15), which is, in fact, prayer (and it is coming to table with God), in Matthew 6:9-13, “In this manner, therefore, pray:

  1. ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
  2. Give us this day our daily bread.
  3. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
  4. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
  5. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'”

As we put together these passages of Holy Scripture, we see that the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s structure for prayer, is in the plural as to mankind (Give “us”; forgive “us”, deliver “us”, etc.). Thus, there is a cry of intercession there that applies not just to us but to others.

And this brings us back squarely to II Chronicles 7:14, and the purpose of our Solemn Assembly. In I Chronicles 16:10-12, we seek the connection that seeking God’s face is itself prayer, that that is what prayer really is, trying to get close, or draw near to, God (See James 4:8.): (I Chronicles 16:10-12, “Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!”

Let’s talk about Face, as in Seeking His Face: Professor Smith, in his Bible Dictionary, describes Face as “The most peculiarly indicative part of the human figure. The face is the presence; to stand before the face is to stand in the presence. The face is also the favor — as the prince’s face or favor. To turn away from the face is to deny a favor.”

To meet the condition of II Chronicles 7:14 to “seek (His) face,” we need to understand that we are to come into God’s presence, in the Spirit, into His throne room. There, we are to do what? We are to do what one does in the presence of God, as explained in Lamentations 2:19, “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street. See, O Lord, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, the children they have cuddled? Should the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?”

That is what the Solemn Assembly is all about: We want God to heal our land so it will not (see Leviticus 20:22), “vomit (us) out,” because of the sins of the nation, corporately. So, for Solemn Assembly, we have to seek His face, get into His presence “boldly” and “pour out our hearts like water before His face.”

The Lord’s prayer is the model for all Christian prayers. Thus, in that model, we should pour out our hearts like water before His face.

You know, as Scripture tells us in several place, out of the fullness of a man’s heart doth he speak. And we know, 1 Samuel 16:7 and others, that God looks at the hearts of man. So, when we pour out our hearts like water, it is all going to come out, all the fullness of our hearts. In calling us to Solemn Assembly, God asks us in preparation for the Solemn Assembly.

  • I Corinthians 6:20, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
  • II Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
  • Galations 6:4, “Let each one examine his own work . . . .”
  • Given the demonic forces, fast (Matthew 17:21)
  • Ephesians 6:18, “. . . praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. . . .”

God will be looking at our hearts during the times before, during, and after our Solemn Assembly. Get your hearts ready, to come and sit at table in communion with God, ready to pour out your hearts before Him, and to hear from Him as to what we need to do in –

  • humbling ourselves
  • praying
  • seeking His face
  • interceding preparing for the seasons and days to come for us individually, for this nation, for His people, and for the earth.

Season of Preparation Part 3

The Call to Solemn Assembly

We are in a War of Holiness, a time when, as in every war, we are challenged by issues of Fear and Love. In this War of Holiness, we are in a Season of Preparation. This is our third message on the Season of Preparation. We have received an initial call to understand that we are in a Season of Preparation. Then, we studied Solemn Assemblies, and what they are and what they are not. And today we are going to consider our call to participating in a Solemn Assembly here on Dec 13.

This Solemn Assembly call is because of the problems we face, individually, in the natural and spiritual realms, as the world spins out around us.

Of course, the world has changed around us throughout our lives, but during the past two years, this has been especially so, and at a rapid pace. Now during this year, 2009, that pace has accelerated. More and more, people realize that they are not in charge of their lives – despite their perception of having American “freedoms” and “rights.” The economic crash, the power of the dollar – or the loss, or absence or weakening of it – and governmental changes made and discussed, and the power of governmental coercion, have bent the knees of many people, of many families, despite their free will. So many people have thought their freedoms and rights would enable them not to have to bend their knees to the economy and government, but yet they are finding their knees bent for them. So many have thought they would not be humbled by foreclosures and by governmental intrusions into their families and lives, yet circumstances have tumbled the households, and bent the knees and backs, of millions of people this year.

But as Scripture confirms to us, Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.”

And here is the question: are we going to be subjugated by our circumstances or are we going to choose to bend our knees to Jesus?

This is a personal question, of course, but it is a community and a national and a global question, as we face increasing financial pressures and increasing issues of governmental intrusions and limitations of religious freedoms. It is the existence of these pressures and intrusions, the power of this question of yieldedness to Jesus, that brings us the call to Solemn Assembly.

In the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple, the Solemn Assembly was part of the Dedication, as a time of consecration, or setting apart, and as a time of remembrances and thanksgiving. It was a time of re-looking at God’s provision and protection and provision, in the past, and preparing selves, and God’s people, and a nation, for the future, the times to come.

As we prepare our hearts and minds for Solemn Assembly, we need to be mindful of past and present and future. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is squarely in our times and in our lives, both in the natural realm and in the super-natural realm.

We need help from the Trinity to get through what is coming at us. Like an athletic, or military, or business team, we need to be focused, beginning with each one of us as individuals. We need to know God’s plans for us, individually, in terms of missions and goals, and we need to know God’s plans to knit his believers together as a team. We truly need a deeper and wider and refreshed insight into the will of God.

So, in our Solemn Assembly, we will set aside times for remembrances, and for evaluations of the present. And we will seek the Lord prophetically for knowledge of the future. We will set aside times for refreshing, and renewal, and re-dedication. We will consecrate ourselves, setting us apart from the natural world in which we move, and live and have our physical being, as we prepare ourselves for the future, both in the natural world and in the spiritual realm.

We will plan for an extended service on that day, Dec. 13, and then we will share a covered dish feast here to celebrate our Lord and His righteousness. And then we will go forth much better prepared for what is to come. Many of God’s ministers are preaching rather directly in this season on End Times Eschatology, but the Holy Spirit has not called us today to that message. The Holy Spirit has called us to be reminded

  • that no matter what is forthcoming, we need to continue to be yielded to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, and for some of us, to become even more so yielded to Jesus Christ;
  • that we need to become more courageous in our faith, taking natural and spiritual realm risks as God directs;
  • that we need to stir up, even more so, (II Timothy 1:6-7) the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of hands (see Acts 8:16-17), which is the gift of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit;
  • that we need a hunger, as in Acts 4:29-31, to speak the word of the Lord with all boldness,
  • that by stretching our His hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done through the Name of Jesus Christ;
  • that in our times, our generation, we would be privileged to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing in the War of Holiness, in the struggle we have of Fear and Love;
  • that, therefore, Ephesians 6:13-17, we would never be without the helmet of Salvation, nor the belt of Truth, nor the preparation of the gospel of Peace, nor the breastplate of Righteousness, nor the Sword of the Spirit, nor the Shield of Faith;
  • that in living we would know, Philippians 1:21, that to live is Christ, and to die is gain!

Last evening, an older football coach, and Brother in Christ, shared with me a story of boldness in the faith and I want to pass it along to you: (Luke’s Story). God has His purposes, and His ways. He is sovereign. We are not sovereign. We are called to know and accept His will and to walk with the Lord, with the Holy Spirit, and to do so in complete obedience. The moral of Luke’s story is this: when one is afraid of His faith, He has not faith! Love conquers all, especially fear.

Winston Churchill famously said, in a Call to Arms in Great Britain during WWII, that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” as the Nazi Bombing of GB continued. If we fear only fear then a Solemn Assembly will do us no good. We need to grasp deeply ahold of the reality that we should fear only Him (Philippians 2:8) who calls us to be obedient unto death, yet promises us that He has abolished death (II Tim. 1:10), and brought life and immortality to light through His gospel.

Conclusion: God is calling us into preparation in the War of Holiness. He wants us to attain perfect love which casts out fear (I John 4:18), that we might move in His power to fulfill the good works which He ordained for us to do. The Solemn Assembly will prepare us for that, in His Grace.

Season of Preparation Part 2

Preparing for a Solemn Assembly

Last week, following Joe’s Series and our Series, we were led by the Lord to a Season of Preparation for what lies ahead.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16

We find such edification in the Old Testament, and as the Holy Spirit has led us there in these days, in the Old Testament teachings about Solemn Assemblies. Several things are obvious from a study of Solemn Assemblies in the Old Testament:

1. God ordained Solemn Assemblies

God ordained Solemn Assemblies as part of the Feast of the Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36) and as part of the Feast of the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:8). What is mostly said here is that they were holy convocations, and there were to be sacrifices by fire to the Lord, and that no customary work was be done on the day of Solemn Assembly.

2. The Great Deceiver copied the Solemn Assembly

(See II Kings 9, II Kings 10): The Great Deceiver copied the Solemn Assembly in the Worship of Baal and Jehu was sent by the Lord, and anointed by Elisha the prophet, as king of Israel, and specifically instructed King Jehu to strike down the house of Ahab, to avenge the blood of the servant-prophets, and other servants, of the Lord. Among the things that King Jehu did was to kill by surprise, and behead, seventy of the sons of King Ahab, and all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, and left him none remaining. Then he went to Samaria and implemented a deceptive plan himself: (ch. 10: 17-27): in which he gathered the prophets and priests of Baal together and called a solemn assembly for Baal, as King Jehu had a great sacrifice to make to Baal; and so the call went out, and the worshippers of Baal assembled at the Temple of Baal, and Jehu offered sacrifices to Baal; and at that high point of the ceremony, King Jehu’s soldiers came into the temple of Baal and killed all of the worshippers. Then they destroyed the sacred pillars of the temple of Baal and the temple of Baal itself; and then they made that site a garbage dump! There is a dark lining to that silver cloud though: Jehu then obeyed the Lord’s command, but (10:31), Jehu “took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart, for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin”, and (10:29), King Jehu continued to worship the golden calves at Bethel and Dan – idolatry! What happened? (10:32): “In those days, the Lord began to cut off parts of Israel, and Hazael” (of Syria?) “conquered them in all the territory of Israel.” God took affirmative action. That’s all – pretty serious, when the leadership of the nation is in sin, and leads the people into sin, the land of the nation and the government of the nation pass into enemy hands. Compare this to the days in which we live and remember the call of II Chronicles 7:14 to worship the Lord and obey him.

3. Solemn Assembly at the Dedication of the Temple

From II Chronicles 7:9: There was a Solemn Assembly at the Dedication of the Temple built by King Solomon. God is pretty serious about them.

Now, let’s get an overview of these Sacred Assemblies: To “do no customary work” means that we set aside time and are not distracted from seeking God and attending to him, in praise and worship and repentance and celebration. It’s kind of like a special date or appointment, or conference, with God. We would set aside time to focus on God and our relationship to and with Him. In the Old Testament, God makes it clear what we are to accomplish in a Sacred Assembly, and He also makes it clear how a Sacred Assembly can be corrupted and polluted. This gets us to the focal point for today – three things, which require some serious Scripture readings:

1. What does God want to accomplish in us by a Solemn Assembly?

Answer: He wants a commitment in our hearts that is real and sustained in the conduct of our lives. See Nehemiah chapters 8, 9 and 10. Remember that Nehemiah was appointed by God to organize and lead the rebuilding of Jerusalem, while most of the Jews were in captivity, then under King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah received this charge on his heart and in Nehemiah chapter 2, he obtained permission from King Artaxerxes to lead an expedition back to Judah, to Jerusalem and to organize the remnant of the Jews there, and to assemble resources and to rebuild the City of Jerusalem. Nearby warring nations wanted to stop and destroy the work. Is there a value in a strong defense when you are about God’s work? You bet!

And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing , that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.

Neh. 4:15-16

And when they got the walls up for the City of Jerusalem, they read the Books of God’s Law and they celebrated with praise, worship and feasting, and indeed, (8:18) with a Sacred Assembly. Chapter 9 explains what they did in the Sacred Assembly: they remembered, and recounted, the Great Things the Lord had done for His people, from creation, to Abraham, from the Exodus from Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery, from the Red Sea, and the leadings in the desert, and Mt. Sinai and God’s commandments through Moses, to food and water in the desert, and the Promised Land, and His grace and mercy when the people aced proudly (:16), hardened their hearts, and did not obey, and made a golden calf to worship, and did not have faith and so wanted to go back to Egypt, and they rebelled, wherein He did not forsake them, and they oscillated between rebellion and repentance, and God delivered them into the hands of their enemies and then patiently rescued them. And at this time, the greater number of the Jews were in the Babylonian captivity, and in this context, in this recitation in the Book of Nehemiah of this Sacred Assembly, we find 9:38: “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it; our leaders, our Levites and our priests seal it”. And then that sure covenant appears in 10:28-29, where it is reported that “everyone who had knowledge and understanding […] entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law […] and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord […]”

That is what He wanted in the Old Testament: a commitment under penalty of curse, to obey all of His commandments, walking in His Law.

2. God does not like pretend commitment.

He does not like Form over Substance. Thus, in Amos and in Isaiah, He admonishes His people against going through the motions of Sacred Assembly, and other forms of worship, when they remain idolaters:

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? (And) you also carried Sikkuth your king, and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus, says the Lord, whose Name is the God of hosts.

Amos 5:21-27

This speaks for itself: idolatry destroys any value in a sacred assembly.

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’, says the Lord. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample my courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moon, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.

Isaiah 1:10-15

Granted, Isaiah was speaking to Sodom and Gomorrah and not to Jerusalem. However, as you count the national sins described in Leviticus 20, as applied to America, what is the difference in substance of America and those two cities of iniquity?

3. The Resolution

Here is the resolution: Because of the Blood of Jesus, the supernatural gift, by Grace, of faith and forgiveness, and repentance, we are temples of the living God (II Corinthians 6:16). We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), rather than cows are lambs or goats or birds as dead sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God! We have learned (Matthew 15:19) that out of the heart proceeds evil, without Jesus, but with Jesus, (Matthew 22:37) we can love the Lord our God with all of our heart, and (Mark 11:23) without doubt, that we can do good works in love out of a pure heart (I Timothy 1:5)! Now, that is substance over form, and that is what God is looking for in us, because when our hearts are right, II Timothy 2:22, we can call upon the Lord from a pure heart, and Hebrews 10:22, in full assurance of faith.

Conclusion: As you prepare for a Solemn Assembly in early December this year, review the scriptures we have discussed today, and repent and be washed in the Word and the Blood of Christ, receiving anew the forgiveness of God, in all sincerity of Heart. Then we will be prepared and our Lord will hear our prayers as we ask His help in turning the tide against Him within and without this nation of America.

We don’t want parts of our land cut off, nor do we want to suffer under foreign controls.

Because of the Blood of Jesus, we do not need to enter an oath with a curse, as a sure covenant, because we have the privilege of an oath with a promise that will not disappoint. But we still need to enter, to re-enter, on a personal level, that covenant relationship with Jesus. With our hearts right, we will elevate substance over form, and God, who is patient and faithful, will forgive us, as He forgave King David, and He will bless us and heal our land.