Miracles within alignment – 1. There are places that we have to enter.

Today the UK marks 1 year since our first lockdown, 23rd March 2020. Churches will open, a minute’s silence at noon and people will stand on their doorsteps again tonight and we will think back on a year when over 126,000 people have died with this terrible virus.

Tomorrow we will again look forward to post-lockdown dates to come soon. We want to get out and to get back. We don’t care where we go we just want to go. Health and safety will be our concerns. The state of our mental health and the impact of our losses will be in our discussions. There will be many hurdles to overcome. We will need to instil confidence and we will need to make sure we are in alignment with the Holy Spirit.

I always believe the best is yet to come. I am an optimist. There are many doomsayers out there in the Christian world predicting awful times ahead. I’m not one of them. God hasn’t changed. We still need to keep in alignment with Him and when we do miracles can happen.

Over the next few days I am going to pause and read slowly our next verses of Matthew’s gospel:

(Matthew 8 v 5-13) “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.”

Miracles within alignment – there are places that we have to enter.

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.” V5

This town was Jesus’ base. He continually kept coming back here ever since he left Nazareth. It became his home.

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— Matthew 4:13

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. Mark 2:1

Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. John 6:24

Jesus knew the town very well and he also knew the shores of the lake too spending lots of time there. The town also was where Peter had a house.

Don’t give upon your city, your town, village or street. There are places that we will need to enter for miracles to happen and your place is one of them.

  • It is a place known by God.

Isaiah had prophesied about Capernaum and Matthew could see the connection, “to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:14-16).

On reading and memorising these Scriptures, Jesus would have realised that he was the great light, he was the dawn for a dark land and he had come for people like those living on the Way of the Sea, in Capernaum. Scripture was guiding him.

You are the great light for your place. It may be a dark place but you are there and you have to enter again knowing He knows your place.

  • It is a place known by you

Jesus put down some roots even for a short time and lived as a man amongst them.

The residents of Capernaum had God on their streets, in their shops, in their synagogue and homes. God was there talking, laughing, in power performing miracles of healing and transformation. Much of the town were indifferent to the presence of God and judgment would be pronounced later in the gospel.

You know your place and you enter it with enthusiasm. Someone else may look at where you live with disparaging remarks but you will stand and defend your place because you are there and it is your place.

Capernaum was the home of Jesus for some years, it was his place which he would return to time and again. Where do you live today? Where is home? There are places that we have to enter, familiar places and when we do miracles can happen because of our alignment to where God has placed us. You are there for a purpose and it is your place.

Hide your problem within worship

The only place for that problem you are carrying is worship. The only way you are going to stop it getting larger so that it dominates your environment is worship. You can consume your problem with worship or you can be consumed by the problem.

After his sermon the first person he encounters is a leper. There are no more details about the man, we don’t know what kind of leprosy and at the time it would cover all kinds of skin disease, but what we do know is that leprosy stigmatised him within his community, he was an outcast.

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosycame and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8 v 1-4)

If there was fear of contracting any disease then leprosy held the greatest. It totally ruined your life and those of your family. You became ostracised, an outcast with a social stigma that you never recovered from. Leprosy was permanent and gradually got worse. There was no future for the leper.

Whoever this man was he knew that according to form, Jesus could heal leprosy.

Even though his leprosy was so bad he was covered with it, Jesus could do it.

It is whether Jesus was willing.

So the man did what we all should do in similar situations.

Lay the burden down in worship.

The KJV says of verse 2, “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”

He laid down, he brought the leprosy down to the feet of Jesus. His sickness was not even on the same level of importance as Jesus and certainly not bigger than him. His problem was less than the presence of Jesus. Our problems still are. No matter how huge they are or how terminal they may be, they are not as important as His presence in our life at this moment.

The man fell down into the posture of worship.

There was a moment when Jesus fell down in the garden and said a similar thing. For Jesus he would realise the will of His Father was to keep going to the cross.

For us, whatever the seismic problem you wake to today, then lay down in worship before His presence. Realise whether He wills it or not, here at His feet is the best place you can be. There is nowhere else to go but His presence. What can you do but worship? Worship outweighs will.

But for this man he found that Jesus was willing.

Jesus was willing to do what no other would do, he touched the man. Whatever your problem Jesus still touches men and women today and you are never far from a move of God upon your life.

Jesus was willing to work with his cultural laws, the priest had to examine the man so he could re-enter his community. God has a place for you within community and He will lead you to take up that position so you can hold your head up high.

Jesus was willing to take the risk on the real reason for his mission. That is why he asked the man for silence. He didn’t want to jeopardise the reason by causing people to only focus on the miracles. The answer to your problem has to submit to the higher purpose that God has for you.

A great sermon has authority with authenticity

What’s the greatest sermon you have ever heard?

Whilst you’re thinking of that, let me remind you we have over the last several weeks just read the greatest sermon ever preached. Here are the final words of Matthew to end that sermon:

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7 v 28-29)

Can you imagine being in the crowds that day?

Can you imagine having listened to Jesus’ sermon?

The Message: “When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.”

Amplified: “When Jesus had finished these sayings [the Sermon on the Mount], the crowds were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His teaching.”

Can you imagine sitting there, blown away, flabbergasted, awestruck at what you had just heard?

This was not a discussion. It was not some soundbites or short devotion. This was teaching like you had never heard. And … (I presume!) … without notes!

You cannot but start to compare what you usually get. And the teachers of the law (and the pastors!) began to squirm and prepare to hand their notice in for who can ever compare with such authority? The teaching that was given always used someone else’s material quoting them verbatim in order to be acceptable. But with Jesus He only quoted the Scriptures not Rabbi such and such.

Authority in the pulpit isn’t connected to the decibels of noise coming out of your mouth nor how much sweat you pour out, neither is it determined by your upbringing, as Jesus of Nazareth would remind us.

Nor does it come from some religious credential, Jesus didn’t have any.

Nor does it come from a conformity to the religious rule book, Jesus tore his generation’s book up. No. This authority comes not from man or prestige or performance but from a relationship with God.

Go back to the Message translation and see how I have underlined a few words.

Authority with authenticity. This sermon was within Jesus. He lived it.

The beautiful thing is that you and I can have that same authority with authenticity. God’s Word in our lives.

Yesterday I was privileged as I always am to sit in an interview whilst a Church leadership board asked many questions of the pastoral candidate. But the privilege was hearing the Pastor use the Bible in his answers. He wasn’t trying to show off. The story of his life was held by the Word of God. He had authority with authenticity.

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God fills your life with stories and experiences that belong to you, so that you can draw on them later in life set within His Word.

God gives you authority through learned obedience. Painful journeys where you have learnt submission to His will and to His Word.

God gives you authority beyond your years as you reside in Him and lay hold of the promises in His Word.

The good news is that Jesus has said that He possesses all authority and He has given it to those who follow Him.

Let’s rise and be the greatest sermon that our personal world has heard.

Let us rise with authority and authenticity.

Security of the Sermon

We are now at the end of the sermon Jesus gave to his disciples and to the crowds on the mountainside. A sermon that demands more than applause; this is not a sermon of 10 keys to improving your life; this is a sermon that says ‘do all of this’, ‘build your life on the whole sermon’; this is what Jesus said to end his message:-

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7 v 24-27)

There is no promise from Jesus to say you won’t face tough times. Living in His kingdom doesn’t mean you won’t be facing floods and torrents striking your life with such force that you become in danger of collapse. Why do bad things happen to good people? Wrong question! They happen to everyone, good or bad. There isn’t enough good in you to stop the bad happening anyway. Life contains the floods and the torrents, rivers are beautiful but they burst their banks and bring ruin. That is how it is.

But being in danger of collapse and collapsing are different.

What’s underneath you today?

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, “Destroy them!”

The enemies will come, you will face them and they will beat against the life you have built. All that you have built, all that you call are blessings, all that is beautiful in your life will be challenged to its core. It will happen but the destruction that it brings is determined by you.

Jesus is rounding off his beatitudes and he is saying to his disciples that just hearing his sermon is not enough. He wants them to be in the kingdom. The only way is not through listening, through worship or through respect. What Jesus says is so important that we must take the sermon and make it the base of our lives, we must practice the message of his parables that are to follow, we must live according to the Word of God with all the responses and decisions and the attitudes of the heart that it calls for. If we do then it doesn’t matter what the enemy of our souls throws at us, we will respond not in the way that was expected, we will not lie down, back off, walk away, crumble, crash out. We will not become a casualty, a statistic, we will not walk through the valleys of the shadows of death in fear of our surroundings.

If there is one sermon in your life you must remember and apply to your life it is this sermon on the mountainside. Let the Church do this sermon. It is our security.

False Disciples

We are nearing the end of this sermon from Jesus and today we are reading what some feel is the scariest verses in the Bible.

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7 v 21-23)

Jesus is not trying to dangle his disciples over the pit of hell forcing more allegiance out of them. Don’t read this in fear and trepidation that you are not going to make it because you haven’t been good enough. It is not to raise doubts like, “I haven’t done the Father’s will! Have I done enough of the Father’s will? I’m not sure I know the Father’s will!”

Let me ask 3 questions.

  1. Who are you behind the stage?

When the curtains close to rapturous applause who are you?

Not every great communicator, demon chaser and miracle worker have a relationship with Jesus. These wonderful activities in comparison to being known by Jesus are worthless. They may benefit the crowds but there will be a final curtain call and when it is all over what will be left? This whole sermon has been about being different to the religious Pharisee who gives so much attention to the outward appearance in order to be praised and respected. However at the same time this individual ignores true justice, lacks humility and is actually unkind, ungracious and does not show mercy.

  • How important is your activity on the stage?

On the 25th April the Academy Awards will be held and many will be hoping for their well-deserved Oscar. Do you think you deserve some awards? What about promotion? Recognition? After all you have done do you feel entitled to opportunities that have not come your way? Look at all those great things you have said, you have really helped people from the demons of their life and you are known by so many who have received miracles because of you. Crowds can change a person. They can give a person a feeling of superiority. They can deceive someone to think they are better than they really are. On that final curtain call, ‘that day’ which will be bigger than any Academy Awards night, there will be a possible reward or rejection, you will either be standing empty handed or carrying your prize. The stage will have given you all the rewards you will be getting. The reward from heaven will be for your life off the stage where you never got earthly applause perhaps and maybe the crowds never saw who you were.

  • Are you known off the stage?

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

The audience of the One is better than the auditoriums of thousands. “I never knew you” is the strongest ‘never’ you can understand. It is ‘never, ever’; it is an absolute and objective denial; it is you have never at any time been a disciple of mine. “You have never opened your heart to me and become vulnerable to my grace, love and mercy”.

The greatest thing of your life today is that you will once again open your life for Him to know you. You will share your struggles, ask forgiveness, ask for strength and you will desire Him. In doing this He will know you. Being known each day will mean these verses will never apply to you. Amen!

False Prophets

The prophets who predicted Trump to gain a second office didn’t do the greatest of harm. They may have appeared foolish just like those who announced the end of the world in the year 2000. They may have caused embarrassment to Christian circles but some were causing that way before they started prophesying the next US President. Some of these prophets appear to be very eccentric but then again the Bible has its characters doesn’t it?! Isaiah took off his clothes and preached naked for 3 years; Jeremiah hid his underwear under a rock and then after a long time went back for them! He also attached a cattle yoke to his shoulders for a season; Hosea married a prostitute; Ezekiel ate a scroll. He lay on his side for 390 days and then rolled over and repeated the action for a further 40 days. People had difficulty believing these prophets!

Here are our next verses:

 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7 v 15-20)

Watch out!

And perhaps watch out if you are a false prophet as fire is the result.

Mistakes in prophecy doesn’t necessarily make you a false prophet any more than if you teach an inaccuracy behind the pulpit makes you a false teacher. However the Church are forever lighting fires to burn people, it has never stopped.

In the US most evangelicals have heard of Jeremiah Johnson. He has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. “I was wrong, I am deeply sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness,” he wrote in a detailed letter he posted online. “I would like to repent for inaccurately prophesying that Donald Trump would win a second term as the President of the United States.”

But perhaps what they don’t know is the fire that Christians had erected for him. On Facebook, he reported that he received “multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry.” Is he a false prophet? I think he is a mistaken one. He got it wrong. But others clearly disagree.

The false prophets as I view Jesus’ words here are not the ones who predicted the end of the world 21 years ago or those that said Trump would get a second term. But they are the Pastors, leaders, members, spiritual people who have ‘heard from God’ that the person should remain and submit to that abusive situation because marriage should not be broken. It is to the Pharisee who cause others to suffer because of their conduct lists. It is those who hide and appear to be like one of the sheep who share a fear of the wolf and only end up being revealed as the wolf themselves. They attack from within. There is a rising of insurgency within our world and within the Church. This is the falsehood we must watch for.

“Can this person be trusted? Is this person good?” A question we continue to ask which Jesus answers.

We all want people around us who will benefit our lives for the good. We don’t want our fruit to be growing in thistles of complaint, jealousy, regrets eating away at them and bitterness or superiority, pride and self-satisfaction.

So how can we spot a false prophet?

  • We listen, not to the first thing that comes out of the mouth but perhaps the last sentence. The reasoning behind the words. The attitude. The story of the person’s life. The tone of their voice. We experience them not listen to their words.
  • We slow down and we look for the good to impact our lives. That might mean we spew out of our mouths what is not so good about the person but digest the good. Ever wondered what to do with a series of books from an author that you thought were a super saint only to discover that they were not a very nice person? Do you hold a burn the books ceremony? If so, I think you may have a small library by the end of your life! No, we look for the good that we want to come into our life, we take the good and we make less heroes in our life.
  • Give it time. Let time reveal the truth. Good fruit will come, good things will emerge and good words will be spoken and the reverse also. Just because it is a tree it doesn’t mean a thing, wait for the season of fruit, wait for time to pass, all will be revealed.
  • Don’t light a fire. You don’t have to burn every mistaken gift or office.

Beyond the narrow gate of discipleship

In the final scenes of his sermon on the mountainside Jesus draws things to a close. He has had one eye on the crowd all the time whilst speaking to the disciples. But now it seems he makes sure he speaks to everyone.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7 v 13-14)

It is a call to everyone, ‘What are you going to do with me?’ We know from John (10:9) that Jesus saw himself as the gate.

The gate comes first. Otherwise we would be working our way down the narrow path doing our very best to stay on it in order to get to the narrow gate, Jesus, who will then let us into eternity. Some Christians/Churches really believe it is that way round. I’m thankful I don’t.

Choose Christ. It isn’t the popular choice, few find it. But the disciple of Christ is beyond the narrow gate and is walking out their discipleship within the kingdom which Christ has spent the majority of his sermon talking about. The narrow path is free of hypocrisy, it loves others and it knows true happiness.

This is the eternal path now, beyond the gate, it is the road of life that leads to life.

Last Sunday I discussed eternity with my mother. I’ve been struggling with the brevity of life. She agreed that life has gone so quickly but she was calmer and more accepting of it. She’s been on this narrow path for over 30 years longer than me. Her days on earth are most probably shorter than mine. But one thing I noticed, there was no fear of getting to the gate and wondering whether she would be let ‘in’.  You see, she’s beyond the gate. She chose Christ many years ago and has been walking the narrow road ever since. There is a confidence of life.

This last few days I have been thinking of 2 friends who died 4 years apart and both called David. Here one moment and gone the next. Friends disappear on this narrow path. We all know the pain of losing loved ones. But beyond the gate the Bible says there is no death, only life. So what happens? Perhaps it is like what David wrote in Psalm 18:19 “He brought me out into a spacious place”. Maybe beyond the narrow gate walking the narrow road we just at some point move from the sight of earth, whether quickly or through a terminal illness, we just continue to walk the road of life that began way back at the narrow gate and we arrive into a large wide-open space of life totally fulfilled and extremely satisfied, perfect in every way. God has been leading us all along until, “he rescued me because he delighted in me” and we are what my roots of the Salvation Army termed for the death of its salvationists as ‘Promoted to Glory’ and God continues to lead us within the open space.

I’m learning that beyond the gate life actually isn’t short, it is in fact eternal. At some point we disappear from this narrow path, it is what happens, but there’s no fear of what happens next, there’s no uncertainty, there’s no entrance exam; we have just entered a new space. It’s what happens to our life beyond the narrow gate.

The Golden Rule of Discipleship

Some people spend their whole lives waiting for some big revelation from the sky that will unveil the big amazing plan for their life. They miss it and die.

Some people carry a victim mentality over a disappointment that took place years ago. They miss it and their spirit died in the unfairness of it all.

Some people march out with justice placards determined to change their world or at least their friends. They miss it and their friends die away.

What marks out the disciple of Jesus? It is this …

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7 v 12)

So … a concluding remark and at the end of the remark revealing that this is the summary of the Old Testament.

In the context of the Father giving them good gifts, be like Him.

The Golden Rule because it is akin to Love God love your neighbour.

Can you imagine if in the world of politics, education, media and the Church the Golden Rule was adopted?

What kind of world would we live in?

Think of the way you would like to be treated and then go and do that to other people, every person, not just the ones you like.

That’s the golden rule for being a disciple.

For all those out there carrying stones and snakes

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t have a personality disorder. He is powerful. But He doesn’t exploit, deceive, manipulate, coerce or abuse. He is relational. But He doesn’t leave us insecure, uncertain, confused or bewildered. He lives in us by His Spirit. But He doesn’t silence us because of our stupidity nor give us moral lists to perform.

How do we know this?

It is because of Jesus and the things He said. Like this next few verses:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7 v 9-11)

How do we know that our Heavenly Father is not a narcissist?

It is the cross.

Whether it be good gifts or the greatest gift being the Holy Spirit (as Luke states) in this context of being highly vulnerable, asking , seeking and knocking, in your anguish and longing, in your desperation for something, your Heavenly Father can be relied upon to give you what is good.

Whether from your earthly father, pastor or line-manager, you may today sadly be carrying a stone or a snake. You may have been deceived, spiritually and emotionally from someone who represents what must be worse than the word Jesus used for the good fathers, ‘evil’.

You may need far more than a simple short blog.

But the starting point is this and it is about your Heavenly Father:

He can be trusted.

Even to simply get you through today.

“Father I need bread and I need fish.”

“I need help to get me through this day.”

How much more … He will give so much more.

The church needs the anguish prayer of a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I have been moved to read this morning the story of Hudson Taylor’s mother. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) is widely known for his missions work in China. But it was his mother that sustained him through her continual prayers for him. The whole world acknowledges him for the hundreds of missionaries that followed him to China and the thousands and thousands of Chinese who would come to Christ through his ministry. And all of that would never have happened without a praying mother.

In my own family every one of us know who the intercessor is. Our mother. It’s what she does. She never lets go of God for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!

It seems that mothers pray but they also teach their children to pray from an early age. They teach them prayers to pray at bedtime and around the dinner table. The quote of Psalm 22 from Jesus on the cross was one of his childhood prayers Mary had taught him to recite. Can you imagine the impact that had on his mother as she heard her dying son pray their prayer? Can you see her anguish? Hold it right there and let us read Jesus words in our next verses today …

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7 v 7-8)

And here’s what it means …

Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Asking is petitioning and demanding; Seeking is getting to the bottom of a matter and striving; Knocking is to beat down a door.. Jesus is not advocating for some sweet nice prayers. This is determined, persistent, longing heart ache prayers.

Hudson Taylor departed for China in 1853 and his mother was there to say goodbye at the docks in Liverpool. And from his journal we read this:

“My beloved, now sainted mother, had come over to Liverpool to see me off. Never shall I forget that day, nor how she went with me into the cabin that was to be my home for nearly six long months. With a mother’s loving hand she smoothed the little bed. She sat by my side and joined in the last hymn we should sing together before parting. We knelt down and she prayed—the last mother’s prayer I was to hear before leaving for China. Then notice was given that we must separate, and we had to say good-bye, never expecting to meet on earth again.

For my sake she restrained her feelings as much as possible. We parted, and she went ashore giving me her blessing. I stood alone on deck, and she followed the ship as we moved toward the dockgates. As we passed through the gates and the separation really commenced, never shall I forget the cry of anguish wrung from that mother’s heart. It went through me like a knife. I never knew so fully, until then, what “God so loved the world” meant. And I am quite sure my precious mother learned more of the love of God for the perishing in that one hour than in all her life before.” (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secrets by Howard and Geraldine Taylor. Discovery House, 1990, Pages 33-34.)

The anguish of a mother’s prayer needs to touch our hearts today as we pray for our world.

Twenty years ago I led my church through a time of earnest prayer impacted by what I had found coming from one of David Wilkerson’s sermons on Nehemiah. It was dated 15th September 2002.

Here is the clip that you can hear his prayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcUh2xLmJy4

And this is an excerpt of the transcript:

And I look at the whole religious scene today and all I see are the inventions and ministries of man and flesh. It’s mostly powerless. It has no impact on the world. And I see more of the world coming into the church and impacting the church, rather than the church impacting the world. I see the music taking over the house of God. I see entertainment taking over the house of God. An obsession with entertainment in God’s house; a hatred of correction and a hatred of reproof. Nobody wants to hear it any more. Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God? Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age. You don’t hear it. Anguish means extreme pain and distress. The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful. Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Deep pain. Deep sorrow. The agony of God’s heart. We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk but we’ve become so passive. All true passion is born out of anguish. All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish. You search the scripture and you’ll find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation… He would share His own anguish for what God saw happening to His church and to His people. And He would find a praying man and take that man and literally baptize him in anguish. You find it in the book of Nehemiah. Jerusalem is in ruins. How is God going to deal with this? How is God going to restore the ruin? Now folks, look at me… Nehemiah was not a preacher, he was a career man. But this was a praying man. And God found a man who would not just have a flash of emotion. Not just some great sudden burst of concern and then let it die. He said: “No. I broke down and I wept and I mourned and I fasted. And then I began to pray night and day. Why didn’t these other men… why didn’t they have an answer? Why didn’t God use them in restoration? Why didn’t they have a word? Because there was no sign of anguish. No weeping. Not a word of prayer. It’s all ruin. Does it matter to you today? Does it matter to you at all that God’s spiritual Jerusalem, the church, is now married to the world? That there is such a coldness sweeping the land? Closer than that… does it matter about the Jerusalem that is in our own hearts? The sign of ruin that’s slowly draining spiritual power and passion. Blind to lukewarmness, blind to the mixture that’s creeping in. That’s all the devil wants to do is to get the fight out of you and kill it. So you won’t labor in prayers anymore, you won’t weep before God anymore. You can sit and watch television and your family go to hell. Let me ask you… is what I just said convicting to you at all? There is a great difference between anguish and concern. Concern is something that begins to interest you. You take an interest in a project or a cause or a concern or a need. And I want to tell you something. I’ve learned over all my years… of 50 years of preaching. If it is not born in anguish, if it had not been born of the Holy Spirit. Where what you saw and heard of the ruin that drove you to your knees, took you down into a baptism of anguish where you began to pray and seek God. I know now. Oh my God do I know it. Until I am in agony. Until I have been anguished over it… And all our projects, all our ministries, everything we do… Where are the Sunday school teachers that weep over kids they know are not hearing and are going to hell? You see, a true prayer life begins at the place of anguish. You see, if you set your heart to pray, God’s going to come and start sharing His heart with you. Your heart begins to cry out: “Oh God, Your name is being blasphemed. The Holy Spirit is being mocked. The enemy is out trying to destroy the testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness and something has to be done.” There is going to be no renewal, no revival, no awakening, until we are willing to let Him once again break us. Folks, it’s getting late, and it’s getting serious. Please don’t tell me… don’t tell me you’re concerned when you’re spending ours in front of internet or television. Come on. Lord, there are some that need to get to this alter and confess: “I am not what I was, I am not where I am supposed to be. God I don’t have Your heart or Your burden. I wanted it easy. I just wanted to be happy. But Lord, true joy comes out of anguish.” There’s nothing of the flesh that will give you joy. I don’t care how much money, I don’t care what kind of new house, there is absolutely nothing physical that can give you joy. It’s only what is accomplished by the Holy Spirit when you obey and take on His heart. Build the walls around your family. Build the walls around your own heart. It will make you strong and impregnable against the enemy. God, that’s what we desire. AMEN

This is anguish. Jesus wants us to have the anguish of Mary. The anguish of his own heart. Ask, seek and knock. Don’t give up.