Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Spoiled Church - Part Seven

"If My people, which are called by My name, 
shall humble themselves, 
and pray, 
and seek My face, 
and turn from their wicked ways; 
then will I hear from heaven, 
and will forgive their sin, 
and will heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14
(KJV)

To read A Spoiled Church - Part Six, click here.


In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said that we must take four specific steps in order for Him
to hear from Heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land.
1.  Humble ourselves
2.  Pray
3.  Seek His face
4.  Turn from our wicked ways

When I read this verse, at face value, it sounds like steps #2 & #3 are one and the same.
But, are they?
Is it the same thing for us to pray and to seek God's face?

If praying and seeking God's face were one and the same thing,
would He have separated them into two steps in this verse?

So, what is the difference?

I suppose we could explain it this way and say that there is "everyday" praying,
and then there is "seeking-God's-face" praying.

Seeking God's face praying is taking prayer a step farther...
nudging it up a notch several notches.

Seeking God's face is an intense searching.
An anguished pursuit.
It happens most often when we are in distressing circumstances...
when our back is against the wall,
when every other avenue and human resource has been exhausted,
when every safety net has let us down,
and we are in one word, desperate.

There are times in our lives when we may skim by on "nominal" prayers...
you know, the kind we "say" as we are getting ready to climb into bed,
or the kind we utter as we are already in bed, dog-tired and weary, and sort of drifting in and out while speaking them.
The kind we say on our way out the door in the morning, because we overslept,
and just couldn't pull ourselves out of bed in time to have a "real" prayer.
Those obligatory prayers.
The kind that are driven simply by the knowledge that we "should" pray.

We've all been there.
We'll all be there again, no doubt.

But, truly and passionately seeking God's face goes beyond anything marginal.
Seeking God's face may go beyond anything you...or I...have yet experienced.

"Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands.
Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger."
Zephaniah 2:3
(NIV)

Seeking God's face is going to require us to make a sacrifice of self, my dear friends.

I know this stuff is not easy-to-read.
I know it is wearing thin, because it is so heavy.
I feel like everyone is so ready for a reprieve from the weightiness,
but God has not yet relieved the burden upon my heart, so, what am I to do?

I seriously considered throwing in the towel and abandoning the completion of this series.
As hard as it is to read, 
can you imagine how hard it is to write?

I am feeling steadily-convicted while writing this series.
It is cutting close on all levels.
I am feeling the two-edged sword of God's Word,
and it is sharp...and keen...and penetrating deep...
in me first.
"For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, 
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, 
and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12

I admit that I am somewhat very weary.

But, again, as I considered not seeing this writing project through to its conclusion,
Jesus reminded me of what He told me while I was writing part three...
 "I would not have inspired you to write it, if I wanted you to keep it to yourself.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
(Matthew 10:34)

That two-edged sword that Jesus came to bring is cutting across the grain.
And it smarts.
And it isn't easy on the flesh.

And this step...step #3 of seeking God's face is going to require even more sacrifice of self...
relinquishments that are hard to make.

Things like....

1.  Sleep.
When in the trenches of seeking God's face, we may have to get up earlier in order to do more than just "say" a 30 second prayer on our way out the door.
We may have to set our alarm clock early.
Will you consider it?
God is so eager for time with you, He won't refuse it, regardless how small the number of minutes.
The longer, the better, but, by all means, give God more than you have been giving Him.
Please.
For the sake of turning the tide.
Will you?
What is more important?
Preserving a recognizable America for our children and grandchildren?
Or five extra minutes of sleep?
Seriously?
Oh, we are spoiled.
Rotten.
To the core.
God help us.
"I call to remembrance my song in the night: 
I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search."
Psalm 77:6
Diligent searching of God's face may very well require us to rise a little bit, maybe a lot, earlier.

2.  Time.
Who gives it anyway?
"My times are in Thy hand..."
Psalm 31:15
"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being..."
Acts 17:28
Who reserves the right to take it away any second He chooses?
If God said our time is up today, what could we do about it?
"There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; 
neither hath he power in the day of death..."
Ecclesiastes 8:8
I understand the need for "me time".
I get it.
But, I'll be honest.
I'm growing weary of it being more important to us than God's cause.
I think it is over-rated.
I talk more on the subject here.
What would happen if we started surrendering even a fraction of our "me time" 
and turned it into "we time" with God?
What could we accomplish in the way of seeking His face during those moments?
Is there any way of measuring the rewards of that small sacrifice?
Is it worth it to you?
In order to seek God's face, 
we are going to have to persevere in prayer until our praying has become two-sided.
So often, we rush through our prayers, asking for all of the things we want and need to ask for,
but never allowing God to have His time to speak back to us.
We need to allow time after we have finished pouring out our hearts,
for God to pour out His.
I have learned that this is the best part of prayer.
Oh, when He comes down!
When His Spirit overflows, and my soul is filled to the brim!
What glory!
He longs to share that with us!
So often, we shut Him down and quench His Spirit by leaving our prayer spot way too soon.
Seeking God's face is going to require us to set aside the extra time to linger before Him in quietness and solitude,
with all of the world shut out, all noise turned off, completely alone with Him...
to allow His still, small voice to whisper the answers we so desperately need to hear.

3.  Food.
We are going to have to be willing to add fasting to our prayers.
Gasp!
I know, right?
When is the last time you heard that preached on?
We are a gluttonous bunch.
Oh, we do love to eat.
Every social event.
Every church function.
Every dedication service.
Every women's meeting.
Every Bible Study.
Even Sunday morning service.
Huh?
Yes.
You read that right.
We have even gotten to where we bring our coffee right into the sanctuary.
Call me old-fashioned and straight-laced...don't worry, I've been called that...and much worse...
it's okay....
but I just don't know if that sits right with me.
Or, more importantly, with God?
Some of us even serve the coffee up with donuts...or danishes...or yum...bagels with cream cheese.
Not outside, mind you, but right in the inner sanctum...you know...the place where God comes down
and anoints and blesses and inspires and pours out His Spirit.
Could our dry services be because we are more focused on indulging our physical appetites,
than we are on feasting on the Heavenly manna that He so longs to send?
Could our lack of anointing be because our need to fill our far-from-starving bellies
completely overshadows any longing to fill our undernourished souls?
If Jesus were to walk into our modern-day, food-filled, freshly-brewed-coffee-scented houses of God,
would He be tempted to overturn the tables?
Honestly, what would He think?
Would He remind us, in no uncertain terms, anger in His eyes,
that His Father's house is a house of prayer, but we have turned it into a house of flesh-indulgence?
I'll be honest.
My eyes are full of tears.
Because I am convicted.
I am guilty.
I am wrong.
God help me...first.
Please don't misunderstand me.
I'm not saying it is wrong to enjoy our times of fellowship.
And lots of times our fellowship does involve food.
And that's okay.
But, food has become an idol.
We worship it more than we want to see change.
What would happen in our Sunday services if each one of us came into the service
in a "sackcloth-and-ashes-intensity" repentant state, and if we were fasting, instead of feasting?
How would our services change?
What level of the power of Almighty God would be unlocked and unleashed in our midst?
When is the last time you laid aside a meal, for the sake of the healing of our land?
When is the last time you pushed back from the table and sacrificed dessert because your heart was so sorrowful over the stifled cries of the unborn?
When is the last time you locked yourself away...for an hour...in a secluded room...
and begged for God's mercy upon your marriage, instead of joining your husband to watch the latest, newest filth to come across your TV screen?
When is the last time you took your much-coveted "me time" and turned it into a few hours of seeking God's face for the protection and preservation of your children's souls?
When is the last time you told God you would not eat another bite until the chains of addiction were broken in your family?
When is the last time you wrestled with God in prayer, while everyone else went out for a meal?
I wish I had time to really delve into and dissect the 58th chapter of Isaiah here.
If this series ever does turn into a book, perhaps it can be analyzed more adequately in that format.
Perhaps, in your private time of devotions, you could read Isaiah 58:1-12.
I promise you will be amazed at what God will show you concerning fasting...
how it should be done,
why it should happen,
and the depths and scope of power that lies within it.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
We need to learn from Old Testament examples.
When God's wrath was about to be unleashed on Nineveh,
the people did not call a feast...they "called a fast".  Jonah 3:5
Funny how omitting the letter of "e" completely changes the meaning of those two words.
By the Ahava canal, Ezra "called for a fast".
"Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance."
Ezra 8:21
Oh, dear Lord, where is Ezra now?
Esther begged her people to fast for her for three days and three nights before she approached the throne of her husband king, uninvited.  Esther 4:16
And let us not forget that King Josiah called a fast when the Book of the Law was discovered,
and he realized the extent of the sins of his people.  Jeremiah 36:9-10
Fasting is a vital part of "humbling ourselves" and "seeking God's face", dear friends.
Its strengthening affect upon and empowering ability to prayer cannot be ignored.
We are going to have to want God's attention, forgiveness, and the healing of our land,
more than we want food.
There are certain levels of miracles that absolutely necessitate the inclusion of fasting with our prayers.
Jesus' disciples came to Him one day, after not being able to pray through and bring about the desired results for someone who came to them asking for deliverance.
They wanted to know why they hadn't been able to succeed in helping the person.
Jesus' response to them, in Matthew 17:21, was this...
"But this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting."
There are just certain situations that require the combination of the two.

Have you humbled yourself?
Are you praying?
Are you willing to seek God's face...whatever that may personally cost you?
Are we willing to deny ourselves for the sake of the healing of our land?
Will we take the necessary initiative to gain an audience with God?

He is sending forth His Word.
It will not return unto Him void.

How will you respond?

Stay tuned for Part Eight of "A Spoiled Church"!!!
Coming soon, Lord willing!!!

18 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, dear Denise, for your faithfulness to read and comment. Your encouragement means more than you will ever know.

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  2. Hi Cheryl! I'm so sorry that this series is taking so much out of you. But it does sound like you're learning a lot about yourself, and that's a pearl of great price.
    I know what you mean about waking up early to pray, or to have time to be more intentional. That's what I have to do, and I'm not a morning person at all. But I know if I don't, my whole day feels goofed up and wrong. God calls, and we must answer, just as you are doing with this series.
    May God continue to give you the strength and inspiration to continue the work He has started in you.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, sweet friend! YES, I am learning much...God is convicting me first, that's for sure. I can't thank you enough for your dear kindness and support. I so appreciate your encouragement and comments. God bless you! :)

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  3. My darling Cheryl,
    your words comfort my soul, thank you so much !
    With much love and gratitude
    Dany

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    Replies
    1. Thank you ever so much, my dear friend. I so appreciate your support and encouragement. God bless you abundantly! :)

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  4. What struck me in this one was that word; "desperate". You know a little bit of what's been going on in my world for some time, but what it has done for me is to make me desperate for God in my life. I know there is no peace without being one with God and I've experienced living "In the presence of my enemies". And God has been faithful to provide.

    Now I and we need that same desperation for our Father to intercede on our behalf and for this country and the souls in it! I pray daily for us, sister. You're not alone. You know, weary or not, I stand with you. And all of us by His strength and wisdom in us.

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    1. Yes, brother, I do know, and I have been praying much for you and your family. Trusting God to see you through and make all things right. The lessons you are gleaning are such a blessing to all of us who read and follow your blog. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and comments here...they are such a comfort. May the dear Lord bless you and your family and keep all of you in His tender care.

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  5. I agree that our praying must mean business with God. Fasting is not a popular subject, but it is a needed topic for us all to consider. God is desiring to meet us on His level and The Blessed Holy spirit is drawing Christians closer into the very Presence of God as we do SEEK his face. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Yes, we must meet Him on His level. We can't ever think that He will conform to the box we try to put Him in. We have to come up to His standards. Thank you so much for your precious support and encouragement, Hazel. It means so much!

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  6. Fantastic post! I'm visiting from Our Simple Homestead Hop.
    Thanks
    Angie
    PS - If you haven' t hopped on board the Great Blog Train (blog hop) yet there's still plenty of time - we are traveling to St. Helens, England this month!: http://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/2015/08/the-great-blog-train-32-giveaway.html

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Angelique. Got it, and I am now on board the Great Blog Train!! Woo! Hoo! Thanks for inviting me, and God bless!

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  7. You asked a good question - are #2 and #3 the same? For me, I think that all too often my prayers center around my own life. What I want God to do. Supplication rules when I talk to Him. And yet, doesn't He want what all of us parents want? Don't we also want our children to just want to be with us, just because they love us? It would be tiring if they only came to us when they wanted something.

    I think about this often. So, prayer in my life needs to grow, to expand into real communication and intimacy, to go beyond my laundry list of wants. And yes, I want to seek God just for the sheer pleasure of knowing Him better.

    GOD BLESS!

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    1. Very good points, dear friend. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and thoughts. Love and appreciate you and am praying for you!

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  8. There is no meaningful service to God without meaningful sacrifices.
    We must deny ourselves and or comfort if we must render qualitative service to God.
    God bless you Beth for sharing God's heart!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ugochi. God bless you for stopping by and leaving encouragement behind!

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  9. Congrats - this fantastic post received the most "clicks" on the August Great Blog Train ( blog hop) & is being featured on my blog today: http://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/2015/08/august-2015-great-blog-train-results.html
    Thanks again
    Angie

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    Replies
    1. Wow, I am so honored...and humbled! So thankful for your sweet email this morning...it made my whole day brighter!! You are a blessing to me. :)

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