Married to a Seducer

HEARING gODVerizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005. In their commercials a so-called “test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.

The “catch phrase” caught on. The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down. It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect. Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems. And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.

PROPHETS

At the risk of selling him short, God has done the same. Even when the Kingdom had split in two, he kept sending his message. He gave the people of the Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” his call. He sent his own “technicians” to get the message out. We call them “prophets.”

PROSTITUTES

The job of the Verizon technician is unique. But not nearly as unique as the task given Hosea. Hosea, himself a prophet, appeared in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. So Hosea signed on with God. But God gave him a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her. What an incredible request! (Just imagine a young man with a sePROSTITUTEminary degree in hand trying to explain that one to a pastor search committee.)

The tough assignment was made even more difficult as Gomer left Hosea. She would conduct her ‘trans- actions’ with customers and all the time in her mind believing they were the ones supporting her. In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her necessities even during her times of unfaithfulness.

PIMPS

God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. Now picture this scene, as ugly as it is: Hosea pays some Hebrew “pimp” for some time with his wife, Gomer. When she enters the room expecting her next customer, she comes face-to-face with her husband. It is then that Hosea tells her again he loves her and wants her to come back home.

PICK IT UP

It’s the lived-out message that Hosea later gives in words. And it’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. You have the power to send God to voicemail and make him wait. Or you can answer his call today. The people of Israel had 208 years to pick up and they never did. The network is clear. The message is reliable. Can you hear him now?

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Far more than we would ever dare to ask

amazing thingsCheck this out. “God, who by his mighty power at work within us, is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Eph 3:20 (TLB) Doesn’t that just blow you away? Doesn’t that stir something within you that wants to see that kind of thing happen? Doesn’t that make you want to know how to see that happen?

Well, here’s the key that unlocks the door to God doing far more than we would ever dare to ask. Are you ready? Hold on! It’s PRAYER. That’s right, prayer. I know, you thought it was going to be some new and profound discovery. No, it’s the same as it has always been, PRAYER.

If that is true, then why don’t we see God doing far more things than we would dare to ask, all the time? Are you ready for that answer? It is because we don’t ask. What do you suppose the most talked about subject in the church setting today is? Prayer! And what is the most talked about issue with Christians? Usually prayer.  Do you have any idea what is the least practiced? You guessed it, prayer. The kingdom of God will not be advanced in our own power. Your spiritual life will not experience any real, long term growth without lots and lots of prayer. God will never do more than we would dare to ask without a vital connection with him in prayer.

So I would say to you, PRAY FIRST.

Make that your approach to life. The first thing I will do is pray. Before I try to come up with a solution, before I seek advice, before I worry or fret or lay awake at night or throw up my hands and quit, I will pray.

What this does is bring the supernatural presence and power of God into every circumstance you face. I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but God knows a lot more than you do and God can accomplish a lot more than you can. In fact, God can do more and do it better in an instant than I can in my entire life. So why would I not include him first in whatever I am dealing with? It just doesn’t make sense.

When Peter was arrested, in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 12,  and thrown into prison facing death by execution, what do you think the first thing the other Christians did? They prayed, and prayed and kept on praying. So pray first and then…

Then PRAY OFTEN.

How often? As often as you think about the challenge, need, problem or opportunity. Now, I am not talking about stopping everything you are doing, assume a certain position on your prayer mat and devote lengthy time to praying, kind of prayer. I am talking about wherever you are, whatever you are doing speak it to God.

God thank you for this challenge I am facing. Help me to grow from it.

God, I have a lot going today. Please lead me in everything I do.

God, please give me the divine wisdom to know what to do in this situation.

God, help me to be sensitive to your leading in solving this problem.

God, forgive me for that thought I just had that was totally wrong.

God, help me not to do something irrational with my kids.

Now, there are times when we need to just be still before the Lord and pour our soul out to Him and seek him at length. But there are many times throughout the day when we just need to include him. Talk to him, tell him, seek him, invite him, depend on him.

Well, doesn’t God already know what I need? Doesn’t the Bible say that he even knows my thought? Then why do I need to spend so much time talking to him and telling him? Because, do you know what prayer is? It is declaring your absolute dependence on God. He wants us to declare our dependence on him. We need to declare our dependence on him. So do it and do it often. And then…

And PRAY BELIEVING.

Practically speaking, what good is it to ask if we don’t believe we will get an answer? What good is it to asking if we don’t believe God wants what is best for us? What good is it to ask if we don’t believe God moves and works through the prayers of his people?

Here are the very words of Jesus. This is going to the top. Mark 11:24 “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Believe that it is already on its way.

Let’s wrap it up with some words from  John. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask , because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:21

That means I am not just coming to God like a big Santa in the sky. I don’t look at him as just someone who gives me what I want. I am not bringing my shopping list. I do not believe in this health, wealth and prosperity gospel. “God, I am coming to you with a surrendered heart. I am coming to you with a willingness to back up my life with obedience, with living in a way that is sold out to pleasing you. That is what I want more than anything else in my life.” And, guess what, God honors and gives attention to those kinds of prayers.  God goes far beyond our asking when we come to him as that kind of surrendered, obedient follower.

Ramp it up!

A couple weeks ago I issued a call and challenge for you to join me in committing to 40 days of prayer for America leading up to the presidential election of 2012 on November 6. (Link to the original post: https://stevethornton.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/40-days-of-prayer-for-america/) Many, at that time, started to pray. Others have been somewhat hit and miss at it. Still others planned to pray but haven’t gotten into the routine of it yet.

Whatever your pattern has been or failed to be up to this point, I want to STRONGLY encourage you to DON’T STOP PRAYING. Or if you haven’t started praying for a new direction for America and think it is no use to start now, you are seriously wrong. It is NEVER too late to begin praying for our country and the direction she will take on November 6. So don’t stop praying now and if you haven’t started, please join me and the others who are praying. It is time to pick up the praying pace. It is time to ramp it up. It is time to take it to the next level as the election moves ever closer and closer.

Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear knows that the tide has begun to turn and that turn started right at about the 40 day period when more and more people across this country began to pray. The debate on October 3 took place and that was a game changer unlike any debate in presidential debate history. More and more people in America are beginning to acknowledge that the direction our country is going is devastating and now is the time to redirect.

You can look at any number of factors to explain the shift in voter preference that has taken place over the last ten days but I believe the unseen and most powerful factor has been the prayer of people of faith who believe God not only has the answer but is the answer and are turning to Him to lead in redirecting out great country.

So, I say it again, don’t stop praying. Join us if you haven’t been. Encourage others to do the same. Ramp it up. Every time you think about the election, say a prayer for America.

We need to realize that the Evil One will do everything he can to keep this country moving down its current road away from a solid foundation of strong morals, godly principles and faith in the divine creator as the ultimate authority.

Prayer is our greatest game changer at this time. It is not our only obligation. It will not take the place of showing up at the poles and voting, but the power of God cannot be underestimated when it comes to changing hearts.

Let’s not leave prayer to our last resort. Let’s make it our first line of defense and change. Ramp it up!

40 Days of Prayer for America

I am asking you to join me for forty days of prayer for the future of America. These forty days will lead up to the 2012 election on November 6. Whether you get in a full forty days or not I encourage you to begin today to pray for America.

America is the greatest nation in the world. She has provided more opportunity for freedom, equality and justice than perhaps any nation ever. But her greatness is in serious danger. Never before has she been in more danger. I believe this election to be one of, if not the most crucial one, in the history of our great land.

All of America’s greatness will change in a dramatic way on November 6. She will either continue down a road that leads to her demise in an unabated way or she will stop the rush to destruction on a dine.

Nothing is more important at this point than prayer. Voting is vital and I will vote but prayer must come first. Standing for and even campaigning for your candidates is good but prayer must come first. Posting signs in strategic places can have an impact but prayer must come first. Prayer must come before everything at this point. Prayer cannot be our last resort. For the next forty days prayer must be our first resort.

Will you MAKE time every day to pray for America? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Designate a specific time and pray at that time each day.
  • Pray whenever you think of the future of our country.
  • Be aware of distractions because Satan does not want you to pray for America. Resist his distractions with all your strength.
  • Pray for a specific candidates, issues and results. Get painfully specific.
  • Invite and encourage others to join you in praying for America for the next forty days
  • Pray together with others whenever possible.

It is good to be reminded that the Bible reveals forty days to be a spiritually significant time period.  In fact, in the Bible, any time God wanted to prepare people and circumstances for action, He took forty days.  For instance:

  • Noah’s life was transformed by 40 days of rain
  • Moses’ life was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai
  • The spies were transformed by 40 days in the Promise Land
  • David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge
  • The city of Nineveh was transformed in 40 days
  • Jesus was empowered for ministry by spending 40 days in the desert
  • And the disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after the resurrection.

I believe that America can and will be transformed by forty days of prayer as we call out to him to lead our great nation toward Him, His principles and His truth instead of farther away. If we will pray, this transformation can go far beyond a four year Presidency term to many, many years to come.

Two questions: will you join me in praying ever day for America for the next forty days? Second question: will you get the word out and invite as many others as possible to join you in these forty days of prayer?

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-15

 

 

Urgent Prayer Needed For Pathways

Pathways Christian Church launches September 18 on the north end of Cincinnati, Oh. Pathways is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial church plant. It is one of those rare efforts to cross barriers in the name of Christ and plant a church that, from the very beginning, refuses to recognize dividing barriers.

You know and I know that such a plant will be a high priority target for the Devil and his demons. He wants to keep us divided, segregated and friendly at best. The last thing he wants is to have a successful multi-ethnic, multi-racial church plant that is not only successful in reaching the lost and serving the community but also becomes a witness to others that such a church plant can really work. He will do everything in his power to disrupt and even destroy the effort.

Can I enlist you to spend some time each day, leading up to the launch, praying for Pathways and its leadership team? Would you then continue praying leading out of the launch into the rest of September and October?

Darrell Davis is the lead guy. Our son Matthew is the Worship Arts Director. His wife Jess is also on staff as Administrative Assistant and Worship Leader.

The seed for church planting was actually planted in the heart of Matthew at New Venture. He moved, kicking and screaming, I must say, from Ohio to Virginia the month before we launched in 04. It was either go live with us or go to jail.

From day one he began playing with our worship band and the passion for worship leading and church planting was sparked. Seven years later, after a year at Cincinnati Christian University, an internship at Lifesprings Christian Church under Dick Alexander and  Tim Neuenschwander, and four years of worship leading in the established church he is stepping out into the adventure of his life.

So, can I invite and implore you to pray daily for Matthew and Jess and the entire leadership team of Pathways Christian Church as they ramp it up for launch day on September 18. If you are willing to pray for them could I get you to just email or respond to this plea and let me know? How many of you will join the prayer force for the launch of Pathways? Thanks so much

Check out Pathways at cincypathways.com.

 

Audrey and the Cincinnati Reds

In case you are unfamiliar with Audrey let me take just a few statements and introduce you to her. She is our first grandchild, born about three and a half years ago. When her mother was about four months pregnant it was discovered that Audrey had a condition called encepholosis in which part of her brain was forming outside of her cranial area. After extensive scans, tests and assessments it was announced to her parents, by the team of “expert” at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that Audrey would probably not live to birth and if she did she would likely die soon thereafter. You can read a more detailed description of the beginning of Audrey’s life from an earlier blog post of mine called, “only god could do it.”  A later post called “Audrey turns one” gives an update of her progress.

Needless to say the doctors were wrong and this is a picture of Audrey and how she looks today. She has delays to address but is progressing in so many ways far beyond anyone’s expectations. Since I have just begun a teaching series on miracles I am delighted to say that Audrey is a miracle child.  She blesses lives every day. She is currently taking piano lessons, loves it and is doing well.

So what does Audrey have to do with the Cincinnati Reds? First of all, she, her parents and younger sister live in Cincinnati. She continued to receive therapy and treatment from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is actually a tremendous care facility, one of the best in the country. One of the programs at the hospital is called “Champions.” Andrey has been part of Champions for some time now. Well it just so happens that the Cincinnati Reds from time to time invites kids from the Champions program to take the game ball to the mound at the start of the game. So what does Audrey get to do? On September 16 Audrey will be carrying the baseball to the pitcher’s mound at the beginning of the Reds game against the Milwaukee Brewers for the games first pitch. What a testimony to the power of God and the miraculous results of prayer. God makes the impossible possible.

All I have to do now is figure out how I can make it to the game.

daddy

Jesus began the “Lord’s Prayer” with the words, “Our father in heaven.” The word for Father here that Jesus uses is the word Abba. Abba!  Not the Swedish dance group from the seventies. Abba is a word that actually means “daddy.” It?s an intimate, personal word. Abba-Daddy.

You need to understand how absolutely shocking it is that Jesus would use this word here to refer to God. He addresses God basically as “daddy.” Not, “Oh most gracious and holy sovereign Lord” or something like that. He goes with abba, daddy. In all of literature you will not find this type of familiar language for God. Jesus alone uses it. And what is he teaching us here? Follow closely because this is key. Jesus is teaching us that our prayers are more like a relationship with a father, than a speech given to a deity. Jesus is taking God, whom we place outside of the circle of our relationships, in the abstract, religious, “spiritual” realm, and he is moving Him right into the center of your circle.

When we pray we are having a conversation with the one who knows us better than anyone. We are having a dialogue, a talk with our creator, with the one is in the center of the circle of trust. We are not making a well prepared speech for an audience. You don?t do that in any relationship that is intimate, do you? At the end of my day, I don?t talk to my wife in bed and say “Sharon, who art in my bed, thou art wonderful and special to me.” No, I don?t do that. And Jesus is saying, “Look, you have a relationship here with God, a personal one, and so when you pray, treat it as such.”

Tragically in the church over the centuries we have taken what was supposed to be a relationship with God and made it into a religion about God. I meet people who say that they don?t like, or that they distrust organized religion. And I get that. I?m there too. Organized religion just takes God out of relationship and puts him into that separate world of the spiritual. Organized religion just gives you the formula. Just pray this prayer and God will do what you want. Just rub the lamp and the genie will come out and dance for you.

What Jesus calls us to is not a religion. Do you see that? He calls us into a relationship to the Father through Him. And what has happened over the centuries, is that people come wanting to know God and we give them a religion not a relationship. We say, “Pray this prayer this way,  jump through these hoops and then you will know God.” That makes sense if you are just out to sign people up for the Christian religion. But we aren?t here to do that. From the very beginning of launching this church we were not out to get people to sign up for the Christian religion. That isn?t our purpose. We are trying to get people to know Jesus, that?s it, get in a relationship with Him. That means if you are Muslim, or some secular atheist, or whatever beliefs you hold, we’re not trying to recruit you to some religion. We’re trying to get you to follow Jesus. And let me tell you, there are plenty of Christians out there as well that need to meet Jesus in a big way.