(singing) It’s the most wonderful time of the year, everyone is store hopping and selfies are popping, there’s lots of good cheer….It’sthe most wonderful time of the year!....
Well, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, when we ventured out into the world of Christmas shopping. Comparing prices on the items which we hope to secure. We always begin by checking what works among the house and yard decorations, and what is to be assigned to the Christmas decorating grave yard. Next there is the task of replenishing our house and yard decorations and replacing them with items which will complete our decorating dreams, or at least hopefully come close. In the process of doing all this, it occurred to me that along with getting the house and yard shiny and bright, what about being the light while we’re doing our decorating and putting up the lights.
As I was running cords to put up some Christmas lights…I attempted to do it in such a way that the cords would not be visible and there be the appearance of light without cords. It occurred to me that this is what we try to do so often, when we try to be lights in the world, but try to hide from our friends, co-workers and neighbors, the source of our light, which is Jesus Christ. To attempt to shine and hide the cords that connect us, because we might offend or upset someone, or we want to avoid a confrontation, butwe may end up turning off our light if we try to separate ourselves from our source….
Luke 11:33 “No man, when he has lit a candle, puts it in a secret place, or under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light”.
Let’s put the emphasis on being the light in our family, by brightening up our conversations and our interactions with the hope and peace which we promote at this season. Let’s brighten up our work environment, or wherever we spend our work time energy. Be the light by volunteering to a worthy cause, serving in meaningful ways that will bring cheer and good will. So, with all this said, I have decided to begin a personal BE THE LIGHT campaign for myself. Amidst all the shopping and the crowded shops and malls, I am reminding myself that THE LIGHT starts with me.
My message today is exactly that….. BE THE LIGHT…
When your life is full of darkness, pray to God and ask him to...free you from the darkness and if you pray and you’re still in darkness...
then please pay your Electricity Bill!!!
When we think of lights in the darkness, that we may have experienced, there are the Northern lights which scientists still aren’t agreed on what causes these amazing spectacles….We all deal every day with traffic lights….hopefully we don’t see those warning lights on the dash of our car that tell us we’ve got a problem….and we wouldn’t do well driving at night without head lights….A very important light to us is that refrigerator light that let’s us see what our hunger is craving…. We have lights that are used to lure little critters, and it does not end well for them in the bug zapper….. And there are some scary lights, like the ones in the dentist’s chair, or those flashing ones behind you when you drive too fast…. Then there was the guy who was very depressed, because he thought he was a 25 watt light bulb. He went to see his psychiatrist who told him that he wasn’t very bright! Someone said that when they were young, they were afraid of the dark, now, when they get the electric bill, they’re afraid of the light.
With all that said, we live in a world, that puts a great value on light! Jesus spoke often about light and darkness, and it is very significant that in a world with alternating light and darkness, He would tell us that we are the light of the world.
The darkness is subject to the light and must flee before it…. We don’t fear the darkness, because we don’t just have access to the light, scripture tells us “We are the light of the world”….
The Lord has called us to be “glow in the dark” people! We dance in the dark, we sing in the darkness, we still shout even when it’s dark, we celebrate in the darkness because even though we may be in the darkness, the darkness is no longer in us!!!! Here’s what Jesus said about that…. Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. There is no darkness that God is not there, the people of the light know that God is there and they enter in with confidence….
I found a very interesting scripture in Exodus 20:21 “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was”. This scripture is describing a scene, when the people came to Mount Sinai or the mountain of fire, and God called Moses up into the mount to receive His guide lines for their lives. The people were afraid, because all they saw was the darkness but what Moses saw was the God of the darkness….Ihave always thought of the Glory of God as something so bright that you couldn’t look at it….But I never thought of God’s glory as being in the darkness….That seems so contradictory, but God is telling us something very important here…..
Let’s take a look at another curious scripture…1 Kings 8:10 “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, v11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD. And Solomon Blessed the Lord v12 Then spoke Solomon, The LORD has said that He would dwell in the thick darkness”.
What Solomon wants the people to know, is that when they cannot see and feel God’s visible glory, His glory is still there where we must see it and believe it by faith. Because the darkness can’t stop His glory. He was telling them, “Yes darkness will come, but we no longer need to fear the darkness, because Jehovah Jirah (our provision) Jehovah Nissi (our victory) Jehovah Shalom (our peace) Jehovah Rapha (our healer) Jehovah ad-o-noy' (our strength)…. He is with us and in us!
Let me show you another powerful scripture where we see the glory of God in the darkness…..Joshua 24:6 “And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and you came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea. v7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them..”
The glory of God appeared as a cloud of darkness unto the Egyptians, but on the side where the Hebrews were, it was light... Not only is our God in the darkness, but He will use the very darkness for His glory. You will come forth in a place you could never have planned or achieved in your own strength or power….
When I pastored in Maryland, we had a large parking lot in back of the church and we would hear cars coming and going at all hours of the night. Kids would park and make out…. So we called the electric company and had them put a pole with a 400 watt light on it and it immediately stopped the late night traffic. Man, it flooded the parking area with light and everything else around!
That’s what God did when He put the light of His glory inside every Christian… He flooded the darkness with light!
When the plagues came upon Egypt, because it was time for them to go free… one of the plagues was darkness upon the land… look at it in… Exodus 10:22 “And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. v23 They could not see one another, neither could any go out from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings”. Think of it, darkness so deep, that lanterns would not shine, fire would not give light, darkness so deep it quenched the light…..
But every Hebrew carried God’s light with them, in their homes, feeding their herds, and conducting their business from house to house….while the land of Egypt was covered with darkness. Their light was a powerful witness of God’s presence with them, when everyone else was stumbling around, confused in the darkness. God was moving in the darkness (don’t ever forget it, child of God)!
A crew of men were wiring a new building when the lead man, who had been putting in too many hours, just totally lost it, went wacko, and walked off the job. When the boss stopped him, he said that he had been transformed into a light bulb and he had gotten unplugged. The boss said, go home and take some time off. When three of his crew went to follow him, the boss said, “So what’s your problem”… they said, “The light is gone and we can’t work in the dark”….
Those who are the light because they have the light of Glory, are able to rule the darkness!
Most of us have had the experience of visiting one of the caverns which have been made safe for tourists to explore. For me it was the darkest darkness I have experienced, but it wasn’t frightening because I knew that the guides who were leading us, were familiar with the path we were taking. I also knew that every precaution had been taken to ensure that we would reach the exit safely. Sowhen we were deep in the depths of the cavern, the guides announced that they were turning off all the lights for a few seconds (which always seem a lot longer!). You couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. For a few awful seconds, you realize what it would be like to be totally without light.
And yet, God tells us that He is there in the darkest places in our lives.
I understand that one of the very popular tattoos people are getting currently, is the “Semi-colon” tattoo…. A semicolon is a point in the sentence when the sentence could end with a period, but the writer decides to continue to write…. The Semi-colon tattoo represents those with depression who attempted suicide or they have had thoughts of ending their lives, but something happened and they decided to live and seek help.
Jesus tells us that Satan has come to steal, kill and destroy, but He has come that we may have life, and that more abundantly!
David was inspired to write “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He (the light, the life, the joy, the peace, and redemption) is with me”…. He is there at all the “Simi-colons” of our lives, when it looks like the story could end, but the master composer of our destiny, has continued to write of victory, overcoming, and glorious endings! Greater than the miracle of water turned to wine, was the miracle of His death transformed into our redemption!
I remember a group of young men came to the altar at one service, and I was praying for one of them who was a former gang member from New York, and the Holy Spirit had me pray that his mind would be opened to understand, and that the word of God would come alive to him. A week later he returned with his friends and they were all excited that he was able to read the bible. They told me that he was illiterate and had never learned to read or write. The only thing he could read was the bible. He tried to read other books and couldn’t. He wrote the first letter in his entire life to his mom.
Well that’s what the Holy Spirit does….
2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. v7 Forwe have received this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us”.
The story of the 10 virgins in Matthew’s gospel, is a story of keeping our light shining bright in a dark world. It’s telling us that we can’t depend on others to get us to heaven (our parents, our spouse, or our friends) and we can’t ride on someone else’s experience. But we must always be pressing in to know the Lord more intimately. We must press in to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit’s oil, and push beyond our feelings, our disappointments, our hurts and offences, and stay open to God’s truth or we will fall for Satan’s deceptions. Stay in forgiveness, walk in love, keep humble and teachable, live in an attitude of prayer, and keep moving forward in your spiritual growth and development…..
Let’s look at this parable, beginning with verse 1 of chapter 25… Matthew 25:1 “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (understand here that at this wedding, the redeemed are the bride and Christ is the bridegroom) v2 Five of them were wise, and five were foolish. v3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: v4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. v5 While the bridegroom tarried His coming (the rapture) they all slumbered and slept. v6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes. go out to meet him. v7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. v8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out”.
Tell someone, “get yourself ready, and stay ready, He’s on His way”….
The question this parable poses for all of us today is, are we further along in our spiritual walk than we were this time last year? Have we developed our gifts to be used by the Lord more effectively than at this time last year? Are we witnessing more, praying more, involved in God’s kingdom more than we were at this time last year?
Now I don’t want to get anyone under condemnation, but just as the doctor wants you to be physically well….as a pastor, I want to know that you are Spiritually well, because I know that if you are spiritually healthy, then it will effect your physical health and your relational health, as well as your productivity and general well being in a positive way!
I want to close today, with a challenge that comes from God’s instruction to Israel, as they were in the wilderness, on their way to the promised land, which God gave them before they ever got to it! Our lives each day are to be a fulfillment of prophetic promise. Each choice and each situation is bringing us to our promise. When the wolves gather, we cling closer to the shepherd. Also, their camp was to be set up in the shape of a cross. Every day, they were living out a prophecy, which was being fulfilled through them, of a greater time to come. A time when the demands of the law would be fulfilled through a loving and merciful redeemer. Their lives were to be shaped by the cross. They worked, ate, fellowshipped and slept within the cross…. Then, I see that at the center of the entire camp, was the tabernacle. Every tent faced it and it was the center of all activity. By day, the glory of God rested over it with a cloud, that blocked the heat of the sun, and shielded the camp. By night, the glory of God was a pillar of fire, which lit up everything in the darkness, and provided warmth and comfort, from the perils of the night. It protected them from their enemies and beast of prey.
Every night, the last thing they experienced before going to bed, was the glory of God. Every morning as they awakened, the first thing they experienced, was the glory of God. Throughout the day, whatever they were doing, they experienced the glory of God. Every tent, and every individual lived their lives in the glory!
That’s God’s challenge to us today….live in the glory, and be the light!
Today I’m calling this the “Lord’s Feast”, because the Last supper took place exactly at the time of the Passover celebration, when they were eating the meal which commemorated their release from bondage and their freedom from slavery. Hallelujah, we are no longer slaves to sin, but we are now the family of God, and heirs through Christ.
This is a declaration of our freedom.
This is a covenant meal…It declares that we have been given things that we haven’t even realized yet, but they are ours by covenant.. It assures us that there are things which God will provide, based on His own nature, identity and reputation. It goes beyond our efforts, our goodness, and our abilities. It is based on the covenant truth, that “The Lord Will Provide”…….
Through His body and His blood, we have received the down payment on our promise…
In 1952, Albert Einstein was delivering a lecture on the campus of Princeton University. A doctoral student asked the famous scientist “With all that has been discovered, are there still any areas left in the world for original research and exploration.?" With considerate thought and profundity Einstein replied, "I would suggest that you explore and research the untapped realms of prayer. Somebody needs to uncover and unveil the power of prayer."
The dictionary defines prayer as, “Addressing God with adoration, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving”…
In Mark chapter 9, Jesus is transfigured and Peter, James and John get in on the experience. In this amazing instance where Jesus was shining with the glory of God and Moses and Elijah appeared talking with Him, the following scripture is presented.. Mark 9:4 “And there appeared unto them Elijah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus”.
Please notice this….they were not asking, pleading, talking about, or just talking to Jesus but they were talking with Jesus. (we need to get that) We are reading about a conversation back and forth, give and take… They were dialoguing. They were exchanging words and thoughts. There was an interaction. Speaking and listening.
In the midst of this, (Foot in your mouth) Peter, spoke up and butts into the conversation that is taking place, and gets a gentle correction from heaven. Mark gives us the details in Mark 9:5-7:
“And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here, let us make three tabernacles; one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. 6 For he did not know what to say; for they were overwhelmed and afraid. 7 for there was a glory cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (or let him speak).GREAT IDEA…LET JESUS SPEAK!!!
In prayer, there is a time to speak and a time to listen. This is the balance of prayer. We talk and God responds. God talks and we have a discussion and we dialogue back and forth.
Ecclesiastes chapter 3 and verse 7 says it well, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”.
Prayer is not a glass case on the wall that says “To get help, break glass in case of emergency”….
A man was encountering a bit of trouble while flying his little airplane. He called the control tower and said, "Pilot to tower, I'm 300 miles from the airport, six hundred feet above the ground, and I'm out of fuel. I am descending rapidly. Please advise. Over." The dispatcher immediately responded and said to the pilot, ""Tower to pilot, please repeat after me: "Our Father Who art in heaven...” That pilot could have started his day by having a dialogue with the Lord, sharing his plans and then listened for the Lord to have a say in his day. If he had, he might have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to top off his gas tank!
That’s how Jesus ended each day and began each day, by having dialogue with the Father and listening to what the Father had planned for His day. We know this because of what Jesus himself told us…. John 8:28 “Then said Jesus unto them….I do nothing of myself; but as My Father tells me, I speak these things. v29 And He that sent Me is with Me. The Father will never leave me alone, for I do always those things that please Him”.
You’re headed for big time marriage trouble if you never talk with your wife or husband…..and you’re headed full throttle into trouble with a capital “T” if you never communicate with the Lord in a genuine conversation, of speaking and listening.
If anyone knew about dealing with trouble, it was Jesus. But He knew that without constant communication with the Father in Heaven, His own humanity would be easily overwhelmed….
When He was unsure and needed guidance, He prayed. When He was weary in soul and body, and pressed by the task at hand, he found comfort and assurance in prayer. When He was lonely and felt abandoned, He found His best friend in prayer. He chose his disciples and received his messages for the people, upon his knees. If tempted, he prayed. If criticized, he prayed. If troubled and stretched in spirit, He always resorted to prayer.
Prayer brought him immeasurable power, and kept that divine flow unbroken and undiminished to the end. There was no emergency, no difficulty, no necessity, no temptation that could not be overcome through time spent in prayer.
While Jesus was praying the heaven was opened. So we see that passionate prayer opens up Heaven….While He was praying, His countenance was changed, and His clothing became white and gleaming. So we see that passionate prayer enables us to experience the glory of God….As Jesus prayed, the result was that many lives were forever changed. So we see that passionate prayer changes the lives of others….As Jesus prayed, He told the Father things He could speak to no one else. So we see that when you can’t tell anyone else, prayer unburdens the soul, and sets the spirit free…..When Jesus was on the cross, He was praying for others. The habit of prayer will take you above your own needs and allow you to meet the need of others.
A pastor was having trouble finding a director for a junior highyouth. The list of prospects had only one name -- and when they told him who it was, his response was, "You've got to be kidding." But he couldn't have been more wrong about that young man. He took the group, brought it to life and revolutionized it.
The pastor was so impressed that he invited him to his home for lunch and asked him the secret of his success. He pulled out a little black book. On each page he had a small picture of one of the young people, and under their names were comments like "having trouble in arithmetic," or "comes to church against the parents' wishes," or "would like to be a missionary some day, but doesn't think she has what it takes."
"He said, pastor, I pray over those pages every day, and I can hardly wait to come to church each week to see what God has been doing as He works in their lives."
Jesus said, "without Me, you can do nothing." Our prayer life demonstrates if we really, truly, believe it or not!
Samuel was one of the greatest prophets in Israel and we are given a glimpse into the prayer which touched God’s heart and caused God to answer his mother who was barren, and open her womb…. 1 Samuel 1:10 And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. v11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, look on the affliction of Your handmaid, and remember me, and do not forget Yourhandmaid, but give unto Your handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. v12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. v13 For Hannah, spoke in her heart, but only her lips moved, for her voice was not heard, therefore Eli thought she was drunk”.
Eli the priest understood that God doesn’t hear words, He hears our heart!
We speak many things that are not from the heart, because it’s proper, or what people want to hear, but when we pray, we need to speak from the heart. And scripture tells us we must pray with understanding….. Paul prays this prayer for the church in Colossi….
Colossians1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
A young boy was noticed by the pastor because he was praying very fervently; but much to the preacher's surprise, he heard the boy say from time to time: ''Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.'' So preacher approached the boy after he had apparently finished his prayer and said, ''Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, do you feel a missionary calling on your life? The boy said, no sir I want to be an accountant…Then tell me, why did you keep saying 'Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo?'' The boy said, ''Well, you see, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and it will count towards 1/3 of my final grade, and I know how I answered the questions, and I need for the Lord to make Tokyo the Capital of France.''
God responds to those who pray with deep reverence to Him…prayers that are prayed in faith…In humility…In repentance… With compassion… With a heart cleansed of sin…With unselfishness… With a forgiving spirit….With trust in His nature….With determination… With submission to God’s will…. With an obedient heart, to do what He says to do….And we must pray with understanding…..I believe this is the menu to the kinds of prayers that are irresistible to God….
A little boy was trying one day to pull a large weed out of the ground. He was trying with all of his might and his face was red, and covered with sweat. His father was watching through a window, opened it up and said to him, "Son, are you using all of your strength? And the little boy said, "Yes, Daddy, I'm using all of my strength. And his dad said, "No you're not. You haven't asked me to help you yet!
We haven’t done our best effort until we have prayed, we haven’t given it every try until we have prayed. And we haven’t seen the best results, until we have invited the Lord into the situation to do it on His terms.
How would you feel if you got a phone call today and President Trump was calling to invite you to the Oval office, to have a personal conversation with you! To see if there was anything He could do for you. That would probably be hard to get your head around!.. But the King of Kings, and the authority that is above the president.. The creator of all things invites you to come every day, all day, and have a personal meeting with Him, and He has promised to never turn you away….. So, why don’t we take more advantage of this amazing opportunity, to get personal instruction and advice from the one who knows everything about everything!....It’s called PRAYER!
I believe it's going to amaze us when we get to heaven and Jesus isgoing to call us over and He will open a door to a huge storehouse, that will be packed full, with our name on the door, and He will say, "Look in there. Those are all things that are unclaimed, that I wanted you to have. Those are things that I wanted to load you down with but I couldn't give them to you. You went your own way struggling and planning and worrying and figuring, and you have not because you ask not. When you don't pray, you're doing without the things that God wants you to have….
But let’s also look at those prayers God won’t answer…..What about the folks that leave God out of their lives, in their daily choices, and they leave Him behind whenever they go anywhere…. Lord, You just stay out of this, because You’re just a party pooper, when I want to have fun…..
Just suppose there was a man living here in Key West, and he marries a young lady and she stands at the marriage altar and says—"I take you, John, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward in sickness as in health, in poverty and in wealth, till death do us part. I will keep myself to you alone so long as we both shall live, so help me God.
And then suppose shortly after she makes that commitment to John, she falls in love with a fellow named Bill and she and Bill begin to live in an adulterous relationship, and John knows about it. Then suppose she comes to John and she says, "John, I have some things I need. John, would you, please, give me some money? And, John, would you please let me have the keys to the car. Bill and I are going to New Orleans for a weekend. Does any sane person think that John is going to subsidize that adultery? Do you think that John is going to give her what she requests? Do you think that John is going to say, "Here, I'm going to underwrite your unfaithfulness to me? Of course not.
But why is it, that folks curse God’s name, refuse to be faithful to their Christian vows, live only for themselves, and run with the Devil,….then wonder why God doesn’t underwrite their unfaithfulness…. And they can’t figure out why their prayers aren’t answered when they are in trouble….
Job 35:12 “For they cry, but there is no answer, because of the pride of evil men. v13 Surely God will not hear their vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it”.
James 4:3 “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss (for the wrong reasons), that you may consume it upon your lusts”. In other words too often, we are more interested in our glory than we are on the glory of God. God will not stand in line and take a number, then wait till we call His number. He wants to have first place in our lives. So much of our praying is “God bless us, anyhow”. I'm not going to repent of my sin. I'm not going to let go of the things of this world. I’m not going to serve you Lord, and I’m not going to put you first. But, God, please bless me anyhow. Please answer my prayers, anyway.
If you want to really be effective and get God’s attention ….start saying in your heart and in your life…. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord…. And then let Him be Lord….Too often, we pray, “Not Thy will but my will be done”, but Jesus said, pray “Not my will but Thine be done”
When we love what God loves, then we’ll have what God has!
To pray in the Spirit, means to allow the Holy Spirit to think through our mind. To allow the Holy Spirit to guide the feelings of our heart. The Holy Spirit wants to speak through our lips. The Holy Spirit wants to weep through our eyes. The Holy Spirit wants to groan through our spirits in prayer and He wants to show Himself through our emotions and compassion. Scripture says in Ephesians 6:18 We're to be praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.
I like the quote that says…. “Pray to God, but don’t stop rowing the boat”
Let me share another important motivation for prayer…. Jay Kesler, the former President of Youth for Christ and the current President of Taylor University, was on one of his frequent flights. When lunch was served the young man next to him declined a lunch tray. During the whole lunchtime this man sat in prayer. Kesler was impressed (and maybe a little humbled) by the man's devotion. When the man had finished his prayer, Jayasked him if he was a Christian because it appeared that he was fasting. The man replied with words that shook Kelser to the core of his being. He said "I am a Satan worshiper and all the members of my church have agreed to fast every Friday at noon. During that time we pray that the leaders of the Christian world will fall. We pray that they will be caught up into sexual sin, and that their family life would crumble that people would get to busy to attend their churches and they would have to close down."
That should motivate all of us to pray because we are in a fierce battle. Constantly we are warned of the Devil's intention to neutralize and demoralize us. We are told in Ephesians 6:10 that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We are in a battle and we need the help of God. The enemy has gathered his armies . . . and when we neglect prayer, we go into battle unarmed. Do you find it at all interesting, that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, found it necessary to pray? If He did not feel He could face the battle in His own strength . . neither should we.
Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Prayer in the name of Jesus, our great Captain of Spiritual warfare, is a declaration that we are participating in the victory over Satan and the demon forces which operate in a prayerless vacuum. If we don’t fill the vacuum with prayers of faith and declarations of God’s truth, then Satan will fill it with His evil works….
We pray because we believe that prayer makes all the difference. If it’s symptomatic or if it’s systematic, prayer makes the difference.
In Acts 12:1 it says that “Prayer was made without ceasing by the church”… because Herod had arrested Peter and he was sitting on death row, waiting his execution… In the original Greek, the words without ceasing, are…..“ek-ti'-no”, which means “to stretch forth”… it is the medical term for stretching muscles and tendons as in therapy… It means “to go beyond former boundaries”…. And that’s what they were facing….they needed something which exceeded normal boundaries and went beyond normal solutions….
When “ek-ti-nos” was made before God in behalf of Peter…chains fell off, prison doors were blown off their hinges and he walked out a free man!!!
When the church comes into the “ek-ti-nos” kind of prayer, we will see bondages broken, prisoners who are bound by the Devil, set free, and the jail house he uses, will crumble and fall!
A time of great problems, becomes a time of great power!
Hebrews 11:6 “He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” Prayer is not God hearing us, but it is about us finally hearing God!
“Until we have prayed we can do nothing, but once we have prayed we can accomplish anything”.
Prayer is an expression of dependence upon God…Prayer is an expression of a relationship with God…Prayer communicates gratitude to God….
Prayer demonstrates humility before God….And prayer shows a desire for the will of God….
You will never rule over anything until you rise above it….. In prayer, we change our position, and there is a shift of power. The Lord tells us that we become the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. As you immerse yourself in prayer, you are lifted to a new place and a new level.
Ephesians 2:6 ‘He has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer lifts us and elevates us above the situation, and the problem…
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”.
Let me close with this story….
A very poor family who lived in the country had their situation made even worse, when the father was injured and couldn’t work. Someone thought it would be a good idea to hold a prayer meeting at the church to pray for the family. When the prayer meeting began, one by one, the people asked God to help the family, to send them food and otherwise care for their needs. As they were in prayer, there was a loud knock on the door. When it was opened, there at the door stood a young farm boy. He said, “My dad couldn’t attend tonight, so he has sent his prayers in a wagon.” And sure enough, there was the wagon, loaded down with canned goods and fruit and vegetables from the farm….
When you get up above the circumstances in prayer, then you can have power over it….Prayer is the great equalizer….
I know that Hebrews 11 is known as the “faith” chapter… but I believe it is also the “Prayers of faith” chapter… and in Hebrews 11:32, *…..we read, “And what more shall I say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephtha, of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets, v33 Who through (prayers of faith) subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
v34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. v35 And women received their dead raised to life again”……..DO IT AGAIN LORD!!!
A man came running into the store and said to his buddy, "Bubba, somebody just stole your pickup truck from the parking lot!" Bubba asked him, "Did you see who it was?" His friend said, "I couldn't tell, but I got his license number." (that would be…how not to catch a thief)
As my scripture text for the message today, I look at…. John 10:10 “The thief only comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy, but I am come that they might have life and that more abundantly”. Now, I want to say right up front, that, we know Jesus cares about thieves, because He chose, in the grand scheme of things, to be crucified between two of them…and one of them actually believed on him and was given eternal pardon and grace….
But there are also many who are like the one on the other side….who rejected him even as they breathed their last….
One of the reason many folks fall prey to the thief, is because they don’t recognize him when he shows up…Not every thief shows up in a ski mask and black shirt and pants….Some show up as familywho haven’t learned delayed gratification, or as a friend who doesn’t even realize they are thieves of your potential…Some come as a TV ministry that just won’t make it unless you send them your last $100 dollars….and some come in your own skin as undisciplined behavior, secret habits, uncontrolled desires and false expectations…
Too many folks like to get a five fingered discount… Last year 2 million Americans were charged with shoplifting … but experts tell us *…..that only 1 in 35 shoplifters is ever caught. The average shoplifter is between 25-45 years old. —More women shoplift than men —According to the Retail Merchants Association, 3/4 of the shoplifters in are middle to upper-middle class. —80% of all shoplifters have money or credit cards with them to pay for the things they are stealing. So we can see that this is not about stealing to meet a need, it is stealing, because they are thieves! Retailers estimate the annual cost of shoplifting in America to be $10-50 billion. Each of us will spend $300 this year in extra costs and charges because of someone else’s five fingered discount. America is becoming the land of the freebie and the home of the burglar….. For example, here’s some thieves we may be familiar with… Let’s catch some thieves right now…..Is it possible that when we withhold forgiveness to anyone, we are now forgiveness thieves, because Jesus said I have forgiven you, so that you can also forgive others…. Is it possible that if we go around, just negative, and griping and complaining, that we are Joy thieves, when Scripture tells us that we are to rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice….Is it possible that we have become tithe thieves if we withhold our tithe and giving, we are we then Thieves and robbers, when God tells us to bring all the tithe into the storehouse….Is it possible that we are robbing heaven, if we fail to share Christ with others, when so many are filling up hell…Didn’t Jesus tell us to go into all the world and compel them to come in.?
WELL…NOW…. That we have CAUGHT THOSE THIEVES….!!!
We can forgive those whom God has told us to forgive…..We can begin to rejoice in the Lord, instead of going around long faced…..We can get our tithe paid up and get back on schedule, instead of holding on to dust!....We can begin to tell it on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere since we’ve caught that soul winning thief!!!
Paul, in his writing to the young minister Timothy whom he had mentored, Basically said…Flee from temptation, and don’t leave a forwarding address….1 Timothy 6:9 “But they that live for riches, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. v10 For lusting after money is the root of all evil, for some who do anything for it, have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. v11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. v12 And fight the good fight of faith, that you may lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are called, and have kept a good testimony before many witnesses. For many have compromised God’s best for their life….”
Don’t be complicit to the crime…. If we’re not careful, you can actually assist the very one who wants to steal from you…..By silence, by living a double standard, By needing to get even with someone, By careless and reckless choices…..By being willfully uninformed….By being stubborn and unteachable…. and By not observing those things that are designed to protect you….You can’t put yourself in a dangerous place and then be surprised when it happens…(DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER)
One night, Murphy was walking home when, all of a sudden, a thief jumped out and they began to struggle. They rolled about on the ground and Murphy put up a tremendous fight. However, the thief managed to get the better of him and pinned him down. The thief then went through Murphy’s pockets and searched him. All the thief could find on him was 25 cents. The thief was so surprised that he asked Murphy why he had bothered to fight so hard for 25 cents. Murphy replied, “I thought you were after the five hundred dollars I’ve got in me boot!" (OOPS!)
If you step outside of God’s place of safety, the thief will victimize you! He will put a hurt on you, while you’re blaming people!....There’s a reason they put guard rails on a sharp curve….and you can choose to ignore the signs, choose to not slow down, and ignore all the warnings, but you only prove that the guard rail is there for a good reason…. Drinking only a little bit of poison, is still drinking poison….a little rattlesnake will bite just like a big rattlesnake…. If you live by plastic, you will end up in the shredder- Many know from experience that usually,folks don’t own their stuff, their stuff owns them….
I have locks on my doors, on the car, the house, the shed…and I lock them… not because I don’t have faith, but because there are crazy people out there! The reality is that THERE ARE THEIVES….I can ignore that reality, or I can lock my doors.
Jesus said the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy… We lock our doors to keep the thief outside and our stuff inside… Matthew 24:43 “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up”.
I came across this easy guide to installing your own security system….
First, go to the local thrift store and buy 3 pair of size 14- 16 work boots. Then place them on the front porch, along with several copies of Guns & Ammo and NRA magazines. Next, put a few giant sized dog dishes next to all of this. Last of all, leave a letter tacked to the wall, saying “Hey Bubba, big Jim, and Slim… I went to the gun shop for more ammo, don’t let the pit bulls out. I had to put them inside because they attacked someone who knocked on the door, and there was blood everywhere that I had to clean up. You might want to just wait outside until I get back….
I have locks on my doors, because there are a lot of crazy people out there!! We lock our doors to keep that thief outside and our stuff inside….
In our opening text, Jesus said “I am the door”….. this is about securing our entry areas….We know that as shepherds grazed the sheep out in the fields, they would build safe areas where the sheep could go into at night and find security from all the beasts of prey. These were called sheep folds, and the entry into the sheepfold had no door, so the shepherd would lay across the opening in a way that no sheep could get out without walking over Him, and no beast of prey could get in without alerting him…..We all need safe places…where the thief cannot enter….
As parents, we are the door to our family sheep fold. When a thief gets in it is our place to deal with it. As married couples, we are the doors to our marriage. When a thief gets in, we must do whatever we can to kick him out! As those who are part of a local church, we are the guards to the congregational entry way, who are entrusted with doing what it takes to protect, watch out for, and assist in keeping the church safe and healthy. While at the same time staying open to receive those who need to enter in and be a part at the level they are ready for. This is by prayer, support, encouragement, and personal commitment of our time….
There is an event in the minds of many americans right now, concerning how the 26 year old who killed 28 people and wounded 20 more during a church service was able to do this without anyone challenging, or stopping him. As a result, a very popular issue being considered, are ministries which are able to train members of congregations to be first responders, in the event of this type of thing happening in the future. They feel that by training a couple of people in every church, this thief who stole the lives of 28 and scarred the lives of 20 more can be prevented in the future….
Whether it’s your marriage, your family, or the church, the first thing we must do is SECURE THE ENTRY WAY….
One of my favorite characters growing up was Robin Hood… He took from the rich and gave to the poor…I even played his character in a big production at our school…(didn’t care for the green tights) I led a bunch of merry men and jumped and swung around on stage and did some sword fighting….it was fun and I really got caught up in the character….but the bottom line is HE WAS STILL A THIEF! He was robb’n da hood!!
The Robin Hood syndrome subtlety pulls us in and we begin to justify his character in our lives….we convince ourselves that somehow, some thieves are good….He’s fun, He’s adventurous, and we begin to justify the fact that we have let a thief through the entryway…. How many young people get married to someone who is fun, and find out the fun fades fast…. As young adults we did things that were simply because everyone else was doing it….What mother has not said, “if your friends jump off a cliff, would you jump off with them’….(Uh, let me think about it, mom)
The real danger here, is that if we’re not careful, the thief can steal the sensitivity of our spirit and our conscience… Scripture compares it to a horse taking the bit in it’s teeth so it no longer feels it tugging at the tender corners of the mouth! It then begins to go where it wants, no matter how much the rider pulls on the reigns. We can gradually allow our spirit to become insensitive to the gentle whispers of God in our spirit, and we begin to no longer feel the tug on our hearts and his voice of restraint.
When King David, began to compromise, he justified it by the fact that he was the king, he could do what he wanted. Before you know it, one thing led to another and he fell horribly into sin, he became a broken man before God. His brokenness is recorded for us in Psalm 51. There, we find these words v. 17 "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despise". David's great prayer request was, to ask God to restore his sensitivity to the gentle tug of God on his heart, will and emotions.
There was a king who had 365 wives, one for each day of the year in his harem. (speaking of crazy people) One day he visited a monastery and there he met a monk. The king looked at him with great compassion and said, “What a great sacrifice you are making to live such a simple, basic life.” However, the monk objected saying, “Your sacrifice is greater, oh king!”. The king was puzzled and asked, “How is that?” The monk replied, “Because I have renounced that which is temporary, but you have renounced that which is eternal.”
Thieves like to operate in the darkness, so it stands to reason that more light is a great deterrent… Light is a revealer of things that might not be seen in the darkness….Light shows you what you might have missed in darkness… Light makes things clear and plain that were veiled in fog and confusion… The light represents knowledge and understanding which dispels ignorance and gullibility….
1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin”.
Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. v15 Neither do men light a candle, and hide it under a bushel, but it is placed on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house”.
If you think about it, there is something very deadly throughout this building we’re in right now – it is called electricity. It is operating the lights, the sound system, the television camera equipment and air-conditioning. It is powerful and wonderful, but it is deadly. The reason it is helpful to us is the fact that it is kept where it belongs. It is running through protected wires and is connected to safe receptacles. If one of those live wires fell on our heads right now, injury and perhaps death would quickly follow.
That’s the way it is with so many things in our lives, that have the potential for good or evil…. They can be harmful if not harnessed… It’s what we do with them, and how we deal with them. It’s about who and what we put in charge of our values. It could be money, power, position, influence, abilities and skills…. What we do with them and how we use them have to do with what our priorities are.
My brother by adoption was raised in the same home, and environment that I was, went to the same school, grew up in the same church, and hung out in the same town that I did…. I went into the ministry, he went to Federal prison for 30 years with 15 years knocked off for good behavior. It didn’t happen all at once, but the thieves were allowed in little by little over time.
Titus 3:1 tells us “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready (hetoimos) to every good work..” The words, “be ready” or “hetoimos’ in the Greek here means stay fit, stay ready, stay prepared. Jesus uses this word in Matthew 24:44 *…..“Be ready (stay fit, stay prepared) for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh”…..
He’s telling us to be in a constant state of watching for the return of Christ, in all we do, so we won’t be caught unprepared. So that we don’t let down our guard. As the saying goes… “To fail to prepare, is to prepare to fail”…. So, yes, be an optimist, but be an optimist who carries a raincoat…..
The thief operates best when he can get us distracted…And his most effective distraction is division… Mark 3:24 “If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. v25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. Our power, our effectiveness, and our witness is diminished when we are divided. The very word divide means “break down”, “split up”, “find the lowest common denominator…. If he can separate us from one another, he can wreek havock, and while we are focused on each other’s faults, instead of God’s presence, we grieve the Holy Spirit and walk out from under the Shepherds protection…and nothing is that important….
Jesus asks a very haunting question to all those of every generation.. Mark 8:36 “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? v37 or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul”? Max Jarman, was the founder of a successful nationwide shoe chain. The world was his oyster…Over the years Mr. Jarman as a Christian layman supported many worthy causes, he gave large amounts to the Billy Graham Crusades. He freely gave his money to benefit God’s work in many places and many charities. But the day came when his company collapsed and with it, his personal fortune. Someone asked him, “Mr. Jarman, don’t you regret giving all that money away? Think what a difference it would make if you had it all back now.” Max thought a moment and said, “Oh no, I don’t regret any of the money I have given away. After all, I only lost what I kept for myself.” What a fantastic perspective on life. “I only lost what I kept for myself.”
The ultimate theft is not some item worth millions, and it is not things but people. Jesus did not come to earth to die for stuff, but he valued each and every person enough to be willing to leave heaven, lay aside His Godness, live as a lowly man, and die the most horrible of deaths….
To Jesus, you and I are the thing of greatest value that Satan could possibly steal and He knows that the thief is checking every weakness, every area where we are vulnerable, every secret desire that has not been brought under His control, and every area of rebellion. Tell someone….(Shut de door, keep out the devil)
An Olympic gold medal swimmer was asked how he had become a world champion swimmer….He said his secret was “planned neglect”…. He planned on neglecting many other things in order to devote time to his swimming ability. What makes a great chess player? Planned neglect! A great author or musician? And certainly most important of all, what makes a dedicated Christian? Planned neglect of the less important things in life in order to concentrate on the all-important call of following Jesus-
In closing, let me say, since we’re talking about catching thieves… Jesus final act on the cross, was to catch a thief….Jesus’ final breath was taken between two thieves and the bible says that He was numbered with thieves…. which means it’s never too late….He turned and He said… “Today” — That’s Instant salvation…..“You" — That’s Personal salvation… “Will be" — That’s Certain salvation…. “With me" — That’s Intimate salvation….."In paradise” and That’s Eternal salvation…. it doesn’t get any better than that.
We all need to hear those words of redemptive assurance….At the end of the journey to hear, “Today you will be with me in paradise”….
Jesus marched into the head thief’s house and issued a warning to Satan that because of His victory, you and I were going to be coming He gave us these instructions in Mark 3:27 “No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house”.
So we’re going to declare according to God’s word, that all these thieves are subject to us in the name of Jesus….declare it with me….
”Lord You have given us full authority over the power of the enemy according to your word in (Luke 10:19) Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. So we exercise our authority now.
We bind you, each and every thief that would steal from our lives according to (Matthew 16:19) He has given unto me the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever I shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever I shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
According to the authority I have been given, I say unto the thief, “Drop what you have taken and leave here at once in Jesus mighty name, because it says in (John 14:13) That whatsoever I shall ask in Jesus’ name, that He will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.
And now I declare according to God’s unfailing word, that the thief shall repay all that he has stolen…because God promises in (Proverbs 6:31) But if the thief be found, he shall restore sevenfold and he shall give all the substance of his house”. Thank You Jesus, I receive it now in Your mighty name!!