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The Day Jesus Got Mad

Greetings All,      

     This week's 'thought' comes to you from a best-selling book back in 1997, "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire," by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  It is somewhat prophetic in nature, calling the Church to return to its first love for Jesus and the things which He and the early Church considered of primary importance. His book is an easy read, both encouraging and challenging at the same time -- and a good reminder of our need to return to the essentials of true Christian experience.
     This selection comes from the chapter entitled, "The Day Jesus Got Mad" (based on the passage about Jesus casting out the money-changers from the Temple).  His words are well worth heeding. Enjoy.

     "The atmosphere of my Father's house,' Jesus seemed to say, 'is to be prayer. The aroma around my Father must be that of people opening their hearts in worship and supplication. This is not just a place to make a buck. This is a house for calling on the Lord.'

      I do not mean to imply that the Jerusalem temple, built by Herod the Great, is the direct counterpart of our church buildings today. God no longer centers his presence in one particular building. In fact, the New Testament teaches that we are now his dwelling place; he lives in his people. How much more important, then, is Jesus' message about the primacy of prayer?
     The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings, is the aroma of prayer. It doesn't matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father's. Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, 'My house shall be called a house of preaching?' Does it ever say, 'My house shall be called a house of music?'  Of course not.  The Bible says, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.' Preaching, music, the reading of the Word -- these things are fine. I believe in the practice of all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God's dwelling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people's lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.
     Have you ever noticed that Jesus launched the Christian church, not while someone was preaching, but while people were praying?  

      In the first two chapters of Acts, the disciples were doing nothing but waiting on God. As they were just sitting there -- worshiping, communing with God, letting God shape them and cleanse their spirits and do those heart operations that only the Holy Spirit can do -- the church was born. The Holy Spirit was poured out. What does it say, then, about our churches today that God birthed the church in a prayer meeting, and prayer meetings today are almost extinct? 
     Am I the only one who gets embarrassed when religious leaders in America talk about having prayer in public schools? We don't even have that much prayer in many churches! Out of humility, you would think we would keep quiet on that particular subject until we practice what we preach in our own congregations. I am sure that the Roman emperors didn't have prayer to God in their schools.  But then, the early Christians didn't seem to care what Caligula or Claudius or Nero did. How could any emperor stop God? How, in fact, could the demons of hell make headway when God's people prayed and called upon his name? Impossible!  
     In the New Testament we don't see Peter or Paul or John wringing their hands and saying: 'Oh, what are we going to do? Caligula is bisexual... he wants to appoint his horse to the Roman Senate... what a terrible model of leadership! How are we going to respond to this outrage?'
     Let's not play games with ourselves. Let's not divert attention away from the weak prayer life of our own churches. In Acts 4, when the apostles were unjustly arrested, imprisoned, and threatened, they didn't call for a protest or reach for some political leverage. Instead, they headed to a prayer meeting. And soon the place was vibrating with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:23-31). The apostles had this instinct: When in trouble, pray. When intimidated, pray. When challenged, pray. When persecuted pray."
     I know prayer has been the focus of many recent 'thoughts,' but I can't get around it.  When I've picked up a book to study, or opened a book to read casually, that seems to be the topic addressed -- prayer. The need for God's people to pray.  The need for the church to advance, and be renewed, and find new life and power -- through prayer -- and that call is echoed in many sources, both new and old. 
     Prayer is the key of heaven," said the wise Puritan Thomas Watson, "the Spirit helps us turn this key."  Or again, as St. Augustine noted: "He that loveth little prayeth little, and he who loveth much prayeth much."   John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, was a bit more blunt.  He said, "If you are not a praying person you are not a Christian." 
     Therefore I admonish you: Pray, my friends, and then pray some more! Pray with earnest and unceasing ardor, until that which we should desire most comes to pass -- for God to move upon us, and in us, until through us His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 
     May we pray for what Isaiah prayed for (and with as much zeal): "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, and the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down and make your name known to your enemies, and cause the nations to quake before you" (Is. 64:1-2).

If ever we needed to "pray the prayers of Scripture," that's one we need to pray.  In Him, Pastor Jeff