Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#IFTHEN

This past Sunday I had the privilege of filling in and preaching at our Sunday morning worship services.  Since it was the first day of Global Week of Student Prayer and the week of See You At The Pole, I decided to use this year's theme for my sermon.  I caught the church up to speed on what the week was about and how we have been focusing on Wednesday nights on the thought that in a moment everything could change.  I shared how we believe this can be a week where we see revival break across our school campuses like never before.  It isn't that prayer has been taken out of schools, but rather that we have voluntarily stopped praying.  Often if a child has stopped praying then it is because they have seen it modeled this way by their parents.  

This year's theme for See You At The Pole is #IFTHEN.  I think that it is brilliant that the theme is an actual hashtag which will encourage students to Tweet and Instagram about their prayer gatherings.  The theme verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14.  We love this verse because of the promise it offers.  We know that when we pray that God hears our prayers and brings healing.  We love the promise, but if we are not careful we will miss the real point here.

When I was in college I began as a Computer Programming major before God lead me to change to Business Administration/Finance.  However when I was in programming we would have to first write out what was called pseudo-code which is the program in word form.  We would have to write out every single possibility of what we needed the program to do.  We would write this out in If-Then statements.  For instance, in one class we wrote a program to mimic a coke machine.  We would have to write out every possible scenario in If-Then statements such as the amount of money entered, the beverage selected, etc.  If we forgot just one single scenario, then the entire thing could be thrown off.  The same happens if we are not careful to understand fully what is taking place in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Here is a little background on what is happening leading up to this verse.  King Solomon has commissioned the temple to be built.  He has collected materials and lays out all the details.  The construction begins and at one point the Ark of the Covenant is brought in and the glory of God fills the temple.  In chapter 6 Solomon dedicates the temple.  Then in the first part of chapter 7 they have a huge celebration of worship.  They offer sacrifices and the glory of God once again fills the temple.  We then read 2 Chronicles 7:11-18.
Verse 11- Solomon has finished building this immaculate temple.  His father David had desired to build this but God did not permit it.
Verse 12- God promises Solomon that He will dwell in this house and it will be a house of sacrifice and prayer for all people
Verse 13-14- God promises to hear the prayers of His people.
Verse 15-16- God's eyes and ears will be on this place.  To have the attention of God is a pretty incredible thing that we often take for granted.
Verse 17-18- God promises Solomon that if he follows God that his reign as king will be successful as it was for his father David.

However, if we stop here then we can get in trouble.  We then read 2 Chronicles 7:19-22.  God knew that the Israelites were prone to backslide into sin and worship other gods.  This applies to us because God knows that we too are prone to backslide and worship other gods and idols.  Sometimes we may be quick to say "that's not me, I don't worship other gods."  But we have to be careful with that.  We must remember that an idol or god is whatever we sacrifice for and what we pursue.  Most often the idols in our life are not even bad things themselves such as work, family, children, church, etc.  When God said "no other gods/idols before me" He did not mean for us to make Him the top of our priority list in life.  God is the list and He does not want any other gods in our lives at all.  His intent and desire for us is that He alone is all that we worship, and He deserves that.  Sometimes it isn't the stuff that is the idol but we are the idol ourselves.  We spend our time doing whatever because it is what we want in life and because it is how we want things so that we feel better.

To visually show what happens when we try to spend time in prayer to God while serving other gods/idols, I had a couple of students join me in stage.  Each took a rope that I was holding and pulled me in opposite directions.  One represented my relationship with God, and the other represented my idols in life.  What happens when we try to maintain both areas of our life, we are pulled in opposite directions and will eventually break.  But what happens is that, as my arms stretched out, I said we end up trying to be our own savior in life.  We try to save ourselves and we call it "sacrifice"- sacrifice for our family, career, our own future.  We try to be our own savior, when there was only One intended to be a Savior, and that is Jesus Christ.

It all comes down to a decision.  As I have been on a journey this year for my health, I get asked often what I am doing to lose weight.  I respond that simply I am eating healthy and exercising/running.  It is always funny to see their disappointed reaction.  People have the hopes that they can maintain their current unhealthy lifestyle and still have healthy results.  You can't have "both-and", it has to be "either-or" when it comes to physical health, but spiritual health as well.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says to "humble" yourself. It does not say that if you pray before bedtime, meals, at church, etc. that God will give you the life that you want.  Instead it calls us to humble ourselves which means that we submit to God.  it means that we give up our own desires to take hold of God's desire for our life.  The purpose of prayer is not to change God's mind.  If you think it is then you're view of prayer is completely wrong and if you think you can support it scripturally then you haven't studied the context of the verse enough.  The purpose of prayer is to change us.  The purpose of prayer is not to get God on our page, but that we get on board with what He is doing.

We closed with a time of examination.  If you're frustrated because you are not experiencing victory in life, not experiencing spiritual breakthroughs, then it is probably because you are trying to live life holding onto both areas.  You are trying to spend some time in prayer with God while continuing to purse the idols and gods in your life.  If you continue to live life this way, it will eventually tear you apart.

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