PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 14:1–7 (NIV)
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.
Same Paul. Same Barnabas. New town. New synagogue. Same story. Many believe and are eager to hear. Others are jealous and eager to reject them.
As we come to chapter 14 and the close of this first half of the marathon of the Acts of the Apostles, we need a “come to Jesus” moment together.
These two men are doing their dead-level best to do good, to tell the story of God, and to invite people to the real life for which they were made. They were building up a new kind of community that would worship God in spirit and in truth, not just in an ancient form with mindless motions. They were establishing a new kind of fellowship where they didn’t invite the poor to come to the community pantry but into their homes. They were establishing a new kind of outreach, not one built on the good-intentioned words of, “We will be praying for you,” but established on the healing ministry of Jesus and praying “with” the sick and others in need of a miracle.
They attracted lots of window shoppers, a number of buyers, and yet many other detractors and outright enemies. These two sentences from today’s text sum it all up:
So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders . . .
There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.
Why do people oppose the kingdom of God? What is wrong with people? It reminds me of the refrain from the Billy Currington country song from a few years back: “God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy.” (I’m sure I’ll get punched for quoting such a lyric here; but you know what they say about country music: Three chords and the truth!)
I think it was probably on days like that when Paul learned lessons like this he would later write in letters like these:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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. (Eph. 6:11–12)
This is a war, remember. But it is not a war against people, crazy as they can be. This is a war against Satan and darkness; against the powers of sin and death. The war is already won, and we will finally win, but the battle still must be fought all the way to the end. Hey! That kind of sounds like the makings of a good song.
The war is already won,
and we will finally win,
but the battles must still be fought
all the way to the end.
This war will not be won by angry politicians slandering each other and scorching the earth while promising panaceas of prosperity. To be sure, we need God-fearing, honest, public servants, but this battle belongs to the Lord and will only be won by consecrated saints on their knees. Must we make him wait out our funerals to get to his victory? He’s waited out entire generations before, littering the boneyards of history with wasted lives who wouldn’t wake up.
My friends, the time is fulfilled. The kairos moment is now. The kingdom of God is at hand. Wake up sleeper! Rise from the dead! And Christ will shine on you!
It is past time for the church, for our churches, for you and me, to get on a war footing again. The age of cozy quiet time Christianity has passed. The neighbor three houses down—the one you have never met because they never come out—is dying of hunger; for food and friends. Friends, we are living in the age, and are of the generation I suppose, who invented the absurdity of the half marathon. Let that sink in for a minute. Since when is the halfway point the finish line?
You are in it to the very end. You are a marathoner. No 13.1 for you. You are the full 26.2. We are coming upon the moment for which we were made; the time for which we were sent. The domesticated church of corrupted Christendom has collapsed. The situation is not going to correct itself and somehow gradually trend better. It will take an awakening. It is time to sow for a great awakening. We have all reaped where we have not sown. It is time to sow where we will not reap. It is time, high time, past time, to sow for a great awakening.
If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
What is the state of your own awakening these days? Still in deep sleep? Hitting the snooze bar? Trying to get out of bed? Still drinking that third cup of coffee? Filling your pockets with seeds? Out and about sowing those seeds? Enlisting other sowers? Giving away alarm clocks as Christmas presents? Investing your financial resources in sowing for awakening? Breaking open the jar of costly perfume and wasting it at the feet of Jesus?
Today we will sing the classic, “The Old Rugged Cross.” It is hymn 236 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt