Prayer Targets: Our First Love; HR1; Northern Syria; Jack Phillips; End Birth Day Abortion; Tornadoes
March 06, 2019
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:4)
Dear Praying Friends,
Dr. Mark Batterson is lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., one church with eight locations. He is the author of 16 books, including the New York Times Best Seller, The Circle-Maker. Mark holds a D.Min. from Regent University. These excerpts are from his 2009 book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity:
I pastor a church in Washington DC that is nearly 70 percent single twenty-somethings. Unfortunately, our demographics are an anomaly. By and large, twenty-somethings are leaving the church at an alarming rate. According to some statistics, 61 percent of twenty-somethings who grew up going to church will quit going in their twenties [see statistical update]. The temptation is to ask: what's wrong with this generation? The right question is this: what's wrong with the church? My answer is simply: we're not great at the Great Commandment. In too many instances, we're not even good at it. That, I believe, is our primal problem. That is the lost soul of Christianity. If Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the most important commandment, then doesn't it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand and obey it? We can't afford to be merely good at the Great Commandment. We've got to be great at the Great Commandment.
The quest for the lost soul of Christianity begins with rediscovering what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus used those four kaleidoscopic words to describe four dimensions of love... It's hard to know where loving God with your heart ends and loving God with your soul begins. But one thing is sure: loving God in one way isn't enough. It's not enough to love God with just your heart or soul or mind or strength. We commanded, to love Him in all four ways. Think of it as love to the fourth power. So the quest begins with rediscovery. But it ends with reimagination. Some truths can be deduced via left-brain logic. Others are better induced via right-brain imagination. Love falls into the latter category... So what follows is not a strict exposition of the Great Commandment. It's a reimagination of the four primal elements detailed by Jesus in the Great Commandment: The heart of Christianity is primal compassion. The soul of Christianity is primal wonder. The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity.
And the strength of Christianity is primal energy. The descent down this flight of stairs into primal Christianity will be convicting at points, but the end result will be a renewed love for God that is full of genuine compassion, infinite wonder, insatiable curiosity, and boundless energy. Anything less is not enough. It's not just unfulfilling, it's also unfaithful. The quest is not complete until it results in catacomb-like convictions that go beyond conventional logic. The goal is a love that, as our spiritual ancestors understood, is worth living for and dying for.,,
I've discovered that when I've lost my way spiritually, the way forward is often backward. That is what we experience when we celebrate Communion, isn't it? Communion is a pilgrimage back to the foot of the cross. Going back to that most primal place helps us find our way forward. So before going forward, let me encourage you to go backward to where God opened your eyes and broke your heart with compassion for others. Go back to that place where the glory of God flooded your soul and left you speechless with wonder. Go back to that place where thoughts about God filled your mind with holy curiosity. Go back to that place where a God-given dream caused a rush of adrenaline that filled you with supernatural energy.
[I took my team to a conference in Atlanta, we were asked this question]: "Does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God?" I felt a tremendous sense of conviction,,, I heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit saying to my spirit in His kind yet convicting voice, "Mark, what happened to the college kid who used to pace the chapel balcony seeking My face?" The conviction of the Holy Spirit is so painful, but so necessary. I'm so grateful that God loves me enough to break me where I need to be broken... He reminded me of the raw spiritual intensity I once had... how calloused my heart had become. And I realized that I had somehow lost my soul while serving God. And it wrecked me. Does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God?
If it doesn't, you need to repent. And that's what I did that day...We couldn't leave until we brought closure to what God was doing in the depths of our souls. So we delayed our reservation, found a conference room, and spent some time crying, confessing, and praying as a team. I think we were the last ones to leave the auditorium... a few days later I found myself in the chapel balcony where I had logged hundreds of hours pacing back and forth seeking God. It was during prayer times in that balcony when my heart began to break for the things that break the heart of God. It was there that God began to shape my soul to seek Him. It was there that God began to fill my mind with God ideas. It was in that balcony that God energized me by giving me a God-sized vision for my life.
Returning to that chapel balcony fifteen years later, I realized that in many ways I had become a paid professional Christian. My heart didn't beat as strongly as it once did. My pulse didn't quicken in the presence of God like it once had. So God took me back to a very primal place. And the Holy Spirit lovingly reminded me that the college kid with a huge heart for God was still somewhere inside me. I knew that getting back what I once had meant getting back to basics. It meant doing what I had once done. It meant rediscovering and reimagining what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And somewhere along the way, in my personal quest for my lost soul, I found it. (Mark Batterson, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 2009, edited for length)
Whatever our ministry, our obedience will not be complete if we have abandoned our First Love, Jesus. Satan wins if he succeeds in keeping us from prayer and intimate fellowship with Jesus. God calls each of us to seek His face continually. If we do, He will encourage, guide, and empower us to lead people to Christ and to speak truth privately and in the public square that will turn our nation away from sin and toward the Living God.
For the People Act -- H.R.1 -- This sweeping election reform bill, a dream law for liberals and nightmare for conservatives, will be voted on today in the House of Representatives. The Washington Examiner calls it "Orwellian." The Heritage Foundation has written a short rundown that exposes many of the dangers in the bill. Amid the debate over the bill, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) along with Reps. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) attempted to offer an amendment -- the Free Speech Fairness Act -- to restore churches and other 501c3 organizations' free speech rights. They are currently barred from making statements on political candidates and issues on the threat of audit by the IRS and a loss of tax-exempt status. The amendment was ruled out of order. Scalise said, "H.R.1 only expands the government's role by turning the Federal Elections Commission into a 'speech czar' with the power to enforce Democrats' vague definition of 'campaign-related speech,' a clear encroachment on Americans' right to freely express their opinions on political issues and candidates. Adding the Free Speech Fairness Act to this bill could have ended the federal government's practice of silencing churches and other nonprofits who engage in our democracy... this bill is not about promoting election fairness and participation. [The party in control] is simply eroding American freedoms to suit an agenda that only seems to benefit them, not the American people." (See Heritage Foundation; The Facts about HR1; The Hill: House Democrats Poised to Pass Sweeping Election Reform Bill; Scalise)
- Thank you, God, for our Government, with the checks and balances our Forefathers gave us to protect us from tyranny. Thank you, too for allies in the fight for righteousness. Lord, you who are our Judge, our Lawgiver, and our King -- You will save us. (Is 33:22; Ecc 4:9-12)
A Call for Prayer for Northern Syria -- Travis Weber, FRC Vice President for Policy, is now focusing on building FRC's international religious freedom advocacy efforts. He asked me to make a special appeal for prayer for Northern Syria. You may remember that President Trump announced his intention to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, but he has seriously postponed his plan, perhaps in part due to the impact it would have on Christians and other religious minorities who are presently living together in peace amid the ethnic and religious warfare elsewhere in Syria. Travis writes: "Please join us in praying for the Christians and others in the north part of Syria. There, the Self Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria (SANES) has developed a stable government in the wake of ISIS, a government which has been working hard to protect religious freedom for all. Churches operate freely, and even former Muslims are allowed to convert and worship openly (one report says 21,000 have converted). Yet this region could be at the mercy of the Turks, Iran, or the Assad regime if they lose the security provided by the U.S. presence, and no one steps in to fill the void. Please join us in praying for religious freedom to flourish, the gospel to go forth, and freedom and justice to reign in this part of the world!" (See A call for prayer for Northern Syria)
- Lord, thank you for your presence and activity in Northern Syria. Peace is not possible apart from the Prince of Peace. Raise up churches across America and around the world who will accept a call to pray for the people of Northern Syria. May they be under your hand of protection. May others see the peace that is taking place there and emulate it. Intervene, Heavenly Father, to bring peace in Syria. Give our president as well as our State Department and Pentagon leaders wisdom to know what we must do in that land. In Jesus' Name, Amen. (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 5:9; Rom 14:19)
Colorado Drops Second Case against Jack Phillips, the Christian Baker -- In June, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, pointing to the animus displayed by the State of Colorado against the Christian baker because he practiced his faith faithfully. Soon after the Supreme Court announced Jack's victory, a lawyer came into Jack's bakery demanding he design and bake a gender transition cake (blue outside, pink inside). Jack, just as he did in the same-sex wedding cake case, refused to bake a custom cake for the event. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission said that "state law required him to bake and design the gender-transition cake." Jack sued in the U.S. District Court, saying "Colorado was relentless in seeking to crush me and my shop for living consistently with my deeply held religious beliefs." (See A Win for Freedom)
- Thank you, God, for Jack and for giving him courage and endurance. Thank you, Lord for Your sovereign grace in giving us a president who is altering the makeup of the Supreme Court to restore constitutional fidelity. Thank you, Lord for the Alliance Defending Freedom and other Christian public service law firms that are laboring day and night to preserve our freedoms, particularly the freedom of religion! (Ps 133 All; Gal 5:1; Eph 6:10-20; Heb 12:1
Please add each of these matters to you prayer list: 1) Anti-Christian teachings on transgenderism are being introduced into many of our schools to children as young as Kindergarten; 2) Planned Parenthood has a plan in the works to have its hotline phone number printed on all student school ID's in California so students can quickly reach the nation's largest abortion purveyor; 3) The SPLC has expanded its Hate List; 4) The Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina tornadoes killed 23 people and caused widespread devastation; 5) 40 Days for Life has launched vigils in 337 cities; 6) End Birth Day Abortion -- Americans of both pro-life and po-choice persuasion remain deeply shocked by how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature wildly celebrated passing the nation's most barbaric abortion laws. Soon after, a Virginia lawmaker proposed a measure to allow babies born alive after surviving an abortion to be put to death, and nearly the entire nation got to see Virginia's governor express his agreement and support for the bill. The horror shook the nation. New polls show that 9 percent of self-proclaimed pro-choice Americans switched sides and now identify as pro-life. And 80 percent of Americans, both pro-life and pro-choice, believe abortions should be legal only during the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy (the first 12 weeks). Nevertheless, several state legislatures are competing to pass the "strongest" pro-abortion laws in the nation (see Illinois and analysis). Thankfully, we have pro-life champions in the U.S. House and Senate who will not be silent amid these efforts to make America's abortion laws more barbaric, and more Americans are declaring themselves to be pro-life than ever before.
FRC's new program, already underway, captures the moment. It is bolstering public awareness and mustering much needed support for the cause of life. Read about it here! Will you help us? Visit EndBirthDayAbortion.com/church. With your $9 donation, FRC will send a baby hat to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office to send a message that the killing of born-alive infants needs to stop. Click here for the Sanctity of Human Life Bulletin (ESV version) or HERE for KJV.
Much more, but not enough time. Thank you, as always, for praying!