Holy Stubbornness: Don’t Quit on Your Calling

Building a house of prayer is NOT easy. I’ve heard multiple leaders say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done–way harder than planting a church, doing overseas missions, etc. Really, the only reason this place is still standing is that years ago, God graciously gave us a holy stubbornness to NOT QUIT NO MATTER WHAT.

There are so, so many reasons to quit. When the money falls apart, the people wander off, the building gets taken away, other important causes demand attention… there is every good and natural reason in the world to quit.

In the “world”.

But we are not of this world. We don’t think like this world. We are not slaves to things like practicality and pragmatism. We don’t make decisions based only on numbers and logic.

We make decisions on faith.

13 years ago, God called a guy named Brad to start a daily prayer meeting that was eventually supposed to become a 24/7 house of prayer (this is TPR’s origin story). And then one by one, over the years, God called each of us to be part of it. Occasionally, He calls someone out of it just as clearly as He called them in. But MOST of the time… He expects us to plant our feet and not walk away from the thing He called us to. No matter what.

Of course we look at the numbers and listen to reason. Sometimes God leads through reason. But there are times, especially about the big things, when we need to set our face like flint and refuse to back down.

“For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”
Isaiah 50:7

For us at The Prayer Room, that means first and foremost day and night prayer, 5:00 am to 11:00 pm with live worship, every single day of the week. We don’t take a day off and we don’t cut corners. We don’t cut the schedule when we’re running low on people–by golly, we’d invent human cloning before we’d cancel a prayer meeting.

For me personally, holy stubbornness means I know I am called to be part of the house of prayer movement. I make decisions based on that calling. I have discouraged guys from pursuing me because of that calling. I arrange my finances and my schedule around that calling. Right now, God has been clear that means full-time missionary staff at The Prayer Room. I do not have the right to decide to do something else with my life, no matter how convenient, attractive, logical, or even necessary other options may seem.

The pastor I grew up with, Pastor Danny at Water of Life, calls this “staying on your number”. Years ago, he used a sermon illustration of gym class at school where the coach would tell all the kids to stand on their assigned number on the gym floor. No matter how much you wanted to move or felt entitled to a more favourable number, you had to stay on your number. The phrase has become Water of Life shorthand for staying grounded where God has planted you.

Really what this comes down to is obedience and faith.

“And Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'”
1 Samuel 15:22

In the story of 1 Samuel 15, God told King Saul to completely destroy his enemies and all of their possessions and livestock. When the prophet Samuel showed up, he found that King Saul had done his idea of the right thing, which was to spare the best of the livestock for the purpose of sacrificing it to God. That sounds pretty holy, right? But God’s message to Saul was, “I told you what to do, and you didn’t do it. The excuse ‘I’m doing this for You!’ doesn’t cut it, because I TOLD YOU what to do, and this was not it. To obey is better than sacrifice.”

Obeying what God actually said is better than doing other good things for good reasons that are NOT actually what God said to do. God delights in obedience. It gives Him great pleasure when we trust Him enough to follow what He said to do no matter what, even if there are “good reasons” to do something different.

For us, that means we’re stubbornly going to keep building the house of prayer.

For you, it might be the house of prayer, or it might be something different. Maybe God has called you to overseas missions, or to a church ministry, or to a specific marketplace career. Maybe it’s your marriage, or homeschooling, or fostering/adoption.

DON’T QUIT.

God called you into this thing for a reason. You said yes for a reason. Remember what that reason was, and hold onto it. Unless He releases you as clearly as He called you… walking away isn’t really a viable option.

Get stubborn. Get iron in your soul. Get a flinty face like Isaiah. Get radically surrendered like Jesus in Gethsemane.

Walk by faith, not by sight.

When it gets hard, He will give you grace to walk through it. His grace is sufficient. He will not let you fall. He might let you come close, but His promise is that those who wait on Him will not be ashamed. I think that means that even if there are moments or seasons of pressure and even embarrassment, in the long run you will not regret choosing to trust Him. You will look back a thousand years from now and be so grateful you kept saying yes. Wisdom will be justified.

It’s worth it. Holy stubbornness that says YES to Jesus no matter what is worth it. Don’t give up on Him.

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May the Lamb That Was Slain Receive the Reward of His Suffering

The background image is an 1888 etching of the Moravian mission ship Harmony.

On August 27, 1727, a prayer meeting started in Herrnhut, Germany, that lasted for over 100 years and went on the change the world.

Its story begins when Protestant refugees from the Catholic country of Moravia came to Germany and settled on the land of Count Zinzendorf. The community was soon attacked by division and disagreement, and the 27-year-old Zinzendorf cried out to God for reconciliation and revival. God spoke to him Leviticus 6:13: “Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.”

Days later, on August 13, 1727, a wave of repentance and revival swept through the community. The Holy Spirit was dramatically poured out with signs and wonders and supernatural love for each other, for the Scriptures, and most supremely for Jesus. His glory became their urgent desire. The community adopted a radical new model for community life, which included a perpetual corporate prayer assembly in the spirit of Leviticus 6:13. They all committed to hourly “prayer watches” by which they arranged the community to cover the entire 24 hours in a day.

The Moravian emblem, based on Revelation 5:5-6, 14:4

The impact of this 100-year prayer meeting reached far beyond the small settlement of Herrnhut. The radical love for Jesus and fire of the Spirit that was rooted in them during those 24/7 prayer meetings gave birth to one of the most prolific missionary movements of history and became an inspiration and challenge to the modern missions movement that would soon be born.

In 1732, five years after the initial outpouring of the Spirit, two Moravian tradesmen, 36-year-old David Nitschmann and 26-year-old Johann Leonhard Dober, became the first missionaries to leave Herrnhut. They heard of the plight of African slaves on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean, and how there was a spiritual hunger but they had no one to share the gospel with them. They determined to go by any means necessary, even when they were told they would have to sell themselves into slavery in order to minister among the slaves. (As it turns out, when they offered themselves as slaves in Copenhagen, they were laughed at because no one would buy white men as slaves, so they travelled to St. Thomas by working their trades.)

According to the story that has stirred missionary zeal the world over for the past near-300 years, as they stood on the ship departing from the wharf, looking for what they believed to be the last time of the faces of their loved ones, they raised their fists and cried, “MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING.”

That cry, that burning desire for Jesus to have the full inheritance of everything He died for, has captivated me for a decade.

~~~

So what is the “reward of His suffering”? What does He deserve for His sacrifice on the cross?

He deserves the nations to the ends of the earth as His inheritance.

“You are my Son…Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:7-8

He deserves the saints as His glorious inheritance.

“that you may know…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” Ephesians 1:18

He deserves to be preeminent (in first place) in everything.

“…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Colossians 1:18

He deserves exaltation and the homage of every person.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” Philippians 2:8-11

He deserves power, authority, glory, and worship.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12

He deserves ultimate exaltation and glory. He deserves every person everywhere singing highest praises from hearts in love. He deserves to fully rule and reign over every single aspect of life.

The truth is, there is NO LIMIT to how much He deserves. Isaiah 9:7 says that His kingdom will continue to increase forever and ever.

~~~

So what does that mean for us?

In light of the biblical testimony of the great worth of the Lamb, in light of the historical testimony of the saints and martyrs who laid down everything for Him, is there any limit to how much He deserves in our lives?

Is there any passion too extreme?

Is there any offering too extravagant?

Is there any commitment too radical?

Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians at Herrnhut, like King David and thousands of others throughout history, determined that 24/7 prayer and worship was not too much to respond to His glory.

Nitschmann and Dober determined that selling themselves into slavery was not too high a price to pay so that the Lamb would have His reward in the slaves of St. Thomas.

May we be driven by their example. May their cry be the great echoing anthem of the Church across the earth as we strive to lay down everything to see His glory have its full due:

MAY THE LAMB
THAT WAS SLAIN
RECEIVE THE REWARD
OF HIS SUFFERING.

 

The video below (or LINK HERE) was made by a friend of mine, who is now a missionary helping plant prayer and worship around the world. It’s one of my favourite videos on the internet and has refused to leave me alone ever since I first saw it.

 

Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus

When we celebrate the Christmas story, there is a reality deeper than the quaint images of sheep in a stable and swaddling clothes in a manger. It’s the reality of the incarnation – that God, the Creator, the infinitely eternal Dreamer of Genesis 1, freely chose to become one of His creation. The Creator created Himself into a fragile body of flesh, and in doing so He proved Himself worthy of the highest exaltation.

To catch the wonder of this, we have to back up…. waaaay up.

HIGH

.     “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…
.        when the morning stars sang together
.         and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
.     Or who shut in the sea with doors
.         when it burst out from the womb,
.     when I made clouds its garment
.         and thick darkness its swaddling band,
.     and prescribed limits for it
.         and set bars and doors,
.     and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
.         and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
.     Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
.         and caused the dawn to know its place…?
.     Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
.        or walked in the recesses of the deep?
.     Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
.         or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”
.                    Job 38:4-17

In Job 38, God puts Job’s life in perspective by giving him a glimpse of what it’s like to be GOD, the eternal, sovereign Creator. He remembers the day when He created the universe out of nothing. He controls all the forces of nature like a puppet master. He is sovereign over it all.

Low

Psalm 113 shows the first step in the humility of God:

.     “The LORD is high above all nations;
.         His glory is above the heavens.
.     Who is like the LORD our God,
.         Who is enthroned on high,
.     Who humbles Himself to behold
.         The things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
.                    Psalm 113:4-6 NASB

God has to humble Himself to even LOOK at the things He has created! The universe itself is so far beneath Him that it’s as if He has to bend over and squint to even see it.

But He does.

He bends down to look

.     at the universe…

.          at the Milky Way…

.               at our solar system…

.                    at Earth…

.                         at each nation…

.                              at each individual human heart.

The fact that He would even acknowledge your existence, the speck within a speck within a speck within a speck, is huge. It takes fathomless humility to even know your name.

Take three minutes and watch this video.

 

lower

Then came the incarnation. The Word made flesh. God not only looks at and interacts with Earth from His distant throne… He chose to step off His throne above the edge of the universe and become one of us.

Breakable, squishy, ugly-bags-of-mostly-water, time-locked, skin-locked, needy, temporary, finite little humanity.

In my opinion, no passage in Scripture captures this descent as well as Philippians 2:5-11.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8

It begins with Jesus in the form of God. In Greek, this word for “form” doesn’t mean appearance or shape. It means His very essence, His very nature. At His core, to His DNA, Jesus WAS God. He had equality with God; not that He was equivalent to God, but He was equal to God. From the beginning, Jesus = God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
John 1:1-3

Yet, He didn’t choose to grasp tightly onto His status as God. He willingly let go of His position and rights as God. In the NIV, “something to be grasped” is translated “something to be used to his own advantage”. He had every right to simply rest on His own divinity, but He chose to forsake His own rights and empty Himself.

So He was born in the likeness of men… in human form. He who was in the form of God took on human form. God-nature took on human-nature. Deity became humanity. The infinite became finite.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
John 1:14

This is a staggering descent. It’s literally immeasurable. If you or I became an ant, it would be a huge downgrade, but it would be theoretically possible to measure the differences between a human and an ant. God is so completely Other that it is impossible to measure just how different He is. For God to become human is an infinite descent.

In being born, Jesus had to first be in the womb of Mary for 9 months. GOD was once the size of a grapefruit… and an apple… and a paperclip… and microscopic. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the Son of God was conceived as a single cell.

God was once a single-celled organism. Fully God, fully human… microscopic in the womb of a young woman.

lower

Of course, the most powerful men on Earth started as only one cell. Jesus went lower even than that.

He took the form of a servant.

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”
Matthew 20:28

He could have come as a great human king, and even that would have been infinitely beneath Him! Instead, He chose to be born in the most humble of ways– to a poor couple from a disreputable town, largely uncelebrated in a stable, then worked as an unassuming carpenter until He was released into ministry… when He set the example by washing His disciples’ feet.

.     “For he grew up before him like a young plant,
.         and like a root out of dry ground;
.     he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
.         and no beauty that we should desire him.
.                   Isaiah 53:2

But then…

lowest.

He came lower still.

He became obedient to the point of death.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

The Author of life… died. More than that, He didn’t peacefully pass away quietly, but He was executed in the most gruesome form of torture ever devised.

The Author of life, clothed in light, who from the dawn of creation has had ceaseless adoration rising around His throne…

…died on a tree, naked, with blood and spit dripping down His body, with angry insults and blasphemies clamouring around Him.

.     He was despised and rejected by men,
.         a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
.     and as one from whom men hide their faces
.         he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
.     Surely he has borne our griefs
.         and carried our sorrows;
.     yet we esteemed him stricken,
.         smitten by God, and afflicted.
.                   Isaiah 53:3-4

Despised and rejected.

Despised by the ones He knew and loved so deeply.

Rejected by the very ones He came so infinitely low to rescue.

This is the crux of the incarnation. This is Jesus, the King of Glory, at His lowest.

The ultimate, deepest humility.

BUT.

H I G H E S T

Philippians 2 turns a sharp 180° on one word–

“THEREFORE.”

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

As quickly as Jesus came so low, He shoots up again to be “highly exalted”. There’s something unique about this exaltation, though. It’s not just the glory He had with the Father before the incarnation; this is exaltation as a human. This is the promise of His future exaltation as the Son of David, the prophesied Davidic King of the earth. One Day (capitalisation intended) He will be publicly and fully recognised as the sovereign authority of the planet, when He returns and establishes His Kingdom from Jerusalem.

Don’t miss this– the Davidic King has to be actually human. Jesus didn’t just temporarily put on a human costume and shed it when He ascended. He became permanently, irrevocably human forever. In heaven now, He has a glorified human body, similar to the glorified human bodies believers will have one day. When He sits on the throne in Jerusalem forever, He will do so as a human King: a literal, physical descendent of David.

What stunning humility.

To me, the most fascinating part of this Philippians 2 passage is in the THEREFORE. He is exalted because He was obedient to the point of death. His extravagant humility which led Him all the way to the cross is directly why He is worthy to rule as King.

This THEREFORE is all over Scripture.

.     “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
.         and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
.     because he poured out his soul to death
.         and was numbered with the transgressors…”
.                   Isaiah 53:12

.     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
.         and to open its seals,
.     for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God…”
.                   Revelation 5:9

He is worthy to open the scroll, release the plans of God, and rule the earth because He was slain.

Because of His great humility, He has proven His worthiness.

This is a King we can fully trust– the one who came so low for us. He has proven His love.

This is how we can trust that He won’t be a cruel or selfish or distant dictator. He has withstood every test and temptation. He has proven His love, humility, and commitment to us by His birth, life, and death. And God has vindicated and affirmed Him by His resurrection.

When we look at the baby in a manger, we can see the God who came so, so low to demonstrate His love by taking on flesh and dying on a tree, and the coming King who proved His trustworthiness to rule.

To me, that is breathtakingly beautiful.

God, You became a man
You took on flesh
You’re so beautiful

“One Found Worthy” by Justin Rizzo

Why the Beauty of Jesus is My Life Message

A few years ago, someone asked me what my “life message” is. I don’t remember what my answer was at the time, but having taken some time to think about it, I think I know. My life message is the beauty of Jesus.

As I put it on my teaching resources page:

I want people to see the supremacy of the beauty of Jesus in a way that makes their hearts come alive with love for Him and catches them up into the Story of what He’s doing in our generation.

First, here’s what I mean by the beauty of Jesus. The Bible repeatedly refers to this idea, and here are a taste of my favourite references:

“One thing I have desired of the LORD…to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…” (Psalm 27:4)

“You are fairer than the sons of men…” (Psalm 45:2)

“My beloved is white [radiant, ESV] and ruddy, chief among ten thousand…” (Song of Songs 5:10)

“Your eyes will see the king in his beauty…” (Isaiah 33:17)

The beauty of Jesus is mostly the beauty–the excellence–of His personality. I used to think of Jesus’ beauty as only the visual aspects of light and glory described in passages such as Revelation 4 and 5. While those are certainly a part of Jesus’ beauty, the full truth is so much deeper than that. Jesus is beautiful because of who He is. Every single facet of His character is gloriously beautiful. His love, joy, playfulness, fierceness, humility, honesty, cleverness, justice, dedication, wisdom, faithfulness, and a thousand other traits are what make Him stunning. As mere humans, we can never be all of these things as fully as we wish we could be, and no person in our lives could fulfill all of these needs for us, but Jesus possesses all of these characteristics to their fullest possible extreme, all at once!

I’m going to say that the beauty of Jesus draws us into four things: 1) Worship, 2) Relationship, 3) Discipleship, and 4) Partnership.

1. Worship

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

Jesus’ beauty is directly tied to His holiness, which is His complete OTHERness. Part of what this means is that His every characteristic is higher and more pure and perfect than its earthly equivalent.

Jesus is beautiful in every single facet of his character, in His love and mercy as well as His wrath and justice. Think about that. Every justice system on earth is guaranteed to screw up. Human justice will always be imperfect, no matter how hard we try to refine the system, because no man can really see into the heart of another. But Jesus’ justice is completely perfect. Every single time.

That moves me to awe. Everything He is and does is absolute perfection, and not just harsh, to-the-standard perfection, like a starched white cleanroom. No, this is vibrant, colourful perfection, like an overwhelming symphony of music and movement and colour in wild extravagance and perfect harmony. There is a fullness and a richness to His personality that is completely unique and stunning.

How can I not give myself over in awe and worship before such a God?

2. Relationship

My favourite quote about the beauty of Jesus is from the book Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge:

We all know brilliant minds who could do with a touch of humility, humble folk who ought to stand up for themselves, driven types who need to lighten up, jokesters who should grow up, and gracious souls who really ought to get good and mad once in a while…

But imagine if you found it all in on person—superb before a jury, terrific taste in movies, ready at the drop of a hat for a riot of a vacation, and also able to handle your deepest, darkest secrets. Wouldn’t you want that person to be your friend?!…

He is not glistening white marble. He is the playfulness of creation, scandal and utter goodness, the generosity of the ocean and the ferocity of a thunderstorm; he is cunning as a snake and gentle as a whisper; the gladness of sunshine and the humility of a thirty-mile walk by foot on a dirt road. Reclining at a meal, laughing with friends, and then going to the cross.

This is what we mean when we say Jesus is beautiful. (Beautiful Outlaw, page 136-137)

Isn’t that a Person you want to know?

This is someone I would never get tired of spending time with. This is someone I would never get bored of discovering more about. He is fun, and fascinating, and brilliant. He’s infinitely gentle and wise and also knows how to kick my butt when I need it.

And He wants to know me. He deeply, achingly desires relationship with me. Knowing who He is, knowing how perfect and amazing His love is, how could I not fall in love in return?

3. Discipleship

“What a beautiful example You are to me, Jesus”
Caleb Andrews, “Beautiful Example” [click for youtube]

The more I see of the beauty of Jesus’ character, the more I want to be like Him. Just being told to do things doesn’t change my heart. Moralism isn’t enough. My heart changes when I become captivated by the beauty of those charactersistics in Him.

Growing up, I always knew that being humble was a good thing, but my attempts to “be more humble” were almost completely without vision until I caught sight of the remarkable humility of Jesus… how He came so low to take the form of a servant and become obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:6-11), and even when He comes back as a warrior He’s coming to fight for truth, meekness, and righteousness (Psalm 45:4).

There’s a principle in Scripture often stated as “what we behold is what we become,” taken from 1 John 3:2, which says “when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see him as He is.” That’s true of our physical bodies on the day of His return, and it’s also true to a lesser degree of our hearts now. The more clearly we see Jesus, the more we are empowered to become like Him–and in fact, the more we want to become like Him.

4. Partnership

Part of being friends with Jesus is caring about what He cares about and doing what we see Him doing. We want Him to have the dreams of His heart come to pass, and we want to be part of making those things happen, because of love. Falling in love with Jesus drives everything else I do in my life. Intercession, discipleship, evangelism, social justice–they’re all about Him. I want Him to have what He so deeply desires, because I know that He is beautiful and worthy, and because I know the things He wants are beautiful and worthy. His desires are perfectly pure and holy. The more clearly I see His sense of justice and fall in love with that quality in Him, the more I want to see justice done in the earth–because I have connected with the beauty of true justice in the heart of Jesus.

 

There is truly no one like Jesus. He really is “fairer than the sons of men” and “chief among ten thousand.” He is worthy of all of our worship and all of our trust and all of our lives lived completely for His glory– because the extravagant beauty of His character actually deserves such an extravagant response.

3 Truths That Keep Me Coming Back to the Prayer Room

…And None of Them Are Actually About Me.

I’m five years into this prayer room lifestyle now. And to be honest, every day is not sunshine and rainbows and oceans of glory. Motivation is sorely lacking sometimes. So when I’m not feeling it, here are the core truths that keep me coming back. (You’ll notice that none of them are really about me. That’s because the house of prayer is primarily something GOD established for GOD, and any blessing I get is just a bonus.)

1. Jesus is worthy.

No matter how I feel, Jesus is still the name above every other name and the angels are still singing “Holy, holy, holy… Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” (Revelation 4:8, 5:12). I actually believe that the greatest injustice in the earth is that Jesus does not get the worship that He is due from every heart worldwide. I can’t change that singlehandedly overnight, but I can do my best to make sure He gets everything He deserves from my life.

2. Jesus wants to talk to me more than I want to talk to Him.

I am so dull of heart sometimes. Like, a lot of times. My flesh can so easily convince me on that I’m okay without having a real conversation with God that day. That’s probably the biggest lie my flesh tells me: “You’re fine. It’s okay. It doesn’t matter.” And so I zone out in the prayer room, or choose to endlessly scroll through Facebook at home. But the truth is that Jesus wants to talk to me way more than I want to talk to Him. Some days the only thing that can get me out of bed to go to the prayer room is the fact that Jesus says “Let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice.” (Song of Solomon 2:14) He really wants to talk with me, and He misses that connection time when I’m not there. I may feel like I’m fine if I miss out for a day, but how dare I deprive Jesus of something He so earnestly desires.

3. This is part of a big, big story.

The house of prayer — corporate, sustained gatherings specifically focussed on worship and intercession, especially 24/7 — has been on God’s heart for a long, long time, to the point that the first thing He did in establishing a nation for himself was to establish the house of prayer (the tabernacle of Moses). David took this idea even further in his tabernacle model, and God promised to reestablish David’s tabernacle in the final generation. (Amos 9:11) The Church will be a praying, singing, lovesick Bride that functions as a house of prayer and partners with God to push back the darkness, bring forth revival, and usher in the return of Jesus. My getting out of bed to go to the prayer room is literally part of God’s strategy to prepare the earth for the second coming. It doesn’t get much more epic than that.

Awakening the Dawn at 5:00 am

Every Saturday night after service as I’m getting into bed at about 11:00 pm, I set my alarm for 3:45 am. The goal is to be out the door by 4:25, backpack and tea (earl grey, hot) in hand. It takes me about five minutes to drive to my destination. I rarely see more than three or four cars on the road. The Starbucks I pass isn’t even open that early.

But I have a fire to start.

The Prayer Room is open 18 hours a day, 5:00 am to 11:00 pm, every day, no matter what. Literally. We’ve NEVER missed a day since we started 11 years ago, and only two or three times have we ever missed so much as a single minute.

Every Sunday I have the privilege of serving as the morning section leader and opening The Prayer Room at 5:00 am with (usually) two other people. Sometimes it’s just me and my worship leader. He always starts playing his guitar a minute or two before 5:00, so that when the clock shows those zeroes the fire is already on the altar. At 5:00, I pray an opening prayer over the room, which usually goes something like this:

“Good morning, Jesus. We love You. Thank You for another day we get to sing love songs to You for 18 hours straight. We ask that Your presence would fill this place today, that You would speak and move however You want… You are so, so worthy of all of this and more.”

And then I get to sit and pace and sing and pray in that room for the next six hours (I do spend a bit of that time in the lobby as I’m ushering) overseeing the fire on the altar until 11:00 when the afternoon section leader takes over.

5:00 am prayer meeting this morning

5:00 am prayer meeting this morning

I am very much not a morning person. When I have no schedule at all, I’m likely to be awake 10:00 am to 2:00 am every day. I knew this section leader assignment was going to be a stretch for me. But even though it’s dang early, there’s something really, really precious about giving God the sacrifice of love songs at dawn.

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:3

I believe dawn is a really special time to God. Even though nightime is also beautiful and holy, there’s something truly remarkable about the freshness of a new day.

The light breaking over the horizon, chasing away the shadows.

The fragrance of dew on the grass.

The quietness of a world just waking up.

His mercies are new every morning. (Lam 3:22-23)

Scripture likes to use the image of dawn to describe Jesus’ return. Revelation twice calls Jesus the “Morning Star”. (Rev 2:28, 22:16) The same phrase is in 2 Peter 1:19, where Peter instructs the church to stay faithful to the prophecies of Scripture “until the day dawns and the morning star shines in your hearts.” The Old Testament, too, is filled with prophecies of God delivering Jerusalem and filling her with the light of His glory at dawn. (Psalm 46:5, Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 60:1)

Will Jesus literally appear in the sky one day just as the sun peeks over the Mount of Olives on the eastern horizon in Jerusalem? I don’t know… but knowing His penchant for fulfilling things more literally than we expect, maybe! At the very least, it’s going to be the darkest hour of human history, and Jesus’ sudden return to make all things new will feel very much like morning light breaking through the black of night.

And in the midst of these prophecies, we have prophecies of songs of worship breaking out with the dawn. In the midst of a dramatic prophecy of end-time judgment on the whole earth, Isaiah prophesies:

Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light…
From the ends of the earth we have heard songs:
“Glory to the righteous!”
Isaiah 24:15-16a NKJV

And to bring it full circle, we come back to Psalm 57:8 (and identical phrasing in Psalm 108:2):

Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8

When I think of my 5:00 am prayer meetings, I think of the preciousness of giving Jesus that morning offering of love, that He is being glorified at the very beginning of the day. But I also think of the big picture of “awakening the dawn” of His appearing. Our worship is actually paving the way for His coming. 2 Peter 2:12 says we can “hasten the coming of the day” of His return, and every sleepy little 5:00 am prayer is filling up the bowls of incense before His throne. One day, the prayers of the Bride will reach a crescendo, and everything will be in place for Him to split the sky and stand on earth again.

There will come a day when the dawn will break over the horizon; just when it looks like things couldn’t get darker, the Morning Star will appear to make all things new.

As Aslan himself says it,

“The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
(C. S. Lewis, “The Last Battle.”)

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

The Earth is the Lord’s, and the King of Glory is Set on Zion.

Worship leading today. Photo: Brad Stroup

I’m here in Texas! I arrived Wednesday night and have spent the past couple days getting settled in. Today, I was asked to come help fill in for a few hours at The Prayer Room, and so I ushered the 3-5pm and led worship for the 5-7pm.

While I was ushering, God put a verse fragment on my heart: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” I looked it up and found it in Psalm 24. I was familiar with the last stanza of this Psalm but forgot how it started.screenshot_20170120-235916

.   The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
.        the world and those who dwell therein…
.   Lift up your heads, O gates!
.        And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
.        that the King of glory may come in.
.   Who is this King of glory?
.        The Lord, strong and mighty,
.        the Lord, mighty in battle!
.             Psalm 24:1, 7-8

This was exactly what my heart needed to hear today, on inauguration day of all days. I had spent some time in the morning sharing some thoughts on Facebook regarding President Trump, but on the whole I think praying through this passage today was far more productive.

Whenever I worship lead, I always take around 15 minutes in the middle of my set to sing through a passage and spontaneously sing some devotional thoughts on it. This is a normal part of the harp and bowl model that I learned at IHOPKC and which we use at The Prayer Room. Today, I felt God leading me to sing these verses from Psalm 24.

I had a few cross-references in mind as backdrop, especially Colossians 1:15-18:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together… He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Colossians 1:15-18

God owns everything. He created everything. He is sovereign over everything. Everything exists FOR Him, for His glory. He will be preeminent – in first place, front and centre, completely.

In one sense, this is already true; right now, heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool, and He is absolutely sovereign. But there is coming a Day when His throne will come to Earth–to the city of Jerusalem, to be precise–and He will be fully, actively engaged in personally ruling the nations in perfect righteousness and justice.

The gates and “ancient doors” of Jerusalem will open and the King of Glory will ride in on a white horse and begin to reign like never before.

I couldn’t help also singing a bit of Psalm 2. I only sang a couple of phrases from it, but this was the whole context I had in mind:

.   Why do the nations rage
.        and the peoples plot in vain?
.   The kings of the earth set themselves,
.        and the rulers take counsel together,
.        against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
.   “Let us burst their bonds apart
.        and cast away their cords from us.”
.   He who sits in the heavens laughs;
.        the Lord holds them in derision.
.   Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
.        and terrify them in his fury, saying,
.   “As for me, I have set my King
.        on Zion, my holy hill.”
.   I will tell of the decree:
.   The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
.        today I have begotten you.
.   Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
.        and the ends of the earth your possession.
.   You shall break them with a rod of iron
.        and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
.             Psalm 2:1-9

As I sang, “You have set the King on Zion, You have set the King on Zion, He will reign” over and over, I could feel the prophetic declaration going out into the atmosphere. No matter how unrighteous the ruler–no matter how the nations rage–God’s answer is to set Jesus as the King of Glory in Jerusalem. The nations belong to Him. He won’t tolerate injustice forever. Even as we fight to advance to Kingdom inch by inch now, it will one day be absolutely complete and Jesus will rule in perfect righteousness on earth forever. I believe that Day is right around the corner.

I don’t think this means God says, “Oh well, I’ll fix it all eventually, guess it can all just fall to pieces in the meantime.” Oh no! If a man is engaged to be married, he’s not going to just ignore his bride until the wedding day. What’s in his heart for that day very much affects how he treats her on this day. When I get frustrated with the state of our world and feel tempted to say, “God, are you seeing this? Do something!” He would say, “Don’t ever think I don’t care. I have far more zeal for righteousness than you do. I am doing something in response to the prayers of my people, in many ways you don’t even see, and there will be a Day when I stage the ultimate intervention. Keep the faith.”

I’m not swearing off political Facebook posts. I want to continue having these conversations online and in person; I believe keeping our government accountable is important. I don’t want to use “Jesus is still on the throne” as an excuse to sit on my butt the next four years. But on days like today when I feel overwhelmed by how far we have to go, I remember:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

 

He has set the King of Glory on Zion.

 

He will reign.

9 Things I’ve Learned About Partnership Development: Candid Thoughts on Support Raising

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My partnership postcard!

The past few months, I’ve been spending much of my time sending letters, postcards, and texts, making phone calls, and having meetings with people to share the story of how God called me to full-time prayer ministry at The Prayer Room DFW and the vision of 24/7 prayer. I’ve been inviting people to partner with my financially, since as a missionary I won’t have any kind of outside job. I’ve learned a lot through this process, and I’d like to share some of these insights with you, for the sake of encouragement and understanding.

1. People are excited about 24/7 prayer!

When intercessory missionaries approach partnership development, our primary fear is often that our calling won’t be seen as legitimate. However, to my recollection, every single person I’ve talked to has been enthralled by the concept of night and day prayer and worship. I’ve heard in many meetings, “That’s so beautiful and powerful; I’m so glad there are people doing that.” Hearts come alive to imagine Jesus being exalted without ceasing. This is astounding because even ten years ago, intercession as a missional focus was met with much more skepticism than it is today. God is stirring the hearts of His church to pray and worship as we never have before. This is not a Kansas City thing or any other group’s self-made “thing.” GOD is raising up a praying, singing generation.

2. Relationship trumps money every time.

I’ve never walked away from a meeting feeling like I wasted my time, even if the person didn’t commit to partner with me. My goal is simply to build relationship, share the vision, and extend the invitation. I want us to both walk away encouraged, reenvisioned, and more in love with Jesus. That to me is a WIN.

3. Financial partnership strengthens relationship.

A good friend of mine is raising partnership to embark on a mission trip with The World Race. Early this year, she sent me a letter, invited me to coffee, and shared her heart with me. I gave as I felt led, and since then I’ve enjoyed reading her updates, exchanging letters with her, and praying for her journey– because, in addition to the fact that I love her as a friend, I’m invested now in her ministry. I’m part of what she will go on to do. Spiritually speaking, I receive a portion of her reward. I LOVELOVELOVE it when my friends who are on a tight budget still carve out a little corner of their budget for me, because they have committed to join me in the journey. They’re not necessarily called to vocational ministry in the house of prayer, but they are choosing to be an active, ongoing partner with me in what God is doing. This is why I use the term partner rather than supporter or donor we’re all in this together, and it shows when we stand hand in hand, make our dreams— um, I mean, God strengthens church unity through financial partnership in ministry.

4. Jesus is inviting His church into His story.

I really believe that GOD is the one raising up 24/7 prayer and worship across the globe, that there will be a swelling song of worship arising that will climax in Jesus’ return to the planet. This is HIS story. I believe He wants to invite believers to join Him in that story. It’s nice when old friends support me because they like me, but it’s not about me and my little thing. It’s about the glory of JESUS filling the earth. This is His story. I’m just an ambassador. He’s the one who’s inviting people into it. This takes so much of the pressure off of me to “convince” people to partner. Like Paul said, it’s not about wise and persuasive words, but the Spirit’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5) I’ve spoken to people who have told me that from the moment they first read my letter, they felt the Holy Spirit speaking to them. This is mostly on Jesus, not me.

5. Persistent follow-up is actually appreciated.

I know, it feels weird to leave voicemails and texts for days, but when I’ve finally gotten a hold of those people they’ve been so glad I didn’t give up. These are good people who love Jesus and love me– they’re not mad. They respect what I’m doing and are quite willing to get together when they’re free.

6. Partnership development often becomes ministry.

I frequently end partnership meetings by praying for the person I’m meeting with, especially if they’ve shared a prayer request. I want to keep track of that prayer request and keep lifting it up. I want these people to feel blessed and cared for by talking with me, whether or not God is asking them to partner with me. Partnership is a two way street; I want to bless them as much as they’re blessing me.

7. It’s about faithful stewardship.

This is one of the most freeing things I’ve learned about partnership: Each of us as believers has a stewardship from God. (Matthew 25:14-30) We each have different things He’s entrusted us with — ministry calling, relationships, money, etc. I need to be a faithful steward of my calling to ministry, which includes partnership development. (I wouldn’t be a very faithful servant if I just sat on my butt and waited for a silver parachute full of cash to drop down from the sky!) Similarly, the friends I’m reaching out to have a stewardship of their finances, and part of that includes sowing into the Kingdom. When I ask someone to partner with me, I’m just asking if our stewardships might overlap.

8. God provides unexpectedly.

Sometimes, the person I’ve ruled out as a potential partner will be the very person who will approach ME and ask how to give. Sometimes, the meeting I go into with low expectations will turn into a lengthy heart-to-heart with prayer and monthly partnership on top of that. Sometimes, a friend of a friend will unexpectedly write me a $1000 check. WHAT?? God provides in very unexpected ways. It’s an adventure partnering with Him to knock on every door to testify of His story and discover if He has a partnership waiting there for me.

9. Jesus is worthy of the struggle!

Partnership development isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming, intimidating, and discouraging. But Jesus is worth the battle. He is worthy of 24/7 adoration. He is worthy of me being free to respond fully to His calling without hindrance. He is worthy of the awkwardness. He is worthy of this introvert making dozens of phone calls a week. He is worthy of every hour spent writing postcards, because this is all going towards fulfilling the dream in His heart: “From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.” (Isaiah 24:16)

 

He is faithful. He is a generous Father. Every single time He has called me somewhere, He has provided the means to make it happen. He WILL provide yet again, and He will draw His children into deeper relationship with Himself and each other along the way.

I hope reading this has been encouraging to those who are seeking to develop partnerships for missions and to those who may be called to partner with a missionary. Nearly everything I know about partnership development comes from an IHOPU class taught by Rob Parker, and his book, “The Fully Funded Missionary“. Check him out at PartnershipDevelopment.org. If you’d like to hear more about my story and the vision for 24/7 prayer, feel free to email me at caitlyn.r.lutz@gmail.com or check out the My Story and Partner With Me pages on this blog.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

I Always Took You Where You Needed To Go

As I’m preparing for the next major transition in my life (moving to Dallas!!), I find myself looking back over some of the previous turning points in my life. As I think is common for most people, a number of the things I was expecting to happen… didn’t.

  • I planned to meet my husband at APU… nope.
  • I planned to begin an acting career after I graduated… complete 180.
  • I planned to do OTI summer 2013… plans changed.
  • I planned to stay in CA after OTI… ha.
  • I planned to meet my husband at IHOPU… that didn’t happen either [as far as I know].

That’s the thing about making plans… they don’t always turned out as, well, planned.

Enter this golden Doctor Who quote.

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The woman, Idris, (my car’s namesake) is currently housing the consciousness of the TARDIS– the Doctor’s space ship/time machine. (Yes, the ship has a consciousness… just go with it.) The Doctor takes this unique face-to-face opportunity to accuse her of being unreliable:

The Doctor: “You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.”

Idris: “No, but I always took you where you needed to go.”

In my experience, God is like that too. He most certainly had not always taken me where I wanted to go. If I had been writing my story, quite a few things would have been different.

But if I had chosen my own path ahead of time, I would have missed out on so much that was meant to be part of my journey.

If I had married someone I met at APU, it probably wouldn’t have been someone connected to the prayer movement and I probably wouldn’t have ended up involved with IHOPKC.

If I had gone into the industry as an actor… who knows where my life would have led. Again, probably not to the prayer movement.

If I had done OTI summer 2013 instead of summer 2012, I would have met completely different people and would still be in IHOPU, if I had even decided to stay.

So many times I had my plans and desires all laid out, and God knew what was better. I knew what I wanted, but He knew what I needed.

Jesus is really good and I trust Him. He has never led me astray, and He never will.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

7 Simple Things I Learned At IHOPKC

7 simple things insta

Every time I come home from studying at IHOPU in Kansas City, and especially now that I’ve graduated, I am frequently asked about what I’ve learned. I’ve started realising that the question sort of makes me feel a little awkward because I’m not really sure how to answer. On the one hand, my whole life has changed and I know I understand things now that I didn’t before, but on the other hand, they’re really not deep, massive, mystically profound things. Most of them are the same old simple things we’ve always known.

It’s like when you grow up hearing “Jesus loves me” and then one day you find yourself on the floor weeping caught up in the realisation that “JESUS! LOVES!! ME!!!”

I didn’t learn a new gospel. Maybe I just saw the gospel a little bit more clearly.

So here are 7 simple things I learned at IHOPKC:

1. Jesus really likes me.

Not only does Jesus love me because “God is love” and He loves everyone, but He actually enjoys me and my personality. He loves that I’m a sci-fi geek. He loves the way I dance, differently than He loves anyone else’s dance. He enjoys my sense of humour. He gets a kick out of the way I talk to Him! He thinks about me all the time. He enjoys suprising me, making me smile, and providing for me. He wants me to be with Him all the time, and He wants to share the things that are on His heart with me. There are things that He urgently cares about, and He wants me to feel the same way He does, because that’s what friends do.

2. I don’t have to be awesome for God to like me or use me.

(This is kind of an extension of #1, but it’s huge so it gets its own point.) All of the above is still true when I screw up. I may get distracted or stuborn and wander off the path pretty frequently, but I still want to follow Him and I still let Him lead me back every time. That counts. He knows my heart better than I do. To quote Mike Bickle, there’s a difference between weakness and rebellion, and weak love is still real love.

3. The Bible is good stuff.

I mean, duh, but my enjoyment of the Bible grew like crazy when I was eating it up, searching it out, praying it, and singing it in the context of prayer and worship where my only priority was to love Jesus. I fell in love with stories I’d known since kindergarten and passages I could never make sense of in high school. The Bible is fun and super interesting when you read it with the Holy Spirit.

4. Jesus is worthy of everything.

“Worthy” just means “deserving.” Jesus deserves the full love and worship of every person, and He deserves to rule the earth forever. Everything that exists is meant to be in submission to Him– not only because He’s Creator GOD, but He actually deserves it because He is the most kind, humble, just, and wise person to ever exist. He proved it on the cross. We can confidently invite Him to rule this earth and our hearts because we trust that He can do a really, really good job.

5. Worship and intercession are a big deal and they go really well together.

Worship is super important because it’s the 24/7 activity of heaven and God fully deserves it (see #4). Intercession is super important because that’s step 1 in how we partner with God to make the things that He wants to happen happen. Combined, worship and prayer support each other and help our hearts stay connected to what we’re doing– and this effect, like, quintuples when we put the Word smack dab in the middle of everything we pray and sing. Hence, the 24/7 prayer (and worship) room.

6. God really loves Israel, like, a lot.

I’m not even sure what my theology of Israel was before IHOPU. I understood some things and had other things a little mixed up, but I had certainly never wept over Jesus’ heart for His people before. Praying through passages like Zechariah 2 peirced me. Jesus REALLY, REALLY loves and is COMMITTED to the people He originally chose as His bride. He’s really, really faithful–all His promises are yes and amen–and He will fulfill every word He ever spoke.

7. Jesus is coming soon and we are part of the story.

He promised He would come, and by all indications this era of history is nearing a climax. There will be a pretty dramatic series of events leading up to Jesus standing on the earth again, and we’re not supposed to be on the sidelines or swept out of the way. Jesus wants us awake, informed, and involved in what He’s doing. That starts now, because Jesus is looking for a global Church that is fully mature and alligned with Him when He comes. A major way we grow into that is by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer and worship (see #5). Another major way is through evangelism and missions. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached to all nations before the end. There are actually a number of passages that talk about 24/7 prayer and worship arising from all over the earth in the final generation of history… so worship, prayer, and missions together are HUGE elements in the story of Jesus’ return.

 

I would have agreed with these points even before IHOPU, but while I was there, spending hours nearly every day in the prayer room, they were driven much more deeply into my heart. Of course they’re profound truths, and I am so grateful that I now have conviction, passion, and personal heart experience with each of them, but they’re so simple!

I admit, in my first few months I walked around with my head spinning thinking “WHOA, I HAD NO IDEA! THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE HAVE BEEN REVEALED TO ME!”, and yeah, I was studying areas of the Bible I hadn’t before and hearing a wider range of theories on a few details, but by my senior year I realised that none of what I was learning was dramatically new revelation. Mike Bickle isn’t a prophet or a theological pioneer, and IHOPKC reads the same Bible as everyone else. (We just sometimes preach it a little more dramatically!) Besides, at the end of the day, the more intriguing and debatable theories aren’t what I cherish. It’s simple truths like these.

I found that as I gave my time and attention to prayer and worship, simple truths came alive to me. Jesus loves me, He wants me to talk to Him, and He wants me to be part of His story.

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