Several years ago, I was crying out for a greater expression of God’s power in my life. I was seeking Him in prayer regularly to see the kind of Holy Spirit demonstrations recorded in Scripture. I was hungry to see the effectiveness of the Gospel in ways described in the stories of the New Testament: the preaching of the word accompanied by signs, wonders, and miracles. Unfortunately, like many of us, I was downright cowardly when opportunities arose to share my faith and pray for others. 

  During this time, I went to a conference in Houston where they were teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. The testimonies of God’s power in the nations took my faith to a new level. We were visiting with some local friends, and when they heard what I was learning, they invited me to come with them to share and pray for a Muslim friend. After visiting with him, I saw a group of guys playing basketball on the court of the apartment complex. I suddenly felt the Holy Spirit’s clear prompting to share the Gospel with them. I was terrified and unsure about exactly what to do.  But, as in simple obedience, I started to walk in their direction, supernatural boldness came over me.

All I knew to do was stop their game and shout at them to come over to me. I told them plainly, “I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to interrupt your basketball game and to be willing to look crazy in front of you for the sake of your souls.” None of them walked away, and as I shared the Gospel over the next few minutes, the Holy Spirit anointed it. At the end of sharing, I asked the young men who wanted to commit their lives to Jesus, and all of them raised their hands! I said if that was true then they needed to call out to Jesus right there on the spot to save them. We all held hands, and they began confessing their sins out loud, saying things like, “Jesus, I have been living wrong; forgive me.” After this, they dedicated their lives to God in prayer, and I prayed the Holy Spirit would come and fill them. One of the guys was so overtaken by God’s presence as we prayed that he couldn’t stand and dropped right down onto the ground.

This story paints a picture of what could be normal in our lives and what was normal in the early church. The first disciples boldly took the Gospel message to the known world through prayer, proclamation, and the power of the Holy Spirit. We see all three in Acts 4:29, which is a prayer for God’s power on the proclamation of the Gospel. In this passage, they cry out, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30 NKJV).  Over and over again, we see this same pattern from the Gospels throughout the book of Acts: Prayer, Proclamation, and Power. When we begin in prayer, and with boldness, open our mouths to share, God will be faithful to stretch out His hand in power. Begin to cry out today that God would give you unusual opportunities to share the Gospel, and you will see His power on display! 

Own The Story

The Lord has taken OneRace and the church in our city on a Journey into His heart on issues of race this year. The major themes on this Journey have centered on knowing, owning and changing the story for future generations. This is part two of a three-part blog series related to those major themes: know the story, own the story & change the story. 

Intercession of the Righteous 

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven forgive their sin and heal their land.” This was spoken by God to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, as a promise to the people of God that in times of trial and judgment, God would show them mercy if they return to Him with all their heart. We see this in the life of Daniel, and in the intercessory prayer he makes on their behalf, however, Daniel was not the only intercessor who stood in the gap on behalf of the nation of Israel during the time of their captivity. Ezekiel the prophet, Nehemiah the builder, and Ezra the priest each played an integral role in both interceding and leading in the restoration of their nation. Each of these men, first, from the place of prayer and lament individually owned the collective sins of their people, though they themselves were righteous. 

Contrition and Confession 

Ezra cried out to God with deep sorrow because of the sins of the returning Israelites. In Ezra 9, he declares, “Still in my torn garment and robe, I fell to my knees with my hands outstretched to the Lord my God, and said, ‘My God, I am too ashamed and hurt to turn to you, because we’re in our iniquities over our heads. Furthermore, my God, our sins have grown as high as the heavens.’”

Nehemiah acknowledged the sins of his nation and asked for the favor of God to return and rebuild Israel, which was in ruins. Nehemiah prayed in Nehemiah 1, “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.” 

God was attentive to Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah’s prayers and restored their nation. They were following the prescribed remedy for a diseased and troubled nation that God lays out in Joel 2:12-13, “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So, rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him.”

Collective Responsibility 

We see the power of the intercession of these righteous servants of old when they owned the collective story of their people as their own, and we take to heart that God promises to His church the same restoration when we turn from our sins and turn toward him. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Let us pray and ask God to forgive us for our sins, and to lift us up into His presence.