Not a ‘prayer formula’ of passing sentiment but God’s ultimate provision for real answers.
Sometimes I just want to cry out “Is there anyone out there who will care about the gospel being preached ?! Anyone? Will anyone think about what it must be like to be homeless, an orphan or a prisoner?”. I offer you a direct channel. My dear brother or sister, Jesus says YOU AND I are accountable to help them. Will you turn your head away from these uncomfortable words? We are not a group or system, just a simple family.
I believe there are people, who know me, and read this, but find their hearts cold to my words for whatever reasons. What do I have to do? I would beg you to reevaluate your response, for your sake, for my sake, but most of all for His glory. Because Jesus is worthy of whatever change we must make, to forget what others think, and conform to His Spirit. Despite what others may say about me, I am a true brother and friend. My works bear witness, because Jesus is my Lord and His redemptive love is obvious in my labors. No place or time for cynicism. Time is flying by. Jesus is coming soon. This is the fierce urgency of NOW.
So please, don’t let your only response be excuses and rationalizations. Make this a moment to reach deeper than ever before. It is to your advantage and well being of heart, mind and conscience. I am not the issue. Sin is the issue. Though you may not want to admit it, hardness of heart, from the cold world that surrounds, is the issue. Jesus warned of it (Mt. 24:12). I am not the man I was years or even months ago. A man, sensitive to the Spirit, changes and matures. And the twisted false accusations made by outsiders is real persecution.
Ultimately, Paul says he doesn’t even care about the motives of the one who preaches but just that the gospel is being preached (Phil.1: 18). So there is no excuse for one who claims Christ to ignore opportunity to reach the lost. Can I get a break, for the scores of desperate men whom I reach in the prisons of the world?! Please, my friend, listen to me. We MUST do something NOW. I am not being melodramatic or “radical”. I am being a normal Christian.
I was in a prison recently (the largest prison in Paraguay) where a huge courtyard was swarming with men whom I actually watched losing their minds. No exaggeration. In fact it was far worse than I have space to describe. You may ask “What does that look like?”. It was so terrifying I will never forget. Hundreds of men were screaming and crying. One here, one there, would just break down and lose it, overwhelmed by tears. They would sob uncontrollably in the arms of anyone who would hold them. Many were just walking around yelling out. Such conditions are why many prisoners fear they will commit suicide. This is REAL, my brother.
In another prison we realized something was wrong as we performed. The men seemed very disconnected. When I asked why, they explained they were starving. They had not eaten in days. We begged the guards to let us out to take a drive for food to bring back and they allowed us. The men appeared like the Jews in Concentration camps. They were starving and so grateful. This was JUST ONE of many.
Another prison the security warden refused to let us in. After much of persistence he relinquished but with a “Ok. You’ll see how horrible these guys are”. He angrily led us through the multiple gates into “Deep Lock”. Opened the door but kept back any guards from going in with us. It was like “There. Now you’ll see what you get”. He didn’t want to think these men were redeemable . Two hours later, as we left in tears, the guys were chanting “PLEASE COME BACK> PLEASE COME BACK”.
Imagine being forced to live in horrendous conditions, day in and day out, being treated as animals and knowing you will never escape. I am not lying or exaggerating. This is why I am willing to feel awkward by sharing our needs. Please, help me. God promises, it is in giving that you will receive. My family and I have given ourselves to Jesus that we might bring His gospel to these totally forgotten and despised men. Get beyond me, and beyond your excuses, to them. DO SOMETHING. However small. God holds you accountable for them, and right now, I am a direct access to them. (We are praying about the prisons in Africa, if possible, this spring.)
So I ask for any help, not as a fat-cat preacher hoarding riches upon myself, but in sincerity to reach as many as we can. I can document every penny for you if you want. God knows this is very difficult and dangerous. Living in a third world is not easy. No one is doing this. Please, don’t be mad at me for bringing the truth of the gospel into your world.
When I long ago began to seek Jesus I was in college. Many “nice” campus groups and denominations offered to pray a “sinner’s prayer” with me. I had a reputation as a tough guy so I just couldn’t relate to the nice guy ‘package’. I grew up with little Biblical exposure but still felt a little prayer formula seemed trite and token. When I “met” the living Jesus I was instantly struck by an accountability to go and tell the world of this discovery. I could never tell a prisoner that the answer is to just pray a little prayer and everything will be fine. Most of them have already done it many times. We bring them to the living Jesus.
Many would have you believe that people should not think about “meeting” Jesus. We are just supposed to be content with praying a prayer and doing the best we can. Maybe not. The idea of challenging American Christianity made me think “Who am I to think that I know better?”. Well, it’s about eternity, in either heaven or hell. A religious system did not walk the shores of Galilee. Jesus was not an untouchable. He says “Ask. And you shall receive…Come to Me…and we will come to you” (Mt.7:7,11:28/Jn.14:23).
How about you, my friend? How are you really doing? When everything, and everybody, is put to sleep, and you are wide-eyed before a careless world, what thoughts are ticking away in your heart? My conscience was slain with guilt. I knew I surely didn’t know God. I knew I was all alone in the world. And, when you truly comprehend this, it can shake you to your core. I was left facing my wicked ways. Could God offer me a real way out? Could I experience forgiveness and know that I am saved from eternal hell? Today people talk about salvation like it’s an added item to a grocery list. “Oh ya, I got that”. Will you dare to confront the “living Word” all alone, with a heart of resolution (Heb.4:12)?
Jesus makes it very clear. He declares;
“Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-8).
Listen to me. I am not your enemy. The command to be born again is not some lofty demand to become ‘super-religious’. Actually, it is quite the opposite. It is child based. It is a wonderful process (conversion) whereby Jesus recreates us to be fitting to enter the Presence of a holy God. He makes us “new” (2 Cor.5:17).
If you will be honest this term “born again” scares you. You fear that you can’t ‘get it’. I understand. None of us wants to approach an unknown. And sometimes our brain just seems “VACANT”. Where do we start? What do we do? Being born again seems so huge but it starts with a mustard seed of personal heart. “Ok God. Let’s go. Show me”. It has nothing to do with meeting legalistic demands for moral perfection. It has everything to do with talking to God as a friend. It is the love of SOMEONE for you; a Father; a yearning to give you help from SOMEONE; the Holy Spirit; and the specific manifestation in the Character of SOMEONE; the living Jesus.
When Jesus says “the kingdom of God” He means that He will intersect your daily life with an entirely new perspective related to knowing Him. Every detail of your work will be drawn under His rule. Every fear and failure will be met in His fellowship and redemption. Every thought is slowly subject to His thoughts. Daily routine now takes on a second look. When you step on an escalator you know it will take you to the end. No worries. It’s not up to you. Just surrender.
There is one thing the Father requires. It is the “place” where His Son gave His blood for us. The cross happened long ago but in some marvelous way it continues today to be the power of God (1 Cor.1:18). It is able to work in us. Paul confirms “I….have been crucified”. God requires that we pass through this world, as through a dream, via the cross. Our goal is to come out the other end; the resurrection. To enter His kingdom (way of thinking) of sacrificial love. “Lord, how can I show my love for You?”.
Total surrender is the touchstone. It involves our suffering and pain because we are brute beasts of selfishness and pride and we resist letting go. So we struggle. But Paul says that beyond all the phenomenal accomplishments of his life he boasts in only one thing (Gal.6:14). He boasted that he was dead (Gal.2:20). Ahhh. Finally. Because dying to yourself provides a garden in which we can plant new seeds.
This opportunity, here and now, far out weighs the loss (Phil. 3: 7-8). Of all things that I would say made me different from the carnal minded was how they spoke of “having gotten IT”, and I spoke of “knowing HIM”. I instantly reaped from the seeds I planted. They spoke of what they could do and I spoke of what He was doing. The switch from life to death is the only way to touch new birth. And for this reason I suffer enormous suffering. I joyfully say “No” to hypocrisy and “Yes” to the cross of the living Jesus. No to striving-flesh and yes to broken flesh.
Never did I imagine this would result in being painted with terrible false accusations of hatred and jealousy for serving the living Jesus. Why would people twist my efforts to help the lost? Because all men despise the cross. It strikes at the god called EGO. Jesus says “They hated Me without a cause” (Jn.15:25). He says “They will hate you for My sake”. There are those who hide away, in self-made castles of comfort, and malign those who challenge their false conclusions on what it means to be born again (John 3:19-20). We pray for forgiveness and mercy on them.
Today, some forty-five years later, the effects of seeing eternity, while bearing, and fighting, against time, sin and persecution, have written many lines of pain in my face. But each one contains a story of joy. The groaning for Him, for Whom I long, causes me to both die and rise. To die on this side of the grave, and to rise in Him on His side of the kingdom. To understand my sin and know His redemption. But most of all to be consumed with a compassion that I know is not mine that drives me with a burden for others for them to see Whom I see. This is the purpose of why we are to live.
A practical way to think of “born again” is to leave off “again”. You must be born. Period. It is that extreme. There is no life in existence. Existence is a kind of limbo where death rules. Your heart yearns to be born into our Creator. We are like a “Mr. Magoo” without his glasses; “Where am I going? What am I doing?” You really don’t know because you really aren’t born. Jesus did not approach men by looking for what they could offer Him of theirselves. Rather He asks how much are you ready to receive from Him. God says “we grope along a wall, like a blind man,” in search of a breakthrough (Isaiah 59:10).
Jesus repeatedly warned men that to walk in this world is a walk in darkness. Our conscience flashes upon our moments with a light of accountability. It tells us we must get beyond this world to God. How many times have you heard the expression “Oh, I see”. Someone suddenly “sees” some truth. “Hmmm. Wow. That’s something” is the response. You see what you never did before. All in one moment a convergence your heart, mind and life experience bears upon your will to understand and SEE.
Satan actually has the power to “blind” the human will “so we cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” ( 2 Cor.4:3). There is no wand to wave. Dealing with spiritual darkness is no little thing. Our minds are blinded by a thousand things; motives, fears, lust, desires or past hurt and resentment. We don’t realize that as a loving Father God does not oppose us in our sin but appeals to us to let Him free us by His kindness, love and sympathy (Rom.2:4). It is easy to SAY we want to follow Christ but Jesus says when we are truly WILLING to follow Him then we will see (John 7:17).
I used to shy away from Matthew 5:8 where Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. No way. Me? Pure in heart? I refused to be a phony and say I am pure. Then I researched this word “purity” and, as with all invested study, received profound understanding. I could finally say “Yes. If this is what You mean I will follow You”.
The word “pure” is from the Greek word katharos – “cathartic”. It is not a finalized absolute moral state but an outcome of a deep purge. Another way of understanding this verse is “Blessed are those who have been intimately dealt with by God, for they will “see” and know His ways and love Him because of it”. To be pure is to know heart to Heart breakage over your sinful ways. To not skip over your sin with the false sense of “the blood covering”. But to be broken before a Father’s Heart.
Jesus says “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He purges, (cleans, purifies) so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). This is why the sinner’s prayer is so detrimental. It convey God saves you and that’s it. Consequently, people go on in life with serious grief, scars and unbroken sin. They think that they’re already saved so they don’t know what to do. True salvation in the living Father, Son and Holy Spirit involves a purging and maturing glory into His child. So that all those inner hang-ups are healed and now become a gift to help others.
We’ve all heard the expression “complex”. Most of the time we think of High School when others mocked us for having any kind of peculiar thing that made you different. It can cause deep hurt, fear and insecurity. These things are also true in adulthood. It can be little things or big things. We need to be “purified”. A “catharsis” is a moment when a “complex” is eliminated by surrender to the cross of Jesus and with a depth of expression in prayer.
Prayer is a fight. It doesn’t come easy. Talking to Someone unseen requires that we see the unseen (Heb.11:27,6). Doctrinal gymnastics may prove your Bible knowledge but it does not bring God into your daily life. Prayer is the only way to establish RELATIONSHIP. Short and long, detailed or general, prayer is everything. Paul said it is “groaning too deep for words” (Rm.8:26). The complexities of sin can rip your soul to shreds. You can feel like you just can’t get things “right”. Like no matter how hard you try you fail. In the stillness of solitude is His Presence is waiting to show you. In the meditation of His Word waits the understanding of the gospel.
One prisoner, with eyes full of tears, in reflection of a murder, said “I can never get things right”. So many people think this because they do not understand the gospel. They are slaves to feelings and inclinations. Their mind is not exposed to the Scripture. The essence of salvation is solid understanding of what it means to be “right” with God. In God’s eyes no man can make their life ‘right’. We can never “get it right”. So God offers His “righteousness” (get it right) by faith. In God’s eyes, there is only one right thing. It is being “reckoned” right by faith (Rom.4). It is not what must do but that you must believe.
We correspond with about 800 guys. (And each letter costs us 25 cents, most letters costing several stamps, which mounts up to a lot.) We work to bring them to the purging (repentance) of Jesus. Many are released from ignorance into understanding the gospel. It takes hard labor of mind and heart. It is a great joy to hear men express their relief of complex issues by by faith. It is a common principal of Scripture that suffering is meant to lead us to search for His deeper ways so we MUST be a fighter.
“But we do see Jesus…crowned with glory and honor…” (Hebrews.2:9).
We teach men to fight like men of old. Like David and Paul. No one initially understands what Jesus was saying. But slowly or suddenly, those who have heart ‘got it’ (Matt. 16:7-12). It is worth being a “laborer” of the harvest. Because to “see” the truth of Jesus is like seeing music. It’s not just in your ears. It’s in your eyes. It’s in your heart. It turns your mind. Suddenly you realize “Wow. There really is another kingdom on earth, other than the world I see with my eyes”. Jesus is the Perfect Song Who permeates our sorrows and makes us whole.
But it is crucial to realize that it is not the Scriptures, the blood, faith, grace, love, truth, etc. that causes you to be born….again. These are all doctrines that Jesus regulates with a believer. Jesus is Jesus. He alone is the One Who has the power to birth you. If you have no fellowship with Him you have no salvation from Him. Jesus made this very clear (Mt.7:21/John 5:39/Phil. 3:8/2 Tim.1:12). He is the filter; the Purifier.
I often tell people that His Name is not “church”, Christ or Lord. His Name is Jesus. If you do not articulate His exact Name, amongst men, with your mouth, He is not in your heart. Not my word, His (Matt. 12:33-37/Rm.10:9-10). When you ‘see’ Jesus you get His living rhythm (Heb.4:12). You receive His “witness”. You start to walk a path and see stones on which to step across every raging river. The blur of life comes into focus. We dare to leap upon His commands. We experience His crescendo of resurrection.
Every time my wife sings a certain song when we perform I anticipate the crescendo where she reaches a beautiful high tone. There are times when so many “badass” guys are brought to tears because we “see” the Spirit of Jesus reach through her words, singing about the Father’s love for them, and bring men into a purging of their deepest pride and fears.
The Father is playing His song “JESUS” throughout the universe. Who will hear and respond? The crescendo is the resurrection. The only cemetery that ever failed in keeping men in their grave is the one in which Jesus escaped. His power lives today working to bring men into His kingdom. Jesus says “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears that hear what you hear” (Matt. 13:26). Some people say “I’ll believe it when I see it”… God says, “believe and you will see” (Mt.11:40).
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