Below are three resources written by Joey Rodgers and available to you for free.
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I’m deeply grateful to be a citizen of the United States of America. As one who has traveled outside of our borders, I’m often reminded at how blessed we are as a nation. I consider my citizenship to be one of my most prized possessions and something I must never take for granted. Yet as with anything in life, with great privilege comes great responsibility. As an American, I think most would agree that what makes being an American so special is freedom. But what is freedom? One definition states freedom is the privilege to experience life without constraint.
But freedom stands for something greater than just the right to act as I choose; it stands for securing to everyone an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Meaning… freedom is more than ‘free to do as I want’ – it requires that I’m free to do as I need to for the sake of others.
The one thing you can’t have unless you are willing to give to others is liberty. William Allen White
As we gather this morning to worship and celebrate the nation in which we so proudly live – we do so in the wake of a landmark decision that stands juxtaposed to the beliefs we hold about God and the Bible as evangelical Christians.
The propitious smile of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained. George Washington
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that states can no longer ban same-sex marriage. Disregarding whether as citizens we believe the court has overstepped her boundaries or not – whether we agree or disagree with the ruling of these justices – the moral, ethical, political, and religious landscape of our nation has been greatly affected – and to what end we do not know.
I must confess. On hearing the ruling, I was saddened and ashamed that the future of our nation once again took a monumental step away from God and that it has happened on my watch as I stood by with limited ability to prevent it.
I was too young to prevent the ruling of Roe vs Wade in 1973, but not this time. And while I certainly have shared my heart on the issue of same sex marriage – I fear, along with far too many people, that I did not do enough to uphold the biblical portrait of marriage. I’m reminded of the words of Carl F. H. Henry, “If the church fails to apply the central truth of Christianity to social problems correctly, someone else will do so incorrectly.”
With this said, let me state clearly that the words I am sharing today have come after much thought and prayer. There is no contempt or disgust for anyone in these words; nor am I embittered because of the celebration of a lifestyle that is both contrary and foreign to my convictions and sensitivities. Instead, there is concern for our nation and brokenness over our apparent national proclivity to ignore the Word and will of God for the sake of our own wants and desires. I am sorrowful for what we have brought on ourselves by allowing our penchant for our individual liberties to become the very battering ram used to destroy the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, and the sanctity of faith. So no, I do not celebrate this ruling any more than I would celebrate any pattern of behavior I believe is contrary to the will of God and the health of our great nation. No, today as we celebrate our nation for who we have been, I believe a part of our celebration must include prayerful mourning and repentance as we look to the future and our responsibility to live as one nation under God.
At the same time, I also recognize that many good, even God-fearing people are caught in the cross-fire of this cultural decision. Even this week after the decision, a dear friend in the faith wrote to me over her concerns for my gentle, yet direct response to the Supreme Court ruling. As I wrote to my friend who finds the ruling a positive decision, I realized even more how challenging this issue is for our nation and for the church.
For while I do not discount that people genuinely love each other no matter their sexual orientation, I believe the Bible is crystal clear in Romans 1:24-27 that homosexuality, like adultery and formication, lying, stealing, or murder, is a deviation from God’s will and design. Yet, as with all people who desire a lifestyle contrary to Scripture, we find a way for our actions to be accepted by man while we attempt to cast the Creator God off into a corner so that we can do as we please without conscience. I agree with Dr. Billy Graham that, “Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone – except God.”
As such, while any sin might become social-ably acceptable, politically correct, and in this instance, now legally binding – it does not mean that God accepts or approves such activity – He does not! Be assured, while five justices might have given their approval, and while even some churches and church leaders have offered their assent, God has not and will never be accepting or approving of any sin. This does not make God any less loving, but if man’s ideology could change the Divine landscape, it would most certainly make Him not holy. Yet, because God is immutably holy, His love penetrates the darkness in our culture in a relentless pursuit to draw us into a saving relationship with Him. It is true, God loves everyone, but it is equally critical we understand that loving someone does not mean accepting or condoning their behavior when it is contrary to the heart of God. It is an incorrect idea that the Holy Creator would accept our sin and give us a pass for our unrighteous activity. God accepts no one in light of their sin – no matter the sin – this is the reason for the cross. His acceptance of us is based solely on His amazing grace and nothing else. Our sin can only usher in the wrath of God because He is holy, holy, holy. This means that our sin cost God everything to make it possible for any person to be reconciled back to God.
With this said, I must state that I am not a condemner in the area of same sex marriage, because while my sinfulness is not in this area, I am still a fellow sinner who has fortunately been rescued by God’s grace; but neither am I a condoner. I am a follower of Christ called to love people to the truth of the Gospel and to the love of Christ. So yes, I’m heart-broken over the depravity in our culture and the absolute disregard for God’s truth and will. And I’m concerned for the future ramifications this will have on our nation, the ministry of the Gospel, and religious freedom. But at the same time, I’m equally heart-broken over a young man walking into a church to execute a group of people because of their skin color. I’m burdened over the protection of the unborn child in his mother’s womb.
So where does this leave us? Where do we begin? By what standard do we seek and make our stand? The simple truth is depending on the standard one uses for truth – the Bible, the laws of the land, or their own conscience – it will determine where a person falls on all issue morality.
With regard to this recent ruling by the Supreme Court deciding in favor of what God calls sin doesn’t change God’s Word any more than if they had ruled that lying was no longer a sin. Sin is sin – no matter what you or I think. Thankfully, God so love all of us sinners so much that He gave His Son to die on a rugged cross to provide for us that what could not obtain for ourselves – grace (Romans 5:8). Grace is a gift we do not deserve and cannot earn for ourselves – it is an act of mercy generously imbued by a merciful God. As a result, it is never to be used as a license to sin and rebel from God (Romans 6), but an invitation to have a relationship with Him.
As it pertains to same sex marriage and the practice of homosexuality, let us all be aware and assured that the Bible is not silent about such decisions and that God’s grace is sufficient and available to rescue and restore any person given to such activity. And while I am concerned for such individuals, my greater concern in this decision is not solely for the individuals involved but for our nation as a whole. Because alongside the clearest explanation of the sin of homosexuality in Romans 1:24–27 stands the indictment of God not just of the action but also of the approval and institutionalization of homosexuality. Paul’s words express that while people know intuitively that homosexual acts (along with gossip, slander, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness) are sin, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:29–32). Sadly, this is what the Supreme Court determined this past week – knowing these deeds are wrong, by a 5 to 4 vote – they approved those who practice them, and in the process, influenced our nation in a direction contrary to God’s Word. I think John Piper spoke well to the concern of this decision.
My sense is that we do not realize what a calamity is happening around us. The new thing – new for America, and new for history – is not homosexuality. That brokenness has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. (And there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act — just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting.) What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.
As believers who understand the holy justice of a righteous God, we can never forget that all sin carries a price. All sin carries a tidal wave of pain known as the wages of sin. Meaning all sin, whether immediate or future carries its own misery no matter the defiance. In Colossians 3:5–6, the Apostle Paul wrote that on account of these sins God’s wrath is coming.
As Christians we must grasp this truth because we see it in the Scriptures, but also because we have tasted the bitterness of our own sins and the chastening of our loving Father. The simple reality is no one can escape the truth that we shall reap what we sow. Thus, instead of celebrating and institutionalizing our sins we should be weeping over them.
Yes, our society appears to have taken a seismic shift in the wrong direction this week. The decision of the Supreme Court has the potential to leave the church and our communities anxious and troubled. And certainly, while those of us who hold to traditional marriage have a right to be concerned, I am not so certain we have need to be in despair. Yes, the highest court has redefined marriage. And for those who cannot accept this redefinition of marriage as a matter of morality and ultimate truth, we are being forced to acknowledge that the laws of this nation concerning marriage will indeed be defined against our will. Furthermore, in spite of our objections, we have no choice but to acknowledge the authority of the Supreme Court in matters of law, while never forgetting there is a Law exceeding the laws of man and that is the Law of God. This requires we embrace our calling to be good citizens and neighbors as we contend for marriage as a gift from God.
Yet we are to do so under the God’s authority and with respect for all people never forgetting the Supreme Court can do many things as it pertains to the laws of our nation, but they have no jurisdiction over Christ.
So let us not… be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7
Likewise, let us never forget that God is still on the throne. He is still the sovereign Savior and His love endures forever – and to everyone. Just as the prophet Daniel reminds us:
He needs no counselor; seeks no advice. He is equally everywhere. He never wearies, sleeps or struggles. He has never been confused, thwarted or contested. He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ Daniel 4:35
As Max Lucado so eloquently stated in his response to this decision, “God is still God and His word is still sure. His sovereign grace never changes. Everything else may change. But He doesn’t.”
So let us never forget that the more God-less and anti-Christian a culture might become the more imperative it is that God’s people live for the cause of Christ by exemplifying His love and grace to others to point them to the only One who can truly transform their lives. And make no mistake, this will require we respond to all people not out of our anger or frustration, but out of His grace and forgiveness. God has never intended that we treat what He calls sin with any other form of sin no matter how well intended this sin might be. As Christ-followers, we are called to be His hands, feet, and voice of love, grace, and truth. Furthermore, we can all be assured that God does not need for us to be His hand of wrath and justice. So instead of turning away from the challenges or turning away people whose ideas are indifferent to our own, let’s determine to live and model the life and teachings of Christ by loving them without compromising the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Or as my friend Marty Duren reminded us this week:
We cannot forget that the church in the first century did not “turn the world upside down” by pointing out every single cultural flaw. It did so by bearing witness to Jesus and living counter to that culture. The early church has demonstrated for the modern church that the Way, God’s Way, is the better way.
I’m reminded of the words of French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831. He said, “I sought for the greatness of the USA in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests – and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning – and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it wasn’t there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame w/ righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great b/c America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!”
With this said, let me call all of us to take a renewed stand for Christ. Let us not lose heart or grow weary in doing and pursuing good. Instead – let us be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor will not be in vain.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:23-26
This short parable from Jesus is about the cost of salvation and followship. What did it cost God to rescue humanity from the power, penalty, and problem of sin? EVERYTHING! He sacrificed Himself by stepping out of heaven and into flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to die on the cross to provide forgiveness and life for humanity. Philippians 2 tells us that God emptied Himself by taking on the form of a man, humbling Himself by becoming obedient to death on a cross… Simply stated, our life required His death.
As a result of His gracious act of mercy, the cross now requires something of each of us – EVERYTHING! Just as Christ died to sin to give us life, now we must die to self and to the ambitions of this world to lay hold of Him by faith. His death provides life eternal, but our faith response requires our surrender to His death. Galatians 2:20 explains that when I by faith embrace the grace of God unto salvation that a wonderful and miraculous miracle takes place – “I become crucified with Christ…” In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus said that if a person would desire to follow Him, he must deny himself and take up his cross… He then concludes, what does it profit a man to gain the world but forfeit his soul. Meaning, my faith in His death requires my surrender.
In John 12, Jesus simply says, “True life can only come through death – so let me show you the way!” Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life – no person can come into a relationship with God except through Him.
Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.
2 Samuel 20:20-23
Benaiah was the man. He was bold. He was obviously cunning. He was the definition of courageous. After all, who in their right mind chases after lions? Those who have the spirit of Benaiah. In Benaiah we discover that the path to a person’s greatest potential is often directly through their great fears. Let me state it another way. That which appeared to Benaiah as a scary lion turned out to be the basis of his reputation and success. Chasing his lion, his fears, was one of the key events God used to define his life. That’s because life’s greatest opportunities often come disguised as God-sized challenges.
To me, one of the big questions of 2 Samuel 23 is — how big is your God? This might be one of the most important questions we ever ask ourselves. How big is your God? A.W. Tozier once said, “A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils. but a person with a high (or large) view of God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems.” In other words, a small view of God leads to significant problems while a large view of God solves them. This is the difference between lion chasers and scaredy-cats. Scaredy-cats try to avoid any and all situations where the odds are against them while lion chasers understand that impossible odds simply set the stage for God to show up and act like God. IT Matters — we never allow human odds to dictate or determine our Divine calling or conviction.
God is bigger than our problems. He is bigger than our worst fears and failures. He is bigger than our greatest fears. He is bigger! And IT Matters!
The Bible is filled with the prayers of God’s people in search for His heart and will for their lives. Many of the same principles for intercessory prayer apply in the area of petitioning God. That is, at the heart of our supplication must be for the desire for God’s perfect will to be accomplished even when it is not our will or desires.
A petition prayer (or supplication) is nothing more than a prayer for one’s self. But like intercessory prayer, it is still a prayer for God’s heart and will to be accomplished in and through one’s life. Thus, we are not praying for a variance to the mysterious, but in accordance with what we know to be the truth of God for His people. The very basis for all prayer is the Word of God for the will of God.
There is a secret will of God, with which we often fear that our prayers may be at variance. It is not with this will of God, but His will as revealed in His Word, that we have to do in prayer. Our notions of what the secret will may have decreed, and of how it might render the answers to our prayers impossible, are mostly very erroneous… In the Word the Father has revealed in general promises the great principles of His will with His people. Thus, the child need only to take the promises of the Word and apply them to the special circumstances in His life to which it has reference. (Meaning) Whatever the believer asks within the limits of God’s revealed will, he can know to be according to the will of God. In His Word, God has given us the revelation of his will and plan for us, with His people, and with the world – with the most precious promises of grace and power with which through His people he will carry out His plans and do His work. Murray
The key to the one who petitions is to pray in accordance with the will of Scripture and not to get lost in the weeds of life. This doesn’t mean we refrain from bringing everything to God in prayer, but that in everything we are seeking how God is at work in us and through us and that those circumstances or conditions might accomplish is Divine will. Meaning – that even our petitions, while important to us, are never just for us but for His greater will and glory. God is affording circumstances and relationships, both positive and negative – to flow into a person’s life to work His will for both earthly and eternal purposes. In bringing us to pray, God is launching us into opportunities to usher us into dependence and compliance with His will, work, and Word.
But oh how quickly we succumb to the daily throes of life and to the wear and tear of the daily grind because of our small, self-centric thinking. Sometimes in desperation, but more often than not, just in simple impatience, we short-circuit and misunderstand the praying process to require the sovereign God to abandon His sacred will for our here and now. Simply put, we expect God to be less than God to attend to our wants, whims, and wishes. And as a result, we sell out to our earthly satisfaction seemingly oblivious to God’s eternal priorities unsuspecting that we are actually to real losers as we either miss out on what God is doing or we sell out to an emasculated view of God. In either case, we are not the better for it.
The petitioning of God must never begin with our problems or priorities but with our surrender and seeking of His Word and will for our lives no matter our circumstances. He is the starting and finishing point, anything less would be incredulous at best. Our petitioning must be nothing less than our earnest seeking for the reality of the sovereign will of God. We are seeking alignment and acceptance of His design. And as difficult and challenging as this might seem from our perspective of expecting God to bandage our wounds and provide our wants – can we really be so shallow as to treat the Almighty with such contempt when so much more is at stake than our earthly satisfaction. To actually believe such nonsense requires we completely disregard the God’s intention of the Cross.
Yet should we take a moment to consider prayer in light of the Cross we will quickly discover that not even all of Jesus’ prayers were answered according to his desires – but the Father’s will. In Gethsemane, Jesus requested of the Father that this “cup” of suffering be taken from Him. Then, while on the Cross, Jesus cried out, “My God…” only to be forsaken. Why? The answer is in the Gospel. God treated Jesus (who knew no sin) as we deserve (who know sin intimately) – so that when we believe in Him… God can treat us as Jesus deserved. This is the heart of 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Timothy Keller writes:
Sinners deserve to have their prayers go unanswered. Jesus was the only human being in history who deserved to have all His prayers answered because of his perfect life. Yet He was turned down as if he had cherished iniquity in His heart. Why?
…God treated Jesus as we deserve – He took our penalty – so that, when we believe in Him, God can treat us as Jesus deserved. More specifically, Jesus’ prayers were given the rejection that we sinners merit so that our prayers could have the reception that he merits. Prayer – 238
Therefore, in true prayer, no matter the form of intercession or petition, if it aligns with the heart and will of God, He is inclined to answer it. Such prayers are those prayers intent on the sovereignty of God no matter our wants or circumstances. We are not praying for our desired results but for the acceptance and participation of His good, pleasing, and perfect will. We are praying that we might participate in what He is doing even when by earthly standards it might be difficult and even perilous to us. We are inquiring of the Lord those necessary Spirit-qualities that afford us to be steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding the in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor will not be in vain (1 Cr. 15:52).
A great example of this reality comes from a story about Andrew Murray. In 1895, Andrew Murray was suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury he had incurred years before. He was staying with friends in England for their support. One morning while he was eating his breakfast, his hostess told him of a woman who had come to visit who was in great distress and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. Murray promptly handed her a paper he had been writing and said, “Just give her this advice I’m writing down for myself. It may be the very help she is seeking.” This is what was written:
In time of trouble, say, “First, God has brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.” Next, say, “He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.” Then say, “He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.” And last, say, “In His good time He can bring me out again. How, and when, He knows.” Therefore say, “I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, and 4) for His time.” Ray Stedman
So just what are the fundamentals of supplication? While there are numerous examples in Scripture to lend us insight, I believe God stated it best in Isaiah 66 as He dealt with His people Israel.
These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. Is. 66:2
Three qualifying essentials are required as we seek the heart of the Father through prayer. First, we must possess a genuine sense of humility. We must see ourselves rightly, neither too highly or too lowly, but appropriately before God if we are to ever experience God at the table of supplication. Humility sees self in light of one’s spiritually depraved condition. It responds clearly to the reality that no man is equivalent to God and then accepts one’s plight as a sinner in need of a Savior. Such revelation thrusts an individual into a position of desperation – God I am nothing and can never be anything a part from You!
Second, petition requires a broken and contrite spirit (see Ps. 51). God cannot delight in a man’s abilities or human goodness; He can only delight in a broken and contrite heart – a heart that sees itself in light of the grace, glory, and goodness of God. Isaiah provides us with a glimpse of such contriteness when in chapter 6 he is crushed and poured out exclaiming, “Woe is me… I am unclean…” Isaiah saw his true reality as a man as he stood in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God. Broken. Stripped. Exposed. Shattered. Ruined. HUMBLED! What happened? Isaiah saw his true reality before the reality of God – and he recognized that he did not and could not measure up. So he threw himself on the mercy of God and discovered grace through faith.
Finally, prayer requires our absolute awe and fear of God and His Word. Prayer begins in the Word. Psalm 1 invites us to not walk, stand, or sit in the counsel of the wicked, but to delight in the uncompromising truth of God’s Word. We are to become saturated through immersion, nourished through rumination, and intoxicated through indulgence. God’s Word is to serve as the springboard into every dynamic of the Spirit-life. As we tremble before the awesomeness of God through His Word, as we meditate on His truth day and night, God will meet us at the point of truth to expose our lives to the light of His Word to place His figure on any hurtful way in our lives ushering us into confession, adoration, petition, and ultimately, intercession. Through mediation, God brings His Word to life in prayers that are expressed according to His will bidding us to respond in both personal and public worship. To the point that there can be no true sense of worship apart from earnest, according-to-God’s-will prayers that were birth in the heart fixated on God and His Word.
So come! Pray! Seek to participate with God. Come boldly. Come intently. Come expectantly. Come with every desire and ambition to participate in what God is doing and can do. Don’t be surprise when He shows up and acts like God. And don’t be surprised if He shows up in a manner different from what you might do if you were God. But always remember that He is God – and you’re not. He is sovereign – and you’re not. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent – and you’re not! And His will is always perfect – even when it doesn’t make sense to us.
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:8-9
A pregnant pause. There is always something to note in a pregnant pause. In 1 Chronicles 4:8-9, we find such a pause. In the midst of sharing the roll call of the family tree of Israel, God pauses to point out a person of significance. This is no small thing. After all, this is not God’s typical modus operandi – He is making an important point – a point we would do well to consider.
In Jabez we discover a man whose life journey began in pain. Pain was the banner written over his life from birth; but pain was not to be his destiny. For instead of accepting his plight in life, he determined to discover God’s plan. He didn’t settle for the ordinary when he could experience the power and blessing of an extraordinary God.
As a result of his faith in God, Jabez surrendered his life and sought the heart and will of God for his life. He wanted God’s best instead of the least and leftovers. He was not willing to live contently with what he could achieve in his own ingenuity and ability – he wanted more. He wanted the God- more! So he did the only thing he could do to experience God’s best. He abandoned himself completely to the glory and will of God. We discover this in his short, yet amazing prayer. And as a result, he has been distinctly remembered in the pages of Scripture not for what he did but for what he prayed – and for how God responded to his earnest prayer. I wonder… would your prayer life be the distinction of your life or the extinction of your life? Is your life defined by your pursuit of God or your pursuits of gods?
The prayer Jabez lifted to the Father was simple: (1) Will You BLESS me so that my life will count for eternity; (2) Will You ENLARGE me so that I can live outside my comfort zone for a greater reach for Your glory; (3) Will You WALK with me so that I might experience Your guidance, Your power, and Your provision; and (4) Will You PROTECT me so that my life can accomplish everything according to Your will.
And God did! Thank God for those life lessons that occur in the midst of a pregnant pause. IT Matters!