I am thankful that the Lord instructs us how to pray. We want to pray what is on God’s heart and mind, agreeing with what He feels is important for us to pray. We want to hear from Him and respond with intercession by praying for others or a certain situation. This can be difficult to do as there are so many things that vie for our attention, so it is encouraging to see the ways the Lord helps us to know what and how to pray.
I had a small encounter that has fueled my prayers concerning praying for the United States. I had a short dream around October 15. In the dream I was talking to a group of people from the book of Joel. Joel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, and specifically Joel 2 is a Scripture that is insightful to us as to how we as the people of God should respond in a time of crisis. The command in the book of Joel is to gather the people together, cry out to God, and return to Him with all our heart. Then in the dream, a man, who I feel represented the Lord and also faithfulness in the word of God, said to me, “Look at Athaliah.” It was almost as if that phrase was added to the message of Joel I was sharing.
So, who was Athaliah? In the Scripture, Athaliah was a wicked woman, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, two of the wickedest rulers in Israel’s history. She married Jehoram, the son of Jehosophat, one of the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 8:16-18). Their son, Ahaziah, reigned after Jehoram died. Both her husband and her son “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Ahaziah walked in wickedness like the house of Ahab. His mother, Athalia, advised Him to do wickedly. She was a great proponent of Baal worship which included much idolatry and sexual immorality. In 2 Kings 11:1-21, it is recorded that after Ahaziah’s death Athaliah usurped the throne and killed all the rightful, royal heirs to the throne. From the heirs, Joash was spared and hidden for 6 years in the house of the Lord. At the right time, Jehoida, the priest, along with the military captains and their thousands of armed men, arranged for a rightful coronation of the young King Joash. As a result, Athaliah was slain, Joash took the throne, and the temple of Baal was destroyed. For part of his reign, Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Joash even instructed the temple of the Lord to be repaired.
For me, the Lord highlighted this account through this short dream to alert me to pray about some of these things in connection to our current national situation.
First of all, we need to look at what Athaliah promoted. It was Baal worship. This is not pleasing to God. In America, we see the promotion of the evil practices of sexual immorality and idolatry. We need to recognize those who are promoting this in our nation and call it for what it is, Baal worship.
Athaliah usurped the throne. This parallels a real desire in some in this nation to take positions of authority illegally. We need to pray against it. As we look around our nation we see individuals and groups grabbing for authority that is not rightfully theirs, and seeking to overthrow government and authority with violence, rioting, and destruction. This is not godly, but lawless. As we approach this election on Tuesday, there is more and more talk of subversion of authority. I believe that we need to pray for these attempts to usurp rightful authority to be brought to nothing and be made ineffective.
Athaliah also killed the rightful heirs. We need to pray for threats against rightful leaders and godly leaders to be halted. We need to also pray that those who are in positions of leadership would embrace godly principles and policies (I Timothy 2:1-4). We need to pray for those God has “hidden away” to come into rightful places of authority at the right time. I believe this happened with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett at this time to help preserve the godly principles in our nation’s founding document and to be used to end abortion in our land.
When there is so much going on in our nation, it can be overwhelming to know how to focus our prayers. It can be discouraging and depressing to look around and see the crisis and trouble. Yet as believers in the Lord and because He instructs us to pray, it is imperative that we pray in these times. It is imperative we know His character and ways in the Scripture. We find in the Word important directives of what to pray (for the church, people in authority, etc). Even so, we can be overwhelmed by the mountains of needs/crisis/tumult we need to pray about. I am encouraged that He can reveal to us how to focus our prayers. I am thankful He gives specific direction in what to pray in the Scripture. Let’s ask Him to help us pray about the things on His heart, interceding for others and our nation according to His word and ways.
When I heard about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg I had quite a different reaction than I thought I would. I heard the news when I was at one of our regular Tri-Cities House of Prayer Friday night prayer meetings. A wave of grief hit me and I wept. I have actually thought many times before about when her passing would be. This influential Supreme Court Justice had fought her way through many health battles and yet she remained on the court at 87 years of age until her death.
Justice Ginsburg was a champion for women’s rights to choose abortion and the LGBT community. Yet, in an interesting way, she won her way into my heart. Let me explain.
I didn’t even know who Justice Ginsburg was until about 10 years ago. I first heard about her when I became involved in a 40 Days for Life campaign in 2010, a movement that focuses on praying in front of abortion clinics worldwide. I was involved in those campaigns for about 9 years.
During those campaigns, we would pray for issues pertaining to life in our region and our nation. We would pray for the Supreme Court, many times praying by name for individuals on the court. I personally would pray for those who were pro-choice to be removed from their seat, retire, or repent. Specifically with Justice Ginsburg, I didn’t agree with her view on abortion and promotion of it as a woman’s right.
I will be honest, I don’t know much about the personal life of Ginsburg or her history. I did find plenty to disagree with when reading about her. I found her statements about the US Constitution shocking and disturbing. I didn’t agree with the pro-LGBT views she supported and backed. Yet I found over the years my heart become burdened for her. Whenever we would pray for the Supreme Court, I would remember her and many times weep for her.
I also knew that Justice Ginsburg was Jewish. Being a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I knew she had not accepted Him as her Messiah. So, I would pray for her to know Messiah. Her life also intersected with my burden for the Jewish people (Romans 10 and 11).
This brings me to September 18,, 2020. I wept upon hearing she passed. I literally was grieving over the lost soul of this woman. Not only hers but many Jews who do not know Messiah, many people who do not know Jesus as Savior. I got up on the microphone and prayed through my tears. I prayed that many would consider their end when they heard of the passing of Justice Ginsburg. I prayed that many Jews would receive the Lord.
I began to see that my heart was experiencing in a very small way the grief God must feel when people reject the very One sent to reconcile men to Himself, the solution for our sinful state.
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36
In order to have eternal life with God we must trust in His Son. So when Ruth Ginsburg died my reaction was to weep. I didn’t want to see her separated from her Creator for all eternity. And as many rejoiced more over a vacant seat on the Supreme court in hopes to be filled with a “pro-life” judge, I was reminded of the state of men’s and women’s souls who do not know Him and the eternity they will spend in torment.
Lord, help us to consider the state of other people’s souls and their need for a Savior. Help us to pray with fervency that they would be won to Christ. Help us to be led by love to the place of intercession for their souls. In the name of your Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
The Return was a solemn assembly prayer meeting on the Mall in Washington, DC on Saturday, September 26th. The description of this even is: “A movement, an appointed time, and a specific day set apart for one purpose – the return to God, that there be a coming before His presence in humility, in sincerity in prayer and repentance, that there be intercession for America, for each other, and for oneself, for God’s mercy, for salvation, for healing, for revival, for restoration, and for the fulfillment of God’s purposes for America and all who dwell within it.”
It was truly a sacred gathering with a focus of Joel 2; returning to the Lord in fasting and humility. This was the same day that Franklin Graham gathered many on the Mall and led a prayer walk.
If you would like some more information about it, you can go to www.thereturn.org. On the site the mission of the event is explained, along with testimonials, as well as a replay of the event.
Ruth and I tuned in with the Tri-Cities House of Prayer. They hosted a gathering where we participated via webstream. We were tuned in from 8pm to 5pm that day. Julie and our kids tuned in at home. I was particularly impacted by several things about the event.
One aspect of the event that greatly encouraged me was seeing so many leaders in various arenas, ministries, and ministers of different streams in the body of Christ come together under one banner of return to the Lord. Some of which were Carter Conlon of Times Square Church in New York City, Ann Graham Lotz, Dick Eastman, Michael W. Smith, Paul Wilbur, Ben Carson.
Jonathan Cahn delivered a prophetic word to America in the middle of the day that I feel like every believer in the body of Christ would benefit from hearing. CLICK HERE for the link to that message, The Potter’s Jar. God is truly calling us to return to Him; what will our response be in this time of human history?
During the solemn assembly a proclamation came from the White House declaring a national day of Return for America. It was also the same day Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court.
Within the corporate gathering, God was speaking to me, and dealing with me individually. He was helping to change my perspective. He was pointing out areas in my life that need adjusting, areas of sin and idolatry that I need to repent of. It reminded me of another gathering I had been a part of that resulted in a significant shift in my life. I know this event will be something I meditate on for a while.
I shared some reflections on the event at our church, Hosanna Fellowship, the following Sunday morning. CLICK HERE to watch that video.
With the solar eclipse coming Monday, August 21, 2017, people are talking a lot about this historic event. Some people are mostly interested in getting their glasses to view the spectacle, but we have also seen some interesting conjecture about the end of the world or other cataclysmic events because of the eclipse. It also seems to stir up a lot of questions about the times we live in and there seems to even be anxiety about what this can mean.
We believe this is not only a historic event, but a prophetic one that we should pay attention to. At our recent TRIHOP meeting, our director Skip Cone shared a very helpful explanation of this event. He described two extremes of responses to the total eclipse that will soon be crossing our nation: we can look at it as simply a natural phenomenon and ignore what God may be saying with it OR we can move into prophetic mania.
Skip’s words regarding the eclipse: “At best, it is an opportunity for us to consider our ways and cry out for our nation to return to the Lord. At worst, this could be a final warning for us to repent before God severely chastens our nation.”
You can read his thoughts in their entirety in a document about the eclipse that I thought was helpful. Check it out.
I think more than anything we need to turn to the Lord. He is always interested in getting our attention and leading people into deeper relationship with Himself. He wants us to ask questions of Him and to seek Him in His word. We need to lift up our eyes, not just to see the sun eclipsed by the moon, but to see the Son of God on the throne and to bring our own hearts into agreement with His word.
We should guard against turning to prophetic meanings without turning to the One who is actually speaking. Sometimes, we get more fascinated by the message and we miss the point which is to behold the One with the message.
The fact that we can see something like this in the heavens at all is reason to lift our eyes and consider the One who created these things and it should cause us to heed what God may be communicating to His church through this sign in the heavens. It is worth it to ask if this is a prophetic indicator of what He is already speaking? If You are speaking, Lord, what is our response to be?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
If you have not read my recent post on the Wildfires in Gatlinburg, I urge you to read that first. It will give some needed background for the following thoughts.
Since the wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains, I have had an increased burden to pray for Gatlinburg and the surrounding cities. I have had a deep burden to go into the city and walk the streets and pray. It just so happens on the day that the city was re-opened for tourists, I was visiting a friend in Morristown and decided to go down and drive through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. I had a mixture of emotions as I drove in. Part of me longed to know and feel the Lord’s heart for the people affected by the tragedy. I can’t imagine the loss of my home, business, even my family members or friends. I wanted the increased burden to pray for them. I was also feeling a desire to just see and be in the area I have come to have affection for after this great tragedy.
I drove thought the region with a desire to be watchful of anything the Lord may show me or highlight to me and to listen carefully for His voice.
Three things I would like to share.
1. Probably the most significant thing I have come away with is a burden for the people of Gatlinburg to really recognize what the Lord is saying in this crisis. As I drove into the beginning of Gatlinburg, I passed a big marquee saying “Welcome Back” then “Mountain Tough” As I pulled over and got out my phone to take a picture, I realized it was the Welcome to Gatlinburg Visitors Center sign that was mostly burned up. This sign along with other signs that said things like “Gatlinburg Strong” were standing out to me. Is this the way God wants us to respond when there is a crisis? Are we to respond with human resilience or humble ourselves and pray? All I kept thinking was Isaiah 9:10,
“The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
This is a passage that was actually quoted by several of our governmental leaders after the twin towers had fallen. Yet they were ignorant of the context of the passage. It is actually a message of judgment.
Read the punishment for Samaria in the expanded verses from Isaiah 9:8-12
The Lord sent a word against Jacob,
And it has fallen on Israel.
9 All the people will know--
Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria--
Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
11 Therefore the Lord shall set up
The adversaries of Rezin against him,
And spur his enemies on,
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind;
And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.
For all this His anger is not turned away,
But His hand is stretched out still. (Emphasis Mine)
Even President Obama echoed this passage when he signed a beam of the new One World Trade Center,
“We Remember. We Rebuild. We come back Stronger.”
In any crisis, it is not the Lord’s prescription to respond in pride, arrogance, or our own strength. I believe He is beckoning us to humble ourselves in crisis and seek His face about the next step. (Joel 1 & 2, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, Zephaniah 2:1-3)
My prayer is the church of Gatlinburg would get it and even more so, our whole region. What will we do in a time of crisis?
2. The only sign I saw on my drive about prayer was on the IHOP (the pancake place) sign in Pigeon Forge. “Praying for our County.” I was encouraged by this. I do not think it was a coincidence that it was on the IHOP sign, when IHOP is also the acronym for the International House of Prayer as well as the International House of Pancakes.
3. There is a controversy in the region. That area of the Great Smoky Mountains has deep religious roots but it also has in it many things that are an affront to God. (Compromise, idolatry of pleasure and self-gratification, sexual immorality, witchcraft, etc). God wants the church of the region to turn back to Him.
4. There is a divine destiny for the region of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. It is to bring glory to God.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Emphasis mine)
I believe God wants the church of the region to fully return to Him and the kingdom of God to increase in the Smokies. That the people of the Smokies would love and glorify the Lord with wholehearted devotion. That it would be an area of real refuge. Even as the people return, the worship would come forth from East Tennessee with anointing and power. Can you imagine?? God anointed musicians and singers, prophesying and proclaiming the glory of God in strength and might on banjos, mandolins, basses, and fiddles?! I believe God has unique designs for the Smokies and all of East Tennessee.
As I have pondered the recent crisis in the beloved Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, I am greatly heartbroken and upset. Businesses damaged, homes destroyed, the mountains scorched and the smoke filling the air. Photos of the tragedy are disturbing and sobering. The night of the fires, the wind blew strong over our little house in the hills and now I can only imagine what some people witnessed: the fire being carried from ridge to ridge and engulfing buildings as people were evacuated and displaced. I don’t have family around there. I don’t have friends who live there. I have visited many times and it is an area I am familiar with and very much enjoy. I think of the Alamo, a restaurant that Julie and I spent a joyful evening of our honeymoon, totally gone. Many family trips to Dollywood, where the fire threatened but is safe and unharmed. Trips to the Aquarium, where it is good to hear the animals are safe.
I feel a particular burden about all of this. I think it is because I live in East Tennessee and consider it my home. And since I have lived here I have grown to love the history, the people, and culture. So, thinking about this fire and the devastation, I sit here crying as I type. Because, as in the words of Dolly Parton, “these are my people.”
I certainly think that this is a time to pray for those affected by the wildfires and to help practically in any way that we can. The practical love of Jesus being shared is vitally necessary for the church. It is a critical time when many are open to the gospel who would not otherwise be open, not to mention just the value in loving our fellow man.
With all this in mind, I am gripped to the heart that there is a specific message that God wants to send us with the fires. I came across a Facebook post shared by a friend of a friend who was helping with the House and Grounds Team at Dollywood Theme Park. It included a picture of two pages of the Bible, he had found under a bench soaked from the rain. It was a passage from Joel 1 and 2.
CLICK HERE for the more info about it.
For those who may not know what the book of Joel is about, it is a message to Israel in a great time of crisis. They were facing economic crisis in their day (new wine, oil, and grain were dried up) and they were facing the threat of an invasion by a foreign army.
The passages that were included on that paper found in Dollywood were. In the King James…
14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
19 O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
21 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:
In verse 14 it sums up a prescription for what to do in a time of crisis. I believe it is a message that the Lord is speaking and continuing to speak to us. Joel 2:12-17 is very similar.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 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.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him--
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’
How could these wildfires happen in our region? How could this be? Is it possible that God has lifted His protection because of our idolatry and sin? Because we have walked in disobedience and turned away from Him? Our region is soaked with innocent blood. Thousands of abortions have taken place in our region. We worship idols of self-pleasure, self-gratification, self-will. Immorality is rampant. And the truth is, it is not just the “heathen” or the unchurched. It is in the church of East Tennessee.
If we want to see a change, His protection again, even a great move of the Holy Spirit in our region, we must return to the Lord, with our whole heart. Will we heed the truth in the Scripture? What do we do in a time of crisis? Will we hear the trumpet of warning being blasted yet again to warn us to turn back to Him? Will we see His prophetic message in the edges of a burned Bible page in the middle of great destruction that contain words of warning and hope?
So thinking about the wildfires of the Great Smoky Mountains, I am burdened to pray and intercede for the victims and those working to help. I am burdened to help in practical ways, too. But I believe there is a greater, overarching message that we must hear and respond to.
There is a crisis. The prescription is clear. To gather. Fast. Pray. Humble ourselves. Cry out to Him.
It’s not just an event but a lifestyle change.
So I wanted to post about the election before the election, but that didn't happen and honestly, what I want to say doesn't change at all based on it being after the fact.
This was a difficult election and the wake of it continues to be turbulent. Here are ten thoughts, listed in random order.
1) No man (or woman) can save us. Jesus alone can save us as individuals, and ultimately as a nation as well.
2) God really does rule in the affairs of men. See Daniel 2:20-22 and 4:32. He raises up kings (and presidents) and He brings them down.
3) We had a choice and the fact that these were our choices says something that ought to make us pause and consider where we are as a nation.
4) We, as Christians, really ought to wrestle with the Lord. I intended this to be before the election and say that we needed to ask God for wisdom about who to vote for. I saw many people doing that and I think God certainly was using the difficulty of the choice to cause many to turn to Him and ask, "What should I do?" I think this still applies. We should continue to wrestle with Him and ask, "What are you doing in the midst of this? What is my response supposed to be?"
5) We really did face a difficult election. I've never been so grieved over the choices before me as well as the state of our nation in general. I've never been so undecided up until the final week or so before the election. This means that there wasn't an easy choice for many people and there isn't an easy way forward.
6) Pray. Pray, pray, pray. If it's not time now to do what Joel 2 and Zephaniah 2 prescribe (gather together, repent, and cry out for mercy), when will it be? Our nation is so divided and our leaders (as well as the Church, and the nation in general) need our prayers!
7) Trump, Hillary, and President Obama are real people. They each face so much hate and opposition from various groups, and they really do need our prayers. Also, those who are selected to lead, whether we like them, agree with them, or think they are the worst thing that can happen to the earth, need prayers for wisdom. God commands us in the Word to pray for kings (presidents, yes?) and all those in authority.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2:1-4
8) It sounds cliché but we saw a sign declaring before the election, “On November 9, God will still be on the throne.” It really isn't cliché and should become a rock for us in these times. Jesus really is King. He's not going to be our President, but He is the forever King. And, that should affect how we think, feel, and act in the midst of a divided and difficult time.
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man." Psalm 11:3
9) A little bit of kindness goes a long way. We heard an excellent message that you can find here about a response to the election. In it, Mike Bickle cuts through who we like or dislike and talks about excelling in kindness in these times. This isn’t a trite, Sunday School lesson for kids. This is how we win! We choose to let the fruit of the Holy Spirit grow in us and we practice kindness. That doesn’t mean we agree with all people around us. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t firm or confident in what we believe. But, it does mean that we can treat people who disagree with kindness and be willing to really hear them.
10) Our nation needs healing. Our nation is deeply divided. The only solution for a division so deep is healing. What do you do for a man who has been slashed down the middle with a sword? You sew him up and pray for healing. It feels our nation is in such a critical place. What can truly sew us back together again?
As I was weeping one night over the racial divisions in our nation, the words “heal our land” were ringing in my ears.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
It’s time. It’s time to pray, repent, and truly live as Christ has called us to. If not now, when?
Matthew or Julie Wine