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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

Prayerfully Seeking the Lord

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March 19th 2023

Part Three of the Lenten Proverbs series The Lenten Discipline of prayerfully seeking the Lord (Proverbs 28:1-28) You can view the video online by clicking here.

Hands communicate many signals, as in sign language with the hearing impaired. A closed fist may represent a protest. An index-finger pointing up symbolizes the Jesus Movement, that there is one way through Jesus. Two fingers can represent victory or peace, as with the hippie movement. Three fingers represent the truth that Jesus is Lord!

Jesus is Lord! How’s your prayer life these days? How many of you want to pursue the Lord Jesus more passionately this Lent? God is restoring a deeper intimacy and giving us an undivided heart. One of my heroes E Stanley Jones memorably said: “prayer gathers up our highest, most sacred, & our most real moments.” “Jesus is Lord!” as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:3, Romans 10:9, and Philippians 2:11 is the earliest creed of the early church, and also the motto of the Christian Ashram retreat movement which Janice & I help lead. Jesus is called Lord over 700 times in the New Testament. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord!

How many of you want, as Revelation 2:4 puts it, to return to your first love? What was it like for you when you first fell in love with the Lord Jesus? The Asbury outpouring, the Jesus Revolution movie, and the Chosen TV series are all signs to me of God restoring our first love for Jesus. God is clearly on the move. Lord Jesus, don’t pass us by. We are so hungry for your presence, Lord Jesus.

Many of are believing that the dam of spiritual resistance is about to break in Canada. Do I hear an amen? Jesus is Lord of Canada!

One of Bishop Peter’s heroes Bishop JC Ryle of Liverpool said.  “A man’s state before God may always be measured by his prayers. Whenever we begin to feel careless about our private prayers there is something very wrong in the condition of our souls. There are breakers ahead. We are in imminent danger of a shipwreck.”

I believe that it is time to seek the Lord Jesus. Do I hear an Amen? Lordship is about surrender, obedience, and revival.

As 2nd Chronicles 7:14 puts it, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.

As we are seeking his face and turning in repentance from our wicked ways, God is breaking shame and despair off our lives. Jesus is Lord over our hopelessness!

Nicky Gumbel, founder of the Alpha Course, recently said: “When we pray, God hears more than we say, answers more than we ask, gives more than we imagine – in his own time and in his own way.”

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Mendelsohn does a wonderful version of Isaiah 55:5-6. ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call on him while he is near’.  God wants to be found. He is not hiding from us. He is more willing to be found than we are willing to seek him. In times of outpouring, God is somehow easier to be found. Lent is about our heart seeking God’s face, his presence.  As Psalm 63:1 puts it, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Jesus is Lord over our weariness!

The good news is that God chose us before we chose Him, he loved us before we loved him, and he sought us before we sought him. God is the hound of heaven relentlessly pursuing and seeking us. How many of you have ever heard the Bethel song about God’s reckless love:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99

And I couldn’t earn it

I don’t deserve it, still You give yourself away.

You are never too far from the Lord Jesus. All you have is turn back, changing direction, and He is right there embracing you. Lenten repentance is all about turning back to the God & Father of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, revealed in Jesus Christ. The highest thing we can say about God the Father is that he’s Christ-like.

As Matthew 28:20 reminds us, the Lord Jesus is always with us. As believers, he indwells us. But we so easily get distracted from an awareness of this reality. That is why Psalm 105:4 says to seek his presence continually. Jesus is Lord over our distractions!

I will never forget visiting the Psychiatric ward in Abbotsford in 1982. A man told me that he never prayed to God, but only to the Virgin Mary. I sensed that he was really talking about his parents, not God. I asked if Mary was like his own mom. “Yes, exactly”, he said. “I can tell her anything.” When I asked if God was like his father, he totally agreed: “You just can’t talk to either of them. they just get angry.” I said to him that his issue wasn’t with God, and that if he would work on his father wound, he would get a breakthrough with God. That next week, a psychiatrist phoned me to tell me that this man had a breakthrough because of this insight.

I’ll never forget ministering in Honduras in 1994 where the brand new Anglicans wanted to know what I thought about Mary. I said that I agreed with her when she said at the Cana wedding ‘Whatever Jesus says, do it’. Because Mary is huge in Latin America, they later asked me again what I thought about Mary. I said that I agreed with what the book of Ephesians said about Mary. Nothing. The female in Ephesians is not Mary but rather the bride of Christ the Church. Jesus the bridegroom is Lord over his bridal Church!

I will also never forget in 2010 visiting Canada’s oldest spiritual pilgrimage near Quebec City. This church was highly focused on St Anne de Beaupre, who they claim to be mother Mary’s mother.  I wonder: Why do some people seem to give more attention to St Anne or to Mother Mary than to her son? Some people have the idea that Jesus is too busy or not accessible almost like a medieval King. The best one might hope for us to slip the King a second hand message through a member of the royal family or nobility. How many of us have ever had a one-to-one personal sit down day with modern-day Kings like President Biden or Putin or JinPing? They are just too busy and detached. But Jesus is an approachable, foot-washing servant king.

If Mother Mary was here today, she would say to us: “Seek my son Jesus directly.” Jesus is Lord! As 1 Timothy 2:5 puts it, Jesus is the only mediator between God and humanity. There is only one without sin. Romans 3:23 refers to everyone except Jesus. 

Mary, being mortal, died just like the rest of us. I will never talk to Mary until I get to heaven, because the Bible doesn’t want us to talk to the dead. That’s the sin of necromancy explicitly forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:10-11: “There shall not be found among you any … that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” 1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Samuel 28:7-19, 2 King’s 21:6, Isaiah 8:19, Leviticus 8:19, 19:31, 20:6 , & 20:27 also forbid talking with the dead “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”

Speaking to dead soldiers in WW1 gave rise to huge spiritualism and occultism in the United Kingdom. Fallen angels, also known as familiar spirits or spirit guides, can give you accurate information while pretending to be your dead uncle or aunt.

I do honour Mary and give thanks for her faithfulness. She was an amazing lady. When I get to heaven, I will be happy to say ‘Hail, Mary., full of grace. Blessed are you among women’. In the meantime, I give thanks to God for Mary who is full of grace and blessed among women. When Jesus is central in our life, then Mary goes back to her proper place. Mary was Jesus-focused, not Mary-focused. Jesus is Lord!

 I also don’t recommend praying to the saints. It matters to whom we direct our prayers. Jesus is Lord, not the saints. Our name as All Saints Church reminds us that all of us as believers are forgiven saints. Bishop Peter like the rest of us is a saint, Saint Peter. The Anglican Church in its catholic/protestant wisdom kept all the saints before the 16th reformation, but never added any others. How many of us miss Bishop Peter and Jenny, two of our All Saints saints? How would you feel if I started praying to St Peter during his absence?: ‘Our Peter who art in Australia, help us with our problems back in Crescent Beach’. We don’t pray to the saints or to Mary, not even St Peter in Australia. Jesus is Lord!

Who we actually pray to is huge. As the Ten Commandments puts it in Deuteronomy 5 & Exodus 20, we don’t pray to or worship or make graven images of any other gods or idols. As Christians, we don’t pray to Buddha, Krishna, or any of the other 330 million gods in Hinduism. Jesus is Lord! As Trinitarian Christians, we can pray to any member of the Trinity, or to all three at once. As the Athanasian Creed of 450AD affirms, “…the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord. Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.”

Some of you may wonder why born again Christians need to seek the Lord Jesus. We need to for the same reason that married people need to regularly pursue their spouses. We all need more of Jesus. Jesus is Lord!

Corrie Ten Boom said if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy. Has busyness been hampering your prayer life lately? Our anxious busyness can cloud a greater sense of his beauty and majesty. Have you ever slipped into complacency in your spiritual life? Have you ever been on spiritual autopilot, business as usual? You may remember how Keith Green powerfully sung: “My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold, and I know how I ought to be, alive to you and dead to me.”

What if this Lent especially, we choose to seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness. If God is only second, before you know it, he will become last in our busy agenda. North America busyness loves to swallow us alive and exhaust us so that there is nothing left for the Lord Jesus. 

Psalm 10:4 says that pride will actually  block us from seeking the Lord. The good news of 1 Chronicles 28:8 is if we humbly seek the Lord, he will be found by us. Hebrews 11:6 says that he rewards those who seek him. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7 “seek and you will find, knock and the door will open, ask and it shall be given to you” let me ask you, this Lent, are you seeking, asking, knocking? Jesus is Lord of our search!

Like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, would you like to see nothing but the Lord Jesus? Are you ever tempted, like Peter, to build three tabernacles? 

How many of us want more abundant life this Lent? Amos 5:6 & Psalm 69:32 calls us to seek the Lord that we may live, abundantly live. Jesus is Lord of Life!

1 Chronicles 22:19 & Colossians 3:1 tell us to set our mind and heart to seek the Lord, on the things that are above. What direction are we setting our focus? Whatever has our attention has us. What if we prayed each day, especially during the remaining 20 days of Lent 2023, according to 2 Thessalonians 3:5 that the Lord would direct our hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ? The Lord Jesus is the King of hearts. 

Joel 2.12-13 says ‘return to me with all your heart,…rend your heart, not your clothing’ Maybe Lent 2023 could be the time to seek him with our whole heart. Do any of us this Lent need to ‘up our game’ in terms of seeking the Lord? Have we been a bit distracted or half-hearted lately? How many of us would like a more Spirit-filled Lent?

What might happen this Lent if, as Proverbs 3:5-6 puts it, we would trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding? What might happen if in all our ways we acknowledged him? How many of us today want God to make our ways straight? Jesus is the Lord of all of our ways!

There is nothing you can do during Lent that will make Jesus love you more. Some of us this Lent need to renounce the secret lie that we are not lovable. He already loves you deeply with an everlasting love. The Lenten disciplines of seeking a rebuke, self-examination, and seeking the Lord will allow you to receive more of his love. Believing is receiving. Jesus is Lord!

How many of us want more joy this Lent? 1 Chronicles 16:10 & Psalm 70:4 says that those who seek the Lord will experience joy and gladness in Christ. Jesus is Lord over anxiety and discouragement.

Psalm 34:4 says that those who seek the Lord will be delivered from all their fears. Jesus is Lord over our fears.

Proverbs says in 2:3-6 and 28:5 that those who seek the Lord will receive wisdom and understanding.

How many of you have Bible verses on your wall? Did your parents or other family members do this? My mom had John 3:16 on the kitchen wall until I got her to take it down, because it was too religious. During the Jesus Revolution, I had mom put John 3:16 back on the wall and added a picture of Jesus. One of my favorite wall plaque verses nowadays is Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait on the Lord…” Our impatience is often our greatest enemy. How many of us struggle with impatience? A huge part of seeking Jesus is quietly waiting on the Lord. Richard Sibbes said that ‘The soul is never quiet till it comes to God and that is the one thing the soul desires.’ As Psalm 46:10 puts I, Be still and know that I am God. Jesus is Lord of our waiting!

How many of you ever listen to worship music as you have your daily devotional time? Music touches the heart. I love many styles of music. Recently God has been ministering to me early in the morning through Gregorian chant, Keith Green music, and through quiet flute music as I sing and pray under my breath in the Spirit. I use headphones because of Proverbs 27:14, as my wife is not a morning person. What kind of music helps you prayerfully seek the Lord? Jesus is Lord of music!

Proverbs 28:1. The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. 

Lord, give us a boldness to seek your presence. It takes courage to seek the Lord. If you come from a so-called nonreligious or addictive family, it may be very difficult for you to seek the Lord. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable. You may even have to battle your inner family voices telling you that this will never work. Your inner family tapes may be telling that prayer is only for hyper religious super saints.  In our family, my ex agnostic father was the son of an atheist rather until age 87. My dad was the first adult male who ever attended church. Church in our family was good for women and children, not real men.  Many of us in our selfishness are often more avoiders than seekers. Perhaps rather than seeker-sensitive service, we need avoider-sensitive services. Starting with Adam & Eve, many of us are hiding from God, sometimes in plain view. Our greatest need in worship is not just to be welcoming to newcomers but to be welcoming God. We need Spirit-sensitive services. Jesus is Lord of the churched and unchurched!

2. When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order. 

3, A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops. 

There are many verses in Proverbs 28 about difficult, corrupt politicians and leaders, and how some people try to hide from their governmental overreach.  The Bible is remarkable current in this current push for digital ID and so-called 15-minute cities where our freedom of travel and assembly may be at risk. Listening to much of the news nowadays is enough to drive you to despair, or better yet to prayer. It’s that bad. Prayer, you say! I had an elder in a previous church who was so upset over the election of an unnamed politician that he refused to pray for him. I told him: “the Bible doesn’t give you that option.” How deeply our nations needs 1 Timothy 2 prayers for our politicians, especially for the most painful ones. Jesus is Lord over Ottawa & Washington DC!

4, Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

5, Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. 

Have you noticed that we live in a Isaiah 5:20 culture where evil is often called goodness and goodness is called evil. Up is down and down is up. The only way forward in our desperately confused world is to prayerfully seek the Lord Jesus. Radical obedience & self-surrender are key ways to seek the Lord. Jesus is Lord over our confusion and uncertainty.

6. Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse. 

7. A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

8. Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor. 

9. If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable

The King James Version of ‘detestable’ here is abomination. How many of us would like our prayers to be an abomination in the sight of the Lord Jesus? Deafness regarding receiving a rebuke and self examination is deadly to a vital prayer life. Detestable prayers include those prayers done by angry, critical self-appointed prayer warriors. I believe in spiritual warfare, and tearing down strongholds in our mind using Ephesians 6 armour. But why do we never hear about prayer peacemakers or prayer reconcilers. It is so easy in our argumentative culture to even weaponize the Lenten spiritual disciplines, so that even the Bible and prayer become ways to attack others and win points while often losing the person. Jesus is Lord over our detestable deafness.

10. Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance. 

Prayer protects our spiritual inheritance from evil path. Jesus is Lord over our future inheritance. Do not be manipulated by the nihilistic prophets of doom and gloom who are telling our younger generation that there is no future for them. They might as well not get married and have families. Just take free drugs and let the government look after you until you’re ready for your own personal MAID service.

11. The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are. 

Prayer is so key to protect us from the deceitful pride of riches. Many of the Uber rich think that they have the inherent right to control our lives and tell us how to live. Jesus however is Lord over economics. Jesus, not mammon, is our only master.

12. When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

The political corruption and overreach in Canada is bad enough to drive us to our knees in prayer. Jesus however is Lord, even over politics!

13. Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 

Secrecy kills spiritual intimacy with the Lord Jesus. We are as sick as our secrets. May 1 John 1:9 revival cause us to come out of the dark and walk prayerfully in the Light. Jesus is Lord over our darkest secrets that no one else knows.

14, Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Does any one have trouble right here in River City, oh, I meant Crescent Beach. 😉 True prayer is about a soft, trembling heart. Remove our hearts of stone and stiff necks, Lord. Jesus is Lord over our stiff necks! Romans 10:9 says that if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Maybe there is someone here today who has never personally received Jesus as their Lord but would like to today. I invite you to receive Him today if that is you. Maybe there is someone who has hardened their heart and needs to come back to the Lord Jesus. Let us pray.

Proverbs 28:1-28 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/pro.28.1-28.NIV

15. Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people. 

16. A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign. 

17. Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge in the grave; let no one hold them back. 

18. The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit. 

19. Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. 

20. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished. 

21. To show partiality is not good— yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread. 

22. The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. 

23. Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue. 

24. Whoever robs their father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong,” is partner to one who destroys. 

25. The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper. 

26. Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. 

27. Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. 

28. When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.”

Author: edhird

I was the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C for 31 years, from 1987 to 2018. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials For the past 31 years, I have been privileged to write over 500 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to speak at conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Uganda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Ontario. My book For Better, For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship, coauthored with Janice Hird, can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Better-Worse-Discovering-lasting-relationship/dp/0978202236/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1535555614&sr=8-1 My sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a signed copy in North America of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', Blue Sky, or God's Firestarters, please send a $25 etransfer to ed_hird@telus.net . Cheques are also acceptable.

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