Once again, here I am on my face before you, Lord, grieving. . .
I am the youngest of four daughters. We are all grown now, with families of our own. I came to Christ at the age of 26, in 1976. I have one beautiful daughter, who came to Christ in 2010. Her husband did as well, just this past February. My grandson, age 5, is a twinkle, and soon to give his life to the Lord, I pray. My husband is also a Christian, since 2004.
As many of you have, I’m sure, I have been praying for family and friends now for most of 36 years. As yet, I have seen no movement in my sisters or their families, my husband’s family, my first husband’s family (he died in 1995), or in our neighbors or friends. As a matter of fact, I have lived in this relatively small town (~20,000 pop) since 2001, and have only one Bible-believing Christian friend here, bless my soul. One. Somehow, I just know this is not only my story, but yours as well. That has motivated this letter to all of you, my precious brothers and sisters in Christ. And so, I wanted to share some comforting words my King gave me just this past week. Let me begin this first with 1 Peter 3:15:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear [gentleness and respect]. . .”
As part of The Foundations of Apologetics, which is a 12-part teaching series offered by Ravi Zacharias Ministries at Oxford, England (which I have listened to but not attended!) Michael Ramsden structured his teaching around this verse. I cannot do this teaching justice here, but I will try to weave some of his words of wisdom into this paper. Because there is not one other member of my family or circle of friends who is born-again (besides those already mentioned), I often come before the Throne Room with them on my lips and in a heavy heart.
First, Michael draws our attention to sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts. The Greek word for heart here is Strong’s 2588, kardia, meaning “heart, mind, seat of thought and emotion; the heart was thought to be the seat of the inner self (composed of life, soul, mind, and spirit); heart is similar in meaning to soul, but often the heart has a focus on thinking and understanding” (see Mark 2:8; Luke 1:51 and 24:38). As Michael teaches, before the command to give a defense (apologia in Greek—thus the study of Apologetics), we are told that we have to be in the right spiritual place before Christ in order to engage in that spiritual battle.
Well, I certainly don’t claim to have made great inroads in this regard, but I will share some of what I’ve learned. After listening to this teaching, I turned inward for a time. Chuck and Nancy Missler helped tremendously with their trilogy, The Way of Agape, Faith in the Night Seasons, and Be Ye Transformed. I recommend this as well, as they taught me that our King would not just have right doctrine or sacrifice; He would have devotion. Nancy taught me the regular discipline of the “Inner Court Ritual” whereby I come before my Lord and Savior daily or as needed, and ask His precious Holy Spirit to reveal to me whatever is within me that quench His action in my heart, mind and life, and to cleanse me in the Blood of the Lamb. It is in this state (which I must admit is short-lived, thus the need to do it regularly!) that I dare to approach His Throne with my worship and requests. I do believe this is what Peter refers to here: sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Lest you assume I am here placing my relationship with my King upon my own works, allow me please to disavow you of this false impression! NO, a thousand times NO. What this “ritual” allows me to do is to decrease, in order that He should increase. It’s a process by which I empty and humble myself before Him. Believe me it is not for wimps, for the Holy Spirit will indeed reveal what is within us that is not right before God. In His merciful way, however, it is always in pediatric doses.
So, after learning something about this first step, I went on to the subsequent steps; namely, to be ready always. The Greek word for ready is Strong’s #2092, hetoimos, meaning “ready, prepared, made ready to hand.” According to Michael, the Greek implies an athletic fitness, bringing to mind a runner at the starting block with muscles rippling and an adrenalin-accelerated heart rate preparing him to burst forth. (I can readily identify with the adrenalin stuff, but the muscles rippling. . .ah, no!) Nevertheless, this tells me I must have at hand a working knowledge of the Word and how my Lord acts (from personal experience.) A listener will spy in a minute a truth expounded that is not practiced! Just as physical fitness requires years of training, the command to be prepared anticipates continual hard work.
As a personal aside here, as a physical therapist (now retired) I have always tended toward physical activity. I used to dance; then I walked; then I started a running program; now I’m into Zumba! for my aerobic conditioning. The point I wish to make is how quickly this conditioning goes away if I cease my regular activity! Yikes! Two weeks “off the circuit” and I am soft as a marshmallow! A word to the wise. . .this applies as well to our Daily Bread. As long as I am in the Word daily, and learning from the likes of you, I have a ready word on my tongue should I need it. Should I grow slovenly, oops! I find myself tongue-tied, by none other than the Holy Spirit Himself!
Now let’s move on, to make a defense. As already stated, this is apologia in Greek, hence our need to embrace apologetics. Hard to give a defense without studying what we must defend from.
“The goal of apologetics is not to introduce a dose of confusion into the gospel in order to make it sound more profound. It is about communicating the profundity of the gospel so as to remove any confusion surrounding it.”
In short, it is bush-clearing (clearing away misconceptions and false doctrines and Satan’s lies) to give the immortal we’re facing (for, according to C. S. Lewis, none of us has ever met a mere mortal) an unobstructed view of the Cross of Christ. Michael teaches that when we give a defense, we are not simply answering other people’s questions; we are also questioning other people’s answers to the most important questions anyone faces: Who am I? Where do I come from? What is the purpose of my life? Where am I going when I die? This is hard work indeed, for we must be aware of the cultural answers most people assume are truth.
Next, and this part really jumped out at me, to those who ask. Wow. This shines a powerful spotlight on why, perhaps, our witness often falls on deaf ears. Did they ask? The ones I pray for don’t.
And, as Peter exhorts us, this must be done with gentleness and respect, in good conscience. No hammers-over-the-head here, my brothers and sisters. Mind you, simply presenting the Truth might feel like a hammer over the head to those who are perishing! The accusation of “intolerant right-wing bigot” is still ringing in my ears! However, I was comforted by my King after that witnessing effort that I had indeed been gentle and respectful, and He hadn’t had much success with Pharisees either!
I think that brings us to the end of this verse, “so that when you are slandered by those who rebuke your good behavior in Christ, they may be put to shame.” Aaugh. No, please, my Lord. Hold this not against them.
Well, this has been quite a meandering path to lead to the comfort my King gave me when all this discipline and effort seems to fail, as it has for my loved ones. For those of us who are aware that the Rapture is near, the angst over unsaved loved ones grows keener daily. This is where I began, on my face in prayer for I truly see the signs of the times around us and yet those I love the most turn a blind eye and a deaf ear.
The first verse He gave me was Ezekiel 43:27, which describes the sacrifices offered by the priests in the Millennial Temple:
“When they have completed the days, it shall be that on the eighth day and onward, the priests shall offer your burnt offerings on the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, declares the Lord God.”
Well, this was my morning reading in the OT just hours after that heart-felt prayer, and I didn’t immediately see the connection. But then He brought to mind the verse in Job where He instructs Job to pray for his wayward friends:
“. . .and my servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly. . .” Job 42:8.
Well. It was starting to come into focus! Then what followed was spoken by my Pastor on the next evening, last Wednesday night, when he was teaching on Genesis 39:
“. . .the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph,” Genesis 39:5.
And then the next morning, while perusing RaptureReady, I happened upon another confirmation. Donna Wasson (thank you Donna!) had posted “A Glimpse of Hell” part 2 in which she details how her grandfather was touched by That Hand and saved from Hell itself because of the faithful prayers of his wife, Roxie.
WOW! Message received, my King, and loud and clear! He honors the prayers of His own, and blesses even the lost because we pray for them or even because we’re present with them! Like the balm of Gilead, this awareness that He will intervene poured over my wounded heart! I wanted to share with all of you, for I know you’ve been there too. Take comfort in these words! I don’t know how or when, but I now believe He will intervene in a convincing way in all those hearts we pray and grieve for, all the while leaving their free-will intact. This in no way absolves me from my responsibility to sanctify Him in my heart, and to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask, with gentleness and respect, the reason for my hope! But our Lord knows our hearts and hears our stifled sobs on behalf of family and friends who deny Him. He does not turn away and He honors those prayers powerfully! This gives new meaning to:
“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you,” John 16:23.
What a God we serve and love!
Offered for your prayerful consideration, my precious brothers and sisters in Christ,