[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #320 ---- 1/26/04

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2004 12:58:10 +0200
  Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As 
  We Fight the Good Fight of Faith

  A personal letter of encouragement to You, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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  SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #320 ---- 1/26/04

  Title:  "Building A Fit Temple"



  My Dear Friend and Ministry Colleague:

  Here we are on a cold and cloudy Monday morning, and a light covering of snow is hiding the otherwise grimy and dirty streets and sidewalks of Kiev.  It has warmed up considerably over the week-end; it's now up in the mid to upper 20's, although the dampness still makes it feel colder.  But, most importantly, the spiritual sunshine of a wonderful Sunday is taking the chill off the gloomy daylight of a Ukrainian winter.

  As you know, it is my firm conviction that the ministry of prayer must be the foundational ministry upon which everything else you do is to be built.  Scripture teaches that,  history verifies it, and the current movement of God validates it.  Jesus' pattern of early morning times with the Father before daylight (Mark 1:35) should remind us that if the very Son of God needed it, you and I need it far more.  

  The disciples first recorded request, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1), shows us those early believers recognized the necessity of praying.  John the baptizer had already been teaching his followers the importance of prayer (Luke 11:1) as well.  Jesus clearly indicated (John 14:12-14) that the way His followers would equal and even exceed His work was through prayer.

  All through the book of Acts, the Apostles and the early Church understood the primacy of prayer and how it related to virtually everything they undertook.  From the selection of a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:13-14), to the Pentecost prayer meeting (2:14), to their expression of prayer's priority over practical tasks (6:4-6), to the beginning of the great missionary movement (13:1-3), prayer was, as someone has said, "the heartbeat of the early Church".

  You cannot study the life and history of the Church without being thrust headlong into the ministry of prayer.  You cannot examine the life of any great Christian leader without being confronted with that person's prayer life.  While you may find someone bigger or more famous, you'll find none greater than those men and women who met with God.  

  The same is true with great Christian movements and ministries.  China Inland Mission came to be as a result of the prayer saturated life of Hudson Taylor.  India Inland Mission came from the heart of Praying (John) Hyde.  Campus Crusade For Christ was born in the prayer-saturated hearts of Bill and Vonette Bright.  Youth For Christ International was born as a result of men such as Dawson Trotman, Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham, and Grady Wilson meeting God in prayer.

  It matters not whether we're talking about a public ministry of corporate gatherings or a personal life of private intimacy with God . . . . the necessity is the same.  If you want a fruitful and spiritually rich life, it must include meaningful prayer.  Not just saying "prayers", but true and genuine communication and communion with God.

  If that is true, and it is, then . . . .

  Why is it so difficult to begin, to develop, and maintain???

  I will be 66 years old in just a few weeks, and I've been a Christian for nearly 60 years . . . . and yet some aspects of prayer such as a daily appointed time set aside just to pray continues to be one of the greatest struggles of my life.  It seems things so easily crowd it out, or my thought life convinces me I am neither ready nor worthy to talk with God.  Maybe you struggle similarly.

  My one consolation is knowing that, in reality, my personal and corporate prayer life is much better and deeper than I think.  While it may not fit the traditional image we have created, I do have a viable and meaninful prayer life.  It is obvious that the great Accuser condemns me frequently for my failures to maintain a regular daily appointed time for prayer, when, in actual fact, I'm learning more and more each day of what it means to "pray without ceasing" . . . . I doubt that fifteen minutes goes by in my waking hours but what I have not communicated specifically in conscious conversation with my Heavenly Father about something.

  So, why do I feel so embattled over what I perceive to be the mediocrity of my time with God in prayer and in His Word?

  Perhaps it is because I do indeed know its value and its necessity.  Perhaps it is because the enemy knows I know.

  If Satan cannot steal our understanding of prayer's value, then he tries to accuse us into a state of shameful unworthiness.

  But, as usual, his tactics eventually backfire.



  BUILDING A FIT TEMPLE:

  Some of the dearest friends Jo Ann and I have in Kiev are an American missionary couple, John and Betsy.  We love to be with them.  They are part of our teaching team for our English classes at International Church, even though they have their own ministry.  Nobody has been a greater encouragement to us than they have.  We value both their friendship, their service, and their wisdom and insight.

  Not long ago, in response to one of my "Shoulders" letters, John proposed a different spin on my remark about prayer being the primary ministry.  It turned out that we were both actually saying the same thing, but simply approaching it from a different angle.  His conviction is that the most important thing in the Christian life is knowing God intimately.  And I agree with that entirely.  His point was that knowing God is the source out of which a vibrant prayer life will emanate; mine was that prayer is what draws us into the Father's presence where we develop that intimate and transparent familiarity with Him.

  Isn't that great!!!  It's not either, or . . . it's one and the same.  God invites us into His presence in order that we get to know Him as He really is and not just as He is perceived by others, and yet the more we know Him, the more we want to talk with Him in prayer.  It's a "win - win" situation.

  So, . . . . here's the scene as I understand it.

  +  God is building a temple fit for His presence . . . . a place . . . . or a people of His own choosing in whom, by whom, and through whom He will be glorified to the ends of the earth.  That is the absolute purpose of the Church . . . . to glorify God in absolutely everything that we are, that we have, and that we do.

  +  That temple is being built in us.  As believers, we are the temple of God (I Cor 3:16-17; II Cor 6:16) far different in construction and purpose than the one built by the Hebrews (Ezra 3:9; 6:5, 16).

  +  The supreme and perfect foundation at the beginning of construction, and the main cornerstone at the ending, is Jesus Christ (I Cor 3:10-ff; Eph 2:20; Isa 28:16).  There can be no doubt about that.  If there is no sure foundation, everything built upon it is suspect and doomed for certain eventual collapse (Lk 6:48-49; 11:50).

  Not far from here is the village of Brusilov where a church discovered the hard way the costliness of having no foundation.  In their efforts to start new churches in villages around them, they found a vacant house built to be occupied by victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.  The cost was cheap . . . . an unbelievable $120, U.S.  A great bargain! . . . . until they discovered too late that it had no foundation of any kind; it was built on sandy soil.

  The lack of a foundation required them to totally destroy the house, remove the rubble, and start from scratch.  There are some churches who need to do the same . . . . Jesus is not their true foundation.  They have none.

  +  Upon a sure foundation the super structure must be built.  I believe the next most important thing is the construction of the supporting base upon which the exterior and interior walls must rest.  One of my sons-in-law is both a missionary and a building contractor.  I've watched him build buildings.  He always laid the floor joists and headers in place upon the foundation before he started building walls or laying flooring.

  I see the ministry of prayer as the supporting joists and headers that will ultimately carry the weight of the building, distributing it proportionately and equally around the entire circumference of the foundation.  Spending much of my growing years on the farm, I had occasion to see many barns, sheds, and even houses that had gone into unusable disrepair.  No matter how much damage may have been done to the roof, no matter how many windows broken or doors stolen, those old buildings remained standing . . . . except for one thing.

  When the floor joists began to sag and break, the entire building eventually collapsed within itself.  The presence and the sturdiness of the floor joists determined the longevity of the building . . . . even when the roof was bad.

  As far as I'm concerned, the same is true with ministry.  Frankly, it doesn't matter much to me what your exterior walls and interior furnishings look like.  But, if you don't have any floor joists of prayer undergirding whatever else it is you are building, you'll never make it.

  +  On top of the floor joists will rest the sub flooring . . . . the foundational reality of what the building is going to provide.  To me, that represents the inerrant, holy, divinely-inspired Word of God.  If the sub flooring is suspect, no form of undergirding will hold the weight of whatever upper structure you build; someday, somewhere, someone will break through.  Too many preachers and missionaries, and too many ministries have ended up in the crawl space of life simply because there was no reliable sub flooring upon which to walk.



  THE RELIABILITY OF THE UNDERGIRDING:

  Hopefully you see from my rather crude illustration just how important I believe the prayer life of a church must be . . . and how equally important it must be to the individual believer.  What gives your prayer life a dimension of complete reliability?

  Well, I think at least part of the answer can be found in I John 5:13-15.  "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.  And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."
  It seems to me that a prayer life, whether it be private or corporate, that can carry the weight of ministry that makes a difference in this world must be constructed of three essential elements, the first of which is . . .

     1.  We are operating from A Foundational Assumption ---- An Expressed Total Confidence in God.  John makes it clear, "This is the confidence . . . ."  
  What is the confidence?  Eternal life is in God's Son.  Anyone who has received the Son, has eternal life.  Anyone who has eternal life has access to the Father.  Therefore, prayer is available and workable.

  This confidence about which I write is based on two important facts ---- the Record of God's unconditional love, and a subsequent Relationship of unobstructed access to the Father through the Son.  When we understand that God loves us unconditionally, and that we have constant access to Him with out obstruction, it will propel us into such confidence that we will no longer hesitate to pray.  We will come to understand more fully Paul's admonition, "Don't worry about anything!  Pray about everything!" (Phil 4:6).  And we will, indeed, with thanksgiving, let our requests be presented to God.

  The second essential element is . . . 

     2.  We are meeting A Basic Condition ---- Calling on God.  Interesting, when Jesus spoke to His disciples about prayer, He said, "WHEN you pray . . ." (Mt 6:5).  With Jesus, it was an assumption.  John, on the other hand, it was a condition . . . . "IF you Ask!"  (I John 5:14).

  Don't you think it's a little presumptuous on our parts to think that God will manifest His interest in us if we do not express our interest in Him?  While it may be true that He does, and virtually every day, it's a little arrogant for us to simply think all our needs will come to us on a silver platter without our acknowledging our absolute total dependence on Him.

  Often we don't like to call on God.  It exposes our need.  It admits our inability.  It reveals His capability.  All of that reminds us that we can't do it alone, even though we try more often than we trust.

  Maybe that's the reason God has established this requirement . . . . not so much for His benefit as for ours.  Humble obedience is still an essential ingredient in God's equation for ministry . . . . even if that obedience is simply prayer.

  The third and final essential element to building a base of result-getting prayer is . . .

     3.  We are following A Workable Expression ---- Crying Out To God . . . . and knowing we will see response.  John continues, ". . .  if we ASK . . . , He HEARS . . . , if we know that He hears . . . , we HAVE . . ." .

  While I don't want to belabor the "according to His will" phrase because this is not my point, I can clearly say that if we ask, He'll confirm it if it is His will, and He'll correct us and show us His will, if we're not.  This much we do know, however . . . .

  If we ask, He hears.

  And, if He hears, He will respond.

  The starting point for us, though, is to ask.

  Jesus reinforced this requirement with His own instruction . . . . "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you".  (Mt 7:7).



  THE NAILS HOLDING IT TOGETHER:

  What, then, is it that holds this type of undergirding framework for effective ministry together?  In some ways, I suppose we could consider it to be something like nails that hold all the pieces together.  While that may perhaps be a poor analogy, let me propose these facts to you about the ministry of prayer:

  +  Prayer is based on a distinctive relationship unlike any other ---- that between a perfect Father and his imperfect child.  The Father's inexhaustible knowledge and wisdom and his unconditional love create a safe and comfortable climate for the child to enjoy the father's presence, enjoy the father's love, and receive the father's provision.  The child never need worry about his own safety, welfare, or future.

  +  Prayer, then, is simply a mutual conversation between the heavenly Father and His child.  No justification, explanation, or manipulation are necessary.  No pleading, needing, or bleeding are required.  It is simply the opportunity and the invitation to climb up into the father's lap, and talk . . . . about anything and everything (Phil 4:6).

  +  Prayer is built on complete trust in God as our Father.  While earthly fathers are sometimes untrustworthy  . . . . because they are earthly . . . . our heavenly Father is totally trustworthy . . . . because He is God.

  +  Prayer is contingent on the promises of God as our Father.  Promises are only as good as those who make them.  Promises are only as reliable as the provisions that back them up.  Paul tells us in II Cor 1:20,  "For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us."  In other words, God says, "Yes!" to all His promises, and we can, therefore say, "O.K.!"

  +  Prayer is effective in direct proportion to our confidence in the One who made those promises.  One writer said, "We talk most often and openly with those whom we trust most."  That's a good point.  When we pray, we will do so on the basis of how much we trust the God who made the promises.  We like to de-personalize our distrust by claiming we don't understand or we don't believe the promise, when in fact, the truth of the matter is we don't believe God.  We'd prefer to say, "I don't believe That" than to say "I don't believe YOU" . . . . especially when the "You" is God.

  +  Our confidence in our heavenly Father is basically demonstrated by our unhesitating obedience to His promptings.  This helps clear away to debris of falsehood and phoniness embedded in our praying.  If we're genuine in our praying, we'll be prepared to obey.  In fact, we'll have previously already declared, "Yes" to whatever God says to us.  Someone once said we should never pray about something for which we are not willing to be part of the answer. The truth then is clear . . . . if our confident trust in God is not strong enough for us to express it through willing obedience, then it's probably not strong enough to endure God's answer if He gave it.

  +  Therefore, our confidence in God to answer our prayer is proportionate to our knowledge of Him, of His work, and of His ways.  This same writer also said, "We believe most whom we know best."  And that makes complete sense.  In this human world, who do you go to for help?  Usually it will be the one you know best.  The same is true with God . . . . the less you experientially know of God, the less likely you are to pray to Him, but the more intimately you know Him, the more your heart will leap within you toward Him, drawing you to seek His presence.  Over time, that will find you simply wanting to be there, even when you have nothing to ask . . . or even to say.

  +  Finally, we discover that the bottom line, then, to a prayer ministry that gets results, is not asking, or doing . . . . it is just knowing Him.  The sum and substance, then, of a viable prayer life for you personally, or for your church corporately, is to get to know the Father.  Not knowing About Him, but rather Knowing Him.  As you know Him, you will understand His Words, His Works, and His Ways.  Those come in due time.



  IN CONCLUSION:

  So, you see . . . . my friend, John, is absolutely right.  Knowing God . . . . personally and intimately . . . . is absolutely the driving force of your life.

  And, I'm also right . . . . prayer is an essential ingredient or ministry in getting to know Him, and especially getting to know Him in a way that releases His sovereign invasive activity into the affairs of your life and your ministry.

  And, this becomes a temple fit for His indwelling presence and His manifest expression to those around you . . . . in such ways that you become unexplainable, apart from God.

  Have a good week in your construction projects.  Just be sure the undergirding has been sufficiently laid.

  In His Bond, and For His Glorious Kingdom,

  Bob Tolliver -- Psalm 2:8
  Copyright January, 2004
  Life Unlimited Ministries
    lifeunlimited@...
     www.peopleteams.org/kiev/team/tollivers.htm (Personal ministry)
     www.peopleteams.org/kiev (General team ministry)
     http://community.webshots.com/user/01lum for our pix albums.

  If this letter has blessed you, feel free to forward it, with proper credits, to any and all you wish.

  Please do NOT hit reply to this letter.  This is an automated unmanned system.  If you want to write Bob, send directly to lifeunlimited@.... Replying to "Shoulder To Shoulder" mailer gets you nowhere.


  REMEMBER ---- "We will not Work where we have not prayed."  (Todd Golden)

  May I Recommend . . . .

  If you have a heart for God and would like to be encouraged in your life and ministry, 
      and you have a burden for your church, your community, and the world, 
      then you may want to receive . . .
  www.cnsnews.com for daily world news without a liberal, godless bias.
  www.worldprayerteam.org ---- A world-wide network for praying together.
  www.watchword.org ---- excellent resources on revival, prayer, missions.
  www.waymakers.org ---- resources on prayer, evangelism, etc.
  www.operationiraqcare.org ---- To adopt and pray for a special historic city in Iraq.
  http://www.nppn.org ---- "National Pastors' Prayer Network" newsletter.  ~  
      email: phil@....  Register your PPG: http://www.nppn.org/ppg/ .
  Usprayercenter@... ---- U. S. World Prayer Center.
  www.cityreaching.com ---- City Reaching/City Impact Roundtable.
  fridayfax-subscribe@... ---- Wolfgang Simpson's "Friday Fax" from New Zealand.
  www.LifeAction.org ---- "Life Action Outreach".
  www.revivalcsa.co.za ---- "Bulletin On Revival" by Francois Carr in South Africa.
  www.yifa.org ---- "Youth Interceding For America".
  www.missionamerica.org ---- "Mission America" .
  www.lighthousemovement.com ---- "The Lighthouse Movement". Click on "Lighthouses".

  Other Great Resources Are:
  www.biblemaster.com for great Bible resources and downloads.
  www.e-sword.net (one of the best free download Bible study site I've ever seen!)
  http://associate.com/camsoc/ctt/"Christian Communications Toolkit" (using internet wisely) 
  http://www.associate.com/camsoc/crop/software.html#freewin. Free software or shareware listings, 
  www.ccmag.com.  "Christian Computing Magazine", 
  ccmag-subscribe@....  CCMag discussion newsletter, 
  http://www.christiangraphicdesign.com/premierinfo.htm  Thousands of Free Christian graphics.

  Online Resources on Ukraine are . . . .
      www.uazone.net
      www.hope4cee.org
      www.ukraineinfo.us
     www.peopleteams.org/ukrainians
     www.reachukraine.org 

  Secular News on Kiev and Ukraine will give you interesting views at . . .
     www.kyivweekly.com
     www.kievpost.com
     www.kyivpost.com
     www.ukrainenews.com