I had the luxury of spending the whole morning in my study today. I alerted staff and family and turned off my cell phone. And, no surprise, the Lord was already in the study waiting for me.
One of my scheduled readings for today from the prophets “happened” to be Jeremiah 23. I have always found that chapter to be convicting and deeply moving, and I was not disappointed.
God is heart-broken over the backsliding of His people and focuses His diagnosis of the problem on the shepherds who have not only allowed the sheep to stray but, in many cases, have intentionally misled, even scattered them.
Here is the tragedy:
The shepherds all thought they were doing just fine. In fact, when Jeremiah dares to confront them with their departure from truth and neglect to deliver the whole counsel of God, they have Jeremiah beaten and put in prison.
But God says about the spiritual leaders of Jeremiah’s day…
“Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in My house I have found their evil.” (vs. 11 ESV)
“…they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil.” (vs. 14 ESV)
How did it come down to this with the shepherds…in Jeremiah’s or in our day?
Well, God doesn’t leave us guessing on that score either…
“Who among them has stood in the council [chamber] of the Lord to see or to hear His Word.” (vs. 18)
So, what’s the solution?
God turns to the only solution…then and now. It is the whole reason that Westgate Chapel has been under the call of God for the last 22 years to have a corporate prayer meeting. Not just to say we have one. Not to be religious. But to respond to the call of God to…
“…stand in God’s council [chamber] so that we are able to proclaim His words to the people, and turn them from their evil way.” (my paraphrase of vs. 22).
God has sustained a corporate prayer meeting at Westgate Chapel now for all these years that varies from 300 to 500 in attendance…just to worship and pray. Nothing else. I wish it was more. During the awakening in my father’s church in the early 1960’s prayer meeting attendance was as strong as Sunday attendance. I vaguely remember what it was like in those days to have 100% of the congregation in weekly prayer meetings.
The days we live in are so urgent. I cringe to think, given its present trajectory, where the church of Jesus will be in America by the time my grandchildren are adults. The whole purpose of the ministry of Church Awakening is to allow me the privilege to talk to my pastoral colleagues about this subject, and issue a new call to prayer wherever I get the opportunity.
You can imagine how grateful I was to the Lord and my pastoral colleagues from Western Washington when 120 gathered for four hours of prayer at Church of the Living Water in Olympia, WA last Wednesday. It does seem that there is a new stirring of the Spirit…a sense of urgency in pastors that was not present five years ago. It does seem that there is a new rallying to the Council Chamber of God.
I believe if enough of us answer His call, there will be a change in the spiritual climate of the sheep. As shepherds we will each emerge from the Council Chamber of God having seen and heard His word to us…so that we can utter worthy not worthless words in His Name.
By Pastor Alec Rowlands