(This was my 40 Days for Life kick off address) INTRODUCTION – One of the most powerful, fruit producing, justice establishing, church purifying, and darkness piercing ministries or movements on the planet today in my opinion is the “40 days for Life” campaign – – especially when the said campaign is carried out by united, God dependent, Christ centered, Spirit led and Spirit empowered men, women, young people and even children.
So my objective tonight is to share some thoughts and steps that will enable you and I to be that kind of people as we begin together tomorrow – the 40 days for life in San Luis Obispo in front of the Planned Parenthood Clinic on Pismo Street.
What I am going to share with you tonight is based on several presuppositions or convictions that I would like to lay down first, and they all come from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ – the Son of God.
The first one is this: Jesus Christ sees cities as an entity, He loves cities, He has great compassion towards cities, and He will eventually judge cities, starting I believe with the church that He has established within the cities of the earth, …. and He expects us to be salt and light in these cities. When Jesus began His ministry He appeared to have a strong compulsion to minister to cities (not just individuals) as can be seen in a number of passages in the gospels such as Luke 4:43 where He said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” Matthew tells us in Matthew 11:20 that Jesus “began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.” – revealing that He not only had expectations of individuals, but also whole cities. His letters to the churches of specific cities in the early chapters of the book of Revelation reveal His commitment to chastise and correct those churches based on how they fulfilled His expectations for the cities in which He placed them. And by the way, I believe – ultimately when our Risen Lord looks at His church in a given city, He sees one church responding to Him as the Head, not all of the brands and flavors that we tend to focus on like the Los Osos Christian Fellowship and the El Morro Nazarene and the First Baptist church, etc.
So why does this matter? Well it matters because if we are going to be effectively and powerfully used by Him, we have to see the whole picture. Planned Parenthood is not an isolated independent organization. It thrives on Pismo Street year after year because the mentality of our general population and even the church allows it to do so. It thrives because the general mentality of our beloved Cal Poly University enables it to do so. It thrives because our various government entities refuse to accept and embrace the truth and reality that healthy families that value and produce healthy children are crucial for the future and health of our society. And one of the greatest enemies of these potential families in our nation is this organization named Planned Parenthood.
The second presupposition or conviction is this: Jesus Christ though fully God; is also fully man. And everything He knew, said and did while on earth was a result not of His being God, but rather His being man fully dependent upon God. Many passages attest to this, such as Acts 10:38, where Peter said of Him and His ministry while on earth, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Now Peter knew He was God better than any of us. But He did not attribute His ministry and great works while on earth to His deity. Rather He attributed them to His dependence upon God the Father and the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8 explained this in more theological terms, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” A simple way to summarize that long passage is – Jesus, while on earth, denied Himself the right to rely on or draw upon His godly attributes or His deity, and instead relied upon God the Father and the Holy Spirit for all that He needed. He himself often testified of this lifestyle or way of life. For instance in John 5: 28 He said “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me.”
Why does this matter? Well it matters because if Jesus knew, said and did what He knew, said and did because He was God, then there is no hope or expectation for me to emulate Him. The gospel accounts of His life and ministry are mere history books; not ministry handbooks. If He operated as man dependent upon God the Father and God the Holy Spirit while He was on earth, then His every move, attitude, word, response, action is an example that I can meditate on and expect to live out in my own life. Every word in every gospel has full relevance to my life. That’s why the apostle John said in chapter 2 verse 6 of his first epistle, “He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
Here’s the third presupposition or conviction: Our living triune God wants to pour out His transforming power through you and I – especially where darkness is most entrenched in our cities. When Jesus Christ set free the demonized son of the desperate father who had first gone to the disciples, but whom were powerless to help him, and then later when Jesus was asked by these disciples why they were powerless, He answered, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Matthew’s account adds fasting. But the point is, this kind can come out by prayer!!! We can follow in Jesus’s steps and see severely demonized people set free when and if we learn to pray as Jesus prayed. And believe me, the abortion industry and its victims have more than their share of demonic oppression and activity.
One of Jesus Christ’s greatest hurdles with his disciples was their lack of faith of being able to be used powerfully by Him. And thus He was constantly trying to build their faith and expectation for His eventual using them to carry on His ongoing ministry to cities, and to the oppressed individuals and families and organizations that lived and functioned in those cities. In that same story of the disciples’ failure to cast the demon out of that young man, Jesus said to them, as recorded in Matthew ch. 17, “….if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Who cares how long Planned Parenthood has been in SLO; and how tied they as a National organization are to our state and even local gov’t officials; and how intimately acquainted and connected they are to Cal Poly Univ. officials; and how much gov’t funds they receive! Mountains – – these seemingly unmoveable impentetrable unshakeable – here to stay entities – – Jesus says – – are instead made to move. Nothing is impossible or unmoveable when Jesus’s church learns to operate like He operated. In fact He told His disciples one day, that “he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (Jn. 14:12)
So based on all of this, how can we live and work together in these next 40 days to see darkness penetrated by Christ’s light, and mountains of injustice and unrighteousness removed from our beloved city of San Luis Obispo? Well allow me to share a few suggestions.
First, we must start where Jesus began when He described for us the kingdom culture He was seeking to build in our cities. Remember the first Beattitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poverty of spirit, brokenness, humility must be our frame of heart and mind if we are going to be used mightily of Him. Nothing short circuits the flow of the power of God and the Holy Spirit like pride and self sufficiency and self righteousness. So when you and I are in front of Planned Parenthood, and we see a frightened young pregnant lady followed by an arrogant, hardened, fully tatted young man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth – – how are we going to respond? Or when we discover that pastors and members of certain congregations refuse to join us in this 40 days campaign, how are we going to respond? When we pray, will we be like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who was so glad he wasn’t like that tax collector over there on the other side of the temple, or are we going to be like that tax collector, who cried out in utter brokenness, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” ?? God uses one kind of person to establish His kingdom – as He made very clear through the prophet Isaiah, “To this one I will look, to him who is humble, contrite of spirit and who trembles at My word.” (Isa. 66:2)
Second, we must endeavor “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” with those we find ourselves praying with at Planned Parenthood as the apostle Paul commanded us in Ephesians 4:3. One of the reasons I believe God has so blessed this 40 days for Life movement is because it in most cases has been a wonderful display of the kind of unity that Jesus so longed for as seen in His prayer in John 17. I’ve prayed enough in front of Planned Parenthood over the last few years to know – all kinds of folks from all kinds of streams of Christianity gather there to pray. Some of them do not use the same version of the Bible that I do. Some of them do not pray like I do. But all of them are there because they worship the God of the Bible. They worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God. And they know how our triune eternal Creator God feels about the unborn. Brothers & sisters in Christ – – let’s covenant together for these 40 days to not allow the Accuser of the Brethren to have any toe hold in our attitudes towards one another. As Justo Gonzalez said in his book “For the Healing of the Nations” “The church must be one because a fragmented church is not much help to a fragmented world.”
Third, I want to encourage us all to not slough off or rationalize away the call to fast along with our praying. I’ll be the first to admit fasting is not my favorite spiritual discipline. But it was clearly a spiritual discipline that our Lord practiced. And I’ve found its fruit far outweighs its discomfort. The apostle Peter was never one to deny himself food or sleep before Jesus ascended to be with the Father. In fact before Jesus’s death and resurrection, He seemed fairly addicted to both. But after that He began to learn to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh, and to incorporate this crucial discipline into his life. And thus he gives some wonderful insight into what makes our prayers effective in his first epistle, ch. 4 vs. 7, where he says, “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. “ Peter basically is saying, look folks the very best way to respond to the urgency of the hour and the reality that we may not have many hours left on this earth is to give ourselves to prayer. But before we can do that, we have to have two characteristics woven into our every day lifestyles. The first one is “sound judgment” which basically is control of our minds or thoughts or thought patterns. The second one is “sober spirit” which is basically control of our passions. Nothing like fasting enables us to operate with the mind of Christ, and to be free from the “passions of the flesh” that Peter says earlier in his epistle “wage war against our souls”. I mean how many of you have had your best times of prayer after eating a gourmet meal topped off with a glass of wine or soda and dessert and decaf coffee discussing with your fellow diners the latest sports news and Hollywood gossip?
Effective prayer is something that every believer in Christ is called to incorporate into their lives, but not every believer in Christ pulls that off because not every believer in Christ has learned to present their every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and to overcome the passions of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit – – all of that aided by the power and focus that comes through fasting from food and anything else that would distract us from being able to devote ourselves to prayer.
So some of you may be asking or thinking, …how are we supposed to fast for 40 days? Well allow me to make a few practical suggestions:
1. First of all – it is crucial that you and I fast for and to the Lord and not for anyone else. So let’s ask Him how He would have us fast for these next 40 days. For some of us, He may ask us to fast from a certain food or drink for the whole 40 days. For some He might ask us to fast from a meal a day. For some, He might ask us to ask Him every morning, how He wants us to fast that day, and just be ready to do whatever He asks.
2. Second, – is it ok to fast from things like t.v. or web or internet surfing instead of from food? Well there certainly can be value in fasting from watching t.v., movies or fasting from from internet surfing. But typically in the scriptures when fasting is discussed, it has to do with fasting from food or drink or both.
3. Third – I want to encourage all of you to make sure you are on the list to get Shawn Carney’s daily emails during these 40 days and try to read it as early in the morning as you can. I found these greatly motivating the first time I got involved with 40 days for life. They built my faith and greatly stimulated my desire to be used by God in this movement. Also they will give you specific things to pray about as well as great examples of what prayer has accomplished elsewhere in our nation or in other nations.
4. Fourth – it is crucial that we depend upon the Holy Spirit for how to pray when we are down at the clinic or when we are interceding for those who are down at the clinic. For as the apostle Paul admitted in his letter to the church in Rome – “we do not know how to pray as we should”, but the Holy Spirit is a wonderful help when we learn to depend and rely upon Him. God wants to do very specific things not just at the clinic, but in that general neighborhood, in the church in San Luis Obispo and surrounding area, in the media, in the gov’t officials especially in SLO, in the families of the staff who work there, and it is only when we get in touch with His will and desires that we can pray effectively. God always thinks far wider and deeper than we do. He alone can see root issues. And He will be faithful to reveal those to us as we learn to listen to His voice and wait on His leading.
5. Finally, I want to close by praying for you, and for any who are not here tonight, but who will be joining us – starting tomorrow.