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For Crying Out Loud

Mar 15, 2018

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I've come to the realization I'm a bit of a slow learner.  A couple weeks ago, I was preparing to preach on Luke 2:25-38, the story of Jesus's dedication at the temple in Jerusalem.  I researched the historical cultural aspects of the passage and was intrigued by the prophetic message of Simeon and its implications for proclaiming the gospel.  I was particularly excited because of a couple of people I knew didn't know the Lord who would be there.  But there was this little passage at the end about a little known prophetess named Anna.  She really doesn't say much and I thought I would just touch on her story as we are working way verse by verse through Luke.  God had another plan.

First, I got the flu and had to have someone step in.  He shared the gospel very clearly - but from Matthew 28.  So I was still on for Luke.  During my prep the next week, Anna's story kept tugging at my thoughts.  But since the next week was our Sunday for prayer walking and taking the Lord's Supper, the message would have to be shorter, so I brushed off the tugging and proceeded to prepare a shorter version of what I had prepared the previous week.  An ice storm cancelled church.  So I prepared once again - only this time Anna's story was doing a lot more than tugging.  The short of it - this woman stayed 84 years in the temple complex fasting and praying for her people, looking forward to Messiah.  I became convicted of the need for myself and Heritage to cry out for our neighborhood and for our city.

On Monday that week, a friend handed me Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire with a note in the front that said, "read your story."  The similarities were pretty eerie.  Jim took over a church in a rough part of Brooklyn that only had about 40 people.  Soon after he took over, they dropped to less than 20 and only had about $160 in the bank.  To top it off, someone was skimming off the offering plate.  For those that know Heritage's story, there are some serious parallels.  During a Sunday night service Jim was so depressed and overwhelmed that he couldn't bring himself to preach.  So he implored the congregation to come to the altar and pray as he himself put his head in his hands at the pulpit and cried out with his people.  And God moved.  First, the usher that had been stealing confessed and repented.  Then people started coming.  Today you may know the church and their choir as the Brooklyn Tabernacle. They have 1600 - at TUESDAY NIGHT PRAYER MEETINGS.  

I may be a slow learner, but I am a learner.  I got the message.  That Sunday, we focused on immulating Anna.  We needed to be broken for our church, for our people, for our city to the point of crying out loud.  And we did.  It was the most tearful, gut wrenching, joyous service.  And God has moved.  Since that service, we have gone from about 35 chairs to 70 chairs in our worship area.  Every week we are seeing at least five new faces.  For years I've asked God to let us have a multi-cultural church.  This last Sunday, just in the praise team we had people who were from India, Madagascar, and Hawaii in addition to African Americans on the drums and vocals and a caucasian boy on the tech.  The congregation had people from Thailand, the Philippines, Micronesia, and Mexico.  We had five guys from the rehab facility, college students and retirees.  God did immeasurably more than we could have imagined.  

It makes me wonder - what would happen if every church began crying out to the Lord like Anna?  I know Heritage must continue.  As great as Sunday was, the darkness in our neighborhoods is still overwhelming.  We cannot storm those gates without our Mighty King Jesus at the point.