August 16, 2015II Corinthians 2: 14 -   Atmosphere 


   We are in a war brothers and sisters.   You are in a war.  The enemy has his eye upon you and he is roaring like a lion.  He seeks to chip away at your faith your commitment to church and to build the kingdom of God.  He chips away at your family.     We are in a war for our churches, cities, and for the nation.  We are in a battle for our churches.  Prayer is very important in this battle.   JAMES DOBSON ARTICLE   Who appointed these liberal supreme court Justices?    I think we all know it is not a time to kick back and take it easy.  ACTS 12

    READ PassageI want to talk about aroma or atmosphere.  I want to talk about church today and church atmosphere.  I want to talk about open and closed heavens and at the root of all of this is our need to pray.   I feel this is a very important message for you folks and I have been praying for you and praying for this message this week.    

    Why do people leave churches?   I suppose we could list 100’s of things.   How does a church stop folks from leaving or maybe better yet why do folks stay in a church?   If you had a friend who was in a church similar to this one and they came to you and said our church is struggling what would you recommend?     Well that just throws the door wide open.   What would you tell them?  There are so many opinions.  Let’s talk about that a little bit.   Some folks would say you need a first class worship team.  Some would say you need a seeker friendly service.  Take down the cross and the pictures of Jesus etc.    Some would say to sing the new choruses to appeal to the younger generation.    Some would say you need to sing the old hymns because that is what the folks want to hear.   Some would say you need a dynamic preacher.   One who speaks with fire and who can evangelize and lead.  He has 60 years of preaching experience under his belt and he is only 33 years old.     Some would say well you need new blood.  You need some new converts so do lots of evangelism.   Some would say well you need a nice building with good visibility to the public.   If you have a better mouse trap the world will come running to you.   If you ask a Southern Baptist at least a few years ago they would probably respond you need a strong Sunday school and bus a ministry can help.   Drive those kids to church.  If you are down south in the summer you better have air conditioning and certainly heat up north.  Some would say church dinners and some would say programs and on and on. 

     But there are people who gather in Jesus name who do not have great worship teams.  There are people who meet who do not have a great preacher maybe even unlearned and ignorant pastor.  That is what the leaders said about the apostles and Jesus used them to build the church.   SOAK   Some folk’s meet that do not have hymn books or power points or chorus sheets.  There are folks who meet who do not have fancy buildings, sound systems and I believe some probably  that do not even have chairs and yet they walk for miles to get there.   They will come even though there is no Sunday school.  I think we listen to the whispers of the devil about what we need in church. Maybe a better way to put that is Satan tells us what we are lacking and by the way since it is not here go somewhere else.  Satan has a drum he like s to beat.   Granted in this environment and society a lot is expected and those things I mentioned can help.      

    I have read some folks say the church just grows and sometimes the leadership of the church does not know why it is growing.  I have not experienced that.  NCD has 8 characteristics that are key for church growth and I think an understanding of those things can help us a lot.  Calahan wrote about 12 and another one I think had 10.  I also think they may leave out some things and some things are hard to measure such as demonic forces and zeal, holiness, unity and commitment of church leaders.  Things like unity in the church and the spiritual depth of leadership in the church are very important and hard to measure.  We are not here to get into NCD today and those are my opinions. 

    What do we see in Acts?  How does the church in Acts compare with bus ministry, Sunday school, buildings and polished church services?   Not to knock those things.  Well it starts with 120 people in unity in prayer waiting for the Holy Spirit.  As I look at Acts I see a lot of prayer, time in the scripture study and preaching.   I see people spending time together.  Many folks that you read today say that all the people devoted all their time to the church.  I do not think that happened.  I think laundry and food prep took a long time.  I think the leaders very committed and continually committed all their time but not everyone.  I think we can put a lot of false guilt on folks today.  I believe life was simpler back then but not easy and that is my opinion.

    As look at Acts I do not see that they were program driven.  I do not think they spent a lot of time thinking and planning seeker services.  And yes our society is different today.   Nor did they worry or fight over worship styles.  Church dinners were not with the motive of growing the church often by recruiting from other churches.   Their emphasis was spending time together with the Lord and making sure everyone had something to eat.  My intent today is not to run down different styles of outreach but to comment on them.  Satan would whisper in the ear of many people in church that their church is second class because you do not have____ whatever it is.  Please explain to me how Jesus church can be second class?   I think the only way we are second class is when we are not walking with him. 

    I suppose a more basic question we can ask is what is church?   Well I have had folks upset because we did not have the painting of Christ on the wall.  Upset that the American and Christian flag are not up front. And by the way it is not church if you do not pray the Lord’s Prayer out loud in church.   It is not church if you do not have an alter call and yes where is your suit today and on and on and on it goes?   One pastor of a large church and I think it was Chuck Swindoll who said dif he wore a bad tie he would lose 200 people out of his church.   That is not how God meant his church to be.  What do these attitudes do the church atmosphere?   Who stirs all this stuff up?  We can fight over some of the stupid things. 

    Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant or hotel and felt like it had the kiss of death on it?   Have you ever walked into an old department store and felt like I really don’t feel like spending a lot time in here.   Perhaps it’s a little in disarray.  Perhaps they squeeze everything in so it feels crowded.  There are not many people shopping there.  It is not real bright because we have to save on electricity and some of the bulbs are not working any more.  The floors are not great and there are spots of stain from old water leaks here and there.  There is no atmosphere and atmosphere is important. 

      It was 7:51 a.m. January 12, 2007.  L’Enfant Plaza in Washington D.C. a busy subway station had its usual morning rush of commuters.   A young man wearing a base ball cap T-shirt and faded jeans entered the plaza and quietly removed his violin from its case.  He tossed some seed money into the case to bait the passer bys and lifted the violin to his chin.   The player was Joshua Bell possibly the best violinist of our generation.  His instrument?  The rare Gibson ex Huberman handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari one of the most coveted and expensive violins in existence.  The music?  Bell began with Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor hailed by some as one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed in history.   The response?  You would be surprised. 

   Of the 1097 commuters who passed Bell that morning only 7 stopped to listen.  That’s right 7.  Just 3 days before Bell had played to a sold out crowd at Boston’s Symphony Hall where the average seat cost was 100.00.   His earnings that morning in the subway?  A little over $32.00.   What does he normally make around $1,000 a minute?  The Washington Post sponsored Bell’s performance to evaluate the public’s taste, priorities and perception.   There are many things to be said about Bell’s performance.   It speaks to context and settings and perceptions and many things.   There was great music but no crowd.  You can have great preaching and great music and no crowds.  Jesus preached the crowds away I would say more than once.  John chapter 6 is certainly an example.    

    There was a gas station in Hooksett that for years did not do well. The size of the store was good and it was Ok to stop and buy a drink or gas there.  It would open and then close and then open and finally it just stayed closed for a long time and then it was totally torn down and guess what went in?  You would not think a new gas station would you?  A new gas station went in with Dunkin Donuts and the same people drive by and it is the same location but a lot more of them stop and shop and it is successful.  What makes a store successful today?  What makes the church successful?  Why would people come back and how do we make that happen?   Why do people stay in a church?   Part of it is because God tells us to. 

     I may be wrong but I think this worth thinking about.  This is my opinion and I am not an expert.  I believe the church is not the church without the presence of Jesus.  If you have the presence of Jesus you have it all.   If you have the presence of Jesus you can get by without a lot of stuff.    If you have all that other stuff and do not have Jesus you do not have a church.  You might have people and a nice building and well organized system.     If you do not have his presence you do not have church.  The basics are basic.  The church is His church.  It is not church without Jesus presence.  Does Satan attack the church?  Yes of course he does.  Does Satan attack people in the church?  Does he attack on Sunday Morning during worship time?  He will if he can. 

  I have a person that goes to the men’s bible study and I have prayed fervently for over a year that he would come to church. Every time he comes to church something gets blown up in his mind.  The last time he came one of the mothers in church looked around to check on her children.  That is pretty innocent isn’t it?  Satan sat on his shoulder and whispered in his ear that the mother was checking on him to make sure that he was not molesting her children during the worship service and he said I cannot go to church.  Her children do not sit anywhere near him so none of it makes any sense.  He got very bent out of shape with something I shared with him after one service.  I was trying to encourage him and be positive. 

    When I preached here the end of July in this church one person came to me and said Satan is attacking me right now in this church right here in New Life Fellowship.   I felt Satan nipping at me when I was here in July.  We have all heard the stories about people in church.  They complain and get stirred up.  They say I wish we had different songs or hymns.  I wish the sermon was shorter.   I don’t like so and so.  They are the biggest hypocrites in the world.  Some folks sleep.  Some folks who can stay awake watching TV or a movie but in church it is another story.  When that happens that speaks of atmosphere.  It may not be the enemy that causes everyone who sleeps in church.  There can be physical issues that cause us to sleep.   Sometimes we are tired.  Sometimes we sleep because of the enemy.    Some folks think about their troubles or what’s for lunch when they are in church.    The list goes on and on and you get the picture.   What is your church atmosphere?   When you open the door to come in do you feel the Holy Spirit? 

   What do we do about bad atmosphere?     We pray.  We anoint and we dedicate.   We need to pray always for a good atmosphere.  You get what you give many times.  Spurgeon the prince of preachers I read had 100’s praying for his services.  A message prayed over will produce fruit.   The same message not prayed for will not produce much.   In 1993 at Bethel Ron Gendron came to our church and said the sermon does not get to the front pew.  There was spiritual block.   I remember Curt Hale mentioning that he was criticized for not preaching on the coming of Jesus enough.   He went back through his messages and said he preached on it several times that year.   It was shared but not received.   Many people have said they are not fed in church. Prayer can make the difference. 

    We pray for God to touch people today.  Set people free from their sin.  Bless the service today.  May people be touched with the worship today.  May the aroma of Jesus and of life be here.  May the train of his robe fill this place.  You pour out your soul in prayer.  What is going to happen if you don’t do that?   Several years ago at Bethel one man who told me that as soon as he opened the door he felt the power of the Holy Spirit.  A couple of years ago a lady was in our church and she got touched by the Holy Spirit some zapped.  She joined the church.  If people are being touched by Jesus they will be back.  Jesus I think enjoyed visiting Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  I suspect at times he could relax and get away from the crowds who always were after him to be healed and etc.   He probably got away from the Jewish leaders that wanted to trap him.  

     People should be able to be renewed and be refreshed in church.   They should feel His presence and not be beat upon by the enemy.  They should feel the joy of forgiveness grace and love and if they do they will keep coming and bring others. People should experience joy and blessing and healing by being in church.  We need to pray for open heavens above us in our homes churches our cities.  We need to pour out our souls in prayer for the church service.  Jesus poured out his soul unto death.  Are you like Jesus?  Do you want to follow his example?   I know prayer changes atmosphere.  My mother when I was at San Diego State University ask me to pray for her beauty shop and pray for the atmosphere in it.  The atmosphere changed right away in the beauty shop.    The kiss of death was gone.  The same room the same walls the same place but the atmosphere changed.    You can do the same.  You can be a tool in God’s hands to change atmosphere in your home church where you work and so. 

    Are the heavens opened or closed?   Does it matter if they are opened or closed?   Does the bible talk about the heavens being opened or closed?   Is it good if the heavens are opened or closed?  Are they generally opened or closed?   Can man can Christians do anything to open or close the heavens?      Let’s consider some scripture. 

      Genesis 28 starting with verse 10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran.   One night he stops and lies down to sleep.   He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Some Christians believe such as Perry Stone that is a picture of a heavenly portal.  Many also believe that there are demonic portals.  They believe there are places where demons come and go.  Verse 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.  He wakes up the next morning and says surely the Lord was in this place and I was not aware of it and Jacob was afraid. 

   In Ezekiel 1:1 in my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.   Matthew 3:16 as soon as Jesus was baptized; he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.   Luke 3:21& 22 when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.   And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

    John 1:51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  That gives us a picture that it is good to see the heavens opened.   Peter starting in Acts 10:9 about noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.  He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.   He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.   It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.   Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”  After the vision Peter gets up and goes with the gentiles to Cornelius home.   Was it important for Peter to see the heavens opened and this vision?   That vision was critical for the Jews to accept the Gentiles.  That whole situation was very important. 

    Revelation 4 after this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”   At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.  Revelation 11:19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant.   And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm. The temple veil was ripped or rent in two when Jesus died signifying that we have access to God.  Hebrews 4 we can come boldly before God.   Revelation 19 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 

     His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.   He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.   The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.    Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”   He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.    On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.   After that is war and destruction.  A very interesting verse on this topic is Malachi 3:10 bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.  I will open the flood gates.   God says I will open the flood gates or I will open the windows of heaven.   That would indicate that the heavens are closed.   Are the flood gates of heaven open over us?  Are the heavens open over this church?    Are the heavens open over your home?  I think we need to pray that they would be open.  Does that impact atmosphere? 

     In the book Secrets to powerful prayer they give an example of open heavens.  This happened on a street that separates Brazil and Uruguay.  A missionary was passing out tracts and on the Uruguayan side of the street not one person would accept a tract.  On the Brazil side they would accept tracts.  The difference is only a few feet.  On the Uruguay side he would be snubbed and a few feet over the Brazil side everyone would take a tract and thank him.  In time he saw a woman who had refused a tract an hour ago cross the street to the Brazil side so he followed her across the street and offered a tract to her a tract again.  This time she took it and said thank you very much I appreciate it.  I have read similar things in other books.  The spirit world really impacts us.   Does atmosphere make a difference? 

      Does the bible say anything about the heavens being closed?   Leviticus 26 God is speaking ‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over.   I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze.  Ever feel like there is iron over your prayers?    Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.   “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve.  

    I Kings 8:35 & 36 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them,

Then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.   II Chronicles 7:13 - 15 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.  It looks like prayer can change how open the heavens are.   Haggai 1 Therefore because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.    Luke 4:25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 

    Ever feel that your prayers do not get any higher than the ceiling?  Ever feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?   Satan may whisper in your ear your prayers do not count.  Well God may just want you to walk by faith and he is hearing every word and seeing every tear.  The heavens could be closed over you though.  It is obvious that sin impacts the openness of heaven.   We need discernment and we need to walk by the Holy Spirit. 

    We need to stand in the gap for people in prayer.  I told a man this week you stand between Satan and this person.  You have to be strong in faith.   If he does not stand in the gap I do not see any hope for that person.   Have you ever stood in the gap for someone?   Abraham talked with the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah. Lord would you destroy it if there were 50 good people in it and Abraham works his way down to 10.   I guess Abraham thought they would be 10 but God did not find even 10.  Isaiah 59:15 & 16truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.  That is beginning to sound like America.   The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.   He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 

    Isaiah 63: 3 -6NIV “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me.  I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.    It was for me the day of vengeance; the year for me to redeem had come.     I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm achieved salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me.     I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.”   Ezekiel 22:30 I sought for a man among them who would stand in the gap before me for the land.  

   I want to close with a couple of verses starting with I Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,