Sky Links, 6-28-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Before they call, I will answer;
while they are still speaking, I will hear.
Isaiah 65:24

Everyone is waiting for something.  We get tired of waiting and we wonder why it is taking so long.  We might ask what is wrong with us.  I was very encouraged by this post, My Times Are In Thy Hand, by Janet Peterson.

“My times are in Thy hand…” Psalm 31:15.
One thing I’ve learned is that God doesn’t always work on our timetable.  In fact, HE rarely does.  But in a single moment, God can change your life!  All throughout Scripture, we see examples of how God was working behind the scenes and instantly turned things around for HIS people.  Scripture tells us HE is the same yesterday, today and forever which means HE can instantly turn things around for you, too!
Beloved, you may be going through some difficulty today, but be encouraged because your times are in God’s hands...more here
I also was encouraged by Janet Peterson 's word from the previous day, on prayer, called Flip The Switch:

God has wired his world for power, but HE calls on us to flip the switch. 

Most of us struggle with prayer.  We forget to pray, and when we remember, we hurry through prayers with hollow words.  Our minds drift; our thoughts scatter like a covey of quail.  Why is this?  Prayer requires minimal effort.  No location is prescribed.  No particular clothing is required.  No title or office is stipulated.... more here
God is a covenant God, which means that even though God is all powerful, he works with us.  Our passivity in prayer is a problem and a victory for the enemy.  Praying turns the power on down here.  Worship and praise are sung prayers.  Prayer is connecting with God.  Why not spend more time in prayer?  Jesus is praying for us right now.  I want to find out what he is praying and pray that.

To Preach Or Not To Preach

What is the outcome of this, brothers and sisters? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church.
-1 Corinthians 14:26

Scholars in learning research tell us that we only remember about 10% when we hear a teaching.
Maybe the lecture is not the best method of learning.

In preaching, we want our listeners to learn something, but we also might want to impart something, or be a catalyst of change in lives.  But is the sermon the best way to do this?  Leonard Hjalmarson wrote on the topic of preaching, authority, learning and growth; this week.  Here are some ideas of how sermons or preaching can work today in our culture:
  • preaching has to become interactive so that the entire body participates
  • preaching has to move from lecture halls to small rooms
  • learning and growth happens in community, where learners  know each other
We still have “experts” or professionals among us: those who have more training and wider reading and thus represent both the Word and the wider tradition, and who evidence teaching gifts and are thus “elders.” But because we enter a shared process of discernment, we move toward becoming an interpretive community. We invite the Holy Spirit and the Word and the Body into a dialogue in the gifted Body. We make context a part of that dialogue, because the important questions we bring to Scripture are generated by the mission environment. Moreover, we exercise faith believing that the Spirit will lead us into all truth and that this is a living and temporal process.
And because we are no longer passive, but active and engaged, we have the opportunity to learn through all our senses. We know that effective learning is more than rote and more than hearing: it must engage our whole being including our emotions. Conversation and debate generate emotion (we could learn from the Jews on this). We both think and feel our way into truth that is lived.
In this way we do not move beyond authority, but we recognize that authority is a complex reality that is authorized in at least three ways: by Text, Tradition and living Temple (Community). The Spirit of God dwells among the people of God to create God’s future. This perspective is a return to an older understanding of authority and Apostolicity. It moves beyond truth as propositional to an older sense of truth as Troth – truth as aleithea in its root sense of an unveiling. Truth must be embodied, and implies both relationality and covenant.
- See more at: http://nextreformation.com/?p=10964#sthash.n5WzbdSd.dpuf
What happens in church meetings is that it becomes an anonymous, passive experience.  What if preaching or teaching or interactive meetings where everyone had a chance to share, were in a circle or around a table, where we all looked at each other?

This interactive, community, synergistic, body-life meeting does not work in bigger settings.  The bigger settings become lecture halls where we nod off.  I imagine that we preach for growth.  But preaching does not produce much growth, so it becomes, "we preach, because that's just what we do".  What Leonard's article says is that preaching used to work better, when the world and culture was different.  Now we need more interaction, in order to learn or grow.


preaching has to become interactive
 More here.


Contentment

God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all contentment in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.



There is constant bickering between people whose minds are ruined and who have been robbed of the truth. They think that godliness is a way to make money!  Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have.

I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance.
-2 Cor. 9:8, (CEB, ESV); 1 Tim. 6:5-6, Phil. 4:11(CEB)

Contentment Defined

Contentment, in the Bible, means sufficiency in God.  It is defined as:
Self-sufficiency, self-satisfaction or independence: used of the Spirit-filled Christian – having all they need within & through the indwelling Christ. (Strong's Concordance & HELPS Word-studies)
The Source of Contentment

Your needs are met by the Lord, and the experience of this is called contentment. To be plugged into God, is to be content.  If your source of happiness is God, you can be happy anywhere.

Holy Discontent

Before I go on, I want to mention what some have called, "holy discontent". It is when God is nudging you and stirring your nest and urging you to move out of your comfort zone.  The Christian life is a continuous life of pilgrimage, sojourning, going out and off the map.  So, God does pull back our contentment sometimes, to urge us to move out; and in the moving out, we paradoxically find contentment again, even though things might still be unsettled.

Contentment is about getting your needs met, not your wants.

This is how contentment is expressed in 2 Corinthians 9:8:  "You will have everything you need", or "having all contentment (sufficiency) in all things at all times" (CEB, ESV translations).  Contentment is about getting your needs met.  Needs can be confused with wants.  Wants are different.  I need food and shelter.  I need to stay alive by being safe and having health.  I need relationships, with people and with God.

Contentment is True Riches

1 Timothy 6:6, in the ESV, says, "but godliness with contentment is great gain".  In the CEB, it reads, "godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have."  The contrast that Paul is making here, is that the false teachers that were infiltrating the church were not only teaching falsely, but making money from their "godliness".

True godliness, piety, or devoutness; authentic spirituality in and through Christ, will have contentment in it, that is a greater reward or benefit than making money. That is what 1 Timothy 6:6 is saying. This is how The Voice translation puts it:
"This is ironic because godliness, along with contentment, does put us ahead but not in the ways some imagine."

Grace For Today

There is a secret to blooming where you are planted or playing the hand you are dealt.  God gives you grace where he has you.  That's contentment.  Contentment is abiding in the Lord, in this time and in this place, and letting God be enough.

The Spirit-filled Life

You might be a dreamer with unfulfilled dreams, but living toward the answers now and being content to the hallway or valley between the past and the future.   The Spirit-filled life is the antidote for discontent.  The Holy Spirit is the most positive and optimistic person in your life.  He also is the most wise person and the the person in your life who loves Jesus the most.  Check out Francis Chan's book, Forgotten God, to be encouraged to remember the Holy Spirit in your life.

We Learn Contentment.
"I have learned how to be content in any circumstance."
It's about practicing the presence of God.  A new anything will not give you contentment.  New things or new situations are a thrill, but they don't satisfy.  Only God satisfies.  Carving out time in your life to spend with God will make all the difference.  We learn to let go of the victim mentality.  We learn our new identity in Christ.  We learn forgiveness.  We learn how to live in Christ.  We learn, "thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven."  We learn that we are seated in heavenly places and we learn, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."  The Christian life is a life of learning, of growth, and we learn contentment.


Contentment for the Spirit-filled Christian is: Having all you need within and through the indwelling Christ.

Magnificent Torah

The law of the Lord is perfect.
  The law of the Lord is perfect.
    The Lord’s Instruction is perfect.
      The instructions of the Lord are perfect.
        The revelation of God is whole.

Reviving the soul.
  Refreshing the soul.
    Reviving one’s very being.
      Reviving the soul.
        And pulls our lives together.


The testimony of the Lord is sure.
  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy.
    The Lord’s laws are faithful.
      The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy.
         The signposts of God are clear .

Making wise the simple.
  Making wise the simple.
    Making naive people wise.
      Making wise the simple.
        And point out the right road.

   
Psalm 19:7 ESV, NIV, CEB, NLT, & MSG 

The Torah, God's instructions, God's directions, the revelation for how to live from God; is magnificent.  It will revive and refresh you.  It will pull your life together.  It is trustworthy and clear.  It will make you wise.

James calls it the perfect law of liberty or the law that gives freedom.  Unfortunately, we often think of legalism when we think of law and James gives us this freedom insight.  James gives us the revelation that the law is all about freedom.

The instructions or directions, the Jewish word is Torah; of God, is glorious.  The laws of God impart wisdom.  Wisdom does not mean intellectual snobbery, but godliness.  

The heart of the whole revealed instructions of God is to love God and then love your neighbor as you love yourself.  The Torah or command or instruction of Jesus is love.  It's not about following rules or law to get close to God, but by the covenant through Jesus blood, we are welcomed into God's presence and becoming lovers of God, loved by God, and in Christ loving the world.

From his passion, as a worshiper, who can see God's glory in creation; David extols the magnificence of God's Torah.  "Thank you for showing us the way of wisdom", David sings. 

So, some people might be asking, "as Christians, do we follow the whole Bible; or is the Old Testament backdrop and history with prophecy of the end to be studied also?"  The answer is yes.  John J. Parsons covers the question of, "should Christians be Torah observant?", here.

 

Living in Freedom

In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. -James 2:12

Have you ever wondered how to behave?

You are a Christian, so what does that mean as to how you live your life?  The book of James deals with these kinds of questions.  We are Christians, but we are becoming Christ-like.  We might need some help, some guidance; and that's what the book of James is.

Keep the whole law

After a discussion of favoritism and class-ism or class warfare, James enjoins us to fulfill the royal law of loving our neighbor as ourselves.  James then reminds his readers that they need to keep the whole law.  You can not pick and choose where you will obey and disobey.

The law of freedom

Then James makes the statement that in every way, we should speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom.  What does James mean by this and was it only applicable to his original audience?

The word judged means evaluated

Our sin, past, present, and future; has been dealt with or judged on the cross.  The condemnation of sin has been justified by Jesus on the cross (Romans 5:18).  Through Christ we are forgiven and restored to relationship with God.  Through Christ, we can live a holy life, without sin.  It is the same Christ who puts sin to death on the cross and gives us new life in him.  The way in is the way on.  There is no longer any condemnation of sin for those in Christ, but we are evaluated in a judgement.

The Christian life is a life of growth in Christ-likeness

Christ is able to obey the whole law.  Jesus said that the whole law boils down to loving God and loving your neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40).

Set free from sin in Christ

The law of freedom or the law of liberty, carries with it the idea that we are set free from sin in Christ.  We are free and have liberty to not sin.  Sin brings bondage when it is not repented of and cleansed by God.  The good news of the Gospel is that you can be free and have liberty in Christ.  Christ is always announcing the year of jubilee, the time of being set free from bondage, the time of turn-around, the time of freedom (Isaiah 61).


Plans

The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil.

To people belong the plans of the heart, but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord.
All the ways of people are pure in their eyes, but the Lord tests the motives.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

People plan their path, but the Lord secures their steps.

Many plans are in a person’s mind, but the Lord’s purpose will succeed.

Plans are firmed up by advice; wage wars with good guidance.

The plans of the diligent end up in profit, but those who hurry end up with loss.

My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans.

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

 -Genesis 6:5, Provers 16:1-3,  19:21, 20:18, 21:5, Isaiah 55:8-9, Jeremiah 29:11

What are your plans?  Is it Christian to have plans?  Is it right so say, "I want God's plan"?  What if you don't know God's plan for you?  Is the phrase, "fail to plan, plan to fail", Biblical?

The Biblical idea of plans is the idea of thoughts, design or devising.  It has to do with personal creativity.  You are a designer and deviser.  You design and devise your plan, for good or for bad.  Humans, made in God's image, are creators.  We have the privilege of creating babies, and we also have the ability and responsibility to make plans and carry out those plans.

But what is the right plan?  To plan is to be human.  You might not have big plans, but you plan.  You plan on going to church or the grocery store.  That's a plan.  You also plan your day, even if you don't think it is planed.  Being spontaneous is a plan and just doing what is easiest is also a plan.  Failure is a plan.  The saying goes, "fail to plan, plan to fail."

The Bible assumes we plan, because that is in God's design for all people.  Everybody plans.  So what is your plan?  The victim believes life happens to him or her.  It is true that bad stuff happens, but life is what we do with it.  In spite of this bad stuff, what is your plan?

Planning originates in thoughts and takes place in design.  You think it, you design it, you build it, and you live in it or you live with it.  We are all creators or inventors.  We all have this in common with famous people like Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and thousands of other inventors, composers, designers, and innovators.  

People who rescued Jewish people in the holocaust, for example, were average people who innovated plans to save other human beings from evil.  The same kind of saving plans go on to this very day.

We love the fact that God has a plan for us as individuals as is written in Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you".  So we want to know God's plan for us and get it.  But what if God's plan is the design of you in Christ?  Yes, God's plan is for you and us all to be Christlike.  But, each of us and designed a little different and express show forth Christ in different ways.  That is God's plan or design, that he put in you.  

Discovering God's plan is discovering God's design of you.  God created and redeemed you and me to be innovative expressions in the earth.  It starts with design, discovering God's design in us.  It then percolates in our thoughts.  We need purified hearts and minds.  We trust God in our heart and do not trust our intellect (Proverbs 3:5).  

Plans are birthed in our hearts and we need to think in our hearts, which does not mean we have it figured out.  The heart's thoughts are rooted in love for and faith in God.  We don't understand God's ways or plans, but we trust God.

Plans are shaped and devised with the help of others.  Receiving counsel is Biblical.  Get a mentor, a counselor, or a coach.  Get another one if the first one is not a fit or have several to get diverse perspectives and let God sort it out with you.  Many times in my life, I have have had at least two mentors, who even questioned each others advice.  That is actually a good thing.  One person never has it all, except for Jesus.

 

Sky-links, 6-8-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Let another person praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.
-Proverbs 27:2


I am an introvert.  We love people too, but get drained by interpersonal interaction and need to recharge.  Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz), wrote an article called, How To Avoid a People Hangover, that was good.

In the church today, we have people in all sorts of places on the spiritual growth continuum.  We have pre-Christians, or people who belong, but don't yet believe; and we have believers, who don't belong.   There are also converts who are not disciples.  M. Guy Muse, wrote on The Difference Between Converts and Disciples.

If you are searching for a church, you might ask the question, "what kind of ministries do you offer?"  Sounds like a fair question.  But, we do have a consumerist culture that we are a part of and we can also approach life that way, which is really not the Biblical way of life.  The Bible tells us how to relate to God and how to serve our neighbor.  J.R. Miller answers the question with, "we don't offer any ministries".  What?  Then he says something like, "but we have many opportunities for you to serve with us".  Even if you are in need of healing, lots of healing; we really are not called to just be consumers of others ministry to us, but to serve others in our brokenness and weakness, while getting ministry for ourselves along the way.  It is both/and.  You might be "the walking wounded", but the key word is "walking".

A saying or quote, that I both love and hate, that is attributed to Robert Schuller, goes something like this: "If you could do something and you knew you would not fail, what would that be?"  I've heard another quote that is the title of a book, "do what you love, the money will follow".  How many people do we know that have their dream job or have followed their dreams, in their life's work?  And this is not about getting rich.  Read Allison Vesterfelt, on this inspiring topic: The Question That Changed Everything For Me.

I believe that the church has a leadership problem.  This was probably my favorite read in the past month, Leadership in the Chaordic Age by Leonard Hjalmarson.  We need leaders who are learners, people reflect and act, rather than react. 

As leaders, we have imposed solutions on people that have made them dependent on us and our knowledge, in the "knowledge is power" paradigm.  The better way is to empower people to be self-governing, self-organizing, and adaptive.  What if we move from command and control to being "meaning seekers".  Meaning seekers are uncertain about us, but certain about God; God's goodness, faithfulness, and love.  Meaning seeker leaders respect you and your life-story and your unique relationships in which God has placed you and do not give you canned orders but come a long side of you, seeking to understand your journey towards God.
Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power, but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those who are led.  -Gary Hamel
Are you comfortable with chaos?  If you are, then you might be a leader.  Managers love structure and order.  Did Jesus call us to manage other people or lead them?  Football quarterbacks, chefs, group therapists, midwives and battlefield leaders have in common that they lead in chaos, if they have any success.

People are poems understand, not equations to be solved or fixed.  The poet leader brings interpretation and meaning a person's life and cultivates an environment where people can grow in Christ.

One problem today might be a power vacuum that we have in the church, because we don't have the experience of the power of God, The Holy Spirit in our midst.  What happens to our leadership when God is powerfully present in our midst (like in the book of Acts) and the priestly ministry has to get out of God's way and each person has a one-on-one with God?  The priest or leader (minister, preacher, pastor, apostle, prophet, evangelist) will be forced in the chaos to come along side, rather than be the head.  But God does have his chosen, sovereign vessel, leaders like Evan Roberts and William Seymour; that God wants in front.







Declaration of In-Dependence

(I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.) 

Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.
-John 17:7 (& 6)

Are you in dependence on God? Jesus was and we are meant to be. Jesus emphasized his dependence on God. Every thing Jesus said and did pointed to God.  Jesus was inspired by his father.   The Father's words and deeds Jesus spoke and did.

Jesus' disciples also are dependent on God.  If you are a Christian, you are dependent on God.  Everything you have been given comes from God.  He gives you the good things and he allows the bad.

In the blessing, in the good, help me to steward it.  In the trial, in the bad, I am looking for the grace, as a gift in the midst of the tough time.  Or, I am asking,  "where is the upgrade I need of more Christlikeness?"

Jesus revealed the Father.  Jesus shows us what God is like.  Do you want to know what God is like?  Look at Jesus.  Read Jesus words.  See Jesus.  Hear Jesus.

After having God revealed to them, what God is all about, and how we should respond to God; the disciples get it that everything about Jesus is from God and that everything that Jesus is endowed with is from God.  Everything that Jesus did and said came from, was dependent on Father God.
Everything that you have given me comes from from you.
This was Jesus' declaration of in-dependence.  Jesus was not co-dependent, which has a negative connotation, but in-dependence.  His life was dependent on God.

Jesus says that he has revealed the Father to his disciples and they are keeping God's word, and that they get it that everything comes from you, Father God.  Jesus is saying that they get it that the life, the Christian life, is all about being utterly dependent on Father God.

Every step, every day, we are dependent on God. Jesus modeled and displayed this life and his first disciples got it.  He was also showing them and us that he was not a new and different side of God, but showed us what the father has always been like.
Everything that you have given me comes from from you.
Can we say this?  Can we say that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17)?  Can we say with Job that the good and the bad of life come from or are allowed by God, so I will bless His Name in the good and the bad (Job 1:21)?
Everything that you have given me comes from from you.
Can we follow Jesus in how to relate to Father God, in him, in Christ, and declare our in-dependence?  Can we live our lives, cast onto God's mercy and graces; believing every day that without God, without God's help, we will fail?

The question is, do you and I believe that the Christian life is about getting saved and even sanctified, but also being dependent?  Sure, we have our families and faith communities and we need others, and we definitely know we need God.  We worship and pray and express our dependence on God, for example in our worship songs and our prayers.

But is dependence, on God, our life style?  In the kingdom are we more and more dependent, childlike, humbled; as we move forward in time, or more independent?  We are always dependent.  We need to declare our dependence on God.  Jesus was and we are dependent on God.  I am in Christ and being Christlike depends on God.  God is all about making me like Christ and only God can do that.

Everything you have given me, in Christ, is from you, Father God.  Everything in my life is from God.  But, maybe something is my mistake, or misstep, or blunder.  Maybe something in my life is not there because I missed an opportunity.  Yes, unlike Jesus of Nazareth, we all stumble (James 3:2).  We sin, we mess things up, and we miss opportunities.  What then?

What about when disaster strikes?  What about accidents, sudden losses, or betrayal by someone like our spouse?  Whether we caused our disaster or not, we have a word from God:
We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.  -Romans 8:28
The worst case is that God will bring good out of bad.  And we are promised, in the same chapter, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:38-9).  Every day is a new day.  If we have sinned, we can ask forgiveness and get back in-dependence on God.  God can work out our problems and supply everything we need.  God has unlimited resources.

Being independent, self-sufficient, a self-made person, and being your own lord and savior, perhaps with some household gods; is the opposite of the life Jesus calls us to.  Declare your dependence on God.  Declare that you trust God for everything.  He bought you with Jesus blood shed on the cross and you are his child.  He takes care of his children.  Get this.  We don't just get tickets to heaven that get us in when we die, but it's heaven on earth now.  God wants to take care of you now, in this earthly life.  That's good news.