The Power of High Praise

Sing to God, play music to his name, build a road for the Rider of the Clouds, rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord; exult before him!

Sing hymns to God; all heaven, sing out; clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
Enjoy God, cheer when you see him!-Psalm 38:4 (Jerusalem Bible, ESV, MSG)

When we praise the Lord, we are making a way for him.  When we worship God, we are opening a door for God to walk through.  Singing to the Lord invokes the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.

God is a covenant God.  God only does things in partnership with his children.  When we praise God, we are welcoming him to come and set things in right order on the earth.

When we sing praises to God, we are making a highway for him to come down into the earth on.  We are removing anything that would obstruct God's coming.  There is a time to repent for what we and our people have done to sin against God.  This is called identificational repentance.

When we praise God and make a highway for him, to come down through the dry places; God comes and displaces the dark spirits called demons, thrones, principalities, and powers.  God dwells in the third heaven, but the devil and his group dwell in the second heaven.  The earth is a battle field.

When we call upon God and praise him, making a way for him, he rides; and he rides means that he leads a host to war (Psalm 68:17).  He rides through the waste plains or deserts, the dry places where evil spirits dwell (Matt. 12:43).

So, when we praise God, praise the Lord; God pushes back the darkness, the evil beings that are reeking havoc and encouraging evil and sin in the earth.  Invoking God through praise is a very powerful weapon of the church.

God Notes

The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
-John 10:10

God is positive.

God is optimistic.  God is a "glass half full" person.  God sees the best in people- what they could be with grace.  God is hopeful and merciful.

God's love is relentless and crazy(1) by human standards.  One poet described God's relentless love as "the hound of heaven".

What are you thinking?

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. -Philippians 4:8
That's life!

"I have come that you might have life", and, "I am the life", Jesus said.  Are you getting his life?  Do you have it?  He came to give us a life.  The Christian's life is life in Christ.    Go where and do what has Jesus life in it.

Jesus' emphasis was on living.  Living with God, living through him, and living with each other.  Our Christian culture has emphasized teaching and learning as the path to spiritual growth.  But we don't teach and learn the way that Jesus and the Apostles did.  We teach and learn in our heads, through our eyes and ears.  God wants to enlarge out hearts and make us like Jesus in our way of life.

Just do it!  (That's how you learn it)

What do you do for a living?

Jesus taught his disciples to do it.  The Jesus way is when your teacher is a guide by your side.  The Jesus way could also be called, "teach, do, learn".  It is kinetic and charordic: chaotic, with order.

Have you ever been to a birth?  It does not always go as planned and it is messy.  But look at the life.  Children make messes and break things.  Does that mean they should be institutionalized?  No.

People who are truly living out Christ and learning, have messy lives.  They fail, they blunder, they make messes; but their character is formed and they grow up in the Lord.

Jesus saves!

"I have come to seek and save that which is lost."  Has he been seeking you and saving you?  Has your lost-ness been found?  Are you on mission with Jesus to seek and save lost people?

Most of all, he loves the children.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  -Matthew 18:1-5
How are you doing with being child-like?  Childish and childlike are two different things.

To be childlike, is to be:
  • Curious
  • Honest
  • Unselfconscious
  • Fearless
  • Trusting
  • Approachable
  • Wonder-filled
  • Playful
1. Crazy Love is a book by Francis Chan

Stressed Out?

“Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything’s free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest.
-Isaiah 55:1-3

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
-Matthew 11:28-30

Halt.  Stop.  Stop it.  Freeze.  Before you take a negative thought, before you say something negative, and before you beat yourself or someone else up... just halt.  Hey there, ho!  Can you hear me?  You look tired, thirsty, hungry, and lonely.  God sees you and so do I.

When you are tired, hungry, thirsty, or lonely; you need a re-charge, you need a rest.  Take care of the rest.  I repeat, take care of your rest.  God designed us to work and rest.  God designed us to need people and to need relationship with him.  Are you on empty again?  Get filled up, get re-charged.

On the one hand, we are called, but some don't get the call; to a life of service, a life of ministry.  But, on the other hand we are called to a life of rest, living by grace; by the rhythms of grace, which are work empowered by God, then rest in God.  That's the way that Jesus showed us to live and work.

Before You Call, I Will Answer

Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.

I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs,
I will go ahead and answer their prayers! 
-Isaiah 65:24 (CEB, NLB)

Did you know that God is waiting or standing in your future, anticipating your needs and waiting for you?  We don't make God aware of something, so that he can help us.  He already knows and has the answer before we ask, before we seek him.

If our whole life is about walking with God and being discipled by Jesus, then we can expect all our needs to be met.  Instead of being far off from God and crying out for vision, we are close to God and have provision.  In every situation, we can expect provision.  In every providence, God is provider.

God knows when you are going to have a bad day and places provision in that day and time.  You don't see it or recognize it, before you need it.  God is already catching you, with arms held out, when you start to fall, and call out.

Oikos: Baptism, Family, and House

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
-Acts 2:39

Oikos baptism

Oikos (household) evangelism, led to household baptisms in the book of Acts.  The father got saved and the whole household (wife, children, and perhaps servants) got baptized.  Nothing in the text indicates that the father carefully led each of his family members to Christ before they were baptized.  As far as we know, all of these family members were baptized just as infants are today, in some of our denominational traditions, before they understood the gospel messege and have repented and believed.  Read the story in Acts 16.

Household baptisms also occurred on the day of Pentecost.  Read Acts 2:36-40:
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We are in a pickle, if we are completely invested in believers baptism (only).  Peter's words are, "be baptized, every one of you in the the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children...."

We take this text and impose our tradition on it, and cannot imagine that children could possibly be baptized.  "Every one of you", means 'every one of you'.  Children were present, families were present, on the day of Pentecost.  'The promise' is the gift of new life.

The question about baptism is, is it about God's grace or my faith?  God's grace in Christ for me precedes my response.  I can be baptized before I even have the ability to reason enough to believe, because baptism is about God's grace towards me, even before I make a decision.

I can also be baptized as an adult, when I believe (repent), and that is good too.  In adult baptism, I am acknowledging what God has already done and affirming it.  Do I need adult baptism, if I was baptized as a child?  No.  But, can I be baptized as an adult, if I was baptized as a child, but chose not to walk with God and only came to genuine salvation as an adult?  Yes.

Baptism is open to all ages, because that is how it was done in the book.  Baptism does not save you.  Christ saves you and Christ does not save you through baptism either.  Christ only saves people by what he did on the cross.  Jesus' blood saves us.  There will be no other boxes to check off.

Baptism is also immediate upon believing.  It's, "let's find some water and do it".  No waiting, no classes, no test, no confirming.  All of that is baggage we have added- 'hamburger helper'.

Oikos: family and house 

Oikos of God: family of God, house of God.  the people are the family and the people are the house or temple.  God is a family man.  In the new covenant, the people are the temple that God comes to dwell in for service, Christ is the only sacrifice and we offer ourselves as sacrifices to God in Christ, and there is not special class of priests, but we are all now priest and Jesus is the only high priest.

No more going to the temple to find God, no more sacrificial rituals to please God, and no more priest-class that is a go between.  In the oikos, we are all equal, we're all children, it's flat; there is no hierarchy.  Every gift is for serving one another, like when many peolple bring different foods to a pot-luck buffet.
Thirty Years That Changed The World - The Book of Acts, Michale Green
Acts, F.F. Bruce

Oikos: Spiritual House & Household Evangelism

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

 -1 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 3:6 (NIV)

Spiritual house

"You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house..."  Peter tells us that we, as Christians are God's new temple.  We are not the stone blocks.  Wayne Grudem wrote about the meaning of Oikos in 1 Peter 3:5, stating that the spiritual house is,
"an amorphous 'building' that continually takes on the changing dimensions of God's assembled people.
  Spiritual (pneumatikos) when applied to 'house' and 'sacrifices' does not mean 'immaterial' (for the believers are not immaterial persons!), but rather 'influenced or dominated by the Holy Sirit; sharing the character of the Holy Spirit' (Rom. 1:11, 1 Cor. 2:13, 15, 12;1; Gal. 6:1, Col. 3:16).  Christians are a new temple of God under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit."...
  The encouragement in these verses, then, in this sense: 'As you (keep on) coming to Christ (in worship, in prayer, and praise), you are (continually) being built up into a spiritual temple, a place in which God more fully dwells.'
"And we are his house..."  William Barclay wrote this about Hebrews 3:6:
"We use the word house in a double sense.  We use is in the sense of a building and also in the sense of a family.  The Greeks used oikos in the same double sense...                            The whole world is God's house, but in a special sense the Church is God's house, for in a special sense God brought it into being.  That is a picture the New Testament loves (cp. 1 Peter 4:17, 1 Tim. 3:15, and especially 1 Peter 2:5). 
So, when Peter and the author of Hebrews wrote these words to the ancient church, it was fresh and new.  This new revelation of being the people of God was given, and it contrasted with both Judaism's practices of worship and life with God, as well as the pagan religions.

The people are now the temple.  Does that mean we no longer seek God?  No.  We seek God even more now, but we do it all the time.  Dwelling with God is supposed to be the normal Christian life and when we gather with other Christians, we actually come from having been with God all week and share with each other what God has been doing in our lives, during the week.

When we go to church to look for God, or an impartation, or a new prophecy; we have it backwards.  We're supposed to be getting that all week, and some of it in twos and threes as we disciple each other or rather make one another disciples of Jesus and let Jesus do the hard parts of building his church.

Oikos evangelism

Oikos evangelism is when a person evangelizes their family or extended family.  The family has known a person and they see the positive changes in their lives brought about by Christ.  The new believer is a credible witness, because their family knew them before and after their change.

Oikos evangelism makes sense and is completely natural.  God wants to save households (Acts 11:14 & 16:31).  Oikos evangelism is not my topic here, but I wanted to mention it and then note also that whole households got saved in the book of Acts.

Some more reading on Oikos Evangelism:

How Oikos evangelism grew a church to 11,000 attenders , Tom Mercer.

The 'person of peace' and their 'oikos', JR Woodward.

What is Oikos?  Bob & Mary Hopkins

Thom Wolf
1 Peter, Wayne Grudem 
Hebrews, William Barclay

Oikos: Household

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.-1 Peter 2:5 (NIV)


Your house, my house, the house of God.  We say, "in the house", to mean dwell.  Before the church, the Bible's writers referred to the temple as God's house (Isaiah 2:3).  Even Jesus used that language, referring to the temple (Matt. 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46).

After Jesus rose from the dead and the day of Pentecost,  when the church was born, a shift took place.  The house of God, or the dwelling place of God was no longer the temple in Jerusalem, but was now the people who are in Christ.

Rather than being a fixed place, location, or house; the dwelling place of God was and is now super-portable.  The people of God are now the house or temple of God.  We no longer go to a place where God dwells, but God dwells with each one of us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When the church gathers or comes together or congregates, all these mini-dwelling places come together.  Instead of being like concrete or hard walls, Christians are a building that is continually changing shape, to fit together with each other and God: living stones.

A household is not a business.  A household is a dwelling, a dwelling place; a refuge, a sanctuary.  You are that and you all together are that.  The church is a portable dwelling place.  We know that the church is also a family and a body.

We are brothers and sisters, in the household of God.  We have elders, people who are older and wiser.  We have mamas and papas, but we are all children of God.

Bodies need healing and houses need repairs

Bodies and families and houses can also have problems or get broken.  The body is repaired organically.  Families may need talk therapy.  Therapy does not mean psychology, but healing.  Houses may need repairs.

The help for all the problems that the household of God might have, comes from the Holy Spirit.  That is the living stones part.  The church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the household of God.  It's not just a club that serves, like the Rotary club or Kiwanis.  Nor is it only a group of people that gathers like congress to debate, legislate, and decree.  It is that, but a lot more.

The church, the household of God, is all these things, and works like a family, like a body.  But the church is not a business.  God could easily have said that the church is like a factory or a franchise or a store or a payroll; but he did not.  We added that and changed everything.

The church is not a business, as a body and family is not a business

When we see the church as a business, rather than a body or a family, we've walked away from the blueprint.  Staff, bosses, firing, and political maneuvering; to give a few examples, are not things that happen naturally, organically, functionally, and healthily in a family or body.

This is what Dave Black wrote in response to a post called ransom note ecclesiology, wherein Alan Knox posited that the church cuts and pastes pieces of scripture together to get things that are not there, such as ideas like 'the church is a business':
We are going to have to give up one of the greatest myths of Christendom -- that the church is a business. If we want true restoration, we must be willing to give up all professional ministries. The church would again become an oikos, the household of God, a family in which everyone had a job and was a real minister of the Gospel. The New Testament is clear that ordained professionals did not exist in the early church. I take seriously the awful drain on the church's energy because of all the institutional baggage we carry around with us. We must learn to mobilize lay elders in every church. As long as we have salaried professionals some faction of the congregation will always find the pastor's (i.e., their employee's) theology, personality, social views, family, wife, etc. unacceptable. The minister is no longer a brother or even a person. I talk to more and more clergymen for whom the professional ministry is becoming an impossible burden. The reason for this is that our Lord never entrusted leadership to one man, let alone to a "professional." What can we do, then, to hasten the demise of clericalism? (Notice I did not say hasten the demise of elders or pastors or overseers!) Return to the lay-based church of the New Testament. Remove our clerical robes. Stop trying to be the people's burden-bearer and priest. Divest ourselves of our professional illusions. Rediscover what it means to witness to our Servant Lord in the midst of the world. Let our seminaries move beyond the theoretical study of the church and put into practice the training of the laos ("laity") for ministry. These may be but first steps in the search for the biblical church, but the search can and must begin.
The oikos, is where everyone has a job and is a real minister.  In a family, we have face time and work out differences.  We don't fire people and we only ask people to leave if, unless their behavior is destructive.  When people want to move out or move on in their journey, we bless them as they leave.

Get Yourself Free

Get yourself free like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from the hand of a fowler.
-Proverbs 6:5

As Christians we are set free to live in freedom.  "It is for freedom that he has set us free".  Jesus paid the price and now we have to live the life... with God's help and the help of others.

We don't save our selves but we steward the salvation God has given us.  Viktor Frankl, who survived a concentration camp, during World War Two, said that freedom is the choice we make after something happens to us.  He set us free so that we would be free to make good choices with how we live, talk, and think.

When something negative happens, like a disappointment or an offense or a loss; we get to choose, will we go negative and grouse, murmur, pout, wine, and grumble?  Or will we exercise faith and focus on God, what can be, and find the silver lining in the dark cloud, or make lemonade out of the sour situation?  Freedom gives us that choice every day.

When we are in a negative situation, we can look for the provision of God. When we find God's provision, we appropriate it and stay free.  God promises, for example, to comfort the brokenhearted, never leave us or forsake us, and cause all things to work together for good.

There are a thousand reasons to go negative every day, "but  God", trumps them all.  Temptations to sin come our way and we may open the door or fully go forward with that sin.  It is never too late to turn away from it and get yourself free.  "First John one nine it", or "admit it and quit it."  Ask for deliverance, if something has got a hook in you.  Get yourself free.

I realize that the context of Proverbs 6:5 is cosigning loans, too casually.  My understanding is that generosity and compassion towards people in need, who are not in your immediate family, is part of the counsel of God.  "Love your neighbor as yourself", the example being the story of the good Samaritan.

At some point, in ancient Israel, borrowing and lending money go out of control, meaning that people began asking for loans that they might not be able to pay back or began taking loans, and perhaps from peoples outside of Israel, who did not worship God.  Then, there were also loans with an interest rate attached, which the Bible calls usury.  The longer the loan stayed unpaid, the more it grew.  The Bible counsels against the practice of usury.

So, the immediate context of Proverbs 6:5, is to get yourself free from a foolish pledge you make, even with the shake of hands, to help someone, to put your finances on the line with someone who may not be able or willing to follow through and pay off the obligation.

The picture is of you giving a gambler your money, that he or she says they will pay back, because in their addiction or delusion, they actually believe it.  They are your neighbor or your friend.  They are charming, neighborly and friendly; but they have a problem that lurks beneath the surface of their life.  We all have hidden problems, hidden sins.

Your friend or neighbor gets into your favor or good graces.  It is a human, God given, inclination to help someone.  The person does not just ask for 10 dollars, they don't just ask to borrow hundreds; but they ask you to co-sign their loan.  This is the picture in Proverbs 6.

It is also interesting, that after the author of Proverbs vigorously enjoins the one who made the foolish agreement to get out of it, whatever it takes, even begging their friend or neighbor; he says to take a look at the hard working ant, who gets ahead and stores up for hard times.  Then, in contrast, the author rebukes lazy people.

So, one could easily surmise that the message of Proverbs 6 is that lazy people are enticed by loaned money, rather than industriously earning it.  The kind person, who is walking with God in a life of generosity and compassion towards others, can be taken advantage of by people who are not choosing God's path, but are going for short cuts in their lives; which is reflected in their finances.

If you found out that the money that you gave someone was being spent on gambling, or something else immoral or illegal, would you keep giving money to them?  A long time ago, I learned to try to, "meet the need", of the person asking for help.  Give them food if they say they need food or fill their gas tank if they say they need gas.

So, Proverbs 6 is saying to get out of those agreements or relationships you got into where you are cosigning or being surety for someone else.  Get out of the unequal yoke business relationship.  People talk about the unequal yoke as being married to a non-believer, but it is really about not being in a business relationship with an non-believer.

But, I believe that the phrase, "get yourself free", is a powerful one that applies to the believer fleeing from sin.  Remember, that we stand against the devil and demons and their attacks (James 4:7), but we flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), and we put to death sensual sins, including greed (Col. 3:5).

Get yourself free from foolish relationships where you have agreed to help someone who is not in a covenant relationship with God or with you, and who is not family either legally, by blood, or through loving trust.  Let go of obligations to people who have not earned your trust and who's obligations entrusted to you could endanger those you are obligated to, in covenant with, and love.