Blessing God, Who Guides in Day & Instructs at Night

I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.
Psalm 16:7

Each of our lives is a life of walking with God.  We serve the one God who is our inheritance.  We continually praise God who guides us.  And while we sleep, God instructs our hearts .

David was on a wild ride.  Many challenges faced him in his life.  He was a man after God's heart.  He was a worshiper.

Blessing

"I will bless (or praise) the Lord", is a declaration of faith.  No matter what happens or what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears, I will bless the Lord.  We are fond of blessing others.  Blessings is a term of charity that means, "may all go well with you", or perhaps, "may grace accompany you", or perhaps, "may God's favor be upon you".

Blessing is the opposite of cursing.  Cursing is to pronounce or wish bad things upon a person.  Cussing and cursing are closely related.  When we cuss we curse someone or ourselseves.

Looking at the opposite gives you an idea what blessing is.  We bless God when we are going through the good and the bad.  God is always worthy of praise because God is always altogether good or lovely.

When you bless someone, you call upon the release of blessing in their life.  Someone is having a hard time or going through something tough and we say, "oh bless you", or "God bless you".

When we are personally going through adversity, we deliberately bless God anyway.  Blessing God opens the door for God's blessings.  We say, "He is worthy to be praised", as we go through difficulty.  That is the way of the warrior, the way of sons and daughters and the way of discipleship.

Disciples are people who learn through discipline.  God often guides us by faith and not by sight.  We are leaning the ways of God.  We are learning wisdom.

Guidance

God guides you as you move forward.  Some people will not start their journey because they don't know the whole route.  God generally does not give you the whole map at anytime, even after you leave.  You will be continually dependent on him in your journey.

"God guides me", means that there will be many pieces of guidance.  You and I may discern where we are going and what the journey is all about, but we will not know all the steps and probably will not know the timing.  

Night School

If you have trouble getting it while you are awake, don't worry, because God teaches you while you are sleeping.  You can rest assured that if you are not certain of God's guidance while awake, God will make it clear and set you straight, while you sleep.

God guides and counsels us every day, to do the right thing and to walk in the blessing.  But, if we are stubborn or resist, God will turn it up a notch and chasten or admonish us through our hearts while we sleep.  In other words, if you have trouble with God's counsel while awake, God will give you some stronger counseling while you are asleep.

God reserves his direct chastisement of you for when it is private.  It is good news that God disciplines those he loves (Heb. 12:6) and we need discipline, as in rebuke, correction, admonition and chastisement.  The person who does not receive these night lessons is in danger on a ruined life and early death (Prov. 19:18).


The Lord is My Inheritance

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!
-Psalm 16:5-6

In marked contrast to chasing after money, believers (disciples) have the Lord as their inheritance.  For true worshipers and for the new covenant priesthood of all believers, the Lord is our inheritance.

The Lord is also our cup of blessing.  We live out of his life.  We have joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8) in him and we also have fellowship with him in his sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

The land, lot, or portion that the Lord gives to each of us is pleasant.  We feel content with it and we don't compare it to other's portions nor to we compete.  There is no greed or competition at the Lord's table.  If you are audacious enough to ask the Lord, "what about him?", he will tell you it's not your business, but to follow him where he leads you.

I heard this verse, "my boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places" (Psalm 16:6), in a sermon by a leader I knew, when he was settling into a new position and a new home.  I did not imagine that from that day to this, he would again move and change jobs three more times.

When David originally penned these words, he was not sitting in a palatial estate.  He was probably in a cave or tent in the desert.  He was on the run, in trouble, and in distress.

David could thank God for his inheritance, the place of it, while living on the run, in deserts and caves.  Even though that leader gave me the impression that he was putting down some roots and thanking God for where he had landed; what he was really saying is that he thanked God for the journey and it's stops along the way.

Inheritance passed down in families is something that the Bible speak to:
Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner's wealth passes to the Godly.
-Proverbs 13:22
Notice that it says that the inheritance is for the grandchildren and not necessarily for the children.  Children are to steward their parents inheritance for their children, while passing on an inheritance to their grandchildren.  Grandparents play a very important role

What if your inheritance was stolen?  What you need to know is that righteousness and justice are very important to God.  Psalm 97:2 says that righteousness and justice are the foundations of God's throne.  All injustices are seen by God.  The Bible says that when something is stolen or taken from you, that it must be paid back seven times (Prov. 6:31).  You can ask God about this.

If you have come from an ungodly family that fumbled the ball and did not leave you an inheritance, or if you were disinherited; you can rest assured and be comforted by the promise to you, from Jesus.  He said that his disciples, who left behind family wealth, would be given more as compensation:

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.

Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God,  will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” -Matt. 19:29, Mark 10:29-30, and Luke 18:29-30
The bridge between what David wrote and the OT texts about justice and what Jesus says about compensation for loss are the phrases, "for my sake", "for the Good News", and "for the sake of the Kingdom of God".

David saw his life through the life of God in his life.  That is how he could say, "the Lord alone is my inheritance."  Job said something similar when he said, "the Lord gave what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21).

Like David, the disciple of Jesus Christ also sees their life through the lens of their relationship with him.  If you walk with him, you will be giving up everything for him, including status, wealth, and relationships, including family.  That is the disciple's life.

But everything you have given up, Jesus says that God will give back to you, many times over.  The catch or key is that to walk in this kind of pay back or compensation, you must be a disciple.

A  disciple is a person who has one God, one Lord, and one Savior.  A disciple is a person who worships one God, one Lord, and one Savior; and gives themselves to no other gods.  A disciple is someone who continually gives up everything to God, for Christ's sake.  And a disciple is someone who takes up their personal cross that brings death to their selves and has sweet fellowship with Christ in their sufferings.

When all those things are in motion in the disciple's life, and you don't have to do it perfectly because its all about grace, then you will realize the rich compensation involved in walking with Jesus Christ and come full circle to David's prophetic words:
Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!



Chasing other gods

Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods.
-Psalm 16:4

God designed us to be worshipers.  God designed us to serve and follow him, and he in turn, takes care of those who have given themselves to him in their whole lives (Romans 12).

It is profound and instructive that the first command is, "no other gods", or, "to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength."

In the world, people worship other gods.  There are many other gods and people give themselves over to variety of them in each of their lives.  Richard Foster wrote about money, sex, and power as being the three greatest challenges to navigate, for the Christian, in his book, The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power.

I am going to focus in on the idol of money.

Thomas Merton wrote, "Money has demonically usurped the role in modern society which the Holy Spirit is to have in the Church."  Martin Luther wrote that there are three conversions that a person needs: "of the heart, the mind, and the purse".

Jesus talked a lot about the dark side of money.  A few examples are:
  • Woe to you who are rich (Luke 6:24).
  • Do not lay up for your yourselves treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19).
  • No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24).
  • It is easier for a came to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24).
  • Take heed, and beware of all covetousness (Luke 12:15).
  • Sell your possessions and give alms (Luke 12:33).
  • Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again (Luke 6:30).
The Bible does not say that money is evil, but that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10) and that greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5).

Timothy Keller wrote:
"The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them." ... "We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life."
How do you know if you are stepping into idolatry? If something (or someone) is more important to you than God, or if it captures your heart and imagination more than God, it is an idol.  If something else takes a controlling place in your life and you are more passionate about it than God, it is an idol. (Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power)

It has been observed that the one of the overarching themes of the Bible is the devastation caused by idolatry (Idolatry, Halbertal & Margalit, p. 10, (cited by Keller)).

Codependency is a form of idolatry, when we either try to fix others or we enable or rescue others and shield them from paying the price for their actions.  In both cases, we cease to partner with God's mission and instead make an idol out of our selves and/or the other person.
The key to happiness is obviously not money, but Christ.  He gives you contentment, which is something you discipline your self to learn.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. -Phil 4:12 (NIV)
The Bible teaches us generosity.  The "give and it will be given" principle means to be generous to others because God has been generous to you, and when you are generous, God always gives back to you, because you can not out give God.  "Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor" (Prov. 22:9), is echoed in 2 Cor. 9:6:
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. -2 Cor. 9:6-8
"Love Jesus and get rich", is perversion and invites a rival god into the believers life.  There are 'gods' of money, sex, and power; for example, in the world, that are not God, but demonic powers and principalities (Col. 1:16).  These things are here, in the world, and when people worship them, by serving them, they gain power in that person's life.

Jesus said, "you cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24).  We all have money and use money.  But, we are not to serve money.  That's the command of Jesus.  We might find this baffling because money is a thing, a commodity.  Jesus is saying, be very careful with money because it has power.
For Christ money is an idolatry we must be converted from in order to be converted to him.  The rejection of the god mammon is a necessary precondition to becoming a disciple of Jesus.  And in point of fact, money has many of the characteristics of a deity.  It gives us security, can induce guilt, gives us freedom, gives us power and seems to be omnipresent.  Most sinister of all is its bid for omnipotence. (Foster, p. 28)
This is why Paul wrote that the love of money is the root of all of evils.  Have you seen a beautiful family destroyed by divorce?  Other idols came into play, but the main reason often is money, and the divorce did not solve the spiritual money problem either.

There is only room for one Lord in your heart.  The person with Lord Jesus is a content person.  Money, and other things like sex and power, for example, and dethroned to King Jesus.  The person who has Jesus as Lord in there heart has a life filled with Jesus.  Money has no power over them.


Eventide Prayer

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
-Genesis 24:63

Eventide is that twilight time, just after and perhaps including sundown.  Eventide also means nightfall or dusk.  It is the most dramatic time of day, only to be outdone by the sunrise in the morning.  Eventide is the most beautiful time of day to be outdoors.

Isaac was not enjoying the light show or the sun sinking away on the western horizon.  He did not see the sky  with the orange and yellow hues giving way to light blues, purples, and darker blues.  Isaac was looking down.  His mind was on something else.

He was meditating.  Perhaps this describes a form of prayer.  It might describe deep thought, as in mulling something over.  There is a kind of prayer where we think about something, but we are not just worrying nor are we trying to figure it out on our own.  In meditation, or deep thought prayer, we take our worries or our problems that we would like solved to God.

Meditation prayer is also prayer that focuses on who God is.  Yes, I want this and that.  Yes, I have needs to pray about.  But I choose to focus on, stare at, chew on, and mull over thoughts of God.  It is a very intentional setting of my thoughts on God.  When I do that, I get in alignment with God.

Isaac went out.  He got alone.  It was just him and nature, as far as we know.  There is something beneficial about getting away to pray.  If you do not have a place to go to, you can create one in your home or apartment.  

On earth, God instituted time.  We have day and night, seasons and years.  There are new days and new seasons.  Old days and old seasons come to an end.  When Isaac saw the camels coming, with Rebecca, at eventide, that signaled the end of his waiting to be married.  The season was coming to an end and a new season was about to dawn.

Everyone has a different waiting period for their promise to be fulfilled, but we all have the same God.  Each of us can take the time and find the space to mull over our unfulfilled promise before God.  We stand in our field and chew on that word, until it is digested, while focusing on God.

Many things in our lives are seasonal and cyclical.  The earth has seasons in time and so do nations and the church does too.  But individuals may be in different seasons.  Figurative sunsets and breaking of the dawn may happen at different times for different people.  We need to discern the times and seasons.

This activity, of going out and mulling things over, with God in view, is not a formula to make our word come to pass, but it is the way to keep our faith in God, in God's faithfulness, alive and strong, until the time of fulfillment comes.  We intentionally engage with our promises, destinies, or birthrights that we believe are ours; and with God.  We do it as a discipline, by faith.

Some quotes on meditation at eventide:

A garment that is double-dyed, dipped again and again will retain the colour a great while; so a truth which is the subject of meditation.-Philip Henry
"It will do us good to be often left alone, and sitting alone; and if we have the art of improving solitude, we shall find we are never less alone than when alone. Meditation and prayer ought to be both our business and our delight when we are alone; while we have a God, a Christ, and a heaven to acquaint ourselves with and to secure an interest in, we need not want matter either for meditation or prayer, which, if they go together, will materially befriend each other. Our walks in the fields are then truly pleasant, when in them we apply ourselves to meditation and prayer. We there have a free and open prospect of the heavens above us, and the earth around us, and the hosts and riches of both; by the view of which we should be led to the contemplation of the Maker and Owner of all." -Matthew Henry
What we all need above all things is to let the mind dwell on Divine things — to be able to sit down knowing we have so much clear time in which we shall not be disturbed, and during which we shall think directly under God's eye — to get quite rid of the feeling of getting through with something, so that without distraction the soul may take a deliberate survey of its own matters. And so shall often God's gifts appear on our horizon when we lift up our eyes...-M. Dods
There is a great difference between reverie and meditation. The one is aimless dreaming, the other, thought tending to an object. Prayer is the thought expressed. Meditation is the "nurse of prayer." Meditation stirs up the spiritual fire within. It brings us nearer to the Divine. It should be cultivated as a habit rather than be left to spasmodic impulses. -F. Hastings

The Resurrection Changes Everything

I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this Martha?
-John 11:25-26

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead changes everything.  Jesus came to save us and give us life never ending.  Stepping into life in him gives you and me life in him, now and forever.  No one else in history has promised that or been able to deliver on a promise like that.  Jesus saves us from death to life, because he is God's Son.

The life in Christ is a resurrection life.  That means that when you step into life in Christ, you begin a transformed life.  He brings things to death and brings things to life in your life.  So, the life in Christ is a life of death, burial, and resurrection.

Jesus said to people who want him, who believe in him, or who want to say, 'I am a Christian'; "take up your cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).  Jesus said that if you refuse to take up your own cross and follow him, that you are not worthy of being his (Matt. 10:38).

Easter is about Jesus Christ's death on the cross and his resurrection from death.  In the Christian's life, Christ brings the Christ follower's life, or self-life: selfish or self-centered life; to death and raises it to become his life.  That is why we are called Christians.

Christians are people who have Christ in them.  We step into his life.  Then, he asks us each to take up our crosses, the instrument of our destruction, and follow him.  The good news is that he is the resurrection and the life, which means he transforms or resurrects our lives into his life.  That is the Christian (Christ-in) life!

His resurrection power changes everything.  He brings life out of death.  He changes me and he changes you.  He makes everything beautiful.

Taking up our crosses does not mean bearing the unique burdens that life hands us.  Life does hand us unique burdens, but taking up our cross means radical obedience to Jesus and his words.  Death to your selfishness and losing your life to find his life will change everything.  You still will have burdens, but your perspective will be changed.  Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

Christianity is all about the resurrection life in Christ.  He changes everything.  He gets to do it because he is God.  He and Father are one.  If you are a Christian, a Christ follower, then you have it settled that Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ, is God.

He has saved you.  But that is the glorious beginning.  The story goes on with him transforming you into his likeness.  He wants to take over your life!  His resurrection power in your life changes you.  It changes everything. 

Sky Links 4-19-14

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Truly,truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it produces a lot of grain.
-John 12:24

He died so we could die

Ben Sternke wrote about dying to self and discipleship.  You Have to Die to Make Disciples:
On Good Friday I’m always reminded of Dallas Willard’s statement that Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we would never have to. Instead, he died on the cross so that we could join him there. Good Friday, when we commemorate this beautiful act of love and sacrifice and atonement, is a fitting time to reflect on the journey we take as leaders.
Ben Sternke writes about how we die when we offer discipleship and how we die some more when we walk beside others.

Plurality of Leadership is the NT model

I was browsing some denominational documents about how to run a church and there was a section on how, in their tribe, that the pastor (solo pastor, senior pastor) is the one who calls the shots, so to speak.  It basically said that each important decision is made by the one person.  The rationale or reasoning behind this was given as that it expedites getting things done.  There wasn't even a fuzzy proof-text from the pastoral epistles.  A note to that line of argument is that Timothy, Titus, and most other names mentioned, were not pastors or leading local churches.

Ron McKenzie wrote in Being Church, about Leadership by Elders:
The New Testament calls for a unique leadership model.  Each church should be led by
the Holy Spirit working through a team of elders who are equal in status, but bring different gifts to the leadership process.  The co-ordinating and directing role belongs to the Holy Spirit.  He should be the leader of each church.
The principal of plurality of leadership is basic to the New Testament.  Each church should be led by several elders working together in unity.  They will submit to each other, by giving others permission to speak into their lives.  Important decisions will require consensus among the elders.  No elder will stand above the others.

Lucas Allen, Giff Reed, and Jordan Warner are three men who are doing this, leading their church together.  Jordan wrote A Case For Shared leadership in the Local Church.  Here's some excerpts:
...In contemporary America, long-standing approaches of plurality in leadership have given way to today’s widespread hierarchical models which establish one person as ultimate authority. This pyramidal model of leadership generally leaves final control of the church in the hands of a senior pastor, who either originally founded the church or was appointed to serve in that capacity... 
...most pastors would shudder at even the mention of the idea of shared leadership, or a plurality of shepherds to oversee each local church. With clever phrases and anecdotes – such as, “anything with more than one head is a monster” – most church leaders brush aside any questions concerning the appropriateness of modern leadership structures. Unfortunately, the rates of pastoral burnout and moral failure continue to shock the body of Christ, all the while putting even greater pressure on those called to shepherd the flock....
...All the while, in its typically soft yet compelling voice, the Bible has something to say about the issue of leadership within the church. In fact, Scripture seems to speak authoritatively and clearly regarding this issue. To begin with, it should be noted that every church mentioned in the New Testament, best as we can tell, possessed an appointed set of elders. Many churches also had members who were pastors. It is significant to note that the title of “elder” denoted a specific office given to help govern the church, while the term “pastor” referred to those who had a spiritual gift of shepherding others (whether in leadership or not). It is important to understand that the leadership of the church was not given to exclusively to those with pastoral gifts, but instead, was placed in the hands of a council of elders with a variety of spiritual gifts. Scripture reveals a consistent precedent in which a plurality of elders was given shared authority over new churches established in the early church....
...From the perspective of the study of God and his revealed will for humanity, it can be demonstrated that shared leadership promotes a healthy response to Christ’s Lordship and encourages Christian virtue.
...a culture of shared leadership encourages the church to view Christ as the head, rather than a senior pastor...
...a plurality of leaders embraces the heart and central theme of what Christ came to do... ...the death of Christ was a redeeming effort that enables each man to be a minister.
The full post is here.


Burnout and Early Body Wear-out 

Eddie Hyatt is a church historian, who cited a letter from John G. Lake to Charles Parham, from 1927. These men were both fathers of the Pentecostal movement. Lake wrote (page 5):
In my spirit I have been troubled about you. The last time I saw you you were too fat. You were eating too much and manifestly you were eating more meat than a man of your years can assimilate without producing
blood pressure and heart strains. I am not aware that my advice or council ever did you only good--that you paid any more attention to it than I have to yours. However, I do want to assure you, brother, of my deep heartfelt and continued prayer for you. I will never forget the man who brought the
glorious message of Pentecost and all that it has meant to both hell and heaven in my life.
Hyatt comments:
Faith does not exempt us from looking after our mortal bodies in this life. Lake reveals that his health is broken and expresses concern about Parham’s health. Interestingly, Parham died 2 years later at the age of 56 and Lake died of a stroke 7 years later at the age of 65.
_____________________________________________________
The picture of the three elders was borrowed from Dave Miller's Baptists and Elders post.

Angry Christians

“You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift.

Be angry without sinning.  Don’t let the sun set on your anger.  Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil.

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints.
-Matthew 5:21-24, Eph. 4:26-7, 1 Cor. 13:4-5

For the Christian, anger has a short shelf life and holding onto it is not permitted.  Anger breeds bitterness, contempt, and murder.  But, the reality is that ninety-nine percent of us will get angry.  When we do, it is a challenge to discipline ourselves to feel it, express it, and release it; without harming others or ourselves.

Jesus is our example of being angry without sinning.  When he drove out the money changers from the temple courts and overturned their tables, he was angry.  Jesus had the authority to do this at the temple.  You might behave exactly the same way if you caught your son or daughter doing something wicked in your own home.

Jesus was saying and you would also be saying, "this is wrong and I will not put up with it....  you are better than this."  Jesus drove out the money changers.  We might drive out someone from our home who is sinning, like an adult child, other relative, or friend; and we might also drive out demons with anger, but without sinning.

Anger is meant to be felt, expressed, and released; without harming others or yourself.  Anger happens and we need to know how to deal with it, but bitterness, unforgiveness, condemning, and contempt are not ok.  The disciple of Jesus is living in the kingdom of God and is governed now by that kingdom and is learning Jesus ways.

The disciple experiences a transformed heart.  Not murdering is not enough.  We must not murder people in our hearts.  Sarcasm and insults come out of a bitter heart.  That comes from anger in the heart that has 'past-due' on its expiration date.

Service to and worship of God are short-circuited by past-due anger.  Reconciliation comes before serving and worship.  God saves us for relationship with him and gives us grace to mend every fractured human relationship.  You show that you are reconciled to God, living in God's kingdom, and are Jesus disciple; by reconciling broken relationships first, before offerings, service, and worship.

Calling people idiots or fools is a bad idea.  Unless it is somehow said with non-condemning, descriptive anguish from us as we believe we are witnessing a preventable tragedy; idiot, fool, and stupid, or worse names are off limits.

What does it mean to be angry, but not sin?  What does it mean to not let the sun go down on your anger?  And, what does it mean to not give the devil a foothold?  It means:
Be zealous in God's cause, but cool in your own.
Let godly fear curb ungodly exacerbation.
Let vituperation cease at nightfall and shake hands. (1)
Those who sin in their anger by not releasing it (feel, express, release) become embittered and irascible, by indulging resentment.  They create a landing pad for the devil to torment them in their lives.

Irritable, quick or hot-tempered, testy, touchy, crabby, grouchy, grumpy, and cantankerous people might have let the devil get a foothold in their lives.  Bitterness births more bitterness.

Once upon a time, this person suffered a loss or an injustice, perhaps.  They may even be embittered with themselves for what they did.  They did not and do not have grace for themselves.  Their sin might have given them shame and the bitteredness leads to more graceless sin and on the cycle goes downward.

Most of us need to develop a more gracious relationship with our selves.  Low self-esteem is manifested both in hatred of yourself and in grandiosity.  Positive or healthy self-esteem is to see yourself in the light of God's love in Christ - a former sinner, now a saint.

Embitterment, resentment, and cantankerous rage do not come from righteous indignation. They come from pride and lack of self-control. When Moses came down from the mountain and broke the sacred tablets, he was righteously indignant, for the Lord. But when he struct the rock a second time, out of anger, that was sin, because it was out of his own impatient irritation with the people.

The "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13, describes God's and Christ's love in the heart of a believer.  The last two points are that love is not irritable (easily irritated) and love does not keep a record of wrongs (is not resentful or embittered).  This sounds the same and "don't let the sun go down on your anger", as in 'shelf life" or 'past due' times.

If you are stewing on anger, you are keeping a record of it, and love doesn't do that.  Get more of that love, God's love in your life, that doesn't do that.  Because if you keep a record of wrongs, you will open the door to the devil.

The way of love is not a law we follow, but it is the life of Christ within us.  We live in his life and when we need more love, more of his life flows into us for the particular challenge we are facing in the spontaneous moment.  Jesus came that we might have life.  His life is lived through your life in the present moment.  Everything you need is always there in Christ in you, the hope of glory.

______________________________
1. The Epistles To The Ephesians and Colossians, NICNT, Simpson & Bruce; p. 108

Who Is This Who Shakes Everything Up?

They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Hosanna for the Son of David!  Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.

And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
-Matthew 21:7-11

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, this final time, a week before he was executed for blasphemy; the whole city was shaken up.  It was a true visitation from God.  God had been revealed through Jesus all along, but when Jesus entered Jerusalem this time, he was revealing himself more than before.  It was known that Jewish kings ride in on a donkey and he accepted praise and worship to himself, from the people.

Moses had stated that a great prophet would come after him and this was part of the messianic expectation.  At first glance, we might think that the crowds were wrong in saying that Jesus was just that prophet from Nazareth.  But to say he is the prophet is to say this is the one Moses talked about (Deut. 18:15).

Jesus accepted worship in that he is called Lord or what he is doing as the Lord's salvation.  Jesus takes authority over the temple courts.  And the blind and lame rush to Jesus and he heals them.

This is all pretty chaotic, when you take in the scene.

  Can you imagine blind people scurrying towards the temple area, bumping through the crowds, to get to Jesus?  Can you imagine lame people crawling towards Jesus?  Could they sense what direction Jesus was, with their hearts on fire?  Perhaps blind and lame people were taken along towards Jesus by friends or family.

Jesus arrives on a colt and spontaneous praise erupts, people spontaneously worshiped him.  All in the city were more than moved, they were shaken.  Everyone was asking, "who is this?"  Jesus presence brings up the question.

Testimony and Salvation Songs

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me.
-Psalm 18:4

Our lives are testimonies or salvation songs and they are still being written.  We all have our songs of deliverance.

The story of my life is his story.  My story is the story of Jesus delivering and saving me.

The Lord saved me from death.

I experienced a season of time when I thought I was going to die.  I was imagining my funeral.  I could feel the ropes of death and the waves of destruction closing in.  But, every day, I prayed for God to save me.

Death was getting closer.  I was like a man moving towards drowning, as the waters were getting more dangerous.  My confusion increased and my foolishness was great.  But I prayed.  I cried out from my weakened spirit, "Lord protect me".

God wanted to do a lot more than protect me, which he did, from death, but not from emotional pain.  God asked for me to surrender my whole life.  No deals, full Lordship.

The worst season of my life was turned around by God into the best season, up to that time.  God gave me such joy in my life that I smiled all the time, involuntarily.  It was not a silly grin, but authentic joy.

Thank you Jesus, for saving me.



Willard: "Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Christ"

If you have known me,
You would also know my Father.
From now on you know him and have seen him.
Philip told him, "Lord, show us the Father,
And that will satisfy us."
"Have I been with you all this time, Philip,
And you still do not know me?"
Jesus asked him.
The person who has seen me has seen the Father.
So how can you say,
'Show us the Father'?
-John 14:7-9

Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Christ, from Dallas Willard
Accordingly, we bring the heart-wrenching goodness of God, his incomprehensible graciousness and generosity, before the mind of disciples by helping them to see and understand the person of Jesus.  On a wearying, dreadful night, Jesus was saying a lot of things that were confusing and upsetting those in his little circle of friends.  Philip blurted out, "You talk about the Father all the time.  Just show us the Father and that will satisfy us" (John 14:8).  Jesus patiently replied, "Haven't you yet understood who I am Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (v. 9).  No doubt Philip and the others experienced this as just too good to be true.  Could the character of God be that of Jesus?  The stunning answer is, "Yes indeed."
The key, then, to loving God is to see Jesus, to hold him before the mind with as much fullness and clarity as possible.  It is to adore him.  For purposes of training disciples, we should divide this into four main aspects.
-Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy, p. 334

The four aspects, from Willard, are:

  1. "Teach his beauty, truth, and power while he lived among us as one human being among others.  The content of the Gospels should be explained and brought to life in such a way that the Gospels become a permanent presence and possession of the mind of the disciple."
  2. "We teach the way he went to execution as a common criminal among other criminals on our behalf.  We don't have to understand how it works.  Anyone who thinks he or she does fully understand what theology calls the atonement undoubtedly has some surprises coming.  Nowhere, is theological arrogance more commonly displayed than on this subject.  But the fact is something that we must always have before our minds....   No one can have an adequate view of the heart and the purposes of the God of the universe who does not understand that he permitted his son to die on the cross to reach out to all people , even people who hated him.  That is who God is.  But that is not just a "right answer" to a theological question.  It is God looking at me from the cross with compassion and providing for me, with never-failing readiness to take my hand to walk on through life from wherever I find myself at the time."
  3. "We teach the reality of Jesus risen, his actual existence now as a person who is present among his people.  We present him in his ecclesia, his motley but glorious crew of called-out ones.  We trace him from those uncomprehending encounters on the first Easter morning and on through the amazingly different historical periods of the church.  But we also show him now active among his disciples.  Who he is, is revealed in a special way in his people.    So, the continuing incarnation of the divine Son in his gathered people must fill our minds if we are to love him and his Father adequately and thus live on the rock of hearing and doing..."
  4. "We must teach the Jesus who is the master of the created universe and human history.  He is the one in control of all the atoms, particles, quarks, "strings", and so forth which the physical cosmos depends... Satan in tempting him claimed to be in possession of all the kingdoms of the earth.  But he was lying, as is his nature.  Lies are his only hope.  It is Jesus himself who is king of the kings of the earth..."
"Thoroughly presented in all these ways, the love of Jesus for us, and the magnificence of his person, brings the disciple to adore Jesus.  His love and loveliness fills our lives."
-Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, pp. 334-6



Sky Links, 4-10-14

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
The rapture

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
-1 Thess. 4:17

Did you know that the doctrine or belief in something called the rapture was first propounded in 1830?  In other words, it is a relatively new doctrine and was not popular, widespread, or written about before then.

When I was a teenager, I started reading popular books that espoused the rapture.  Later, I found out that it is a peripheral, controversial, minority (albeit popular) viewpoint.  Looking at 1 Thess. 4:17 reminds me that this event is Biblical (the catching up of those who remain), but talking about it all the time still seems odd.

Rapture fever has the idea in it that the world is going to hell, so we need to get people saved in time for the soon coming rapture.  Jesus had a message that he preached, which was, "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand".  That's a little different than the rapture gospel.  The main thing about salvation is that the resurrection life of Christ now gets to manifest among believers as the kingdom breaks out on earth.  Jesus today is all about discipleship, kingdom, and mission.  Another angle on the same problem was written about by Ron McKenzie, in a post, mentioned below, Great Brain Robbery.

Whether you believe in the rapture (the left behind paradigm) or if you do not and wonder 'what's up with that?', a place to start and learn is the wikipedia page here.

Who are you under?
But Jesus called the disciples and said, "You know that the rulers of the unbelievers lord it over them and their superiors act like tyrants over them.
-Matt. 20:25

Darren Hibbs has been releasing a lot of material lately.  He wrote a book about the falling and rebuilding of the twin towers in NYC, called The Year of the Lord's Favor?  Darren is an equipper.  His bio on Amazon says:

The fastest way to learn how to hear the Lord for yourself is to expose yourself to as many stories about God speaking as possible. Much of the Bible is not wrote doctrinal statements, but stories about what God did for people. If you want to encounter God more, read more about what He has done in other peoples' lives.
Darren's passion is to write books that help you follow the Lord for yourself.
Darren wrote about the false teaching, that says, "you must be 'under' (in submission to?) another leader (apostle or pastor perhaps?), if you want to be, or want to say you are, or minister as a prophet."
Jesus tells us that we must submit ourselves to one another in the Kingdom of God. Note that He didn’t say this to the random masses who followed Him, but directly to His twelve disciples. Jesus told those men who would go on to become the foundational apostles that their authority and leadership must take on the humility that Jesus’ leadership did.
So this concept of submission to apostolic authority is biblical, but it isn’t just for prophets. It is for prophets, pastors, elders and other apostles. The way of the kingdom of God is that we all “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Any organization that exerts the authoritarian leadership of an “apostle” or “pastor”
over anyone, prophet or otherwise, is on dangerous ground. Paul defended his apostleship, not by demanding others recognize it, but by demonstrating it through suffering and laboring for others. He laid down his life in service of others.
Biblical Submission
So yes, prophets should submit to apostles. And pastors. And janitors. And the sound guy.
And likewise, they should all submit to the prophet.
Out of reverence for Christ, we should all submit to each other. Without that kind of submission, we do great damage to the humility of the church. Scripture does not call us to ask or demand for submission from others, but to offer our submission to others.
There’s a big difference.
The lost message of the church
Then he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
-Luke 9:2

Ron McKenzie wrote about the Kingdom of God message that Jesus preached:
For many Christians, the next big thing is the second coming. They do not mind if the situation in the world gets worse and worse, because they see it as a sign that the coming of Jesus is getting closer. Therefore, they do not really want to see the Kingdom coming closer.
The popular belief that Jesus will return to establish the Kingdom of God is Satan’s greatest lie. He has used it successfully to cripple the church and rob us of our inheritance. He has fooled us into believing that we do not have to have the Kingdom, because Jesus will do it for us when he returns. Unfortunately, although this idea is popular, it is not true.
Great Brain Robbery, by Ron McKenzie.


Frugality
When they were completely satisfied, Jesus told his disciples, "Collect the pieces that are left over so that nothing is wasted."
-John 6:12
The Biblical message and idea of frugality is something all of us need.  God wants us to live in His
abundance, but not loving nor controlled by money and 'things'.

If you want to learn how to be more frugal, check out America's Money Smart Family website.

Notes and Quotes

“If you really want to experience God, then go and make disciples.”
-Francis Chan

If the cross is not foolishness to the lost world then we have misrepresented the cross. 
-Steven Lawson

Sometimes when we’re in transition, which always involves loss, and always therefore involves grief, we make a serious mistake of consciously minimizing the loss, and therefore unconsciously blocking the process of healing from taking place. You can’t normalize the experience of loss until and unless you allow yourself to feel it and own its impact on you. What gets buried alive tends to stay alive to haunt later on.
-Mark Chironna
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Picture credits: 
The man under the black umbrella is from "What is Covering Theology", by Michael Boehm.
The Kingdom of Heaven graphic is from Walking Together Ministries, Wyman Richardson.
The Bible & wallet picture is from Peter Saunders.




You Have Already Got The Gift

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.
-Psalm 139:13-14, Ephesians 2:10, 2 Peter 1:3


God has deposited a gift within each person.  Our job is to unpack the gift of God within us.  Our quest is to develop our gifting. You have already got the gift, but you are waiting for something.  

Perhaps the enemy of your soul has been attacking you and sidetracking you, trying to destroy you right in the area of the gift God has already given you.  God's redemption is greater than the enemy's destruction.  When God recompenses you or restores you, he may even make you better than before you suffered loss, as in compensation for damages.

You are on a pilgrimage.  You are on a  journey.

You might be stuck.  But, God sends people into our lives to encourage us and walk beside us on our journey.

Along the way, we realize that God has already deposited the gift inside us and we need to develop and unpack it.  The Holy Spirit is with us to assist us in the process and God sends mentors and community to surround us and support us in our development.

This concept is reflected in Dewel Bunnel's lyric's for America's song, Tin Man:
But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn't, didn't already have
-Tin Man, by Dewey Bunnel
The so-called Wizard of Oz acted as a confirmer of the Tin Man's gift.  This fellow who wanted a heart already had one that he perhaps could not see.  I imagine that his caring and compassion were displayed again and again, during the journey.  He was actually the opposite of a heartless person!

This is how the dialogue went:
Wizard:  "As for you, my galvanized friend - you want a heart! You don't know how
lucky you are not to have one.  Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.
Tin Man:  "But I - I still want one."
Wizard:  "Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phil....er.....phil...er...er....good-deed-doers and their hearts are no bigger than yours, but they have one thing you haven't got! A testimonial! Therefore, in consideration of your kindness, I take pleasure at this time in presenting you with a small token of our esteem and affection. And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.

A few minutes later, this is said:
Dorothy:  "Oh, dear, that's too wonderful to be true! Oh, it's - it's going to be so hard to say goodbye. I love you all, too. Goodbye Tin Man. Oh, don't cry. You rust so dreadfully. Here, here's your oil can. Goodbye."
Tin Man:  "Now I know I've got a heart, 'cause it's breaking."
The whole journey has always been about being who God made you to be.  Be your self.  You have a special gift from God, that he put there.

Twos

Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed.
-Ecclesiastes 4:9

Two is the number of witness & testimony.  (Gen. 41:32, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:32, Acts 1:10, 1 Cor. 14:27-29, and Rev. 11:3-4).  Two (and three) is the number of people who are mentored or discipled together (Matt 18:20).


When Jesus commanded his first batch of learners, and now all of us to go make disciples, he meant and means to go and make learners out of people, as he first did it with them.  That means close up.  That means questions and more questions from the learners.  That means twos, usually.

My question is, do we get it that there is power in the small?  The twos and threes and fours, and all the way up to twelve.  Maybe we wanted our group to be fifteen, twenty, fifty or a hundred.  Maybe we felt like failures if our whole church was less than a hundred.

Jesus words are still true and still powerful:  "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."  Jesus never said that when you get to twelve, he will be there; or a hundred or a thousand.  He said, "two or three", and we should pay attention to that.

If you have one 'discipler ' for each one 'disciplee', then that is ideal, because the learner will get the most attention.  The two have special learning times together, with the Lord in their midst.  These two are also part of the wider, bigger, Christian community.

It is paradoxical to our minds that what goes on in the twos and threes is actually more important than your time with tens, twenties, fifties, or hundreds.  If you only have the twos and threes in your life, but not the tens, twenties, fifties, or hundreds; then you will be ok and may even be very healthy, spiritually.

On the other hand, if you are part of a ten, a twenty, a fifty, or a hundred or more (only); then, you are missing something.  You are missing discipleship.  Many are part of a Christian culture (in the West) where we don't do twos and threes, in Christ; but we are very committed to Christ in the context of hundreds, fifties, twenties, and sometimes tens.

The ancient rabbis believed that if two sat together with the law between them, that God's presence (the Shekinah) would rest between them.  Jesus says that when we gather, in twos and threes, that he will dwell with us.

Jesus is there when we do discipleship, when we gather in twos and threes, in his name.  To do discipleship means to make disciples and to make disciples means to support and encourage someone in their learning to walk in Christ.  Jesus is the one who does it.  When we come together in twos and threes, in his name, it is for the purpose of him making us like him.

So, when we make disciples, we are intimately following Christ together.  Apostle Paul said this when he said, "you should imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).  Paul wanted to make disciples of Jesus, not himself.  Paul could say that he was like a father or a mother who's passion was to see each one in discipleship with the living Christ.


You Rule The Oceans

You rule the oceans.
You subdue their storm-tossed waves.
-Psalm 89:9

My favorite place to go is to the beach, where I can see and hear the ocean.  Seeing and hearing the ocean always reminds me of how big and how powerful that God is.  The sand also provides a connection for my body with the immensity of the ocean and of God.

During a season of my life, I upped the ante in my love for the ocean.  I added another dimension to it by swimming.  The buoyancy factor of the salt water, along with the tidal flow was very enjoyable for me, and therapeutic or healing for my body, soul, and spirit.  And it was an El Nino season, so the water was very warm. 

I learned how to get away and seek God.  Jesus would get away to a mountain or mountainside (Luke 5:16 & 6:12).  The beach is my place, to get alone; where there are less or no people, and I can seek God there.  Even during the warmest part of the summer, I know the accessible, but lonely places to go, and to get alone.

When I look out to the ocean, it gets me in touch with or re-calibrates me to know just how big and powerful that God is.  In my house or in my yard, it is just not the same.  Looking up to the vast sky is  the next best thing, when I have to stay home.

When I look out to the vast ocean, I always think, and then I say, "but you are so much bigger than the ocean."  Being there centers me in who I am praying to and in that context, I pray.  The sand provides a kinetic experience to connect my body and soul into this place of prayer, that I cannot get anywhere else.

I believe that prayer is more about my coming into God than God coming to me with answers or blessings.  God Himself is the greatest gift and enough.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I come to God with requests, anxieties, worries, and many questions.  The experiences in prayer are varied.  Sometimes God astonishes me.  But the main result is more of God.  The answer to my prayers are always God Himself.  When I get more of God, I get what I really need.

"Let your goodness pass before me, right before my eyes.  Let your kingdom come, your will be done, in this earthen vessel.  You rule the oceans.  You subdue their storm-tossed waves."