God Hears Prayers

For you answer our prayers.
All of us must come to you.
-Psalm 65:2 (NLT)

Have you ever pondered how awesome it is, that God hears our prayers.  God is the hearer.  He hears.  When he hears, he answers.  He has answered all my prayers.  That is something hard to understand, but it is true.

Where we get into trouble is when we demand our answer to prayer, the answer we want now.  We have to train ourselves to be able to ask for an outcome, but stay deeply engaged to God while that outcome is not happening.

God hears and God answers the prayers of those who are in covenant with him, who worship him and have sought his mercy for their sins.  God never ignores his children, who are living a life of seeking him.  Hearer of prayers, that is God, all the time.

He is listening.  He hears you when you talk to him.  You also do not have to pray out loud for him to hear you.  God can hear your silent prayers as well, even when you do not use words.  This is something we need to know and it will make a difference in how you live your life.

You can live a life of knowing that God hears your prayers.  It is a truth, but you have to bring it to mind and anchor that truth in your heart.

Hearing prayers and answering prayers go hand in hand with God.  God hears and God answers; and God always hears his children who are in covenant with him.  To hear is to answer.

The answer is often different than what we imagine.  What if God himself is the biggest part of the answer to every prayer request?  When God comes, he meets the immediate need and does something transformational.  God answers above and beyond our requests, hopes, and expectations.

What if God is after transformation and Christlikeness in your life?  What if that is the main thing God wants for Christians?  You see the things you want.  You see the situations that you want changed.  But God is after making you into a Christian, one who bears Christ's image, and a person who lives the way Jesus lived, when he walked here as a man.

Those thoughts should blow you mind.  Your human, thinking, brain cannot inherit the kingdom. Your selfish thoughts, based on non-God viewpoints need to go Calvary and be crucified with Christ.  God wants us to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

Our God is "hearer of prayer".  To know that God hears is a powerful thing.  We need to get this.  Our God is Immanuel, God with us.  Talking to God is not like shouting into the air sending a message that you have no way of knowing that it reached the addressee.

Talking to God is like talking to someone who you know is listening, who reads every word, or caught even every silent prayer.  Let that thought settle and sit with you.  God hears and hearing means he answers.

My friend and I used to meet together and pray every week.  One week, we were praying about our requests that had not come to pass yet, and he declared the scripture about how, as fathers, we would not give our children something bad when they ask us for sustenance; and how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to us, who ask.....  so ask.

God is a hearing God.
For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.
-2 Cor. 6:2 (NIV)
God has a time when he acts.  There are times and seasons.  There are "now" times when doors open that we should go through, that we could miss.  What time is it is a question to ask.  There are waiting times, running times, fighting times, and celebration times; to only name a few.  We want to be in step with Gods times and be praying to our God who hears, according to the season.
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Photo credit: Ryan Huguley, 3 Keys to Consistent Prayer

Love and Joy Come To You

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
-John 15:9-12 (NLT)

As Christians, we experience joy and blessing.  But there is also an emptiness, because we seem to leak so much.  So we end up going from meeting to meeting or experience to experience, in order to fill up again.  We can be back to feeling empty within hours or days.

I imagine that there could be many reasons for this, but one key from the Master, Jesus, is found here in John, chapter fifteen.  All Christians have a measure of joy, but there is a life available of overflowing joy, that Jesus declares.

Jesus has just told us about remaining in him.  He says that he is the vine and we are the branches.  The Father is the gardener, who prunes our lives and wants fruitfulness.

Now, Jesus explains what he means by remaining or abiding in him.  It's about his love.  We remain in his love by obeying his commands.  Does he still love the disobedient ones?  Yes. But when we do not remain in his love, like a branch connected to the vine; we will wither and not produce good fruit.

Overflowing joy in your life comes from remaining in Jesus love by obeying his commands.

Being connected through obedience produces joy in our lives.  The disobedient life is not a joyful one.  You can get blessed and feel love and joy from people or from God, but find yourself empty again within a short period of time, if you are not remaining in the Lord, through obedience.

Obedience to Jesus is summed up in his command to love one another.  Overflowing joy comes into our lives through loving our brothers and sisters.  Being loved by God and loving people is the core of the Christian life.  This is also the way to a life of overflowing Joy.

The two go together.  It does not work to be on a God quest, to know God; but not really caring about loving people.  You can go to every conference and have hands laid on you for joy in your life.  But if you do not live a life of simple obedience to Jesus life of love, then joy will not flow in your life.

Loving people is hard.  I remember a lady, from when I was in junior high, who wore a button that said, "I'm third".  I asked her what it meant and she told me it means, "God is first, others are second, and I am third".  It really struck me and I resisted that message, because I was not living that life; but was going towards the selfish path that would lead me to a joyless life.

Loving people is hard if God is not at the center of your life.  I remember a pictograph, from Sunday School, of a chair or throne in the center of your life.  They kept telling me that you have to have God in Christ at the center of your life and not your self.  I was stubborn.

God finally brought me around and saved me from destroying myself and gave me a wonderful life of remaining in Christ, who is completely Lord of my life.  The hard part is to surrender, if you are gripped by fear and control, in your elevation of self.  After you have done that, whether it was hard or easy; the next part begins; and that is loving people like Jesus loves.

If you hold on to Jesus with one hand, you can reach out and love people with your other hand.  Disciples are people who are learning from Christ, how to do this.  There are many facets to love.  Love is kind and patient, but it is also confronting.

Learners, or disciples, are learning the way of loving people.  We are continually in training to move in the opposite spirit of selfishness and are growing in a life of overflowing joy.



The Helper

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of all that I have told you.
-John 14:26 (ISV)

My question is, "do you know the Helper?"  We all need help, to follow Jesus, to obey his commands; and to live the life.  The Father already has sent help for us, to do that, in the Holy Spirit.  Every Christian needs to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a person and he is God.  He is not just power or an ethereal force, but a person.  He is all about Christ, the Lord Jesus.  He is the one who leads all Christians to be Christlike.  He helps us to walk in Christ.

The way that the Helper helps us is to teach us.  He teaches us in our lives, together and alone, with him.  Our lives are his class room.  He is a teacher who gives special attention to each learner, like a mentor, or a counselor.  

He can also be called the Comforter.  As he helps, guides, and counsels each one of us, he is comforting us.  The majority of New Testament  translators have chosen the word comforter to translate the word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit.

We need comforting.  We receive comforting from God and give comforting to others.  

In the Church, we have teaching as a high priority.  We teach and get taught in many different formats.  The Spirit of God is the premiere teacher.  Jesus says that he will teach us and remind us.  Before he tells us that though, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit this special name that is translated helper or comforter.  The name tells you about this person.

If you have ever had a mean teacher, that is a teacher who is not like the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit; because Jesus calls him the Helper or the Comforter.  His teaching, his teaching ways or style, is always helpful and comforting.  He is like a true friend.  

When ministry is about teaching, is our teaching helpful and comforting?  If Jesus described the teacher, who also is God, as helpful and comforting; like a friend (MSG) or counselor (NIV) or advocate (NLT), how does that comport to the teaching ministry in the church?

When people say something like, "wow, the Holy Spirit sure is here today", how does that relate to what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit teaching us?  How do we get from Jesus comforting his first disciples, when he is about to leave them, saying that the Father will send the Holy Spirit, to teach them and remind them of what he has said; to church gatherings today?

Jesus said, "he will teach you".  How does that work in our lives?  How does that work in the greater gathering or assembling of the church?  With all the aspects of the person of the Holy Spirit, described by the words 'helper', 'counselor', 'friend', 'advocate', or 'comforter'; there is one big purpose that he has for us.  That is that he teaches.

There are various ways of learning.  Reading, listening, and doing; are three ways.  The Spirit of God teaches us how to obey Jesus in the doing.  We need to learn what Jesus taught and what he did (Acts 1:1), so that we can know and do.  We have a lot of knowledge that makes us hypocrites because we do not do it.  We read it or hear it.  We think about it.  We believe we believe it.  But we don't do it.

The Holy Spirit teaches us to take Jesus' sayings, his words, or his commands; and do them in our lives.  As a teacher, the Spirit does not just entertain us and stimulate us with his teaching; but he gives us the goods to take home, into our lives.  You walk away from his transformative teaching changed in the way you will now live.  Because he teaches us how to do, not just what to know.

If you are not engaged in an ongoing learning relationship with the Spirit of God, where in he trains you on how to walk in Christ, then you are missing out on your inheritance as a child of God.  It's never to late to start.  Let's pray.



Walk In Integrity, Dwell With The Lord

Eternal One, who is invited to stay in Your dwelling?
Who is granted passage to Your holy mountain?
Here is the answer: The one who lives with integrity, does what is right,
and speaks honestly with truth from the heart.

Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? Who shall rest upon thy holy hill?
Even he that leadeth an uncorrupt life, and doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart.
-Psalm 15:1-2 (The Voice, MSTC(1))

Someone might say to you, that you really need to live a blameless life.  You look back, turning your head sideways in a 'huh?' sort of way and your friend clarifies and says, "I mean walk uprightly!"  You then scrunch your brow, still unsure what they mean.  Is the person telling me to not be the guy who gets blamed and to walk with my head high?

That is the trouble with translations, sometimes.  They use words that we do not use is normal life.  The translators are trying to get to what the meaning is of the original word.  But, I like it when they use everyday words.

Psalm fifteen, two answers the question of Psalm fifteen, one: "Who is invited to stay in your dwelling?"  That is the way The Voice translation says it.  The King James Bible says, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?"  The ESV says, "O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?"    

David is asking the question, "who can be in your presence?"  The answer to that question is what I want to cover.  

The answer to the question of who is invited or who may come into God's dwelling place, is answered in the second verse of Psalm 15.  Most translations say that the one that may come and be intimate or close with God is the blameless upright person.  But, these are words that we usually do not use.

I found a very old translation that has since been updated to modern English and is used in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, called the Modern Spelling Tyndale/Coverdale translation that has the 'blameless' or 'upright' part translated, 'leadeth an uncorrupt life'.

Corruption is when you lie, cheat, or steal.  An uncorrupt person is a person of integrity.  We want leaders who have integrity.  'In integrity' means honest, ethical, and moral.

The opposite of integrity, in one word is, dishonest.  Blameless and upright also mean honest.  Another word to describe a person of integrity, who is blameless and upright and not corrupt, is 'solid'.  You might say that he or she is 'solid'.  That means that the person is stable and true.

We see that David discerned that the people who can enjoy God's presence are honest people.  Their honestly permeates their lives.  They live in truth.  They speak truth and truth flows through their lives.  They talk the talk and walk the walk.  

Hypocrisy is when you say one thing and do another.  It is better to do the right thing some of the time, as in trying and struggling to do right; than to talk truth and not do it.  

If you want to dwell in God's presence, you have to learn to tell the truth and live by and in the truth.  Jesus is, "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).  In Christ, we are learning to live in and through truth.

Some of the cousins of dishonesty are delusion, illusion, and deception.  Delusion is when you believe in something that is false (not true) or when you have unrealistic beliefs or opinions.  An illusion is when you believe in something that does not line up with reality.  Deception is when you are misled by lies.

Some people are living in delusion, illusion, or deception.  These people will have trouble dwelling in God's presence.  We need to rid ourselves of delusions, illusions, and deceptions; in order to enjoy dwelling with God.  

There is a phrase that some people use where they say, "honest to God".  We need to get honest when we go into God's presence.  "What am I delusional about?", is a question to ask.

Pride, which is idolatry of our selves is the core sin.  Adam and Eve fell because they fell for a lie and embraced their own ideas that were contrary to God's truth.  They fell into a delusion  that their pride opened the door to.  Pride is when self takes the throne that belongs to God in Christ.

The Good News Translation gives us Psalm fifteen, verses one and two this way:
Lord, who may enter your Temple? Who may worship on Zion, your sacred hill?
Those who obey God in everything and always do what is right, whose words are true and sincere.
I want to be obedient in everything.  Selective obedience is sin.  I don't want to be someone who says one thing and does another.  I think that we all do not want to be people who have disastrous private lives and picture-perfect, show-lives.  This is the reason for the qualifications lists for elders.

We cannot enter God's presence if we are liars, cheaters, or frauds.  As soon as you repent, you are clean, but if you live in lack of integrity, then you won't enjoy God's presence.


Vindication

From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!
-Psalm 17:2 (ESV)

I want to let God vindicate me. If I have suffered short shrift, I would rather have God set things straight, than fight back myself. An early Church Father wrote, "O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” About this, Oswald Chambers said,
Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, “I must explain myself,” or, “I must get people to understand.” Our Lord never explained anything— He left the misunderstandings or misconceptions of others to correct themselves.
The Jesus Way is not to retaliate and also not to criticize, dismiss, or give up on people who are out-of-line with God.  The Jesus Way is to be in God's presence as a life-style and then receive all from God.

When we live in a self-vindication posture, we are focused on self and on pushing others back.  The alternative is to live in God's presence and take your pain to him and receive life from him.

Is God my provider?  Do I get esteem through relationship with Christ?  Do I speak and minister from the empowering of the Holy Spirit?  Where is my dependency?

People will let us down, misunderstand us, sell us short, and even betray us.  We constantly give out grace and forgive.  We speak the truth, in love.  We might rebuke someone, but not harshly.  We care enough to confront and we humbly welcome confrontation from others.  This is The Jesus Way, living life in the presence, in the face of God.

If we live in God's presence, we have grace for others.  We can be misunderstood and not be put out of commission.  I wish you would get me, but if you don't, my hope is that we can both dwell in the Lord's presence enough to be gracious and know that he will settle things.

It is like saying, "let God be the judge".  Let God arbitrate.  Let us let God give us justice.  When we have had an injustice, we want to let God settle it.  Will we trust him and look to him, or will we be a vigilante and even the score ourselves?

May we look to the Spirit for affirmation and vindication.


See The Harvest

“Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”  But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”  “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.

Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.
-John 4:29-35

People want to see Jesus.  The lady who proclaimed, "come and see",  had seen Jesus herself.  Before she saw the Lord, he saw her, when they were together at the well, in the common place.

He saw things about her and spoke them to her.  She was an outsider, but she was also looking for God.  She would probably never go looking for God at a worship service because she saw herself as unfit.  She avoided the rejection that she saw coming, so she stayed away.

The kingdom of God is about seeing.  There are people, like the lady at the well, that are looking for Jesus.  Christians need to look and see the harvest around them.  Jesus says to wake up and see now.

The harvest is here now.  It always is here, if we will see it.  There are always people who are ready and waiting to see Jesus, if we will go to them.  Some people come to church as seekers, but many people are out there, waiting to be sought.  It is common sense that we must go out to where the harvest is.

_______________________________
The photo above is from Gary Fuller's blog.

Sarcasm

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!  
-James 1:26, 3:10 (NLT)

Sarcasm is something I was curious about.  I use sarcasm.  I have heard it often.  Sarcasm seems to be normal, although annoying, in our culture.  I have been asking why we are sarcastic.  My culture is rich, compared to most of the world, yet sarcasm abounds.

Sarcasm is sugar coated anger.  It is like killing, with a smile.  It is an insult, couched in humor.  Rather than words being used to connect with others, sarcasm pushes others away.  It is the "porcupine hug".

Since the insults and contempt of sarcasm are wrapped up in humor, our guard is down, and the nasty words penetrate deeper, before they release their toxic venom.  We commonly say, "just kidding", or, "I was only joking"; after the damage is done.

We often resort to sarcasm because we are cowards.  Rather than share our hurt or sadness, grief or loss; we instead say something sarcastic.  Rather than being authentic and getting affirmed, or being perhaps confronted and held to account; we spew out sarcastic remarks, with a smile.  This style of relating buffers us from others and leaves us isolated and unhealed.

It seems paradoxical that sarcasm is a form of anger, while anger stems from hurt and fear.  The person who is sarcastic is often hurting or fearful.  We may have learned, in our family of origin, to not express hurt or fear.  We need to learn how.

We also need to grieve.  New life in Christ cannot blossom until there has been death.

Sarcasm is a fruit that is bitter, prickly, or distasteful.  Sarcasm means to bite or tear someone with your words.  A sarcastic statement is a cutting remark.  Sarcasm is stealthy in that the knife is hidden in humor or irony.

Sarcasm is polite insults.  Sarcasm is linked to anger and insecurity.  Sarcasm is a form of passive-aggression.  It is indirect.  The fearful person uses sarcasm, instead of a healthy expression of anger.

Sarcasm hurts when it is cutting or biting, but it is also very disingenuous.  The sarcastic person is avoiding intimacy and closeness.  It is a skunk type behavior used to get others to back off.

Sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor.  You might notice that most sarcasm is delivered with a smile.  Sarcasm is also a form of bullying.  Bullies are really insecure cowards.

Richard Chin wrote:
Sarcastic statements are sort of a true lie. You’re saying something you don’t literally mean, and the communication works as intended only if your listener gets that you’re insincere. Sarcasm has a two-faced quality: it’s both funny and mean. This dual nature has led to contradictory theories on why we use it.
Some language experts suggest sarcasm is used as a sort of gentler insult, a way to tone down criticism with indirectness and humor.
Sarcastic talk is spiritually toxic to the person that practices it.  The venom that comes out of your mouth creates bondage in your life.  The verse, "don't give the devil a foot hold", follows the admonishment to not sin when you get angry (Psalm 4:4 & Eph. 4:26).  In other words, we do get angry.  But, anger is not a sin.  We might get angry because of hurt, fear, or a perceived injustice.  There is a healthy expression and release of anger, but sarcasm is not one of these.

You may have been verbally abused in childhood and have not yet crossed-over from it through Jesus.  You were criticized so much that you have a critical inner self or parental introject, and as an adult you are massively hard on yourself and critical or ungracious towards others, resulting in a temptation towards sinful ways of talking.

Sarcasm is not good, not helpful, and does not edify nor build up others.  Sarcasm is not ok, but is forgivable.  There is no excuse for it.  It needs to be exposed as sin.  We may do a, "there I go again, please forgive me", a thousand times.  But being sarcastic is incompatible with and diametrically opposed to life in Christ.

The hard path that we are called to walk on is that path of radical love that includes radical grace and radical holiness.  This path is not a path of libertinism nor legalism.

We want to be seeking to walk in Jesus' love that is full of grace, towards others and towards our selves.  How can we love our neighbor if we do not love our selves?  Grace has been defined as God's favor and the empowering presence of God.  You can not be gracious unless you first receive grace and you need the presence to be authentically present.

It's all about love and we want to live by and through love.  Sarcasm does not fit in with that life.  It is alien.  When sarcastic words are spoken, our response should be, "what was that?"  It is like speaking the worst profanity.  The next thing we want to hear is an apology.  If there is no acknowledgement, then we have the responsibility to ask for one, saying simply, "excuse me?"

We can also know that sarcasm is a wrong reaction to anger, which is rooted in hurt or fear, much of the time.  Besides being angry, a person displaying grouchiness may also be hungry, lonely, or tired.

You may need to recover self awareness, as part of loving your self, and acknowledging when you are hungry, lonely, or tired; along with being aware of anger in yourself and looking to see if it is rooted in fear or hurt, and then open those rooms in your soul to Jesus Christ.  We need to walk in the fruit of the Spirit which starts with love and ends with self control.


Sky Links 5-15-14

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Sudden Change Words For Now

Doug Addison wrote:
May 14, 2014
May is a time when new things will spring forth and begin to come together. Watch for doors and opportunities to open suddenly. We are entering into a new time of things happening suddenly. Webster’s dictionary defines the word suddenly as “happening quickly without warning.” It is time to be prepared for “Sudden Change.”
Marsha Burns wrote:
May 14, 2014: The changes that have seemed long in coming will now take place in rapid succession. Be flexible. I will carry you through the things that are beyond your ability to control. Go with the flow, says the Lord. There is no need to worry or to be afraid because I am with you to speak to your heart and to give you direction. Yours is only to surrender in obedience. Job 36:11 If they obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.
Gene Redlin Wrote (May 15):
Dime Turns..
I hear the Lord Say.... you don't know what will happen, I do, and this much is sure, your future will surprise you. Some changes you experience will be welcome...others you will wonder why.
Life for you will turn quickly. One event, one situation, one opprotunity taken and you will find yourself in a new place.

Don't say to yourself tomorrow we will go to this city and do that or this. It is enough to plan and be diligent.. yet do not resent the change I bring.. when your life turns on a dime. It didn't surprise ME.
You can trust ME.
Debra Lowe wrote (May 9th):
I hear the Lord saying, a surprise is coming and it is not according to the season of man. For every thing man plans comes from their mind and it is limited, not like My scope. I Am about to do something, a token if you would, to show you that I Am God and that I Am good. It will not come through the hands of normality, it will not be normal, it will not be the way that you planned it! Because I Am about to do a supernatural thing. For all who wait upon Me and put their trust in Me, I Am about to surprise you with good.
Linda Marshall  wrote (May 12):
I had a vision and saw a white kite flying close to the ground, being tossed by strong winds and gusts. Then suddenly, it began to ascend upward off the ground almost effortlessly, rising up higher and higher by unseen currents in the atmosphere. The Lord said, " My winds are blowing across the earth. I am releasing My Spirit, that the work of My Kingdom may be accomplished in this hour."

" I am blowing on hearts today. There are those who have been prepared for this day in order to set the course for the days ahead and My Kingdom advancement.
John Kilpatrick - 100 Days of Redefinement, A Season of Suddenlies (March 1 to June 9):

Sky Links, 5-14-14

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Ministry Trips 


J.D. Greear wrote about the value of short term mission trips.  He is right.  Just do it.  You will never
be the same.
Seeing God at work in the world is one of the strongest motivators to join what he’s doing right here at home.  I don’t know what God will let you experience over there, but I guarantee that once you put your foot on foreign soil you will never be the same.
The rest is here.


Take Up the Towel


Are you an idealist about the church?  Are you frustrated with other Christians seemingly not getting it about adopting the life-style that you see in the New Testament?  Joe Miller wrote a post for those who are ready to "throw in the towel" and just sit on the back row.  Joe's advice:
...your only hope is to extend to those with whom you disagree the same grace that Christ gave you.
We are saved by grace and we learn new things by grace.  Are you the knowledgeable, arguing person; or the gracious person?  We don't want to be codependents, demanding that all the "addicts" see us and our knowledge as their saviors.


Becoming Who God Designed Us To Be

In his post, Listen To Your Life, Adam McHugh wrote that life is about becoming ourselves.  We do need to die to self and take up our crosses and follow, but that does not mean self-annihilation.  God wants us to become who he created us to be.  The selfish and childish must go and the authentic self, that God designed must be found.  Adam wrote:
Your thoughts, emotions, impulses, desires, values, passions, dreams, recurring questions, and bodily responses are significant, are trying to teach you, and are all interconnected. It sounds simple, but some will resist. Occasionally I hear Christians say that the path to spiritual maturity involves “forgetting myself” and directing all my attention toward God, making little of me and much of him. While we aim to glorify God in all we do, the way of following Jesus is not self-abdication. Yes, we set aside what is passing away – the old ways, the old life, the old self – and then we become fully alive by taking on our new creation life, our truest and deepest self. We do not forget ourselves; we become fully ourselves.

Many Leaders Are Not Pastors
  Chad Estes wrote about Why Superman pastors can't Save The Church .
The people who tend to get to the top of the church hierarchy may be called Pastor but this doesn't mean they are actually very pastoral. They may be the best person for leading their congregation in in providing direction, but when it comes to the expectations of providing pastoral care, they will fall short of what many people need/expect from them.
The people who truly are pastoral, and get the title of Pastor, can be burdened with so many of these other leadership expectations that they get too overwhelmed to do what they are naturally/spiritually gifted at. Some of the most pastoral people I have ever met are those who would never qualify for the title because they are too busy taking care of
people to build a church.
I think this job confusion is why so many ministers find themselves out of ministry. It is also why so many people have issues with their pastors.
There is a paradox that sometimes 'pastors' are not pastoral, 'reverends' are not reverent, and 'ministers' do not minister (to heal is what minister means).  There is the idea that the person who has the job, must wear many hats, especially as the pastor of a new church.

_________________
The photo is "We commissioned 5 members this morning for an overseas mission trip" from Dave Black's blog.
The first painting, is from Margaret L. Been's blog.
The second paiting is by Kate Holdsworth.
The many hats photo is from Mark Pierce.

Faithful Trustee

So the men of Kiriath-jearim came to get the Ark of the Lord. They took it to the hillside home of Abinadab and ordained Eleazar, his son, to be in charge of it.
-1 Samuel 7:1 (NLT)

Eleazar got an assignment to be in charge of the Ark of the Lord.  What is your  assignment?  God has an assignment for everyone in the kingdom.  You will be happy doing what God has created you for and assigned you to do.  We all want to find out what our assignment is now and be faithful to that.

Long before the Ark came to their house, God had been preparing or setting apart Eleazar for this important task.  When the time came, there he was.  The ordination, consecration, or setting aside of Eleazar for this task was the "yes and amen" to the preparation he already had, from God.

Today is preparation for tomorrow, even when we do not realize it.  God is developing you.  God is refining you.  If you are a son or daughter, God has been causing you to learn his ways, through discipline.

The Ark went to a place of obscurity, but watching it was a very important assignment.

The Ark of the Lord represents:
  • God's covenant.
  • God's presence.
  • God's power.
  • God's holiness.
The Ark is not itself God, but represents God and must be handled very carefully and reverently.  Just before the Ark was brought to the house of Abinadab, 70 men were killed by God for looking into the Ark.  It is not a vanity piece or a lucky charm, but represents a holy God. 

Eleazar was entrusted with keeping the ark safe.

How long will this last?  We know that it was 20 years (1 Sam. 7:2).

God and Israel are waiting.  God is waiting for his people to turn back to him.  God had raised up Samuel, who was working to turn Israel back to him.  Meanwhile, the Ark sat dormant.

Welcome to the time between the times.  Welcome to the waiting room.  Eleazar, the man who's name means, "God has helped", was entrusted with a task that required faithfulness and steadfastness.

Often in our lives, there is a waiting time.  Sometimes you must wait, because other people you will be partnering with are not ready.  While you wait, there is still plenty to do.  Waiting is always active, as in being a waiter or waitress, who are attentive to serving.  We don't constantly serve, but are continually attentive to God.

We are all called to have faith, as in believing in and for something, through a person, God. Faith grows faithfulness, a lifestyle of faithfulness.  He is faithful and I want to be faithful back.

Can we be faithful to hold onto something holy?  Can we watch over something that has been powerful, but is dormant today?  Can we believe that God is the same today as yesterday?  Can we hold that belief, that faith, about God; God's holiness and God's power, that was displayed in the past?  Can we watch over it and still believe it, when we do not see it or experience it today?

That is the challenge.  


They Will Prophesy

In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.
-Acts 2:18

The church has the birthright to be a people who prophesy.  We are meant to be a people who forth tell the good news and foretell revelations from God.  Secrets from God, will be told by God's people, in this time.

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God would come upon individuals, under certain conditions.  There were a few times when groups of people had the power of God come upon them and they all prophesied, and one of these instances is recorded in Numbers 11.  Joshua came to Moses in alarm and Moses made a telling remark:
"Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit upon them all!" -Numbers 11:29
This is what the prophet Joel predicted that would happen in the last days, that God would pour his spirit out on all people, who would all prophesy.  Joel saw that in the last days, God would pour his Spirit out on all and all would participate in the kinds of things that happen to a person who has had the Spirit of God poured on then, one being, prophesying.

The last days church, which began over two thousand years ago and continues until the second coming of Christ, participates in an ongoing series of outpourings of God's Spirit, for the purpose of worldwide evangelism and mission.  When the Spirit is poured out, God pours his Spirit on all types of people, and they will prophesy.

The outpouring of God's Spirit is for everyone- boys and girls, young and old, men and women, and even for servants.
The Spirit will be poured out "even" or "indeed" on servants, both male and female.  Even the lowest classes will be blessed across both genders.  Two often-ignored groups of people, servants and women, will be included... One final point is that these servants, in contrast to the previous two groups, are described as "my" (uov, mou) servants.... God highlights the special relationship he has to those who tend to be forgotten in the social scale.
-Acts, Bock 

The purpose of all the charisma, including the prophecy gift, is service (1).  All the gifts that God gives, and there are more than nine, are 'charismatic', in that they come from God.  To speak of 'charismatic' and 'non-charismatic' gifts, is not biblical; and all Christians are charismatics because we have all received the gift of the grace of salvation (2).

Prophecy from everyone to one another strengthens the whole church (1 Cor. 14:4-5).  All the people in a gathering can prophesy and minister to visitors or to those in the community (14:24), one by one (14:31).

We know that prophecy is not adding to the scriptures, but it is from God; so what is it?  Michael Green wrote:
Prophecy did not always involve prediction, although it sometimes did.  It was primarily a means of the Lord speaking directly to his people in a particular place for a particular purpose.  It was not couched in mysterious speech, like tongues, but was clearly comprehensible.  The medium of that message might be a picture or a vision.  It might be a dream.  It might be a prophetic action, as in some of the Old Testament prophecies.(1)
There is some confusion today about the gift, the calling, and the ministry of prophet.  Genuine prophetic utterances, actions, or writings are always for the ministering to, as in 'deacon-ing', people.  Prophecy is as simple as being prompted by God to tell someone that God loves them.  If God speaks to you to say that to someone, you just prophesied.  Having a detailed vision or dream about someone and then giving that to them, can also be prophetic ministry.  The purpose is to build the person up.

Some people have said that some people are called to the office of prophet, citing Ephesians chapter 4.  But the word "office" is no where in the text.  It actually says that these gifted people are gifted to equip the saints for the ministry.

We have a mistaken notion that the Ephesian 4 gifts are offices, or officials who boss us and entertain us, or whom we get ministry from.  They are supposed to be trainers who mentor the rest of us to do the ministry.  The Kingdom of God is flat.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.
We are living in those days.  When I went to my first prophecy (spiritual gift of prophecy) conference in 1988, it was facilitated by an equipper who taught  on the gift and then we prayed and prophesied to one another.

When someone is very gifted in the prophecy gift, we have made the wrong assumption that the trajectory of the gift is towards a platform, with a microphone.  The New Testament model, first modeled by Jesus, is to disciple, mentor, and train; then release the person to repeat this with new people.  The original mentor then stands back and can play the role of adviser, as a parent does to an adult child who has moved out and is starting their own family.



____________________________

Darrell L. Bock, Acts
Michael Green, Thirty Years That Changed The World: The Book of Acts For Today
1. Green, p. 197
2. Green, pp. 262-3

Return

"Arcadia" by Karoy Marko, 
She will go after her lovers, but she won’t catch up with them;
she will seek them, but she won’t find them.
Then she will say,
“I will return to my first husband, for I had it better then than now.”
-Hosea 2:7 (CEB)

There is at truth that may seem paradoxical to some people.  It is that to return to God, we do not have to first clean up our act and that we return to God out of pure self-interest.

These were, pretty much, the motivations of the prodigal son (Luke 15).  What is really interesting is that we call it the prodigal son story, but it really is the story of lost and found, with the emphasis on the finding.  If you want to try to exegete a title from Jesus, for that story, it would be, "the two sons".

When Jesus told the parable of the two sons, who do you really think the story was designed for, and where was the 'punch-line' section, in which the listener was supposed to have an 'ah-ha' / 'eureka' / 'epiphany' moment?  I will tell you.  It is when the older brother was mad and refused to celebrate the return of his brother.

We, who are sons and daughters, need to have God's heart towards the people who are choosing a purely sinful life, and pray for their return.  We need to celebrate when they return to God.

Sin does not satisfy.  God will let you pursue sin, but not be satisfied by it.  Pursue, run after, and chase; but there is no peace and no joy.  Sin is not satisfying.  Pick up a biography of any famous person who did not walk with Christ and you will read about emptiness and a never satisfied appetite, delusion, deception, and destruction.

Christians who backslide tell stories of destruction and regret.  But when they return, God restores and revives them.

"While we were still sinners. Christ died for us."  This means that he paid the price for our sins while we were sinning.  It is a deep delusion or deception that Christ's death pays for your sin after you repent.  The full debt was paid before you came to the table.

"Come just as you are.  Hear the Spirit call."  Our only part is to return, to come.  You are ashamed, you feel unworthy, you have regret.  Just come.  Return to God.  Repent.

"But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8)  Sinning makes a person dumb, but then the light begins to come on.  We get it that we need to go back to God.  We see it as a better deal.

Newly born again believers or newly returning people are not expected to be mature.  When you are backslidden or out of the sanctification process and not a disciple, you are completely self-focused and selfish and driven by self interest.  This is not a shock and is to be expected.

The important thing is the returning.  "Come let us return to the Lord" (Hosea 6:1).  After you return, the holiness project begins (not before).  Authentic repentance is a return to the savior.

People in sin return to God, for their own selfish and sometimes good reasons.  But we, the people of God, who have stepped over into God's light, should not call others to return for spurious reasons.  

It is a mistake to call people to repent and return, based on anything other than Christ.  It is a misleading and a false gospel message to promise wealth, health, fame, healed marriages, or that you will now be a winner; if you come to Christ.  That is not the gospel.  The good news is that Christ came to save sinners and we can have a life under his rule and reign.

Rather than promising, "the good life, now", Jesus said to those considering following him to, "count the cost" (Luke 14:28), because it will cost you everything (Luke 14:33).  If you don't give up everything, following him will not work (Luke 14:26-33).

When a person decides to return to the Lord, for their own selfish reasons, they will find that what God offers is even better than they imagine or dream (Eph. 3:20).  They will learn that coming to God is not a good deal, but a life (John 10:10).  Jesus gave his life for us and we give our lives up and over to him (Song of Solomon 7:10).  He makes a mess into something beautiful for him and useful to him (Phil. 3:8).

Come home.  Return.

_____________________________________
The painting above is, Arcadia, by Karoy Marko




The Desolation of Self-Indulgence

The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant."
-Isaiah 5:9 (ESV)

This verse is an indictment from God on some of the large houses and the people who own them.  Some of these houses that were large and beautiful, will become empty and in desolation.  Desolation means ruined, appalling, horrible, destroyed, and wasted.  Desolation is also astonishing.

Prophets have visions they write down that require taking a picture and putting it into words.  Here we have direct words, from God, that came to the prophet's ears.  These words of outrage are ringing in Isaiah's ears.

We usually look at large houses with curiosity and a bit of jealousy.  We think of how good it would be if we were living there.  But, in Isaiah's day, God told him that many houses were in trouble because of the sins of the people who owned them.

People who were at least supposed to be part of the community of God, who were supposed to be monotheists; living before God and walking in an ethical, charitable life of loving one's neighbor; were instead living in self-indulgence.

In his book on Isaiah, John Goldingay wrote, "the problem is the self-indulgence involved in the acquisition, as people (stupidly) create for themselves lonely estates around lonely property instead of gladly sharing with others" (1).

God was exposing the folly and tragedy of self indulgence.  The man who builds bigger grain towers, just for the sake of bigger, is called a fool by Jesus (Luke 12:13-21); because the man's heart was set on 'bigger', rather than generosity flowing from a life of worship.

J. Alec Motyer wrote, "The OT does not condemn or despise wealth but appraises how it was acquired and how it is used" (2).

If real estate acquisition (or anything else) is a higher priority for you than God, than being a disciple and taking up your cross daily and allowing Christ's resurrection life to flow through you, then you are in trouble.

Walter Brueggeman wrote (3) about what was going on with people having these large and beautiful houses, that God was going to judge.  Nothing is wrong with beautiful houses or owning a farm, a factory, or a gold mine.  There was a big problem with the hearts and actions of the owners.  God does not have an issue with wealth, but how you attained wealth and how you use wealth, or how wealth owns you:
"an anticipated lament for those who will come to grief for an inequitable economic practice in which those who are prosperous, aggressive, and greedy eventually confiscate and possess the houses and fields of their more vulnerable neighbors... In prophetic usage this warning does not pertain to particular acts of greed but a general economic policy and frame of reference whereby big landowners buy up and crowd out small farmers in what we might now term agribusiness.  This economic procedure, which destroys the neighborly fabric of the community, apparently was  wide-spread in eighth century Judah and was regarded by the prophets as a grave violation of Yahwism.  They insisted that Yahweh had a stake in maintaining small-scale farming and in resisting large concentrations of land and wealth...
   ...The accumulation and concentration of land, produce, and wealth considered in the first woe invites inordinate self-regard and self-indulgence.  Such foolishly gotten and foolishly used wealth tends to desensitize.  In this case, the woe warns those who become insensitive to the workings of Yahweh in their very midst.  And because this woe stands between mention of "justice" in verse 7 and 16, we may surmise that as the self-indulgent disregard Yahweh, so they likewise disregard their neighbor.  They see and care only for themselves...
   ...The severe and solemn response of Yahweh to this betrayal of Yahwistic neighborliness is twofold (vv. 9-10).  It is anticipated that many "large and beautiful houses," emblems of rapacious economic policy, will be desolate...Thus the threat of Yahweh matches the affront: The big, avarcious landowners intended to become rich and prosperous at the expense of their neighbors, but their own actions and policies would leave them diminished.
There is a good reason why the command against coveting is in the ten commandments.  It is the tenth of the ten and wraps them up:
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”
-Exodus 20:17
Covet means, "yearn to posses or have".  Adam and Eve yearned to posses the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6).  It is the same Hebrew word.  Coveting means that we want something so bad that we take it, in our minds.

Those who take and steal think about taking and stealing long before they do it.  It is the same with adulterers.  People do not suddenly, out of the blue, commit adultery.  They think about it for a long time.  They mull it over and they do it in their minds a thousand times.  That is why God says, "do not covet", and that is why Jesus says that we murder and commit adultery, in our hearts.  It is in the hidden heart where sin begins and must be immediately stopped.

We live in a culture where coveting is the norm.  We want what others have that we perceive is better than what we have.

Martin Luther wrote about covetousness. Wikipedia summarizes him:
"the tenth commandment is not intended for the rogues of the world, but for the pious, who wish to be praised and considered as honest and upright people, because they have not broken any of the outward commandments. Luther sees covetousness in the quarreling and wrangling in court over inheritances and real estate. He sees covetousness in financiering practiced in a manner to obtain houses, castles, and land through foreclosure."

The way of God is to love your neighbor (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:39), and to be generous (2 Cor. 9:8-11, Prov. 11:24-5, 1 Tim. 6:18, Psalm 112:9).

Covetousness is a symptom of a life not rooted in the love of God.

Without God, we are idolaters.  We make idols of things, people, and our selves.  Woe to the so-called people of God, who live a life with their own self-indulgence at the center.  That is the message of Isaiah 5:9.

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1. Understanding Isaiah, John Goldingay; p. 53
2. Isaiah, J. Alec Motyer; p. 70
3. Isaiah, Vol. 1, Walter Brueggemann; pp. 52-3

In Christ, Not Shaken

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
-Psalm 16:8 (ESV)

It is a discipline for every Christian to learn to lead the way of their lives with the Lord.  Jesus is Lord, but we have to make him Lord and walk with him as Lord, every day in every situation.  

We have to set the Lord in front in our lives continually.  Jesus is the great counterbalance to all the challenges in your life.
"Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
-Matt. 11:28-30
When you reach for strength in your life, draw on Christ.  You are weak and he is strong.  He is not shaken and you in him will not be shaken.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
-John 15:5
Abiding in Jesus Christ is the Christian's life.  To live in and by Christ, you must abide in him.  You must intentionally, continually, breathe Jesus into your self.  It becomes second nature, but you must train yourself and you only finish the training when you die.
"I have set the Lord always before me."
There is a principal that what you gaze upon, you will become.  What have you been looking at?  Are you continually putting Jesus before your eyes and gazing upon him and becoming like him, or are you constantly looking upon something else?
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
-2 Cor. 3:18
When you set the Lord before you and draw life from him, as a rock, and you are not shaken; it is not an add-on, but a takeover.  Remember that the one who builds his life on the rock and survives the storms is the one who puts Jesus words into practice (Matt. 7:24).

Jesus is called The Lord because he is God.  Lord means all.  He is Lord, but will I continually make him Lord?  My faith requires action to be proven real.  Here comes a challenge.  Will I set Jesus Christ, my Lord, before my self as the counterbalance?  I die on my cross and the risen Christ lives my life.  If he is set before me and at my right hand, being the one I draw life from, I will not be shaken.  That is good news.