Only In Christ Are Walls of Hostility Torn Down and Peoples Made One

So then, remember that at one time,
You were Gentiles in the flesh
—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,”
 Which is done in the flesh by human hands. 

At that time,
You were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 

But now in Christ Jesus,
You who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. 
For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. 
In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations,
So that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 
He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. 

When the Messiah came,
He proclaimed the good news of peace,
To you who were far away,
And peace to those who were near. 
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 

So then,
You are no longer foreigners and strangers,
But fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
With Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. 

The whole building,
Being put together by Him,
Grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. 
You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
-Ephesians 2:11-22


The issue of walls is in the news.  One side says, "build the wall", while the other side says, "no walls".  And Christians are on both sides of this debate.

The side that wants the wall says, "security", while the side that does not want the wall cries, "compassion".  This wall issue goes with the idea of a physical wall towards Mexico as well as 'the wall' of laws and orders, to keep people out, from particular countries.  

The compassion side sees the security side as not only uncompassionate, but also racist.  And the security side sees the compassion side as blind and lawless.  But both sides are right, because security and compassion are both good.

Both having boundaries and mercy is righteous.  And these only come together and stay as one, in Christ.

We can not be blinded to danger by our compassion nor can we become blinded to the need of mercy by hurting people, through our fears.  

As Christians, we have to ask, what is the right way and even God's will?  

Various sides of the body of Christ are having a hard time recognizing one another and coming to the table to talk to each other.  It is tempting to name people who we think are wrong.  But the truth is that we are all wrong, but Jesus is right.  Jesus is the person who is the only answer the the problems in the world today.

And the wisest thing any Christian leaders have said in regards to Trump, it to pray for the man.  Many Christians refused to pray for the two recent democrat presidents and that was wrong, because the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders.

Jesus was the only solution to our troubles, micro and macro; when Obama was president, and likewise now, during the season of Trump as president.  If Hillary had been elected, you guessed it: Jesus would still be our only real answer.

And the point is not to water down Jesus, to make him fit our political predilections, but to die to ourselves and surrender to Jesus as Lord.

My point is that in a world that does not recognize Jesus and what he has done, things are hopeless.  But for whoever recognizes Jesus, as Lord; there is hope.  And we who are in Christ, carry his works into this world, for him and to the glory of God.

Jesus has already removed the wall that separated us, as Jew and Gentile.  He has already destroyed all the 'isms'.  If we take up any of the 'ism's' either as a solution to the world's problems or as controlling principle, we are in trouble.

The gospel is unconditional love through grace alone.  But the only way to have the broken down walls life is through and in Christ.  Gentiles were always welcome and there were always Jewish people who were not true Jews.  Both real Jews and fake Jews put up a wall to keep Gentiles out of God's house of people.

But Jesus came to destroy that wall that would keep anyone out of the house of God's people.  Does that mean that the house or the land (metaphorically speaking) of God's people, now has no wall, no fence or no boundaries?  No it does not.

Jesus is now the door in the wall or fence that separates his people from not his people.  Are you in or out?  The answer to that is all about Jesus in your life.  Jesus is Lord.


This song below, "No Matter What", resonated with me, about this topic.  Oftentimes, love songs are a reflection of God's dealings with mankind.

We live in the paradox, of, "He has done it", and, It is finished"; and/but/while, we must do something.  We must break down the walls and break out of something, because of what Jesus has done and because Jesus is Lord.


Joyful Living

My heart and soul explode with joy- full of glory!
Even my body will rest confident and secure.
-Psalm 16:9 (TPT)

What can I do to cultivate joy in my life?  What actions on my part bring me to a place where joy is birthed and flows out of my life?  What is the source of authentic joy from God?

Have you ever experienced joy, but part of you did not?  That part is like a Christmas light on a string that is burned out.  The electricity passed by it, but not through it.  The electricity touched it, but does not light it up, because it is broken.

Many people have broken places inside.  They experience joy or exhilaration and happiness, but there is a dead place that might be touched but not penetrated.

When we have unprocessed feelings, we can become blocked.  And our soul or our liver does not function properly.  Because of this, we can not experience the joy in life that God wants us to have.

Most of our inside parts of our bodies are hidden from our consciousness, until they cause us pain.  I have no idea if we ever feel our liver, like how we feel our stomachs or feel our intestines or feel our gall bladder.  But even though we do not see it or feel it, our liver is doing it's job or hindered in doing it's job, giving us benefits or problems.

The word rendered soul: "My heart and soul explode with joy" carries with it, the meaning of 'liver'.  We are very comfortable with saying, "My heart broke", or "My heart bursts with love"; and we are not referring to our vital organ that pumps blood, but to our emotional experience.  But, we do not say any such thing using the word liver, and yet it is also symbolic of something, to the ancient, eastern mind.

The liver is considered the "general" or "the chief of staff", in charge of vision and strategy.  From the liver, come the drives of ambition and creativity.  The liver is the processor of our anger, which is normal and is a secondary emotion.

We get angry when we have a loss or when we are afraid or when we lose control.  When we have a backlog of life events that we need to release our anger over, then we end up with seething anger that is out of proportion with slights or offenses in our present lives or irritability.  And all of this might be happening inside us and possibly, unconscious.

Unprocessed or unreleased anger causes headaches and a life that lacks drive or ambition.  A sick liver, metaphorically speaking (like a 'broken heart') results in a life that can not flow in the joy that Psalm 16 describes.

All of this is important, because God wants us to be able to live in joy.  Many people want this joy, but can not keep it going, because they have brokenness, dysfunction or blockage in their souls.  And the soul and the liver are metaphorically connected.

From a life that has a clean and clear soul, comes creativity, drive and ambition.  God wants you to create things.  God wants you to have the ambition to walk into your dreams.  God wants to see you driven to live the life that you have been destined to live.

This is all about your destiny, your inheritance and the gifts that God wants to give you.  This is not about works or 'if I do this, then God will do that'.  This is just about walking on the path of love and blessing that releases explosive joy into and out of your heart and soul, for your blessing and to the glory of God.

With that in mind, let's look at what David says, before he says that he is exploding with joy and has become full of glory.  And I am excited to see how The Passion Translation translates David's words.
Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.
  You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.
  I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.
Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places.
  I'm overwhelmed by the privileges
  that come from following you,
  for you have given me the best!
The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more,
  for your whispers in the night give me wisdom,
  showing me what to do next.
Because you are close to me and always available,
  my confidence will never be shaken,
  for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.
My heart and my soul explode with joy- full of glory!
  Even my body will rest confident and secure. (Ps. 16:5-9)

  1. Inheritance
    • David chose God alone as his inheritance.  Whatever your earthly inheritance, take the stance, like David, of making God your inheritance.  Be so radical as to say, "You alone are my inheritance".  Money is not evil, but "the love of money is the root of all evil".  Do not love or lust for money.  Do not put love of money over love for God.  Always see God first and pattern the rest of your life after and under your love for, allegiance to and worship of God.  
    • Money or fame or power are never to be what drives the believer's life or is the central organizing principle.  Loving God is the bedrock that we build our lives on.  Upon that, we live in contentment.  Joy is given beyond measure to those who make God their inheritance.
    • Since Adam and Eve's fall, we have all lost the inheritance that God has had for us.  Our inheritance is restored in Christ.  We have to partner with God to receive our inheritances.  It is not automatic.  
    • We have to go after it.  We have to have passionate desire for it.  We have to pursue it to find it and receive it.  
    • God is restoring our inheritances to us.  We live in the paradox of going after our destinies but leaving the timing and the 'who', 'what', 'where' and 'how' of it with God.
  2. Walking with God
    • God's pleasant path leads to pleasant places.   The key to a joyful life is to walk with God every day and all the time.  Loving God, being loved by God and then loving your neighbor is really what life is all about.
  3. Living in thankfulness
    • When we practice a life of walking with God, we also are thankful.  We learn that God is good and we are continually thankful.  Every day is thanksgiving and every meal is thanksgiving.  We learn that being thankful cultivates the presence of God in our lives.  
    • This is because thankfulness aligns ourselves with the truth of God.  Thanklessness is actually a sin.  And when we are not thankful, we shut out God and are making a statement that we do not believe in God.  
    • In matters about God and in matters of faith, their is no neutral, passive middle ground.  If we are passive or inactive about thanking God, it really means we are ungrateful and not thankful and do not believe.  To be continually overwhelmed with thankfulness is the normal Christian life.
    • If you are not taken aback at God's generosity, you do not know him and you must not be walking with him and have not made him your sole source in life.  It is hard to be thankful if we have not already seen God as our inheritance and have begun to walk with him every day and in every way.
  4. Being counseled and corrected by God results in more praise
    • When we are secure in our relationship with God, then we can receive counsel and even correction from him and let it have its good and transformational effect on our lives.  When we are secure in God's love, we learn to hear his voice at all times and are attentive to him.  When we securely walk with God, we can hear him say, "you are wrong", or "don't do that", and feel no shame or badness, but only Father's love.  
    • Having God be your father, your mentor, your guidance and your teacher of wisdom and your transformational teacher will cause you to praise him even more.  The child of God lives in a life of continual thankfulness and praise towards God.  We are already praising, worshiping and living in thankfulness when we come together with other believers.
  5. Explosive joy comes from a secure life in the Father's love
    • Believers know God loves them and that is the bedrock of their lives.  Knowing God loves me gives me confidence in life.  All of my anger, from hurts, losses and fears is filtered by my soul that is in God's hands; because I have given it to him and he has me.
    • I have nothing to fear, because God loves me.  I am secure in Father's love.  I have no need to be offended or unforgiving, because I know I am loved.
    • I can take my life that I do not understand, and give it to God as an offering.  I can walk with God through the halls of my heart and soul, opening the doors to the rooms with pain inside, hurt or loss.  I can give everything that holds me back, known and unknown, to God, my redeemer.
    • I can say that God is my portion in this life.  I can say that God is my all and all.  I can say, "He loves me".
These are some of what cultivates a life of joyful living.  This is some of what I can do to have joy.  This is part of how joy can explosively and gloriously permeate your whole life.

Teaching vs. Indoctrination

As usual, Paul went to the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures.
-Acts 17:2

There is a difference between teaching and indoctrination.  Education is not indoctrination.  But some secular and christian education is indoctrination masquerading as education.

If you are a teacher, whether you homeschool your children, teach at the pro level or you teach in your church; it is good to know this difference between indoctrination and true teaching.  Many people are indoctrinated today, rather than taught.

What you might notice, is that when you preach, whether you preach to a crowd or a few, it is easy to be an indoctrinator rather than a true teacher.  True teachers ask people questions and expect them to challenge and debate them.


Teaching

  • Sharing ideas and concepts
  • Teaching is absorbed and integrated into one's own life
  • Concepts or ideas are questioned and debated
  • Material is reflected upon
  • Students summarize back what's being learned
  • Students think about and question the material
  • Material is deciphered into the student's own mind
  • The goal is to impart knowledge or skill
  • The goal is to develop the brain of the student, learning how to think
  • Teachers facilitate learning, coming along the side and training students
  • Students become knowledge seekers and fact checkers

Indoctrination

  • Students told to accept material uncritically, unquestioning
  • Students receive information that they memorize
  • Information is not critically evaluated or judged
  • Students end up saying, "that's just what we believe"
  • No questions or debate
  • Bias is sometimes allowed and even celebrated
  • Students do not make the information their own
  • Opinion and belief is taught or imparted, without objective facts
  • The student is taught what to think
  • Teachers give monologue lectures or speeches
  • Students are influenced to believe or have an opinion that the teacher holds

Auld Lang Syne

Source/Artist unknown
Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.
-Isaiah 43:18-19, Matthew 6:34 and Luke 5:38-9 (The Message)

We are three and a half weeks into the new year.  The big change happened in November and was made official this past weekend.  America said goodbye to one president and said welcome to the new president.

Many more changes are in the air and are coming, as they always are.  God is doing something in the earth.  Trump's ascendency, like it or not, is emblematic of what God is doing.

Jesus has been building his church.  God is ready to pour out new wine.  And new wine always requires new wineskins.

The wineskin is the structure that holds the wine.  The new wine is the brand-new thing that God is doing.  The old structure will not be able to hold, manage or give leadership to the new thing that God is doing.

After taking in the inauguration weekend, I was musing about that song, "Auld Lang Syne".  President Trump's swearing in and his address where the final events of this election season.  But just as important, were the goodbyes and farewells to president Obama.

There has been grace to end a season and begin a new season.  Endings and beginnings are not always this way.  For example, the transition from Saul to David was pretty rocky.

I love this quote:
"The hardest changes are from God's order to God's new order."
-Rich Marshall
"Auld Lang Syne", is a song that is traditionally sang at midnight on new year's eve, bidding farewell to the old year.  It is also sung as a farewell or ending, to other occasions.  These words are in Scots, and could be loosely translated into English as, "For (the sake of) old times".

This brings me to the scripture from Isaiah 43.  These verses basically say that if you dwell on the past, you will miss what is presently about to happen.
"Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new."
Imagine a person who is still talking and thinking about their ex, when they are in a new relationship and you get the picture.

When we have our eyes on what is behind, we do not see what is beside us or ahead of us.  We need to learn to live in the present with God, not dwelling on the past, nor fear-filled or worried about the future.

I love how The Passion Translation puts Matthew 6:33-34:
     "So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God's kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him.  Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly.  Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time.  Tomorrow will take care of itself."

Now is The Time for Words of Grace

No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
-Ephesians 4:29


We live in a time of corrupt, foul and unwholesome words.  In the world of non-believers, 'trash-talking' is commonplace, 'par for the course' and 'normal'.  Believers know better.  And when we do engage in putrid, rotten speech, we apologize.

We, who are all called to be saints, do the opposite of what the worlds does; with our words.  We speak only words that are good words.  We speak what is good to others, for building them up.

In this time, in this climate of rotten words, we will speak with words of grace.

In the world, they tear each other down with their words to one another.  Christians, in contrast, build people up, with their words.

We see and hear what others need.  Then we speak words to people, that build them up, according to that need.  We are encouragers, blessing givers and word of grace speakers.

Everything about us is built on grace.  We are saved by grace and we live by grace.  We also speak in gracious ways.

We speak the language of grace.  We speak gracious words.  We speak words of grace to others, for their building up.

There is a stark contrast of how a believer in Christ functions and how someone who does not know Christ behaves.

In this time, in this climate of rotten words, we will speak with words of grace: To one another and to those we meet.

Epiphany

The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above.
-Ephesians 3:3

Have you ever had an epiphany?  A epiphany is described as:
"a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you" (Cambridge dictionary)
"a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience." (dictionary.com)
When we get an epiphany, we suddenly see something, hear something and know something; and we are catapulted into a different place.  And the natural response to an epiphany is prayer.  In prayer, we receive or take in the epiphany that we have been given and take possession of it, integrating it into our lives.

Our response to an epiphany, that becomes a prayer, is first awe.  Epiphanies make our jaws drop.  We say, "Oh, I see it now".

The 'it' is the epiphany.  Many people have this experience, when they 'get' the gospel revealed to them.  You can have the best theological training, like Apostle Paul, and not get it, until it is revealed to you in an epiphany (Eph. 3:3).

We often do not understand what God is doing in a situation.  It could be in our individual lives or in our nation.  But the epiphany God gives us is intensely personal, because it impacts our individual heart to see as God sees.  We hear it, see it, know it and then pray about it; taking possession of the revelation.

Remember when God said, "This is my Son"?  Some heard it, but didn't hear it.  Some got the epiphany and others did not.  Some just heard thunder.

Jesus himself is the revelation of God.  Since Jesus came, as a baby, many people have not known who he really is.  Some have heard and seen him, but not known.

An epiphany is a grace.  And God gives grace to the humble.  We can humble ourselves or be humbled.

We can bow our hearts and receive.  That posture says, "I don't know and I am curious", or "What I do know is so limited and I want to know more, so my eyes are open, my heart is open, and I am looking."

We, as a people, need epiphanies.  We need revelations about what God is doing.

If we have an anti-supernatural bias about life, we are in deep trouble, as people of faith.  Because faith is completely dependent on revelatory experiences or epiphanies.

Being a believer is neither a social program nor an intellectual/philosophical/religious pursuit.  Being a believer is an ongoing, intimate, personal relationship with the living God, lived out in community with others who also have an ongoing, intensely personal relationship with the God who is alive and still speaks and reveals.

Epiphanies are not writing the Bible, but helping us to know the Bible.

A big and perhaps the biggest epiphany that God wants to give each believer is the revelation of seeing people as he sees people.

In the world, people have a perverse and ungracious way of seeing each other and words for people.  They see the worst, highlight the negative and are completely unloving.

We need, as a people, to get a revelation of how God sees people, what God says about people and to know God's heart for people: believers and not yet believers.

God is 'The God of peace'.  The dark side is very unpeaceful.  We are peacemakers, "Happy peacemakers", because we are daughters and sons of God (Matt. 5:9).

Have you ever had an epiphany, a time when you said, "I get it"?  Have you had your heart changed, by a revelation from God?  Have you heard something, then seen something, then known something and they prayed for the peace in yourself and for everywhere?

Do you know this Christmas song, written in 1962?
Do You Hear What I Hear? (Lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker)
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light


Humbled But Happy

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
-Matthew 5:5 (CEB, NLT)

The blessings of God are laid out sequentially, by Jesus.  They build upon each other.  Each one of these are called by him, 'fortunate situations to be envied': that is what 'blessed' or 'happy' means here.

We first agree with God that we are hopeless and poor without God and then begin living our lives as 'happy mourners'.  We live in the kingdom of God, receiving its treasures.  And we live with broken hearts that are continually comforted by our Father.

After these fortunate states have been established in our lives, we are in a place where we have been humbled.  We now have a measure of humility from which to live.  And the reward for a life of humility towards God is inheriting the earth.

Jesus way and Jesus words are the complete opposite of the way of the world and the way that many in his first audience and today's audience are expecting to do life.  There are several ways we say this today in Christian circles, but what it comes down to is an elevation of self, for the glory of God.

'God loves a winner', really is not the message.  'God loves loves losers' or 'God loves failures', is a lot closer to the truth.  Jesus says, "Blessed are people who have been humbled by God".  We are hopeless without God and we are mourning our hopelessness, and this has been profoundly humbling.

If you have not gotten in touch with your hopeless state and if you have not been grieving your hopelessness; then you probably have not been humbled and this saying of Jesus does not resonate with you.

If it is true that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble, where does that leave the Christian who is not humble?

The most powerful person, who had every reason to be proud, was also the meekest person to ever live.  Jesus is our example, our forerunner and the one who teaches us how to live and then lives that life out through us, as we yield to him.

To the ones who would say that we have to harness politics to get God's way or that we somehow need military or political power to do God's will, comes these words of Jesus:
  • Embrace your hopelessness and encounter the kingdom of God.
  • Mourn the hopelessness and be comforted by God.
  • Let these humble you (be humbled by God) and receive an inheritance of the earth.
Yes, we do get to receive from God.  But the one's who receive are the humbled ones.  In other words, before 'Carpe diem' comes, 'Be humbled by God'.

Most everywhere we look in Christianity and pseudo-Christianity and even in the cults, is this idea that we can do this and God will do that.  There are all sorts of teachings that do not necessarily agree with each other, but they have that same bottom line: do this and God will do that.

But, Jesus says something very different and the whole Bible is behind him.  Jesus says to trust God, follow God, give your whole life to God; because of who God is.  Then Jesus says that we are to stay in that relationship with God as God the God and God almighty, while God does not do what we want him to do, whatever it is, and to stay with God; and thereby be humbled.

Jesus says to let yourself be humiliated by God and to still follow him.  This is a hard saying and Jesus deliberately says these things to wake us up to the seriousness of following him and being his disciples.

I suspect that many Christians are not happy and are not content because they have not gone through the first steps of letting God humble them and have never gotten this message.  

What is this humility, this meekness that Jesus speaks of that we are to have?
  • Accepting God's dealings that are contrary to what I want without complaining, resisting or rebelling.
  • Living in 'Thy will be done', from a bowed heart; toward God.
  • Believing that God is sovereign and has a way that often is not my way.
  • Not being provoked to 'tit for tat' payback.
  • Meeting evil with good.
  • Not being irritable, but being at peace, in God, no matter what people do.
  • Not demanding being, or feeling, entitled to being treated positively by others.
  • CONTENTMENT
    • Always satisfied
    • 'Having nothing, possessing everything.'
    • 'All things are yours.'
  • You can not make yourself meek through a vow of poverty or becoming a monk.  
    • Only the Holy Spirit can make you meek.  
    • You can not do it on your own.  
    • All Christians have The Holy Spirit.
      • The Holy Spirit is our helper who helps us know our hopelessness and points us to the kingdom, and stands by our sides in our mourning, to receive comfort from God; and fashions meekness in our lives in the shape of Jesus.

Preparing For The Rain

You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.
-Psalm 68:9 (NIV)

The rain is coming.  But are we ready for it?  What can we do to get ready?

I would describe what we need to do is to have:
  • Open hearts
  • Outstretched arms
  • Eyes that are open
  • Shoes on our feet
  • Clean hands

Open Hearts

Be reconciled.  Get reconciled with God, with yourself and with others.  Do not have anything against anyone.

Forgive everyone, starting with God. Make sure you forgive yourself.  Get rid of, cleansed of all bitterness.

This heart work may require set aside portions of time now to become aware of your heart problems and get free, get reconciled and purge yourself of spiritual toxins, waste and obstructions.

You may have need of heart warming or palliative care from other people right now.  Your heart disease may be killing you or immobilizing you.  Find out how to reverse the disease and get well and be well and receive from God.

Some hearts are damaged and not functioning properly.  People with these hearts are barely living and walking slow, with chest pain at times.  If this is you, seek open heart surgery immediately, from the great physician.

Be honest about your heart.  Take time off of work and check yourself in for surgery.  Sign all the papers and give Jesus everything and then let him heal your heart.

There may be people you need to talk to or see for reconciliation.  You may need to write a letter to them.  Your being reconciled to them does not mean that things will suddenly be like they were in the past.  Do not insist on that or think you have failed when it does not.

The key is for you to be reconciled to all the people that you have had anything against.  Release them from charges you have held against them.  Cancel their debt to you.

Now you are free and they are free.  If they did want to be close to you again, but they are unsafe for you or are just on a whole different path in life, you can lovingly decline the offer, without there being anything negative about it.  

The matter of the heart is to be loving: love God, love yourself and then love others as you love yourself, based on God's love for you.  In that picture, there are many people that we can not be close to, but we can be reconciled to and hold nothing against them.  

We can not be close to some people, even many people.  But we can be reconciled to them and be willing at any time to be closer to them,  if they become safer to be around, based on God's love in their life.

The rain is going to fall on us, if we avail ourselves to being under it.  And the main place that the rain goes into is our hearts.  Our hearts are living reservoirs or aquifers for the rainfall.

A person who has a closed heart or a calcified, dry heart; may stand in the rain and even dance in the rain.  But they will have little lasting effect from the rain and will not be able to carry the rain to others for any distance.  

The main place where the rain has lasting impact and can be held to give to others is in the heart.  Our hearts must be ready.  Building a man made container to catch, hold and dispense the rain of God sounds like a good idea, but that is not what God wants and is wrong headed.

Get your heart ready.  Get your heart right.  Get your heart healed. 

The rain of God comes upon the whole body of each person.  But it only changes lives when it comes upon and into a person's heart.  And it is through our hearts that we live out Christ's life and share life with others.

Get your hearts ready.  Set aside the time now to get your heart right.  Stop being distracted and get real about your heart today.

There is a time when it is too late.  And you can miss it.  An opportunity for you is imminent and you can choose to miss it if you don't get yourself ready.


Outstretched Arms

Begin today, if you are not already doing so, to be a person who reaches out.  Reach out to give and reach out to receive.  Be less independent and more communal.

Reverse your style of estrangement and isolation from others.  Sharing is a key component to the Christian life.  Share your needs and meet the needs of others.  

Stop being needless.  If you are 'the minister' in your family or community, start letting others minister to you.  You may be the most gifted one, but realize your need for others, for the life in them, for you to be cared for.

Humble yourself by asking for assistance.  Delegate things to others where you have been controlling.

The impact of the coming rain will be spread and multiplied through the web or matrix of our relationships.  This is God's design.  Today, we can be prepared for being missionaries by just being connected to those around us, right under our noses.

Stretching out our arms to touch and be touched by others is preparing a network that God can build upon.  Many of us are like the little boy, who only had a small lunch in a basket; but he offered it to Jesus.  The Lord takes our small things and multiplies them.

It is a grave error to not honor the small things we have and participate in them, offering them to the Lord.  The person who does nothing and offers nothing is a person who has a heart problem and can not be used by God, transformed by God and blessed by God.

We must do business in our very small circles, with our very small provisions or influence now and bless people in tiny ways, if that's all we have got.  All you might have is a smile.  Then give that smile.

We need to extend out arms now to others, so that they will be extended and in service, as bridges and aqueducts; when the rain of God falls.  When the downpour happens, we don't want to then lower our bridges and open our aqueducts and figure out how they work.

Now is the time to stretch out your arms.  Now is the time to reach out to others.  Now is the time to become available.

Now is the time to figure out how your open door policy is going to work or function.  Now is the time to make a path to your door that people can walk on.  Now is the time to venture out of your hiding place.


Eyes That Are Open

After we have got our hearts right and are stretching ourselves to reach out and be available to be touched by others, we need to learn to see.  I grew up in a revival church, where we learned to close our eyes when we worshipped, to focus on God, undistracted.  I also learned to pray for people, hands on, with my eyes open.  I also learned to see with my spirit.

We need to live with God and others, with our eyes open.  Jesus is an eyes open person.  He saw people.

Jesus heart is always wide open to his Father and his eyes are always open to people.  We need to cultivate Jesus style in this.  Some of us do not see people.

Some of us are always struggling to see God and miss all the people.  Some of us are mostly preoccupied with seeing ourselves and with how others see us.  Many of us pass through life with our eyes closed, blocking out the people in the world.

To get ready for the rain, we need to cultivate and learn to live with our eyes open to other people.  We need to learn to be seeing God with our hearts and to be seeing people with our eyes.  We need to not just look at people, but see them with our hearts.

Meet people's eyes.  Look into the windows to their soul.  Learn to do this.

Jesus can look people in the eyes and ask them, 'What do you want?', or, 'What would you like me to do for you?', and we can learn to do that too, as we walk with him in the world.

We so often see people as being in our way.  We so often see and look to see people who we want to get something from.  Instead of this, we need to cultivate Jesus style of seeing people and coming as servants and not to be served.

This is why Jesus said, "Open your eyes and see the harvest around you".  That is what we all need to do right now.


Shoes On Our Feet

Many of us have the wrong shoes on our feet.  We each need to have our feet fitted with gospel shoes.  Many of us are walking through life in an angry rampage and completely misrepresenting Jesus and the gospel of peace.

Take an inventory of your shoes.  Are you wearing the shoes of Jesus or something else you have fashioned?  Do your shoes stomp and kick, allure and purr or are they functional for the bringing of good news to people?

Your shoes can be high fashion, open toed or closed, sandals or boots, athletic or dress up.  What matters is where are your feet taking you?  Your shoes are about where are you prepared to go and what are you prepared for.

One person carries the good news, wearing stilettos; while another person carries the message wearing flip flops.  God fits two people differently, but they have in common that they are prepared to share the good news.  We all need to take care to be ready to share the gospel every day in many different ways, just as we put shoes on when we leave the door of our homes.


Clean Hands

Many of us need to wash our hands.  We have lived lives where we have been doing all sorts of unholy, undignified and unchristian things with our hands.  Two big ones are what you type or text and your pointing your finger in judgement at others.

Christians also take part in many sinful activities that are participated in through using their hands.  The, 'Cleanse your hands you sinner', message of James 4:8, is a message to Christians.  It is not meant to condemn, but is a loving admonition to 'Knock it off'.

Many Christians, from the first century to today, have lived double lives.  We have lived as Christians but not as Christians, in the same lives.  The word of the Lord to us is, the rebuke of, 'Stop it!'

We must stop living on two paths and only cultivate the path of Christ in our lives.  Churches should stop having recovery groups and become recovery groups.

Many people disqualify themselves from being Jesus' hand, because of their hands.  Some have shame and guilt and see no way out of double lives.  But there is grace for escape, deliverance and emancipation.  

Many people who name Christ also need deliverance.  Nothing to be ashamed of, but something to be glad of that is a blessing.  We shouldn't be embarrassed about deliverance, but humbly receive freedom.

If our hearts get made right, if our hearts become cleansed, we will live a different way, exemplified by what we do with our hands and fingers.  Many people do not need deliverance, but need to just begin to learn to walk in Christ, and the naughty stuff, even addictive behaviors will change and just fall off their lives.

Jesus and critters can't live in the same house.  Our job is to open up every room in the houses of our lives to God and welcome him to live there.  Even in the basements and the belfry.  

Happy Mourners

Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
-Matthew 5:4 (CEB, NLT)

Have you wept lately?  Have you wept over your sin?  Have you wept over the sins of others?

That is a mark of an authentic Christian.  If you are not mourning over your spiritual bankruptcy then do not claim to be a Christian.  Grieving your hopelessness is the path of Christ that we walk on.

Being grieved over the sin around us is also the way of life for the disciple of Jesus.  The message of Jesus Christ to the world dying in sin has always been, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand".  This is the message that Christ followers carry into the world today and we carry it and communicate it from broken hearts.

God is not angry at the world, but grieved and broken hearted for a people trapped in sin.  We have the privilege of sharing God's heart of mercy and compassion for the lost.  Our lives are filled with immense joy and sorrow.  Joy over the found and sorrow over the lost.

Anger is not the path to God.  Anger is not the path to righteousness.  But we get very angry at our own sins and the sins of others and are grieved by the hopelessness of lives without God's intervention.

Have you wept over you sinfulness lately?  Mourning yourself is not a bout of self-pity.  Mourning yourself is the cry of your heart for God's salvation to change you.

Imagine that I cry for myself over a failure in my life, saying, "You can do better than that!"  And then I promise myself I will not do that again.  That is not the way of Christ.

Imagine that I weep and testify about how others hurt me or slighted be.  I am entitled to be offended and tell anyone who will listen about my story of aggrievement.  That is not the way of Christ.

Getting stung by unrighteousness in myself or from others and living in the grief of the hopelessness, with my face towards God: that is the way of Christ.

When we seek to cover up our sin, that dressing is our reward.  When we blame or shame we stay the same.  But when we grieve it and leave it to God, we are his children.

God's children rely on God.  God is the only hope for God's children.  God's children look to and receive comfort in their sadness over the hopeless wreck of sin.

Children of God live lives of repentance and rest in Father and are saved.  Children of Father always know that God is good.  We know that Christ has made us his disciples to know his father.

The only way to be saved is to let go of saving myself and turn to God to save me.  The only way to deal with my sin and the sin of others is to turn to God.  The only way of happiness or comfort from sin, poverty of spirit and sheer hopelessness, is God.

The way has been made and it is the way that Christ calls his followers to live in and walk in.  We live our lives in grief and the happiness of the comfort of God.  And we share that life and invite others into that life of comfort and happiness from the grief and hopelessness that sin brings.

We are all beggars showing other beggars where to find the bread.  We are carriers of happiness in sad times.  We carry God's comfort to the grieving.

Mourning and comfort, grieving and being made glad go together.  We are not comforted or made comfortable apart from our mourning.  And we are not made glad or truly happy apart from our grief.

We are neither just happy all the time and never sad, nor are we in permanent gloom mode.  But we are continually having our mourning turned into dancing, through the transformational work of God.  This is the inheritance of the people of God.

We are designed to mourn and grieve when things go wrong, when there is death, dying, hopelessness or rot.  We do not avoid the experience of grieving or mourning.  We do not at all 'glide above it', or, 'steer away from it'.  But believers mourn and grieve often.

Have you wept lately, over your sin or the sins of others?  Have you mourned the lack of righteousness in yourself and the ones around you?  Have you met with God in your grief?

When we are no longer babes in Christ, who only drink milk and need diapers, we walk in the school of Christ, with Christ, as his learners.  And life with others is the class room.  Along the way and even immediately, we will suffer.

There is a saying that says, 'suffering will make you either bitter or better'.  We know that the better way is the way of God, where we look to God in our suffering and God comforts us or makes us glad.

Something bad happens.  A loss, a death, a sin; and you turn to God in what is hopeless and God comforts you.  This is not a 'dashboard Jesus', or, 'I said these affirmations and felt better', sort of thing; but a touch from Father.

I have learned to call it being, 'strangely comforted'.  It does not make sense.  I don't think I am in denial about what just happened.  But I am comforted and even happy, while still sad about the loss.

The highest walk that the road of discipleship leads to is the fellowship in sufferings with Christ that are his.  The shortest verse in the New Testament is one of the most meaningful ones: 'Jesus wept'.  His tears were not out of control, but they also were not just wet eyes.  He burst forth in tears.

Jesus also wept for Jerusalem, about the sinful blindness of missing their day of visitation.  He wept over what he saw coming for Jerusalem.  We would do well to follow Jesus example in mourning for the lost and being sad about the fruits of sin.

The same people called to the mission of spreading the good news about Jesus, all Christians, are a broken hearted people.  We both carry the good news and proclaim it to a lost world and we weep and mourn and live in grief over our sinful state of hopelessness.

We never look down on sinners, ourselves or others.  But love is the name of the game.  The life of Christ is not a life of trying to do the right thing and then feeling ashamed I didn't cut it and then shaming all those out there and in here, who also aren't cutting it.

Shame is when you feel bad and identify yourself as bad.  Shameful Christians feel bad for their sins and try to make others feel bad for theirs.  The shame game is not at all the way of Christ.

The difference is that we do feel bad for our sin and we do feel hopeless about the sinful condition, but we do not identify or take on the identity of being bad.  And while we do realize and sometimes say that what others do is bad, we do not identify them as bad.

But we see people as loved and in need of redemption, salvation and transformation that all comes through God's love in Christ.  In seeing people beginning with our own selves, through love, God's love; we are always vulnerable to being broken hearted over unrighteousness and spiritual poverty or sinfulness.

And we are learning to feel it.  We are learning to experience the sadness in our hearts, from God's heart.  We are living lives where we often weep and mourn and continually turn to God for consolation.  Our lives are full of sadness, as Jesus' life was; but we are also truly happy, like him, because of the love of our Father.

The Generous Life Lived in Mercy

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
-Luke 6:34-38

Three or four years ago, I asked the Lord where we would live in the future, and I heard 'Merced'.  I know that the Lord often speaks to me in 'dark speech', parables or symbolic language and sometimes plainly.  In this instance, I looked up what 'Merced' means and it means mercy.

I want to tell a story from my recent life that illustrates 'living in mercy'.  This story also links generosity with forgiveness, not judging nor condemning and living in a mercy life.  This passage in Luke 6, of Jesus words is an illustration of living in mercy and I would say that, 'Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful', is the key point here that everything else illustrates.

My story is that I have an old friend who took something from me, last year.  He told me, "I took it", and I was surprised he took it and a little offended that he took it, but glad he told me, sort of.  I told him that the item actually belonged to someone else.

It was like I left a plate of cookies out for someone in particular and before they got there another person happened by and took them: a plastic container with baked delights inside.  The next day, my friend said, "Those cookies you left out were good!"  And I said, "Those weren't for you, but I was leaving them out for someone else!"  Then I said, "Please give me the plastic tray back", and they said "OK", but they never gave it back.

And in a little bit of time, I forgave him and released him from any judgement and laughed about it.  I laughed at myself for making a fuss about it.  I began to live in a mercy place towards my friend.

Fast forward to this week.  I was struggling all week, with a problem I was trying to solve.  I was doing something to solve my problem and that same friend dropped by.

We had a re-do of what happened last year, except this time, the 'cookies' had just come out of the oven.  He boldly said, "Can I have those?"  I said, "Yes", and coordinated with him where to leave the 'plate of cookies' when they were ready, because he had to go run some errands.  I saw later, that he had picked up the plate.

Later that day, in the evening, another situation presented itself where another friend of mine needed a favor actually for him and two of his friends, that I could do for them, only if I freely wanted to, but it would take some valuable time for me to do it.  I got a nudge that this would be a generous thing to do, and I did it.  He was very grateful, and thankfully received the gift.

That problem that I was working on earlier in the day was not solved,  and I was disappointed and vexed, but was persevering and planning out my next step, the next thing to try.  After the encounter with my second friend, I tested my problem again, and it had gone away.  And that is when I put this whole picture together.

This particular problem could come back although I hope is does not.  But I can pretty much count on the fact that I will have other problems.  Sometimes life seems like one problem after another.  Every problem is an opportunity to grow in our relationships with God.

When life gives us a negative, God always gives us a positive, like a compensation.  Every problem or challenge has a gift, a grace package attached to it.  We sometimes do not receive it, see it or open it; and instead, wallow in the negative, playing the victim, judging others and even judging God.

Living in mercy is a life of generosity.  And there is a principle that when we are generous, more comes back to us.  It is a matter of the heart and a merciful hearted person is a lender to those who can not repay, a lover of their enemies, who treats them well; and someone who does not at all live, 'tit for tat'.  Merciful people live in the heart of Father who is merciful and kind.

I want to share with you how Brian Simmons translates this passage:
   "If you lend money only to those you know will repay you, what credit is that to your character?  Even those who don't know God do that.  But love your enemies and continue to treat them well.  When you lend money, don't despair if you are never paid back, for it is not lost.  You will receive a rich reward and you as true children of the Most High God, having his same nature.  For your Father is famous for his kindness to heal even the thankless and cruel.  Show mercy and compassion for others, just as your heavenly Father overflows with mercy and compassion for all."
  Jesus said, "Forsake the habit of judging and criticizing others, and then you will not be criticized and judged in return.  Don't look at others and pronounce them guilty, and you will not experience guilty accusations yourself.  Forgive over and over and you will be forgiven over and over.  Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more.  Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top!  Your measurement of generosity becomes the measurement of your return."  -Luke 6:34-38 (TPT)

Enthroned? Abiding and Dwelling: Being With God

May he sit enthroned before God forever.
-Psalm 61:7a

In Psalm 61:7, it says, "May he sit enthroned before God forever", and this word 'enthroned' is used in my HCSB and many other translations, like the ESV, NIV, CEB and the NRSV.  The NLT goes further and has 'reign', and the CEV has 'rule'.  My reasoning is that king David is the author and could there be any influence upon translators from New Testament theology, from Paul, that teaches that we are seated in heavenly places, with Christ (Eph. 2:6)?

Paul also says that believers will judge the world and judge the angels, in 1 Cor. 6:2-3.  These are interesting considerations, but I am going to assume that the translators did not have these New Covenant concepts in mind, when they broke down Psalm 61 into English.  The question really is, "What did David have in mind and how do his words apply to us?"

David's story is that of a humble shepherd who was the youngest of seven or eight sons.  He became, "A man after God's own heart".  He also had a problem on his life's resume, in that he was conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5).  How did he know this and was he ashamed or was he looked down on for this by his family and community?

When David sinned with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up and killed her husband, he reflected on this secret of his 'sinful conception'.  I mention this to point out that David did not have a 'charmed life' and suffered in dimensions of shame and humiliation.  David is a passionate man and a man's man who was a great leader and warrior as well as a guy who had a big heart with big brokenness.  

That all boils down to, "He was a man like us".  He was subject to pride and arrogance, but he also learned humility.  David's psalms are filled with working out our walk with God, in humility.

All that is to say that I think David was humbled by God's grace, favor and blessings upon him.  He said something here, that can can be translated several ways, because Hebrew is wider and deeper than English.  The particular Hebrew word here which occurs 32 times, is translated 'sit', 'sits' or 'sitteth', 11 times.  All the other times, it says things like 'dwell', 'abide', 'remain' and 'live'; and I am only looking at the NASB, KJV and the INT; in my concordance.

I believe that David saw his relationship with God as a bigger deal or far more important than being Israel's king.

I prefer the words 'abiding' and 'dwelling', to describe what I want to do with God and what I hear Psalm 61 saying to me.  Abide ("He shall abide" or "He will abide") is the way that the KJV and the NASB have this line.  'Dwell' is how the Young's Literal has it, as well as the Geneva Bible and the Wycliffe Bible:
Thou shalt give the King a long life; his years shall be as many ages.
He shall dwell before God forever; prepare mercy and faithfulness, that they may preserve him.
So will I always sing praise unto thy Name, in performing daily my vows.                                                                      -Psalm 61:6-8 (Geneva Bible)
Thou shalt add, either increase, days on[to] the days of the king; his years till into the day of generation and of generation. (Thou shalt add days onto the days of the king; yea, year upon year for many generations.)
He dwelleth [into] without end in the sight of God; who shall seek the mercy and truth of him? (He shall live before God forever; may thy love, and thy faithfulness, preserve, and protect him.)
So I shall say psalm to thy name into the world of world; that I yield my vows from day into day. (And I shall sing songs, or praises, to thy name forever and ever; as I offer my vows each day.)                                                                                                                                                                                         -Psalm 61:6-8 (Wycliffe Bible) (italics from the translators) 
 I love, "He shall dwell before God forever", and "He dwelleth [into] without end in the sight of God.  (He shall live before God forever.)"

"Abide" is the chosen word, instead of "Enthroned", in the KJV, NASB and NKJV.  But the one I like and think captures the Hebrew best, combining 'dwell', 'abide' and 'live'; and makes great sense as a current translation for the season that we are in, is The Voice (2012) that goes like this:
Extend the king’s life, day after day;
increase his years for many generations.
May he be ever present before God,
attended and guarded by Your loyal love and truth.

So I will never stop singing Your praise;
as long as I live, I will fulfill my promise.                                                                                                             -Psalm 61:6-8 (Voice) 
This is the backstory on my previous post.  Or some of the study I did to come up with what I said that might have been a leap that did not make sense, since I did not quote the context of the text and talk about the other dimensions of this Hebrew word "yê·šeḇ", יֵשֵׁ֣ב.  I'm not a Hebrew scholar, but just a student.

Yes, get a copy of The Voice or check it out on Bible Gateway.  It is really good.

Mercy season.  Being with God, being in life, living, loving, discovering God's mercy; having mercy on other people.



Here is a song that captures the feeling I have that relates to being with God today.  I like this video of one of my favorite places to be.  And the toy piano, for me, reflects on childlike living.


My Inheritance of Abiding With God

May he sit enthroned before God forever; appoint faithful love and truth to guard him.
-Psalm 61:7

Abiding with God, being guarded by faithful love and trueness is my inheritance.  Sitting enthroned before God is all about God's love and not about me.  God has dealt kindly and truly with me.

God has appointed or assigned to me his faithful love and his true blue faithfulness.  God is forever loving and true to me.  And my inheritance is to abide with God forever.

The desire to abide with, before and in God is not a hope for the distant future, but a declaration of what I want now and forever.  Abiding with God is living in and before God.  Abiding is hiding, but in plain sight.

I abide in God as I live, as I go and as I live my life.  When I cry out, "Take me away, so I can be with You", this is not an expression of a desire for escapism or isolation, but rather a desire to have intimate fellowship with God as I face everything in my life.

I do desire and I do long for and I do look forward to every chance I get to be alone with God and focus all my senses and all my energy on Him.  And I face life, having been in and remaining in God's presence.  The only way to live the life is to abide in Him, remain in Him and face God as I face living my life.

My inheritance is not like a mountain cabin, that I want to get away to.  My inheritance is what He has given me to live in today and into all of the future.  It is what he has given me in my heart.

God's gift is portable and helps me through everything in my life.  Abiding in God is amplified gloriously when I am alone with Him, but the awesomeness or versatility of my possession is that it is mine to take with me wherever I go.

Everywhere I go and in every situation I am a part of, God is there.  God is big, almighty, to be revered and His love for me is steadfast and He is true.  God is 'true blue', truy always and deals with always truly.

God appoints or assigns His steadfast, faithful lovingkindness and His true faithfulness to guard, watch over and protect me.  As I endeavor to abide in God through my life, God appoints His steadfast love and faithful truth as the legs that hold my life up.  God's faithful love and truthfulness are the walls that protect my desire to abide, sit or dwell in His presence.

Sing To God!


Sing to God! Sing praises to His name. Exalt Him who rides on the clouds -- His name is Yahweh--and rejoice before Him.
-Psalm 68:4

I sing a lot.  I think I was born singing.  My mom is a singer who taught me to sing and make up songs too.  She taught me to sing our phone number and address before I could read or write.

One night, last week, instead of worrying, thinking or praying, I just sang, to God.  I just made it up and sang my heart out to God and it was good for me. The next morning, this verse came up for me, that says:

"Sing to God!"

Why sing to God?  It would seem self-evident, but here is why it is a great idea:

  • Sing if you love the Lord. 
  • Sing if you have problems.  
  • We need to sing more. I'm convinced of this. It's spiritually healthy. It's Biblical. 
  • Are you depressed? Sing. 
  • Sing praises. 
  • Sing the truth that you may not feel or believe. 
    •  When you sing the truth, your spirit will say, "amen", and affirm the truth that God is good, no matter what; and whether you expect it or not, there will be a building up inside you that will drive out depression. 

  • Singing praises brings God's presence. If you have not noticed this, take notice. 
  • Singing praises changes the atmosphere here on earth. We live in contested territory. The Devil and all the demons are pushed back by God's Spirit and by God's presence. Praise, singing praises, pushes these negative spirits out and away, like a candle pushes out darkness.
  • When you are in trouble, sing to God. There's no time like when we are under attack to praise the Lord. 
  • When we sing to God, we are opening a door to welcome the Lord into our presence. We are making a roadway. We are making a landing strip. 
  •  Singing to God and praising the Lord releases faith, and God responds to faith.
  • We worship, praise, and sing to God; because we do not know what to do and are at our wits end. 
  • When you are under attack or in a dry and lifeless place, or lonely "nowheresville"; sing. 
  •  Sing to God in that empty place, that depressed place, that hopeless place. 
  •  Sing to God in your mourning. 
  •  Sing your sorrows to God.

  • Singing is very good for our bodies and souls. 
Singing:
  • Reduces stress and improves mood.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Improves breathing.
  • Reduces perceived pain.
  • Promotes learning in children.
  • Promotes communal bonding.

  • When we praise the Lord, we are making a way for him. 
  •  When we worship God, we are opening a door for God to walk through. 
  •  Singing to the Lord invokes the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.
  • When we praise God, we are welcoming him to come and set things in right order on the earth. 
  • When we sing praises to God, we are making a highway for him to come down into the earth.
  • When we praise God and make a highway for him, His presence comes down through the dry places. 

  • When we praise God, praise the Lord; God pushes back the darkness. 
  •  Invoking God through praise is a very powerful weapon of the church.

Sing to God!

____________________________________________________________
All of this content is taken from these previous posts:


50 Things Men Want In A Church

(CC BY-SA 2.0)
I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one.
-1 John 2:13-14

This is a follow-up to my recent post, Why Men Hate Going To Church (notes from David Murrow).  After that post of notes from what I heard David say, the question was, "What do men want or like and what would make them stay in church?"  This list is the answer.

David has a quiz or survey on his website, to determine how 'man friendly' your church is.  An extremely manly church might not be enjoyable for many women or for men who are not jocks, hunters, handy with tools or Nascar fans; to name just a few examples.  But the point made by David is that many of our churches or much of our church culture, in how we function and what we do as the church together, has somehow turned off men, to a large extent.

David's thesis is that if you build a church that is man friendly, masculine or manly; a church that men will come to, then the women will be happy and happily come to that church as well.  Men who become Christians and grow in Christ is a good thing for society.  

Today, a higher percentage of men have given up on gathering with the church than women have.  Just visit churches and see.  And yes, there are some exceptions.

I took David's 50 question survey and these are my answers, from being involved in the church in America.  My answers are my opinion of what I would want and what I have heard from my male friends and from what I have observed in church life.  Women want many and even all of these things too, and an irony is that many churches, run by mostly men, do not offer the things on this list.
  1. Men want a man in the parking lot or near the door welcoming him.
  2. Men want Signage: restrooms, parking, sanctuary, classroom, etc.
  3. Men want Facilities that are in good to great shape (not falling apart). 
  4. Men want a Sanctuary not decorated femininely with quilts, feathers, pastels. 
  5. Men want Men on the stage, if you have a stage, 80-100% men is ideal, but at least over 50%. 
  6. Men want A "buzz" of excitement feeling in the room when they walk into a church, not the feel of a funeral parlor. 
  7. Men want good, or very good musicianship, if there is music.  Men don't want to hear someone sing off key or constantly play an instrument poorly.
  8. Men want less "baby love", "romancing Jesus", "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs.
  9. Men don't want songs where the chorus is repeated more than 3 times. 
  10. Men want sermons that are 15 minutes max and up to only 30 min on extraordinary occasions, unless the speaker is an outstanding orator or very funny. 
  11. Men want (physical) objects inserted into sermons or teaching times and/or film clips to make the point. Words up on the screen or power point presentations don't count. 
  12. Men want masculine metaphors or illustrations given in sermons (battle, sports, adventure, survival). 
  13. Men are not comfortable or into "prayer requests" being shared during worship services. Sharing a crisis request is fine or allowing people to go forward and privately share a request with a prayer minister is fine.  But men are turned off by a bulletin handed out each week that has a full page in small type of prayer requests from members, members families, friends, neighbors and sometimes former members.
  14. Men don't want to see the children perform in front every week.  Men love kids, but prefer that kids performances are once in a while.  Men are fine with children helping lead worship or singing solos.  If the church is a family style worship church, men are fine with children participating 100%, but it is the performances by the kids that men would like to be kept to a minimum (less is more).
  15. Men prefer worship services that last 60 minutes or less. Men are fine if there is a set coffee time before the service or something after the service (meal, food, coffee, a place to talk).  Most men do not say that they wished the sermon had been longer, but shorter.  Men want to get up and move.
  16. Men like to laugh and want to be able to laugh at least a couple of times a week at church. The more funny and the more laughter, the better, for men.  Men like a good joke or a funny story told that makes a point.
  17. Most men prefer racial diversity in a church. The more diversity the better.
  18. Most men do not want to be encouraged or pressured to hug or hold hands with others except rarely. 
  19. Men want to be at a quality event/service. They want time well spent and want to say, "well done", not "amateur hour".
  20. Men would like something unexpected to happen at church, even something so unusual that it is shocking or startling. A church where there is nearly never anything startling or shocking is extremely boring to men. Men like excitement, things that are thrilling (shocking or startling).  Men like to be surprised and have things be different from week to week.
  21. Most men do not want to be at an emotional event/service where it is routine for people to weep, faint and holler emotionally.  Authentic emotions like getting choked up when speaking about something sad, is liked by men though.
  22. If your church has sermons, men want astonishing and challenging sermons, not boring, irrelevant, check-your-watch-is-he-done-yet sermons.  Men say that if you don't have much to say that is compelling, then be honest and say you don't have anything and give the mic to someone who does or keep it real short.
  23. Men want pastors who are manly or jock-like, not Mr Rogers-like; not effeminate.
  24. Same thing, if there is a worship or song leader: manly, jock-like, not effeminate. 
  25. For "men's ministry", men want to meet other men.  Men only want once a week or monthly gatherings or yearly retreats if they are for the purpose of and are vehicles for meeting and knowing other men as brothers, so that small groups, or twos, threes, fours and fives can be formed.  Larger men's gatherings where men do not make friends, find a sponsor or a mentor are missing it.
  26. Men want a church where over 40% of the men are involved in men's ministry, if they have a men's ministry.  If less than 40% of the men join in, then the ones who come ask where are the other men and ask what is wrong and want to have something done to attract more men.
  27. Men want a church where over 50% of the leaders in all areas are men. If you have 40, 30, 20 or 10% male leaders, you will not attract men and your church is in decline or will never grow.  Men want to be led by 50% or more males in the leadership of a church, plain and simple.  This is not a threatening thing to women leaders, but is just how men are wired.  If you have a church where the men simply are not stepping up and being in leadership roles, then that is a church that is not going to draw the majority of men.
  28. Men want to be in a church where over 50%, preferably over 60% of volunteers are men.
  29. If you have a mid-week service or event, men want to see 50% or more males there.
  30. If the church has a staff, men want to see a staff that is 50% or more male.
  31. If there is a men's ministry, men want to see the pastor there always, often or sometimes, if he is super busy.
  32. Men want Children's Sunday School, if you have that, to be active learning and not a classroom lecture.
  33. If you have a youth group (Jr or Sr High) with a worship time, men want it to be kept short: 5 to 15 min at the longest.  We have over emphasized singing and worship to the detriment of our other priorities.
  34. Men don't want small groups where there is a lot of looking up passages and reading them aloud times.  This is fine in moderation but a man does not want to do this all the time in small group.
  35. Men prefer a take charge leader, even one they can disagree with, rather than a soft and gentle man, who seems lost and can't ask for directions.
  36. If your church calls a meeting, men want that meeting to have a purpose and reason or goal that is stated.  How many "very important" meetings have churches called that turned out to be something we already knew or heard last time?  Men are turned off by this.
  37. Men want to be a part of a church that is known or tries and wants to be known in the community.
  38. Men want to be at a church that "makes the news" with something that is going on there, with the larger community, at least once a year.
  39. Men want to join a church that often or always takes risks, does risky things.
  40. Men want a church that men who are unmarried or don't come with a girlfriend or sister would visit and check out.
  41. Men's ministries or ministries that use men's talents that men want in churches are car repair, home repair, strategic planning, financial management, and goal setting.
  42. Men want a church that is 50% or more male.
  43. Men like bigger (mega) churches.  Micro churches have a greater challenge to get men to come and stay, and must ask themselves, "Is this a ladies tea, Bible study or prayer group, that we are expecting the men to join; or do we want a church that men would want to be a part of?"
  44. Men don't want someone up front leading singing or being a soloist who is a bad singer.
  45. Men prefer conservative theology.  This might offend liberal or progressive Christians, but it is true.  Think Orthodox when you see 'conservative' and not Fundamentalist (bigot).
  46. Men prefer casual or anything within reason and good taste, for Sunday dress. Casual jeans and t-shirts over dress up.
  47. Men want leaders who delegate responsibilities to others and share responsibilities and do not like a one-man-does-it-all style of leader that is like a dictator.  Men like take charge leaders who are great at delegating and sharing the work and the responsibility and then the rewards and fruit.
  48. If a church's particular ministry program is outdated, poorly run or not producing much fruit, most men would say kill that program.  
  49. Men want a pastor or preacher who often, even every week, says controversial things, taking a stand that might offend some people.
  50. Men want congregational life to happen outdoors often or even all of the time and not once a year.  Men like having church outside, in the open air.

Happy Are People Who Are Hopeless

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
"God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
-Matthew 5:3 (CEB, NLT)

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10, are a list of blessed facets of the followers of Jesus.  But "blessed" is a  word that we have to make sure we understand.  Jesus is not talking about the person whom God blesses, but is describing a happy person, a fortunate person: "someone who is to be congratulated, someone who's place in life is an enviable one" (RT France, Matthew, p. 108, 1985).

The second part of this saying, usually translated "poor in spirit" (Blessed are the poor in spirit) has to do with poverty inside of us.  Poor people have a frame of mind that comes from their destitution, desperateness and their experience of oppression: "Happy are the oppressed", is the way Donald Hagner has translated Matt. 5:3 (D. Hagner, Matthew, p, 87, 1993).

We can easily step back and hear Jesus say these words to other people, poor people or bummed out people, and wonder, "how on earth do his words apply to my life?"  But, Jesus is saying that the happy person, with the fortunate life, is a person who has poverty inside of them.

How can hopelessness equal happiness?  How can happiness come out of hopelessness?

I want happiness and I want good fortune.  Yes I do.  Jesus is saying that these come from hopelessness: being 'poor in spirit'.

"I'm not sure what you mean by that, Jesus"

When someone says, "I am just so blessed", and they point to their children, their home, their friends, their church or their good health; that is not at all what Jesus is referring to here.  Jesus is stating that the happy person who has the happy life is the radically humble person: hopeless.

Without hope in myself equals the happy life, and the life of good fortune.   And that life is the doorway into the life in the kingdom of heaven that starts now.

Our hopelessness in ourselves is magnified when we look at Jesus, and not the other way around.

Some of us are not hopeless in ourselves, when we look at Jesus Christ.  We say, "He is our hope", and I believe that.  But we get into deep trouble in how we seek to commoditize Jesus and take him into our lives for unlimited success.

We are saved, born again believers.  We get it about Jesus and we say He is Savior and Lord and we are committed to Him and His cause in the world.  And we are discovering how we fit into the world now as Christians and we are going to take Jesus or His message to wherever we are going.

We are going to leverage our talents, our education, place in the community: everything we have for God, for Christ.  We are pumped, excited and so ready to go.

That person is excited to sit down with Jesus and show him his or her plans.  We ask Jesus to get into our car or truck and take him around our property or job site or factory site or place where we are going to build for Him, for His glory.  "Look at what I am going to do for you, see my degrees, my resume, my connections that are all gonna be used for the mission."

Take that person, and go back to the mountain and sit and hear Jesus, with all his other followers.  Hear Jesus say these words:
"Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs."
Again, I am thinking that this might not be for me.  But it is for me, because he looked me in the eye when he said it.  I still do not understand. 

Jesus is teaching something profound.  He is explaining how being in the kingdom and being his disciple works.  And we have to be careful not to just see and hear Jesus as our teacher, but as our Savior.  He is not  just a teacher, but our Redeemer.  He has come to make us what he teaches we should be (Chambers, My Utmost, p. 203).

It is also impossible to understand or experience this word, outside of Jesus accomplishing it in me, because I have to unconditionally surrender all of my life and every asset and liability to him, for any of his words to work in my life

If you are not born again, born from above or saved: if you are not a believer who has put your faith in Christ; the Sermon on the Mount will read as an idealistic philosophy.  And you will muse, "that is interesting", and believe that, "perhaps some saints down through the ages attained it, but it is too hard for us."  And if part of you wants to follow this Jesus, you end up feeling bad because what he asks and says about his requirements for his followers is pretty much impossible.

And the other road that people put themselves on is a road where we tighten our belts, seek to put steel in our spines and trudge on and into Jesus commands and teachings.  We think we are having victory and do the "look mom, no hands!" thing, but we are following the path of self-righteousness and our hearts are cold.  When we do this, the Lord might set us up for heartbreak or put up some obstacle, to get our attention and to get us in touch with the real hopelessness in "doing it for ourselves", so that we might turn to him and be saved.

If we miss this entryway, this path, then we will misunderstand all of Jesus words that follow.  We need to understand what it means to be a blessed person who is poor in spirit or a happy person who lives in the reality of the hopelessness in themselves, in order to live the life in Christ.

To better understand what Jesus meant and how it applies or works, I want to share a number of quotes from Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), who was a Welsh Protestant preacher, minister, and medical doctor.

These quotes are from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, Chapter Four, Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit; pp. 42-52, (1959, 1993):
  • There is no one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit.
  • All other characteristics are the result of this one.
  • We cannot be filled until we are first empty.
  • You remember the words of Simeon concerning our Lord and Savior when he held Him as an infant in his arms?  He said, 'this child is set for the fall and rising of many'.  The fall comes before the rising again.  It is an essential part of the gospel that conviction must always precede conversion; the gospel of Christ condemns before it saves.
  • I would say that there is no more perfect statement of the doctrine of justification by faith only than this Beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
  • This is the foundation for everything else.
  • It condemns every idea of the Sermon on The Mount which thinks of it in terms of something you and I can do do ourselves, something we can carry out.  It negatives that at the very beginning.
  • The Sermon on The Mount , in other words, comes to us and says, 'There is the mountain that you have to scale, the heights you have to climb; and the first thing you must realize, as you look at the mountain which you are told you must ascend, is that you cannot do it, that you are utterly incapable in and of yourself, and that any attempt to do it in your own strength is proof positive that you have not understood it.'  It condemns at the very outset the view which regards it as a programme for man to put into operation immediately, just as he is.
  • You will never find a greater antithesis to the worldly spirit and outlook than which you find in this verse.  What emphasis the world places on self-reliance, self-confidence and self-expression!  Look at its literature.  If you want to get on in this world, it says, believe in yourself.
  • If you want to succeed in a profession, the great thing is to give the impression that you are actually more successful than you actually are, and people say, 'That is the man to go to'.  That is the whole principal on which life is run at this present time-- express yourself, believe in yourself, realize the powers that are innate in yourself and let the whole world see and know them.
  • Now in this verse we are confronted with something which is in utter and absolute contrast to that...
  • What does it mean to be poor in spirit?... To be 'poor in spirit' does not mean that we should be retiring, weak or lacking in courage.
  • To be 'poor in spirit' is not a matter of the suppression of the personality.
  • It was the spirit of a man like Gideon, for instance, who, when the Lord sent an angle to him to tell him the great thing he was to do, said, 'No, no, this is impossible; I belong to the lowest tribe.'
  • You find it in David, when he said, 'Lord who am I that thou should come to me?'
  • You get it in Isaiah in exactly the same way.  Having had a vision, he said, 'I am a a man of unclean lips'.  That is to be 'poor in spirit', and it can be seen right through the Old Testament.
  • But let us look at it in the New testament.  You see it perfectly, for instance, in a man like apostle Peter, who was naturally aggressive, self-assertive, and self-confident-- a typical modern man of the world, brimful this confidence and believing in himself.  But look at him when he truly sees the Lord.  He says, 'Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'
  • ...being 'poor in spirit'.  It means a complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance and self-reliance.  It means a consciousness that we are nothing in the presence of God,  It is nothing, then, that we can produce; it is nothing that we can do in ourselves.  It is just this tremendous awareness of our utter nothingness as we come face to face with God.  This is to be 'poor in spirit'.
  • It is to feel that we are nothing, and that we have nothing, and that we look to God in utter submission to Him and in utter dependence upon Him and His grace and mercy.
  • Am I like that, am I poor in spirit?  How do I really think about myself when I think of myself in terms of God, and in the presence of God?  And as I live my life, what are the things I am saying, what are the things I am praying about, what are the things I like to think of with regard to myself?
  • How does one become 'poor in spirit'?  The answer is that you do not look at yourself or begin by trying to do things to yourself.  That was the whole error of monasticism.  Those poor men in their desire to do this said, 'I must go out of society, I must scarify my flesh and suffer hardship, I must mutilate my body.'  No, no, the more you do that the more you will be conscious of yourself, and the less 'poor in spirit'.
  • It is also to look at the Lord Jesus Christ and to view Him as we see Him in the gospels.  The more we do that the more we shall understand the reaction of the apostles when, looking at Him and something He had just done, they said, 'Lord, increase our faith.'  Their faith, they felt, was nothing.  They felt it was so weak and so poor.  'Lord. increase our faith.  We thought we had something because we had cast out devils and preached Thy word, but now we feel we have nothing; increase our faith.'  Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by ourselves, and in and of ourselves,  and the more shall we become 'poor in spirit'.  Look at Him.  Keep looking at Him.  Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used.  But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself.  It will be done.  You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness.  Then you say to Him,
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling
  • Empty, hopeless, naked, vile.  But He is the all-sufficient One-
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come



-Quoted from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, pp. 42-52, (1959, 1993)