His Work and Your Work

I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  -John 17:4

Did you know that God has work for each one of us?  It is work to be started and finished by the time our lives are over here.  How many of us live with this awareness?  Part of the meaning found in life is through doing the work that God assigns to each one.

You might cut grass or lead a large company and the only thing that counts is are you doing what God has given you to do unto God's glory.  Is God being exalted through your work?

Did you know that the whole point of your life is God's glory?  It is the same as Jesus life.  God gave you this life to glorify Him.  How is that going?  We were not put here to figure things out or to live for pleasure.  We are here to participate in God's kingdom and bring glory to God.  Jesus showed the way and that is the path that we are all to be on.  The path of glorifying God.

We glorify God on earth by completing the work that God gave us to do.  God gives everyone work to do.  Do you know what God has given you to do?  What is your task?  What is your assignment?  We are saved unto good works.  You may describe your work as plural or multifaceted.  God has works for you.  

One man might be married, have children and grandchildren, lead a business, and lead a ministry.  Like Jesus, his primary focus in life is to follow God and glorify Him.  He has multifaceted work that God has given him to do.  Another person may be in mid-life and single with no children.  God gives this person work as well.  Both people are equally God's children and on earth and in heaven, their pay is the same in God's grace and love.

Jesus came to the end of his life on earth and he could say that he had finished the work God gave him to do.  Will you be able to say that?  Do you know your life's work and purpose?  Or will you be filled with regrets if you die any time soon?

Jesus was so present-future oriented that he could say that he had finished the work God gave him, even before he went to the cross, died, and rose from the dead.  Jesus had his "eyes on the prize".  The path to the cross is very painful and the cross itself was among the worst pain a human can experience.  The word excruciating comes from the pain of crucifixion.  

Jesus knew the torture that was coming.  He was aware of it.  As he got closer, he prayed to the Father and asked if there was any way to avoid it, but there was not and Jesus was obedient to let himself be tortured to death for the sins of the world.  And on the cross, Jesus declared, "it is finished".

We also have suffering to bear as we accomplish our work.  Heartbreak and "mission accomplished" go hand in hand.  God will supply the grace that is needed to accomplish the task, job, assignment, or work that He gives you to do.  We work out what He works in (Phil. 2:12-13), and remember that, "the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6)

The graphic art picture above was borrowed from this article How to Recognize Your Life's Work
by Neal Skorpen.

The Great Unknown: Jesus Christ

If you have really known me, you will also know the Father.
From now on you know him and have seen him.
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.”
Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
-John 14:7-9 (CEB)

One of the great paradoxes are Christians that don't know Christ.  

It is a mystery and an enigma how people could be Christians, "in name only".  It is a conundrum and a puzzle to both the onlooking world and to Christians who do know Christ and have made him their Lord and Savior, walking in a mutual knowing discipleship relationship with Jesus through all their days.

Many people who call themselves Christian are truly longing to know and to see God.  

"Some day, I will see God when I get to heaven!", a self-identified Christian might say.  Another Christian might say, "I hope God shows up at church today!", or "I am traveling to this conference or meeting to get a touch from God".  They sit in the audience and hope for Moses to lead them to the mount of God or for Moses to share some of the presence of God that he or she got on their mountain.

Jesus tells Philip and he tells us that we are not in the old paradigm any more. 
If you have really known me, you will also know the Father.
From now on you know him and have seen him.
Jesus has come to reveal God.  Today, by his Spirit, he is with every believer.  He also ministers to each one through his body.  Moses and Elijah are gone.

Jesus is the head of His body. 

What if we recognized Jesus as God and Jesus as the head of his body, the church; and then saw leaders in the church as hands, feet, arms, legs, necks, or backs?  All of the body is a supportive structure for the head.

What if the place God is leading us to is a place where leaders are "faceless".  What if the body was so supportive of the head, that when we experienced the body, the church, that the main thing we would see and walk away with was a lasting impression of Jesus?

In the New paradigm, the New Covenant, we are each and all the house of God.  

We don't go somewhere geographic to find God.  God is dwelling in us, with us, and among us all the time.  When we do meet up or gather with other believers, we come from having been with God.  We come together fellow-shipping and mutually edifying one another.  We celebrate and we strategize about how to "take it to the streets" and win others to the love of Christ.

"Come let us go up to the mountain of our God and worship the God of Jacob", and "I rejoiced when they said unto me let us go to the house of the Lord": had very different meanings before Christmas and after Easter.  The mountain of God is now in your living room, your back yard, your neighborhood; it is wherever you go, if you are God's child.  You also are now the house of the Lord.  He dwells in you.  To go there is to step inside or to welcome Him who is already there.

A great leader of our time said, "the meat is in the street".

It is a gargantuan mistake and spiritually blind to not see God and know Him in everyday Christian life.  God is at the beach, in the mountains and desert.  God is at the local coffee shop and God is in your living room.  Invite Him to show himself there to you and yours.  God is very much out there in the streets as well.

The invitation still stands to know Christ and in Christ to know God.  You just have to say yes and begin the relationship.

Cry With Those Who Are Crying

Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying.  -Romans 12:15

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort.  He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.  That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Jesus wept.  -John 11:35 

The Bible teaches people of faith to be "come along side" people.  We are sent into the world, into people's lives.  The Gospel is the good news.  Good news is good news to those who are in a bad place.  Christ is light to the darkness.  We, as believers who carry Christ, are meant to shine in darkness and bring light.  The light of Christ is not just belief and teaching, but presence.

Christian people carry Christ and all the good news contained in Christ.  We have received the greatest comfort and the comforter, the Holy Spirit.  God so loved the world that he sent Jesus.  Jesus so loves the world that he sends you and me, as the Father sent him.  Jesus taught and preached, Jesus healed and cast out demons, Jesus made disciples, and Jesus spent time with the Father in prayer.  But that's not all Jesus did.  Jesus was constantly among the people.

What did Jesus do among the people?  We have a number of stories.  He listened and responded and spoke and was just there.  Jesus whole life was incarnational and Emanuel.  God came and lived a life among us and God was with us.  It is still the same today.  God's people, Christ-In-them (Christians) people, are meant to carry Christ to a battered and dying world.

Jesus didn't invite people to his meeting, Jesus met with people.  We invite people to share in the relationship with God through Christ.  The way we do that is to go into people's lives and bring Christ there.  Sooner or later, we invite the person to share life with other believers in a community of mutual edification and discipleship that is mutually nurturing.  Then that person who has newly received Christ goes and shares this life in Christ (good news) to those in their lives (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers) that do not have it.  This is how Jesus builds his church, his assembly, his gathering, his legislative apostolic body.

Jesus is the incarnation.  The Christmas story is that Jesus came to our lost and dying world to save it, by being born into it.  He did not just "beam down" like in a science fiction sense or appear as angels do.  He could appear like an angel and he did that and does that.  But to save the world, he did not do it that way and He is our model on how God uses us to bring people to salvation.

"As the Father sent me, so I send you into all the world, to make disciples of all nations."

We, as Jesus' people, have to get into, come alone side of people who are hurting.  We need to weep with those who weep and offer comfort as comforters.  We have received comfort and from that comfort, we can be comforters.  This is the christian life, going into all the world, "as the father sent me so I send you".  We are all missionaries.  The mission is love, sacrificial love.

We all are called to enter into other people's hard, painful, mournful, sick, and even demon possessed worlds; in order to bring the love of Christ there.  You are Jesus' hands and feet, arms, face and eyes.  Use these instruments of God's comfort to be with people.  Come along side the crying world and cry with them.

Mooring The Mourning

When Job’s three friends heard about all this disaster that had happened to him, they came, each one from his home—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuah, and Zophar from Naamah. They agreed to come so they could console and comfort him.  When they looked up from a distance and didn’t recognize him, they wept loudly. Each one tore his garment and scattered dust above his head toward the sky.  They sat with Job on the ground seven days and seven nights, not speaking a word to him, for they saw that he was in excruciating pain.  -Job 2:11-13

Do you want to help a person in mourning?  Do you want to be a friend to someone you love who has just suffered great loss?  Do you want to minister to and show the love of God to someone who has just had a tragedy?  Be with them and don't talk to them.

You might need to say something, like, "I'm here'', but no advice, no counsel, and no pontifications.  When the person in mourning speaks, just listen.  No dialogue, no back-n-forth, no point and counterpoint.  It's time for their monologues, time for their letting forth of raw emotion, rational or irrational.  No correcting, just listening.

Job's three friends did this.  They agreed to come.  They may have made an appointment with Job, with Job's wife or brother; or they may have made an appointment among themselves.  They acted.  You, the friend or family member or minister, must act and clear your schedule, and make your arrangements.  The mourner or family might call you.  Make it happen, the best you can, and go.

Job's three friends had the aim to comfort and console Job, but without words.  Some of us love words.  We love to read, write, or talk.  During raw crisis or deep loss or tragedy, personal sympathy is first expressed by presence, by being there, by being next to.  No advice, no pontificating, no trying to fix them, no trying to get them over it and moving on quickly.

The person who is suffering loss does get to talk as much as they want to, if they want to.  They might speak out "what if's", "if only's", "I wish I had or had not", and "why" questions.  Your job is to listen.  Just listen.  Be in the questions now with them.  This is part of their process, not yours.  You may have many answers and many questions answered in your mind, but keep your mouth shut and let them do their personal grief work.  Their statements may seem to be a dialogical question to you, but they are really not.  Your only intervention is to keep the mourner from harming themselves or harming others in their grief.  Mooring the mourning.

Real sympathy is when you mourn with the mourner.  Their loss is your loss.  The mourning person is the leader in mourning and you follow them into their pain.  To see someone in their state of mourning is comforting to them,  Are you seeing them without trying to fix them or process the pain away?

Comforters come along side and stand with the person(s) in loss, with them in there space.  We hold them up, we keep them from being washed away.  Consolers and sympathizers are there with, in the space of; standing or sitting with, the mourner; mooring the mourning.

-This post was first published in 2012.

Want Revival? Read The Word

The Lord’s Instruction is perfect, reviving one’s very being.  The Lord’s laws are faithful, making naive people wise. -Psalm 19:7

We want revival.  We have heard about past revivals in the church and pray for a new one.  It is already here.  I am not referring to a set of meetings, usually with a guest speaker; but there is nothing wrong with that.  

Some say that the church doesn't just need revival, but needs awakening.  Our nation has had great awakenings in the past and I agree that we need another one.  But that is not my message today.

We each need reviving daily.  We get that by reading God's word.  To not read the Bible is a grave mistake for the believer.  It does not matter what stream you are a part of in Christ's church.  You need personal revival daily, which you can get through reading, studying, and chewing on the Bible.  

God's word satisfies your soul.  The more you partake of it, the hungrier for it you get, until your appetite is voracious.  You might treat yourself to servings from various parts of God's word and have a buffet, or you might savor one chapter or one verse.  You might read large portions fast or memorize single verses slowly.  You might read different translations side by side.  It's all good.  The important thing is to do it.  Just eat the food of the word.

The Christian who does not look at, read, or listen to the Bible, the Word; is going to be emaciated spiritually.  Getting into the word revives you and restores you.  It brings you back to life.  It centers you back on God.  The Christian who has not learned to do this is like a person who is malnourished.  That person is like a person who is susceptible to and contracts diseases that the rest of us never worry about.

People who are "Spirit-filled" believers, charismatics, or Pentecostal Christians; who believe in personal and corporate revival through moves of the Holy Spirit in their meetings are deceived if they do not read their Bibles at home.  According to the Bible, they are fools.  Don't be a fool.  Read your Bible and get revived daily, whatever your style of worship gatherings.

"Revival meetings" where the Bible is not spoken, are suspicious because the Bible is the Holy Spirit's favorite book.  The, "this is that", word(1.) is naturally spoken when there are movements of the Holy Spirit.  I am not saying that scripture should be quoted throughout ministry time, but there is nothing wrong with it.  If the Spirit is authentically moving, "this is that", inspiration would naturally flow.

Young and old Christians who are learning to move in the power of God in ministry with the Holy Spirit ought to learn the Biblical basis for it and see and read about what they are doing, in the NT.  Not a problem that they might learn to minister before they learn the Word.  That is called discipleship and the first movers in power learned that way and didn't even have the completed NT that we have.

We all need daily revival of our very beings, our souls, and we can get it through the Word.  Enjoy your life.  You might enjoy your programs on the tube or your other reading material.  You might enjoy the radio.  You might play games or be social.  But it is the word of God that gives us life to live by which you take with you into all your relationships and living.  You and I need that restoring of our souls into our relationship with God before we go out into all the other things we live in, and then life works and we make better choices and might come back to the Word for seconds and thirds, rather than eating "empty calories" or toxic things.

1. Acts 2:16

Worshiping in Sad Times is the Most Authentic Worship

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces!
My very being longs, even yearns, for the Lord’s courtyards.
My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God!

Yes, the sparrow too has found a home there; the swallow has found herself a nest
where she can lay her young beside your altars, Lord of heavenly forces, my king, my God!
Those who live in your house are truly happy; they praise you constantly.

Those who put their strength in you are truly happy; pilgrimage is in their hearts.
As they pass through the Baca Valley, they make it a spring of water.
Yes, the early rain covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength, until they see the supreme God in Zion.
Lord God of heavenly forces, hear my prayer; listen closely, Jacob’s God!

Look at our shield, God; pay close attention to the face of your anointed one!
Better is a single day in your courtyards than a thousand days anywhere else!
I would prefer to stand outside the entrance of my God’s house than live comfortably in the tents of the wicked!
The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory.
The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity.
Lord of heavenly forces, those who trust in you are truly happy!
-Psalm 84

Are you suffering?  Are you in exile?  Are you living in disappointment?  Has your world been turned upside down?  Are you bereaved?  Do you feel lost?  Are you on the outside?  Are you chased by depression?

Dwell with God.  Turn your heart toward home.  Refocus your desires.  Walk toward God.  Dwell with God where you are.  Worship God in your loss, your ruins, your dark day.  Worshiping in sad times is the most authentic worship.

We might think of worship as thanking God for the good things, the blessings.  "Thank you for the people in my life, the wealth, the food, the protection, the success.  Thank you, I am so thrilled Lord to have all this good from you.  Thanking you, I worship you for the comforts, the peace, the positives in my life; oh I praise you for these."

We might even weep tears of joy while we worship God, thanking him for his favor.  I shop and buy things I thank the Lord for.  I have many friends.  A few have not worked out, but many people like me.  I praise the Lord for this.  My children are growing up into God and serving the Lord.  I praise God for that.  I also praise God for good health and a happy marriage.

But what about when life is bad?  Cancer, divorce, lay-offs, war, poverty, betrayal, theft, death, loss, loneliness, interpersonal conflict, rejection, slander, and other disasters.  Can you worship when these are in your life?  Worshiping in sad times is the most authentic worship.

When we are on the outside of the good, in the midst of the bad, the right focus is on God.  Seek to dwell, then dwell with God.  Dwell with God, worship God in the crisis, in the loss, in the negative experience.  Worshiping God in the sad times is the most authentic worship.  Have you experienced the sacrifice of praise?  Do you present you body as a living sacrifice?

When you worship God, seek God, dwell with God; in the midst of your sadness, it is the most authentic worship because it is not about you.  Worship is always all about God, but when we are in loss, we recognize this more.

In all worship, we are saying, "more of you and less of me".  But, when things are good, we carnally take some of the credit for our blessings, thinking that we have received these blessings because of who we are, like we earned it or deserved it.  What a delusion!

Psalm 84 is about focus and direction and journey.  No matter what the disaster, I want to dwell with God.  God's dwelling can be found in the spirit, no matter what I am going through.  Distractions and mood altering addictive activities will not heal my heart, but only living in your presence will heal me.

Seek God, says David, the warrior.  David says that dwelling, seeking to dwell with God is a journey or pilgrimage.  We have to set our heart on going on that journey.  David says that the seekers who are journeyers are also weepers.  We must do our grief work.  Grieve your small and large losses.  Grieve it, grieve it, grieve it.

You are seeking, journeying, weeping & grieving; finding authentic worship.  You are walking through your valley and making it a place of springs.  You will find that it is true that when you draw near to God, God draws near to you.  You can see God's glory in your deepest wound and be dazzled (St. Augustine).

Worshiping God in sad times is the most authentic worship.  Welcome to the dwelling place of God, the place of healing and vision and life.

Joined To God or Good For Nothing

So I went to the Euphrates and I dug up the linen undergarment from the place I had buried it. But it was ruined and good for nothing.  -Jeremiah 13:7

Are you joined to God?  Do you cleave to God?  Are clinging to God?  Relationship with God means to cleave or cling to God.  You know the first verse about marriage in the Bible, "a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife" (Genesis 2:24)?  It means "joined".  God wants all his people joined to him or the relationship will not work and they will become good for nothing.  Are you joined to God or good for nothing? 

You might think you are joined to God, but if you do not listen to, which means obey, God; then you are not joined to God and have become good for nothing.  If you are chasing after other gods (no-gods), then you are not clinging to God and are good for nothing.  If you are worshiping anything other than God, then you are not clinging to God and are good for nothing.

God wants a people who will cling to him, be joined to him, and cleave to him.  God wants a people he can glorify himself through.  God wants a people that he can display Christ through.  That people is intimate with God.

Just as a linen undergarment clings to the body, so I created the people of Israel and Judah to cling to me, declares the Lord, to be my people for my honor, praise, and grandeur. But they wouldn’t obey.  -Jeremiah 13:11

God told Jeremiah to buy a loincloth or undergarment.  He told him to wear it for a while without washing it.  Then God told Jeremiah to take it off and place it between some rocks.  Some time went by and then God told Jeremiah to go retrieve the garment and by that time, it was no good.  God then told Jeremiah that this is what his people are like when they refuse to cling to him, but proudly get involved in idolatry. 

If God called for intimacy and faithfulness from his people in Jeremiah's day, isn't God the same today and also desires and requires intimacy and faith-fullness from his people today?   

To be joined to God is a life style of glorifying God and being cleansed from sin and the affects of sin by God.  To be joined with God means a life of relying on God's grace to walk in obedience.  To be joined with God also means a life of repentance.  When sins take place there is immediate repentance, because we are so close to God that our sins are exposed by the light and repentance is instant.  To be joined with God also means no idols, no idolatry, and no worship of no-gods.  Idolatry can not co-exist with and in the heart that clings to God.

Those who say they are God's people, but do not cling to God, become believers, "in name only", or "I never knew you", people.  These people are good for nothing.  There is a delusion that you are ok, but you are not.  It is never too late to repent, to start over, to come to your senses.

Be joined to God.

Are you the apple of God's eye?

Watch me with the very pupil of your eye!  Hide me in the protection of your wings, away from the wicked who are out to get me, away from my deadly enemies who are all around me!

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.

 -Psalm 17:8-9 (CEB, ESV)

Are you the apple of God's eye?  Are you very important to God and very well protected by God?  If you look into God's eyes, can you see a reflection of yourself?  When you are in trouble are you looking deeply into God's eyes and seeing evidence that He sees you?

Do you know the song, "I saw the Lord", by Dallas Holm?  For me, the key phrase in the song is, "and He saw me" .  Seeing the Lord is wonderful, but did the Lord see you?  Seeing the Lord is revelatory.  But knowing that He sees me is healing.

David learned and knew that a personal relationship was available with God and kept asking for it.  He didn't just pray for God's protection, but made his prayer specific and intimate. 

David had a revelation that we are each God's child and that God watches over each of us as we would watch over our own beloved child.  God is intimately aquainted with each one of us.  God is not just completely knowledgeable, but all loving towards those engaged with him.  I wrote about covenant love previously.

The apple of one's eye describes something that is precious, valuable, and delicate; that must be protected.  Our eyes are a very important part of our bodies.  They are both exposed and protected.  They are in our skull and protected by lids, brows, and lashes.

David asks God to protect him intimately.  He is saying, "protect me as your most valued and keep your eye always on me".  David is exposed to danger and David knows that if God is watching very closely, God is protecting.  David asks for God to be close as he heads into danger.  Whatever the danger is, he asks for God to be close and protect him in it.  David says, "watch me so closely that my reflection is in your eye".

Are you the apple of God's eye?  If you are in Christ, you have been adopted by God and are his child (1 John 3:1).  Being watched over intimately is available to you.  God may be watching over you as the apple of his eye and you don't even know it.  What kind of a different life will we live if we get it that we are each the apple of God's eye?  How will you love when you know you are loved.  What if each challenge you face is seen through the truth that you are the apple of God's eye?

Covenant Love

Manifest your faithful love in amazing ways because you are the one
who saves those who take refuge in you, saving them from their attackers
by your strong hand.   -Psalm 17:7 CEB

Question: Are you married to God?  Are you covenanted to Him?  Are you the bride of Christ?  If you are, then you are fully committed to the Lord (He is your Lord) and the Lord is fully committed to you.  You are partaking of God's Hesed, His covenant love.

The word Hesed is difficult to translate into English.  David is asking God for God's Hesed love.  We get the idea that Hesed means covenant love, based on all of it's usages in the Old Testament.  I looked at seven translations to see what the Hebrew scholars decided with this deep word.  Here's the results:

Faithful love (CEB)
Wonderful love (CEV & GNT)
Steadfast love (ESV)
Unfailing love (NLT)
Marvelous lovingkindness (NKJV)
Great love (TNIV)

Also, Hebrew scholar, R. K. Harrison translates Hesed in Psalm 17:7 as compassionate love.  The Psalms For Today, (1961, Zondervan).

In David's crisis, he asks for relief, and he expects God to answer his request.  Then David prays that God would answer by manifesting or showing this special love to him.  David does not just see problem solving, but an act of love, based on the relationship between him and God.

David was a lover.  Are you a lover?  Lovers give love and receive love.  True lovers are loyal and committed and take care of their beloved.  Notice the words faithful, steadfast, and unfailing that the translators chose for Hesed; and you start to get the picture of covenant love.

At wedding ceremonies, some of us make public vows to be faithful in our love to our spouse, "for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part".  We sign a legal document that contractually obligates us in certain ways to our spouse, but that's not the marriage covenant.  The covenant of marriage is made in vows and through prayers.

The most important aspect of our marriage covenant and our covenant with God through Christ is that God is the one who has the power to keep the covenant.  We participate and cooperate with the covenant, but God keeps it.  We practice obedience and repent when we stumble, but God empowers it.

This is the difference between Christian and secular marriage.  God keeps the covenant between us in Christian marriage.  You still have to die to yourself, forgive, love unselfishly, put your spouse before everything except Jesus; so your part is not only hard, but impossible.  That's why we need God to hold us together and empower the covenant to work.

God has always been a covenant God.  David probably knew this.  David knew that he was committed to God.  He was in, lock stock and barrel, no holds barred, mountain style (all in).  When you commit to God, God commits to you.  God takes care of those in covenant with him and David knew this.  Do you know this?

David prayed to God for his loyal love to be shown to his child with power.  Did you know that you can do that?  You can pray for God's intervention in your life, just like David did, if you are in covenant with God.

Covenant love is given to those in the covenant.  Are you in the covenant made by Jesus' shed blood?  Have you entered into that covenant?  If you have, then you are God's and God takes care of those who belong to him.  That is the message of Hesed.  God's love is shown to those who are in covenant with him in a special way. 

Open Heaven Prayer

I cry out to you.
I call to you.
I pray to you, God.
I am praying to you.

Because you answer me.
Because I’m sure of an answer.
Because you will help me.
Because I know you will answer, O God

So tilt your ears toward me now.
So—answer! bend your ear!
Bend down.

Listen to what I’m saying!
Listen sharp! 
And answer my prayer!
And listen as I pray.
   -Psalm 17:6 (CEB, MSG, CEV, NLT)

I wonder if most Christians have confidence that God hears and answers each of their prayers?  We don't see the answer perhaps, so we might be tempted to believe God does not answer.  Then, we might start believing God does not even hear us.

David had a different perspective.  He believed God hears and answers prayer.  He had plenty of experiences of feeling like God was distant and not answering, but he prayed and believed God would answer anyway.

Open heaven prayer is when you know God hears you and you hear back.  Open heaven prayer is when you get answers.  The answer might be something you don't expect, but you get answers.  Open heaven prayer is when you might not understand the answer or "get it", but you know God is answering and will answer.  When you don't get it, you pray some more, you keep seeking God, you cry out; because you get it that God hears and answers.

We need to pray about everything that is of concern to us.  God can't answer if we don't ask.  Better to ask and have our requests denied than to not ask and wonder "what if".  Better to swing and strike out than not try.  We have to "plug in" to God in prayer, if we are ever to get "current" answers.

Some of us shrink back from asking God because we are afraid of disappointment.  We were disappointed before and we don't like that, so we don't ask.  That is not the way.  We need to die to our selfishness and get a revelation of God's nature to care for His children.

Imagine the person who gets all their prayers answered carte blanche.  What would their character look like?  That was not David's experience.  David had set-backs, reversals, disappointments, delays, and heartbreaking defeats.  But he believed in answered prayers.  He knew God hears and answers.

We need to know that too by cultivating a secret history with God.  The best athletes and musicians have a gift, but what makes them shine is their discipline to practice.  Do you realize how many people also have a gift, but do not practice much and have no discipline, and they never shine?  Professional athletes and musicians got where they are and can only stay there through thousands of hours of disciplined practice.  It is the same way with spiritual things.  You need the gift and discipline.

You can study something comprehensively, but never do it; or you can do something without any training and fall flat.  Discipleship is when you study and do it, study some more and do it some more; with coaching along side of you as needed.  Some people are self taught by life and circumstances.  They need a little guidance and off they go.  Maybe David was like that.  He may have learned things in his mind and heart from his family and community and then learned it experientially in the lab or clinic of the great wide open lands where he shepherded, and then learned more later in the wilderness when he was on the run.

Bring to mind your answered prayers.  Have you noticed that God's answer is bigger than your request?  What if prayers that seem unanswered really have bigger answers, coming soon?  What if we start believing that God hears all our prayers and answers each one?  In light of that, why not pray more?  Why not put more confidence in God and be like David, saying, "I am praying to you, God, because I know you will answer.  So tilt your ears toward me now. So—answer! bend your ear!         Listen. Bend down and answer my prayer."  Like David, we can believe God answers, remind God that He answers and ask God to answer.

Maybe David had good faith and good theology, but he was desperate.  He was pressing in.   When we are in desperation we need faith and right knowledge of who God is.  We need to get it settled inside ourselves that God is good and God hears and God answers our prayers.  When the crisis comes, like a soldier that has trained and trained; we fall back onto what we know that is rooted and solid deep inside our selves.  Crises come to everyone. 

If we seek to live under an open heaven daily, then we will have a level of open heaven experience when crisis hits.  Let us pray.

Avoiding The Destructive Path

But these other people’s deeds? I have avoided such violent ways by the command from your lips.
I’m not trying to get my way in the world’s way.  I’m trying to get your way, your Word’s way. 
I don’t do like others.  I obey your teachings and am not cruel.
With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.

My steps are set firmly on your paths; my feet haven’t slipped. 
I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot In front of the other.  I’m not giving up.
I have followed you, without ever stumbling.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
-Psalm 17:4-5 (CEB, MSG, CEV, ESV)

When we are encountering trials, God wants us to avoid the destructive path.  We can all become destroyers who destroy others and destroy our selves.  There is a selfish way that goes towards violence and is cruel that is not the way of God.  Lashing out, hitting back, and being cruel are all temptations for us when we are in a trial.  Avoid it, don't do it, and take God's way .

The path to stay on is the path of God's commands.  There is a Word way that we need to be on.  God's word is loaded with advice for how to live.  The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters.  If you need practical wise counsel, read Proverbs.  Read a chapter a day, if you need wise counsel for how to walk in the Word of God.

When we are under pressure, in a trial, being chased, feeling cornered, or when we get ambushed; we can be tempted to be violent and destructive.  We feel hit and want to hit back, maybe harder.  We feel hurt and want to hurt back, even cruelly.  Don't do it.

The path of destruction is when you lash out destructively towards another person.  The destructive path is when you fight your own battles.  The destructive path is when you take matters into your own hands.

You might take the destructive path towards your self, by judging yourself more harshly than God does over something and then cruelly punishing your self.  Self-destructive behavior is also not the path of God's ways.  Let's not be violent towards our selves.  We need to be violent towards sin, the works of the flesh, and demons; but have grace towards our selves.  Masochism is not the path of God.

Don't slip, don't give up, but stay on God's path.  God's path is the path of His commands.  Take your impatience back to God and walk on the path of patience.  Take your lack of faith and go back to God and walk on the path of faith.  Take your lack of wisdom and your temptation towards foolishness back to God and walk on the path of wisdom.  Repent daily, hourly, minute by minute as you keep getting back onto God's path.

Leadership Audit Coming For Christian Leaders

Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.  -Jeremiah 23:2 (ESV)

There are spiritual leaders who are in positions to care for people who are not doing so.  There are pastors who do things that scatter and drive people away from fellowship.  There are so-called spiritual leaders that go by pastor, bishop, preacher, minister, prophet, teacher, and apostle; who are rotten in God's eyes.  These people are corrupt, false, and evil.

Corruption in the household of God, does not escape God's eyes.  A time comes when God deals with these people (1 Peter 4:17).  God says, "you have not attended to them.  Behold, I will attend to you."  Disciplinary action is coming.  It came in Jeremiah's time and is coming again today.  The time is here.  God does give performance evaluations to people in leadership among His people.

Apostle James warns people who want to be teachers of God's people that they will be judged more strictly than others (James 3:1).  The seven churches in the book of Revelation were audited or evaluated (Revelation 1:20-3:22).  A man in our congregation was shocked and put off by this message and told the pastor so in a letter.  John went to the zerox machine and made copies of Revelation 1-3 and mailed them back to the man.

The good news is not only that God is paying attention and promises to deal with sinful leadership, but repentance is always possible.  The whole book of Jeremiah is calling a people and their leaders to  repentance.  It's the same with the letters to the seven churches in revelation and it is the same today.  

Repentance.  Change your mind.  Change course.  To and through the Cross.  God centered.  Christ centered.  Spiritual relationships through Christ.  Start over.  The King is coming.

(The painting above is by Pieter Brueghel II, "The Bad Shepherd", Oil on panel, 29 in. x 41¼ in.
c. 1616, Private collection)

Bravery, Strength, and Obedience To Inherit

“Be very brave and strong as you carefully obey all of the Instruction that Moses my servant commanded you. Don’t deviate even a bit from it, either to the right or left. Then you will have success wherever you go. Never stop speaking about this Instruction scroll. Recite it day and night so you can carefully obey everything written in it. Then you will accomplish your objectives and you will succeed. I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  -Joshua 1:7-9

Have you ever seen a movie where the will is read and there are conditions that must be met before a person can receive their inheritance?  Many of God's promises are also conditional.  God says, "If you will, I will."  Sometimes it is as simple as asking, "you have not, because you ask not."

In the book of Joshua, the time for fulfillment has come.  The time of fulfillment comes right after a great grief.  Moses has died.  What now?  I imagine that Joshua and all of Israel were discouraged and afraid.  God speaks to Joshua, in the midst of the grief over Moses death and says, "get ready to cross over into the inheritance that I will give my people".  Then, God gives Joshua some instructions on the conditions from which fulfillment of obtaining the land of inheritance will come.

Be very brave and strong.  Why would you have to be told this?  Because it is frightening.  We say someone is strong and brave because they are doing it.  These are things you do, actions.  Be brave.  Be strong.  Joshua, chapter one, says this four times and it is a command.  It is not optional.  We must be brave and strong to inherit the promises.  It will feel scary and you will feel weak, but don't listen to your feelings and do God's will anyways.  God's will is what is written.  Remember when Jesus answered the Devil with, "it is written"?  We also have the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth and empowers us to do God's will.

When you are brave and strong, it will be said of you that, you didn't know you had it in you. 

To be told to be brave and strong means that passivity will not cut it. God is about to do something big, something we have been waiting for.  But we must do something too.  Be brave and be strong.

Be very brave and strong as you carefully obey all the instruction that Moses my servant commanded you.  You have been instructed and you have much knowledge.  It is time to put the knowledge into action.  The goal of instruction is obedience unto a godly life.  We don't learn from God so that we can just be knowers, but we learn so that we can be doers.  Godly people are people walking in God's ways.  Godly folk are being godly and also doing godliness.  God's way is to work through you and me.  To know and not to obey is to not believe.  The life, life in God, life with God, is lived out through obedience empowered by love and done in faith.  It's not enough to be instructed, but we must do the instructions.

Don't deviate even a bit from it, either right or left.  Then you will have success wherever you go.  The secret to success in God, in life, is obedience to God's word.  Want success?  Obey God's word.  Disobey Gods word, you get failure.  Deviation is when we mix God's ways with the world, the flesh, or the devil.  It won't work.  The mixture will corrupt the pure.  Compromise is when we go off God's path that is laid out in the scriptures in an area of our lives and it infects the whole of our lives and we are brought down.  Stay on the straight and narrow, says God, and find life and wholeness and success.

Never stop speaking about this Instruction scroll. Recite it day and night so you can carefully obey everything written in it. Then you will accomplish your objectives and you will succeed.  Become a person overflowing with the Word of God.  Read the Bible.  Study the Bible.  Memorize the scriptures.  Apply the Word to your day to day life.  Let the Word be the path you walk on.  Make the Bible your prayer book.  When you need to pray because you are in a fix, browse the word until you find your prayer.  The Psalms are good for this.  Many of the worship poems or songs in Psalms are written prayers to God.  In Paul's letters, he goes into prayers.  Instruction and prayer go together.

I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I?   This is the fourth time that God says to be brave and strong.  It is like God is saying, "I can not emphasize this enough".  God knows that it is going to be a wild ride ahead and says, "buckle up".  Check yourself.  Are you being brave and strong?  If you don't have bravery and strength, it is time to get some.  God does not tell us to do something without giving it to us.  You've got the gift, but it looks like you are waiting for something. Be brave and strong.

Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  We must be obedient to the Word or life will not work.  Being obedient Word people puts us in a position to partner with God.  We will be destroyed if we do not walk in the Word as we partner with God.  The power to save comes from God, but you may be the one God uses to deliver the message.  The power to take territory comes from God, but God needs us to occupy and steward the land.

The book of Joshua is not just history, it is also filled with principles of how God works.  God has plans for his people, an inheritance.  God says, "I have an inheritance for you, an inheritance that you have waited for; but to receive it, you must be brave and strong; you also must be obedient to my Word."  That's it.

We must be brave and strong: take courage, and we must be obedient to the Word of God.  We must live in a Word life, not a self life.  Remember that Jesus is the Word, so don't get hung up on not wanting to be a legalist.  The message is, stop being rebellious and lawless and selfish.  Crucify your flesh rather than feeding it.  Stop nurturing the old man and instead let the new, resurrected person come forth.  Say yes to the fruit of the Spirit and let it grow in the fertilizer of negatives in your life.

The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  We are meant to be people of the Lord God, who is with us.  God is not a force, but a person.  A person, the Holy Spirit, is with us.  Who will help you to be brave, to be strong, and to be obedient?  The Holy Spirit!  Who is the strongest, smartest, and most encouraging person in the world?  Who is the best problem solver?  The Holy Spirit.  In the uncharted territory ahead, God will be with us.  He goes with us.  We are people of the presence.  We are not people of a religion, but people in relationship with the living God, inviting others to know him also.

The Vision Thing

Vision, by Terry ChenCC BY-ND 2.0
When there’s no vision, the people get out of control, but whoever obeys instruction is happy.  -Proverbs 29:18

There is still a vision for the appointed time; it testifies to the end; it does not deceive.  If it delays, wait for it; for it is surely coming; it will not be late.  -Habakkuk 2:3

Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known.  -Jeremiah 33:3

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.  -Jeremiah 29:11

When I was a teen, I had a poster on my wall of a movie I never saw, called Vision Quest.  Deep inside me, there was a cry in my heart to have a vision for my life.  I now know that the Spirit of God was wooing me to Christ.  "He is your life, He is your vision, follow Christ, be enamored  with Him."  Seven years after my high school graduation, I found Christ again and was baptized in God's Spirit.  The seemingly impossible dream of being in love with Jesus again, as I was in childhood, came true for me.  God gives us impossible dreams, impossible visions, impossible ideas; so that He can fulfill them.

If you have only had experience in churches that do have community, discipleship, mission, and an organic family-like atmosphere where Jesus governs the whole group in love and through the elders of the group who are loving and not perfect; then this post might not be for you.  I've met many Christians who have never been a part of a corporate modeled church, but a portion of Christendom today is very corporate and I was a part of that, so that is where my reflections come from.

A gentle giant of a man cornered me at a church gathering and asked me, "what's your vision?"  A friend of mine finally got a date or meeting with a woman he was interested in and her big question for him was, "what is your vision?"  

I got the idea that both of these people had bought into a corporate mindset for church that says that a leader should have a vision from God for their ministry that they will be calling others to follow.  They were both interviewing us.  I don't know when it started, but at some point, the church in the west took on a "corporate mindset" that says that leadership is hierarchical and very top down.  In the corporate model, the top leader is like a CEO of a company.  Another way to describe the top leader in the corporate model is a benevolent dictator.  I was shocked the first time I read this, but it made sense when I looked at the leadership ways and means in the corporate church model.  

Jesus actually taught and modeled bottom up leadership, leading by example, and leading from beside.

In the corporate church model, the leader leads by dictate.  He is the Moses and he gets orders or vision from God and he presents it to the people and they follow, or stop following, and sometimes rebel against him and get punished.  Discipleship is given lip service too, but not really not done.  It is disciplinary to follow someones orders, but authentic discipleship is learning to follow Christ together and being cared for by and submitting to and loving one another.  

We need to rediscover discipleship.

When the goal of our commands are not love, our labors become vain.  In a corporate environment, there is not much nurturing.  In a corporate environment, you do work and you get paid.  If you don't do the work, you get shamed or fired.  In the corporate environment, there isn't much discipleship and that is why the corporate model can grow a church in size, but not grow the people.  

Much of the growth of the corporate style churches is in transfer growth.  People transfer in and people eventually transfer out.

What if we have the vision thing backwards.  Instead of asking someone that we see as a potential leader in our lives, "what is your vision?", why don't leaders ask followers, "what is your vision and how can I help you fulfill it?"  What if real leadership is about lifting others up, rather than rising above and being over others?

What if "vision casting" is ok for the leader of a group, but we need to add to that having the people in that group responding to him or her and then sharing their own visions?  Why not mutually affirm and empower one another in communion?  

What if, instead of seeing the church as a classroom for lectures, or a theater for sanctified performances and individual (called corporate) worship, that we saw the church as a table, even the communion table?  

Jesus last words, where he had his last chance before the cross, to be the church with the disciples; were given over a meal, around a table.  After Jesus rose from the dead and spent time and appeared to his followers, he had bar-b-ques, walks on the beach, and spent time with people in small gatherings where he could have eye contact (face time) and people could ask him questions.  Have you ever considered that Jesus is the model for the church and he said he would build his church which would probably look like him and do things in his style?

What if church meetings became places where we would really meet one another actively, rather than passively consume?  What if the leader's job was to get the community conversation started and keep it going and be a referee, in case someone gets "out of bounds"?

In New testament Christianity.  Every person gets to have there own vision.  Our visions harmonize and work together like all the parts of a body.  No man or woman is the head.  Jesus is the head.

Fulfilled Promises: Faith For The Desert & Big Valley

God isn’t unjust so that he forgets your efforts and the love you have shown for his name’s sake when you served and continue to serve God’s holy people. But we desperately want each of you to show the same effort to make your hope sure until the end. This is so you won’t be lazy but follow the example of the ones who inherit the promises through faith and patience.

When God gave Abraham his promise, he swore by himself since he couldn’t swear by anyone greater.  He said, I will certainly bless you and multiply your descendants. So Abraham obtained the promise by showing patience.  People pledge by something greater than themselves. A solemn pledge guarantees what they say and shuts down any argument.  -Hebrews 6:10-16

There is a principle or a common experience for people of faith:  The way to the promised land is through the desert.  The desert prepares you for the promised land.  The preparation of the desert only works if we cooperate with it, and with God, by faith.  Can your desert become a dessert?

Sometimes we feel like we've arrived onto a mountaintop of God and then we receive a promise to go to a higher mountain range.  We're filled with wonder and praise.  God has spoken and I am going up higher.  I am filled with thankfulness and great joy.

But the only way to get there, to my promise fulfilled, is to descend the mountain I am on and begin walking in the valley, where the mountains of my promises seem farther away and less clear.  Welcome to the in-between-time.

There is another common experience for people of faith, in that you see or hear something from God and believe it, but then your experience is the opposite.  This experience breaks you, brings you into personal brokenness.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me,
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
"Make the same effort to make your hope sure until the end." Hope deferred makes the heart sick. If you have a sick heart, that sick heart of yours needs to be in the care of the Great Physician. If you don't get treatment for a sick heart, it can get bitter with grumbling, complaining and depression.  You could even end up slandering God. The sick heart needs to be in touch with Jesus, finding sweet fellowship in his sufferings. Is Jesus your shepherd who is taking care of you?
The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps my soul alive.
He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff— they protect me.

You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will return to the Lord’s house as long as I live.  -Psalm 23

How do we make our hope sure until the end?  Like Romans 4:18 says of Abraham, "When it was beyond hope, he had faith in the hope that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him: That’s how many descendants you will have".  Our hope too must be anchored in God.

We are all theologians, we're all doing theology; working out who God is.  God is revealing His-story in each of our lives.  How will it turn out?  Have you studied the main character, God, to get an idea of how things might go in His-story in your life?  Are you holding on to who God is, and who He is specifically to you?  What or who is your hope based on?

Through the writer of Hebrews, God says, "thank you for your service, thank you for all you have done in the past for the saints and are doing now.".  "Thank you", says God.  But God also says that as you showed effort in that service, you also must make every effort to see your promises fulfilled.  You will be tempted to laziness and slothfulness in regards to your promised future.  Do not give in to those temptations, but get up and engage in faith.

Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.  Fruit comes from the branches abiding in the vine.  Sloth and laziness are not abiding because it takes faith to abide and those are not faith.  It takes faith to not be lazy because faith is exercised.

Abraham is the example in scripture of the person of faith.  The scriptures lay bare many of his mistakes.  He may have moved slow, but he moved and he made wrong moves, but he moved.  God honors movement.  If you move wrong, God can course correct you.

You might say, "I am standing still and seeing the salvation of the Lord in my situation."  Notice that you are exercising faith, because you are standing and seeing.  The lazy person stays seated or laying and has there eyes closed or on something else.

God's promises are fulfilled to you by faith and patience.  Remember that faith is not just a belief, but it is an action based upon a belief, sustained by a confidence in a person.  Faith, to be faith, also must be tested, or it is not faith.  To see fulfillment of your promises, you must have faith that is actionable and tested.  You can say you believe and even live a holy life, but you will not obtain the promises without taking risks, acting, going after something, pressing in, and being aggressive or assertive.  Did you know that God wants you to take risks?  Did you know that God loves failures?  Do you know that God would prefer that we risk and fail, rather than not risking?

We must learn patience if we want to see our promises fulfilled.  Patience means long-suffering without losing our temper.  It means you keep on keeping on.  People who believe in breakthrough also must believe in perseverance.  Patience and faith combined say, "I will trust you and keep moving toward my promises no matter how long it takes, because you are trustworthy and my only hope".

Many people get disillusioned with God at certain points in their Christian lives.  They get disappointed.  A person can be saved, born-again, and experience joy unspeakable.  They serve in some capacity and do it with joy.  That service may even be going into full-time ministry.  Then, life serves up some disappointments or the person believes God for something more, a promise fulfilled; and that promise goes unfulfilled or faith fails.  What then? 

This is a faith wall, line, or barrier that few cross.  Many Christians turn back or stop there.  Some people leave their faith and others stay engaged in church life, but are now lukewarm.  This is where your ideas about God get questioned and you have to integrate the disappointments and dryness in your life with God, who is all loving, all good, and faithful.  You must process all this before God and with the help of other saints in discipleship.  You must allow your self to be transformed through death to self and a raising of your dead self into life in Christ.  This is something that the Holy Spirit loves to do, but many Christians hold back from allowing this process.

Wolves Disguised As Sheep: False Prophets In the House

They have corrupted themselves terribly as in the days of Gibeah; he will remember their wickedness; he will punish their sins.  -Hosea 9:9

Is it possible that we have leaders in the house of God who are deeply corrupt, who are leading people to destruction?  That is what happened in the days of Hosea, with the false prophets.

The Hebrew idea of corruption here is not only a dishonest person, but a depraved, perverted, and destructive person.  The notorious example of Gibeah that Hosea cites, is the story, recorded in Judges 19, where a woman was raped to death, by a band of men, who first demanded sex with her priest husband.  Hosea says that the false prophets were like those men.

Are there today, some ministers and leaders in the church, the false prophets of our day, that have not just let us down, but been deeply corrupted?  Instead of protecting God's people from snares, they have become snares.  These corrupted leaders have become antichrist, leading God's people away from Christ.  How can this be?

A church father wrote that, "no one doth wider injury than one who acteth perversely, while he hath a name or an order of holiness."  "God endureth no greater prejudice from any than from priests, when He seeth those whom He has set for the correction of others, give from themselves examples of perverseness, when "we" sin, who ought to restrain sin. What shall become of the flock, when the pastors become wolves?"

What shall become of the flock, when the pastors become wolves?

Do you think that what happened in the times of Hosea are an aberration, never to happen again, just history; or a warning?  Jesus warned of this happening.  I believe that Jesus knew that false prophets in the church is a part of Satan's playbook against the church and to watch out:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves."  -Matthew 7:15

"The false prophets," is probably best understood generally rather than specifically...  "False prophets" are persons who appear on the surface to be something they are not.  It is of the essence of false prophets that they pretend to have and proclaim the truth while their lives evidence that they themselves do not follow the truth... "in sheeps' clothing", means appearing to be proper members of the people of God.  -Matthew, Donald Hagner

False prophets are destroyers.  They destroy God's people, like wolves destroy sheep.

Hosea writes that, "he (God) will remember their wickedness; he (God) will punish their sins."

Watch out!  How can you discern?  Check out the person's, deeds, the fruit in their life.  The fruit of the Spirit in their life.  The fruit of godliness.  Learn Biblical values and the Biblical worldview.  Are they leading in that?   Are they preaching the Christ in the four gospels or is Christ a hood ornament on their ministry?  Are their words under the Word?  Is their preaching and teaching of the Bible interpreted by the Bible?  The test of the truth of a person is to watch what these people do, how they live and behave in life.

Corruptio optimi est pessima-The best things, when corrupted, become the worst.

Lessons Learned From The Check Engine Light

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.
-Philippians 4:6

Suddenly, the check engine light came on and I was anxious.  How much is this going to cost?  My car was just in the shop a week ago.  I was anxious, but I prayed.

I found out that if the problem that caused the light to go on is not constant, then the light will clear in about 2 to 4 days, and it did.  Then, it came on again and cleared again, after a few days.  I tried some fuel system cleaner (Red Line), but the light kept cycling on and off.  Each time, my anxiety was less, until it was at zero.

I had learned that a loose fuel cap can cause the light to come on, but I am always careful to tighten it.  When it kept happening after the fuel system cleaning and the car is running very smooth, I realized that fuel caps can just plain wear out.  Most likely the rubber sealing mechanism and the click, click, click; tightener wears out.  Caps can also crack. I realized that my gas cap was worn out and ordered a new one.

To be anxious for something, with over-focus means to, "go to pieces", or, "to pull apart".  The same issue can be important, but our concern for it needs to be assimilated into the larger picture.  The light on the dashboard reminds us that we live in a broken world.  The light may stay off for years, but we realize that the engine or transmission can suddenly fail one day, because we live in a broken world.

We have to learn to differentiate between a real crisis and an interruption that is an issue that needs attention, but is not a full crisis.

A flat tire or a check engine light is an important problem.  The flat must be immediately attended to and the light can be put off a bit.  It may re-set and stay off.  Some people don't know that, and take the car in immediately, erring on the side of caution, which is not a bad thing.

The administrator at a school I went to had this sign on her desk: "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine."  She had many experiences with students coming to her in crisis mode when it was a case of poor planning and interruption.  We often create our own "mini-crises".  People who constantly run late and speed through traffic, endangering everyone else, do this.

The check engine light is a signal that attention is required, or things could get worse.  The flashing check engine light does mean to pull over and get service immediately.  Neither of these are reasons to get on all fours and breathe into a paper bag.

When my light went on recently, I was surprised at my high level of anxiety about it and prayed about it and through it.  I went through the cycles I mentioned and it was an exercise each time to see if I could be less anxious, which I hated at first; but it did get better.  Now, that light has no anxious affect.
It is just a reminder of an unsolved problem, giving me no distress, just like the low fuel light.
Added on November 25th :. It turned out to be some air leaks. My garage repaired it last week.

Are You Being Taught and Reminded by the Holy Spirit?

The Companion (the advocate), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.  -John 14:26 (ESB)

Have you been taught everything (all things) by the Holy Spirit?  Have you been reminded of everything Jesus said, by the Holy Spirit?  Did you even know that this was available to you?  It's easy to read Jesus' words to the disciples as historical and not apply them and "sign up for them", yourself. But these words do apply to all of Jesus' disciples, including us.

Some have called the Holy Spirit, "the forgotten member of the Trinity".  Like today, there were Christians in the Bible who loved Jesus, but had not heard of or experienced the Holy Spirit.  He is a distinct person.  He may be in your life and you do not recognize him.

Jesus said that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in Jesus name.  Jesus revealed the Father, by revealing God's name.  The Father sends the Holy Spirit in Jesus name.  The Holy Spirit is authorized and comes in Jesus' authority.  The Holy Spirit comes in the spirit of Jesus.  He is all about Jesus!

The Holy Spirit is the great remembrancer(1) .  He reminds us of things we've already been taught. We all need to know the whole Bible by reading it and studying it. The Holy Spirit will teach you, guiding you into all truth; and he will remind you of what you have already learned. Do you have Bible verses that come to mind when you are helping someone towards God or when you are praying? The Holy Spirit might be reminding you of what you have already learned.

As Christians, we are all about Christ, but we have to remember that we have the Holy Spirit now, in each of our lives to help us in the school of Christ. The Holy Spirit was not sent just for the original disciples, but He is here for us today too. The original blue-print (Jesus) for the church, for Christians, is in the four Gospel books. The promises to the original people are promises to us today as well. Don't make the mistake of reading Jesus' words (the red letters in some versions) as, "just to them, back there". The reason they are there is for you and me. You get to have the life of being taught by the Holy Spirit and you also get to receive the ministry of The Companion, The Advocate, The Helper(2).

1. The Holy Ghost a Remembrancer by Bishop Woodford, M.A. 
2. The Helper by Catherine Marshall is a wonderful, readable, little book that will introduce you to The Holy Spirit.
A reviewer on Amazon.com wrote, "This easy to read book is a must for any Christian seeking more information on the Holy Spirit. Mrs. Marshall quotes scripture and gives practical information on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the necessity and efficacy of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She takes you through all aspects of the Holy Spirit in only 230 pages. It will bring you to a new level in your walk with Christ. My minister says it is the best practical book written on the Holy Spirit."
A. W. Tozer's books are very helpful for those who want to learn more about how to receive the Holy Spirit:
How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit by A. W. Tozer
A review on Amazon.com says, "This book is written with such a passionate aim: to help God's children experience the fulness that His Holy Spirit has to offer. How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit is written in a very balanced Charismatic viewpoint. It reveals how to receive the Holy Spirit in a way that changes one's life and one's life for Christ. This is one of the best books written on the subject."

Learning Contentment

I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance.  I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor.  I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:11-13

Are you content? Contentment, for the Christian, means having all you need through the indwelling Christ. The content Christian is happy with less or more, because their happiness is not dependent on exterior things. It is an inside job.

Discontentment manifests in us through complaining, grumbling, and general unhappiness or depression in our life. Contentment is connected to faith and faith is manifested through faithfulness and empowered through God's faithfulness.

Non-believers practiced contentment in Paul's time as well as today by being self-sufficient and independent. Christians then and today are completely dependent on God and Christ-sufficient.  Christians are adequate in Christ. The Greek Stoics saw contentment as self-mastery.  Christians have self-mastery unselfishly through the Master, by dying to self and living in Christ.

We learn contentment in the school of Christ.  Paul was in that school and learned.  God put him in that school and he attended.  Are you in the school of Christ?  Are you learning contentment?

Paul said that he, a Bible writing Apostle, learned contentment. He learned it and we have to learn it too. How did Paul learn contentment, which is being sufficient in Christ, no matter what your external circumstances? He learned through suffering. If we don't redeem our suffering, we can't learn contentment.

In our culture, in the West, we avoid pain at all costs and if at all possible. Facing pain, in Christ, yields spiritual growth. "No pain, no gain." If you avoid pain, you avoid growth. Paul embraced pain and learned contentment. Are you learning contentment by finding Jesus in your personal trials?

I have been referring to the trials of scarcity.  As hard as scarcity is, you might not realize that abundance is even harder. The person in scarcity struggles, feeling like Job, in the Bible, saying, "where's God?" God says, "I'm right here, commune with me in your scarcity and let me redeem it." That's your challenge and you get the reward of seeing God turn your trials into Gold.

In abundance, one's challenge is, "will you forget God?". Another challenge is, "can you handle it?". Like growing children, God is always seeking to prepare us to handle more. Great miracles happened through Paul's ministry and he seems to not have let it, "go to his head". Are we learning this kind of contentment?

God Graciously Sends Prophetic Words To Unbelieving Believers

But Ahaz said, "I won't ask: I won't test the LORD."  Isaiah 7:12

God cares enough about his people to send a prophet to them even when they are involved in idolatry and any sin.  God loves hypocrites, but he does not like hypocrisy and exposes it.  Ahaz was a leader who was in trouble and who was leading bady, not godly.

In spite of Ahaz's shortcomings, God sent Isaiah to give him a word that challenged Ahaz to express his faith in God.  God gave Ahaz a detailed prophetic word, to encourage him in a time of trouble, through Isaiah.  The end of the word said that Ahaz must have faith.  Then, to encourage and empower Ahaz's faith in the word, God says, through Isaiah to ask for a sign, big or small: "make it as deep as the grave or as high as the heaven", said the Lord directly to him through Isaiah.

Ahaz's response to a direct invitation, some people might call it a command because it was so authoritative and clear, was, "no thanks, that wouldn't be right", in today's English.

Imagine a person or a leader, even yourself; in crisis.  You are rattled, you are afraid, and your mind is racing.  In your crisis, gripped by fear, you make plans to save yourself and the people you lead, but what if these are ungodly plans?  You might be planning on lying, cheating, or aligning with people that are openly enemies of God.

In the midst of the crisis and these ungodly plans, God's prophet comes to you.  God does not use the prophet to expose your sin, your idolatry, or your evil alliances.  Instead God, gives you prophetic intelligence about the plans of your enemies and God's plan to help you.  That's all very encouraging.  But then there is a direct word to you:  You must believe this, if you want to make it personally.  Then you are told to ask for a sign.

When Ahaz says, "no thanks", he reveals himself as not being a follower of God, not being God's partner, not being submitted to God, and not a believer.  He is a "pseudo-believer", a believer "in name only".  Believers believe and Ahaz is not believing.  Followers follow and Ahaz is not following.  Children of God listen to and obey God.  Ahaz does not obey.  Ahaz does not have a relationship with the real, living God.

A person can act religious & pious, but be in contempt of God.  Walking with and under God is manifested in trust, obedience, and faith.  God tested Ahaz through a gracious offer of doing a sign, any sign, for him; to bolster his faith and the faith of the people who looked to him for leadership, in a time of crisis.

If Ahaz had said yes, it does not mean that everything would have suddenly been ok with Ahaz's life.  It could have led him to repentance.  He would still need to repent and get right with God.  But he chose not to go that way.

Receiving a prophecy does not mean you are in a good place in your walk with God.  It means God is gracious and merciful.

Prophetic ministry to a sinful idolatrous person who is religious and pious on the outside, does not have to only be a rebuke and a revealing of the person's sins.  God may call that person back to the path, that will lead to repentance, through grace.
Or do you have contempt for the riches of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience? Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life? -Romans 2:4
We may have witnessed or heard about a person who we believe to a pretending believer, unbelieving believer, backsliden person, or flat-out heretic who teaches false doctrine get a big prophetic word.  We might say, "not fair", or "false prophet", or just shake our heads as we judge the misguided prophetic person and judge the recipient as unworthy of a prophetic word.

If, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us", why would God not give a prophecy to a "sinner"?  Prophetic words are not earned, nor is getting one a sign of holiness.  The gift says something about the giver, not the recipient.

God is not fooled by the sinner's sin, even if they are a professing Christian.  God sends prophetic ministry to the sinning believer and the professing believer who really is a sinner.  There are people today that are in the church, but not in Christ.  They may be like Ahaz and involved in gross idolatry and disobedience, while feigning religiosity.  Or, they might just be lukewarm.
Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me.   -Revelation 3:20
Jesus was calling Ahaz through his prophet and Jesus is knocking on the door today of his church. The book of Revelation is a prophetic letter containing prophetic words for 7 specific churches, one of which was the church of Laodicea. God uses the picture of Jesus outside his own church, asking for entry to show us how it can be when he is graciously speaking a word to his people who are off the path. Jesus' knocking on the door is the prophetic word to the people he is speaking to.

Today, similarly to the day of Ahaz, God is sending prophets, and giving prophetic words through prophets, New Testament prophets; to errant Christians to invite them to the way in Christ that they are not on.  Those that receive, respond to, and obey are those who have dinner with Jesus, and get their lives on track.  Those that don't answer the door will just continue off track, going down the wrong path, and be Christians "in name only" and have no relationship with God.

Sky Links, 1-19-19