A new video to share the birth of the ministry, the name, and a “factoid” you may not have known about the name.
A new video to share the birth of the ministry, the name, and a “factoid” you may not have known about the name.
YSICM Mission Statement Teaching – Part 4
The past few weeks we have been looking at the history and now the Mission Statement of Your Servant in Christ Ministries, or YSICM (why YeS I C HiM)
This week I want to look at the next touch point for this ministry…
Parts of Mission Statement
The local congregation is the instrument that God desires to use to touch the world with His love, salvation and presence. These are congregations filled with “God-hungry” believers who have learned how to live together in a culture of prayer.
What is a “Culture of Prayer?” I have been using this term for nearly twenty years to describe the lifestyle of the local church in the area of prayer.
A “Culture of Prayer” is NOT a prayer program. We have a tendency in our days to program every part of the life of the church. That is not necessarily bad in itself. We have a program of teaching, a program of worship, a program of giving, o f outreach. All of these can be very helpful. And this is not to say that there can and perhaps should not be a “program” for our prayer ministry in the church. But that is entirely different than a “Culture of Prayer.”
First, let us think about culture. What is a culture? Webster defines culture this way:
1a: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time popular culture Southern culture
b: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization a corporate culture focused on the bottom line
c: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic
d: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
Culture is the shared attitudes, values and goals, beliefs, and behavior that is passed on to succeeding generations. So a Culture of Prayer us more than just a program of activity. It is a lifestyle of the persons who are a part of the local congregation. How they act, and respond to life, how they make decisions, and how they relate to one another.
The New Testament talks about being “Devoted” to prayer in Colossians 4:2 – the word that is used there has the idea “to be earnest towards, that is to persevere, be constantly diligent, or to attend assiduously, to adhere closely. Assiduously has the idea of being marked by “careful unrelenting attention, persistent application”
Being devoted to prayer is one aspect of a Culture of Prayer. And a Culture of Prayer is the living out of that devotion. Think about this, Devoted to something is a part of who I am. The culture I live in is a part of who I am. Culture is in many ways unspoken. A young child learns a culture, not by taking “Culture Classes,” but by being exposed to the lifestyle, the attitudes, and choices of his or her parents, and those around them.
A Culture of Prayer, as with any other culture, begins in the family, and is transmitted most of the time without words. In a Culture of Prayer, every aspect of life is infused by the lifestyle of prayer. In the church, every decision, every “program” is birthed, supported and maintained through prayer. Prayer that is in constant fellowship with the Lord for blessing, instruction, courage, faith, persistence.
Another illustration of a Culture of Prayer. Suppose for a moment that you work as a janitor in the local school. Your job is to clean the hallways, and classrooms each evening after school in preparation for the coming day. You sweep and mop and dust the hallways, and desks of teachers and students. Now imagine a Culture of Prayer where you do not merely clean, but as you dust around Tommy’s desk, you are praying for him, and his family. Praying for his heart to be open to the Gospel, for protection as he grows from the influences of the world. You pray for the teacher in that classroom as you dust the teacher’s desk and pray the presence of the Lord in that classroom or hallway as you sweep and mop the floor. Suddenly your “job” becomes you lifestyle ministry of prayer.
In order for the church, to be the influence in the world that God desire it to be, we must learn to develop a “Culture of Prayer” to be living out a lifestyle of being “devoted” to prayer.
Consider allowing us to come and teach these principles in your church, or with your group. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-862-5646
This week I wan to look at the next touch point for this ministry…
Parts of Mission Statement
It is our sincere desire that the body of Christ, and it’s local representatives come to a place where they are actively, and intentionally, fulfilling the first and great commandment is given by the Lord Jesus Christ, to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind…
Matthew 22:35-38 – One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question; “teacher, what is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,” this is the first and greatest commandment
I describe this as being “God – Hungry believers”
This begins with the statement of the Westminster catechism – The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.
At your servant in Christ ministries our mission is to serve by teaching the primary importance of knowing and loving the God of the Bible, Jehovah, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Our love for God primarily, above all other things, is the beginning point of our fulfilling what God has designed us to do and be. In Mark 22: 18-24, The Pharisees and Sadducees tried to get Jesus into a debate about what is the most important issues, and this took on two important aspects. First they wanted to debate him about theology, and the issue of marriage. Jesus direct them to the most important thing, which is a personal, intimate, loving relationship with God.
Part of Jesus answer to them was to tell them that they did not understand the Scriptures when they tried to debate him about this issue of divorce and remarriage. He said that they do not know the scriptures and they do not know the God of the Scriptures. To know God, we must be in continuing hunger for knowing the Scriptures. To know him, we must know his word, Psalm 14:2, I Chronicles 16:11, Isaiah 55:6-7.
In Revelation chapter 2, in his message to the FE’s in church, Jesus told them that they were diligent to work for the Lord, they have correct theology, they were watchful for error, and they had been patient in their sufferings. But despite all of that, what they had lost was that primary, first love for the Lord.
This is essential for us to understand in these days. We can have many programs and keep watch to have correct teaching, the labor for the Lord is a pastor, Sunday school teacher, Elder, Deacon, or Deaconess, or whatever. But we must always be diligent to make sure that we have not walked away from that primary love that Jesus is looking for.
This is essential for us to understand in these days. We can have many programs and keep Watch to have correct teaching, the labor for the Lord is a pastor, Sunday school teacher, Elder, Deacon, or Deaconess, or whatever. But we must always be diligent to make sure that we have not walked away from that primary love that Jesus is looking for.
It is our challenge to help the church revive that first love so that all the other things will follow.
If you would like to know more about our teaching on these subjects please contact us at Steve email@example.com
The Mission of Your Servant in Christ Ministries is to serve congregations with the goal that they fulfill the first and great commandment to be God-hungry believers, living and ministering out of a culture of prayer, so that together with others in their community, they might hunger for, and invite God’s transforming Presence into their lives, their families, their churches and into their communities for the Glory of His Name.
A The Local Church is the instrument that God has chosen to reach our world
i. Jesus’ words to Peter that He (Jesus) would build His Church (Mt. 16:18)
ii. The Great Commission to go into all the world, was given to the Church as a whole. Matthew 28:28
iii. The Power to operate as a Great Commission church is – Love John 3:16, I Jn. 5 – Love for the Lord, and as a fruit of that, love for those who need to know the Good News about Jesus.
B Local congregations/ the local church is in need of renewing that first love.
i. The law of Spiritual Entropy – Entropy is the measure of how disorganized and random a system is. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that unless outside energy is provided, a system will find its entropy (disorder) staying the same or increasing as time goes on. A system will never get more ordered without outside intervention.
ii. Revelation 1-3 – esp. 3 and the letter to Ephesus – They had lost their first love. It is a call to remember and return.
c. When the local church is operating and living out what God intended, it will reach and grow in the fulfillment of the Great Commandment.
i. Filled with the Spirit of God
ii. Avid students of the Word of God
iii. In communion with other believers – The Church (Capitol C)
iv. Contributing to a “Culture of Prayer”
D The Manifest Presence of God is the power that gives us the ability to overcome Spiritual Entropy and ability to fulfill the Great Commission.
i. Understanding the Manifest Presence of God.
ii. Earnestly Seeking His Manifest Presence.
iii. Learning to live and minister in the Presence.
The YSICM Mission Statement
Last post I shared how Your Servant in Christ Ministries was born and the interesting desire built into the ministry initials – YSICM ( (Y) Why (S) Yes I ( C ) See (M) ‘em – Him…. Why yes! I see Him!
This post I want to share with you the heart of Your Servant in Christ Ministries, and our Mission Statement. In the weeks ahead I will explain the teaching and reasoning behind each of the various parts of our Mission Statement.
The Mission of Your Servant in Christ Ministries is to serve congregations with the goal that they fulfill the first and great commandment to be God-hungry believers, living and ministering out of a culture of prayer, so that together with others in their community, they might hunger for, and invite God’s transforming Presence into their lives, their families, their churches and into their communities for the Glory of His Name.
This can be broken down into the following components:
Over the next weeks I will briefly unpack each of these part of our YSICM mission statement. And in the end it really is all about helping individuals, families, congregations and communities say, “Why Yes! I See Him!”
What is Your Servant in Christ Ministries all about?
A good question. Over the next few weeks I want to share with you the heart and mission of YSICM.
In this first installment, I want to share with you the birth of Your Servant in Christ Ministries, the significance of the name, and an interesting “factoid” I’m sure you never knew about the name of this ministry.
How YSICM was born.
For several years, I was the director of a ministry our of Minneapolis, Minnesota called, “Prayer Transformation Ministries. PTM was a ministry focused on Revival, and Transformation, and Intercession. These were very blessed and wonderful years of ministry. In 2009, I was asked to join the ministry of The Sentinel Group our of the Seattle, WA area. My wife and I moved to Monroe, Washington, and I was involved in a number of ways with The Sentinel Group and the message of transformation.
In 2011, my wife passed away from pancreatic cancer, and at the same time, the ministry of The Sentinel Group was hitting on very hard financial times. In December of 2011, I was invited to join the ministry of a church in Valentina, Brazil as the pastor of intercession.
I felt like the Lord was calling me to begin a ministry focused on revival and transformation, and intercession, the three subjects that have been the core of my heart and calling from the very beginning of my Christian life.
But what to call this new ministry? I absolutely did not want to call it “Steve Loopstra ministries!” But what name would God want? In those days I took many walks around a small in Monroe, Washington. In one of these walks as I was seeking to hear from the Lord regarding the name of the ministry, I truly heard Him say, “How have you always signed your letters?” Well, for many years, all my correspondence was signed as “Your servant in Christ.” I never capitalized the “S” in servant in order to not elevate the sense of being a servant.
Well, the next question was, “What do I do about a logo?” That happened to be a Wednesday, and that evening I attended a prayer meeting at one of the churches in town. That afternoon I had been thinking about the logo and picturing some kind of concept with a towel and basin reflecting Jesus serving His disciples. The first part of the prayer time, the room lights were dimmed to facilitate personal meditation. After some time, the pastor invited us to rise and prayer walk around the room. As I arose and turned to join the procession, there on a table in front of me was exactly what I had pictured in my mind! A pitcher, a candle, and a towel! I was amazed, and snapped a picture.
The next day as I was working on the logo and the new name, Your Servant in Christ Ministries, the Lord spoke something very strange to me. He said, “look at the first letter of each of the words of the name.” Really? YSICM. To my mind came what is at the heart of what this ministry is all about. “Y” “S” “I” “C” “M” — “Why Yes, I (C) See (M) Him” YSICM.
Later, I was curious whether I was understanding correctly the “Why Yes” part. When I looked up that phrase, is: ‘Why, yes’ seems to be an idiomatic expression, used to add emphasis to a response. ”
My desire is that through this ministry, whether what I write, or opportunities to speak and teach (more on this to follow), people would see the Lord in His glory, power, and splendor
That’s the heart of Your Servant In Christ Ministries… next week, I will begin sharing the mission statement of YSICM.
Your support and prayers are always appreciated as we seek to live this out.
We are so happy to have available to you our latest Prayer Guide – “Seeking The Face of God”
This is a Prayer Guide written to assist you in seeking a more personal and intimate relationship with the Lord. There are weekly Scripture references pertaining to the theme of seeking the face of God, then a short devotional to focus your attention on that theme, then daily suggestions for prayer, beginning with your own heart, your family, your church, your city and the world of missions.
The “Seeking The Face of God” Prayer Guide is ideal not only for personal devotions, but is designed to be used by families, small groups, Bible study groups, and churches to prayer in unity as you together seek the face of God.
The “Seeking the Face of God” Prayer Guide is available on Amazon and in Kindle format. However in the past we have found that many like the printed copy to write thoughts, and word from the Lord.
Our prayer is that this “Seeking the Face of God” Prayer Guide will be an instrument of God to assist you to respond in a new way to the Lord’s invitation for us to seek His face.
For Bulk orders contact me at: Steveloopstra@gmail.com
Allow me to make some observations about things that are going on here in our country.
I don’t need to make a long list, we all can make our own lists, from as far away as North Korea, which does not seem so far away anymore, to the hurricane in Texas and Louisiana, forest fires in the west, and Irma bearing down on who knows where. Terrorism at home and globally. Social upheaval, and a level of vitriol and hatred that divides not only the nation, but families. Personal struggles and crisis, and, you add whatever is bearing down on your heart. I have been in ministry for a long time, and I don’t ever remember seeing this level and this depth of angst.
What are we to make of this? Some say it is the judgment of God because we have killed millions of innocent lives, and thumbed noses at God. Some would say it is climate change or racial oppression. And it seems in these days, the attitude is simply “take your pick.”
I am not a prophet. I am a flawed person like everyone living on this planet. But I believe in the authority and the truth of the Word of God, the Bible. Unlike political tides that have ebbed and flowed over the millennium, the Word of God has remained despite those who have hated it and predicted it would be gone. Yet it remains.
I have also been extremely blessed to be on-site, observed and talked with people that I believe can teach us a lesson, if we will be willing to learn. I recently spent three weeks in the island nation of Fiji, interviewing very real and very ordinary people who are at this very moment experiencing the blessing of God, and His healing touch on their lands, their families and their individual lives. In each case, and every one is different, they all came to a place, where they asked themselves the question, “Why is this happening to us?”
And in each one of these cases, and many many more that I could never visit, the answer was found in the Bible. In every case, they began to realize that it was their lifestyle choices, their sins that were affecting the whole community and their ecology. Some who had once espoused “Global Warming” turned to see that the Scripture was really the answer to the needs of their community, and their nation.
Observation: These people got to a place of desperation, and desire to bring good to their community, and they humbled themselves to look to God for help.
Observation: When they sincerely and honestly allowed the standard of the Word of God to be the measure of their actions, attitudes and thinking, they were willing to learn from the Scripture what they needed to do to change.
Observation: In every case, when they individually, and corporately turned to God in humble repentance, confession of sin, and reconciliation with God and one another change happened, sometimes almost immediately. The ecology was healed, families, and communities were transformed, the economy grew, educational levels increased, and the list can go on and on.
Observation: When asked what was the one thing they would want others to know, universally, their responses were similar: love and obey God first, have faith in a good God, Believe the Word of God and He will bless you, obey the Word of God.
Observation: These people all understood that the answer to the needs of their lives, their families and their communities, even their lands was summarized, in one verse:
If my people who are called by my Name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and HEAL THEIR LAND. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
With all that is going on around us in these days, without screaming and blaming each other, what if we humbly recognized that we are the cause of many of the afflictions we are suffering, and what if we honestly, and sincerely obeyed the Scriptures as given to us in 2 Chronicles 7:14? I have many times taught, “The condition of the nation is a reflection of the Church.”
Final Observation: In every case where this happened, God was faithful to His promise. Maybe we need to take a long, hard, honest look into our own hearts, and come together to seek His Face, and pray, and turn from our wicked ways. I am one hundred percent certain, that if we did that as a community, as a nation… He would heal our land.
But it is a conditional phrase: “IF my people…” What will be our response?
You see it pretty much every day on the news, hear it on the radio, on social media. It seems our world has been filled in these day with a level of hatred and vitriol that seems unprecedented. Our last presidential election seemed to spike this division, and continues to divide us, almost like the “Sirens” of Greek mythology, it lures us into a fray that only brings out the worst in everyone who is a part of it. With the rise of the so-called “Fake News” comes a distrust of anything that we read, hear, or see. And the glut of such things on one hand makes me not want to contribute to the cacophony of voices screaming to be heard. Yet I feel compelled to bring some Biblical truth to these matters. For those who are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, This is a testament that there is another way. To those who claim to follow Christ, This is a reminder of who we are to be. This is primarily written to believers in Christ.
The Scriptures have no lack of truth that we could, and likely need to consider on this issue, but allow me to just point out three for our meditation and application where needed.
In other words we need to bring the thoughts and intentions of our hearts before the mirror of the Word of God, enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God before we rush into judgment, or before we allow rash words to exit our mouths. Jesus taught much about the importance of the heart in regards to our speech and our actions (Matthew 15:18-19 for example). What is in my heart will produce what comes from my mouth. It is the overflow from our hearts (Matthew 12:34).
What are the attitudes we must cultivate in our hearts? Paul tells us in I Corinthians 12:31, But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. That way, he says in chapter 13 is the way of love. He actually begins chapter 13 addressing our speech. If we speak without love we are like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” In Philippians chapter 4, Paul addresses our attitudes in this way: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9). In Galatians 5:14-15 Paul again says For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! And in Colossians 3, Paul admonishes us with these words: Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:12-17). So how are you doing with those things?
Paul tells us in Ephesians not to allow “corrupt” speech proceed our of our mouths, but only that which is good for edifying, that it might give grace to them that hear (Ephesians 4:29). He tells the Colossians, Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).
To his disciple Titus, Paul writes; This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:8). These passages and so many more give us the “litmus test” for our conversations, our writings, and our responses to those we may disagree with. Let us all (yes, I include myself in this) allow the Word of God to expose our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12). Then, after we have passed this test we may write, or speak those things that would pass this test.
Paul reminded the Ephesian church of this in Ephesians 6:12; For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.But Pauls’ reminder here is not an isolated statement, for he goes on to tell them and us that we must never forget to cloth ourselves for this battle with the armor that God has given to us. The belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shoes of the Gospel of Peace, taking the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and carrying the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the enemy. This is what God has given to workplace, family, or us to be able to stand; and stand for Him in the midst of the battles that rage around us, whether they are political, social, workplace or family. The armor and these truths make no distinction. Again, back at the Bible School in Switzerland, when I came to this passage in Ephesians, I would ask the students, how many of them would be ok with heading out the door in the morning naked. I would get the usual laughs and giggles, but no one ever told me they would. It’s the same with us. We need to put on the armor of God every morning before we head out the door, maybe even before we have breakfast.
There is so much more that could be said on each of these issues and others as well, but suffice it to say, we need to take a step back, look at our hearts, let the Word of God be the judge of our speech, and remember that this is a spiritual battle that we are in all the while we are on this earth. Can I ask you to take some time in the next couple days and allow the Lord to speak to you about these areas of your life. Confess what He shows you is displeasing to Him, and give yourself to be an honorable ambassador for Him where ever you may be.
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
This past month, from February 14 to March 6, 2017 I spent three weeks visiting seven different communities to interview people in these communities concerning the transformation that has happened through the ministry of the Healing The Land Ministries.
Healing the Land Ministries was formed in Fiji in response to the amazing works that God was doing in community after community as they came together and believed and began to live out 2 Chronicles 7:14,
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
What I saw and heard was at once incredible, and inspiring, and at the same time so simple and straightforward.
From Coral Reefs that had been dead for decades coming back to life, to fish returning as the sand and sea were dedicated back to the Lord.
To crop production being increased a hundred fold and more.
To a spring of water that had been cursed generations ago, being transformed into the purest water in all of Fiji as historical curses were broken and the land dedicated back to God.
To government agencies building roads and bridges, and beginning bus service without any request from the people of the communities. A result of the people taking seriously 2 Chronicles 7:14.
The truth is, God is faithful to His Word, and His promises. He only waits for us to clearly understand His Word and believe what He says.
In each interview, I asked one final question: “If you could tell the people who might read the story of what happened in your community one thing, What is the one thing you would want them to know?” — Time after time the response was simply, Believe God, Trust this good God, Believe His Word and follow Him.
I am now in the process of putting these amazing stories in book form to pass this on so that others might know of the greatness of our amazing God. I don’t have a timeline yet. I would covet your prayers as I undertake this task.
If you would be interested in my coming and sharing with your church or group, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 360-862-5646.
It is real, it is powerful, and it is for anyone who will believe and obey.
1 Chronicles 16:8-9 (NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!
Psalm 89:1 (ASV) I will sing of the lovingkindness of Jehovah for ever: With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 105:1 (NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Psalm 145:10-12 (NKJV) All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, And Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power, To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom.
Psalm 71:17-18 (NKJV) O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.
These Scriptures and many more tell us to be about the business of telling to others the wonderous works our mighty God. The passage in Psalm 71:17-21 are what I believe are Gods mandate on my life in this season of my life.
In the past several years, God has been at work in amazing ways in the island nation of Fiji, transforming lives, whole communities, and the ecology. Some of these amazing stories of transformation have been told by The Sentinel Group in the DVD called “Let the Sea Resound.”
On February 14th, I will be traveling to Fiji, visiting about seven different communities, and conducting in depth interviews in order to come back and write their stories so that God’s fame can be passed on to others who come after us.
I will be flying from Seattle to Los Angeles, and then to Nadi, Fiji where I will spend about a week doing interviews in three different communities. Vanuakuda, Tavualevu, and Votua. Tuesday, I will have my first interview with the Paramount Cheif of Tavua.
Then on February 23rd I will fly to Suva, and will be traveling to four communities to hear, record and transcribe their stories of God transforming work. These will be Verata Wailevu, Nakama, Vuniqalutu, andNanuavoivoi in Vanua Levu.
I will be returning home on March 6th. Just for your information Fiji is 20 hours ahead of Seattle time. The flight from LA to Nadi, or Nadi to LA is 11 1/2 hours.
I am inviting you to be a part of telling these wonderful stories of God’s mighty acts.
Thank You for your prayers... the heart of this project is to convey to the world, and especially those coming after us the great and mighty deeds of our God. All for His honor and His glory that His Name might be lifted up.
Click Here to see a short video greeting – Click on this link
You can see trailers or watch the “Let the Sea Resound” videos here in English and other languages. — Click here to see the trailer in English,
It’s the Christmas season. Radio stations filled with music of the season. Stores filled with decorations. Homes decorated with various expressions of Christmas. But have you ever stopped to think about what a “breakthrough” that Christmas Eve really was?
Luke describes in a few words one of the most amazing breakthroughs in human history.Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
I wonder sometimes what it was like on the “other side of the veil” as the hosts of heaven watched the Second Person of the Trinity be born as a human being. I wonder about the anticipation in the heavenly realms as the angels prepared to make that glorious announcement to the shepherds.
God had a presence with humans before. It was the way it was supposed to be in the beginning. God and Adam and Eve walking together in the Garden, enjoying one another’s company. But rebellion and sin erected a barrier between God and man, and only God could cross from time to time in the form of the Shekinah Glory. In the pillar of cloud that lead Israel through the desert. The Glory of God on top of Mount Sinai displaying His majesty to all of Israel. The Shekinah Presence in the Tabernacle and later the Temple of Solomon. But these were transcendent, “otherness” appearances.
Now, the creator of all things, who simply spoke and everything came into being, the One who holds all of creation together… He was now formed in the womb of a human mother, and born not in a palace in Jerusalem, but a stable in Bethlehem. And the announcement was made to shepherds… low class working stiffs.
An ordinary nights work, suddenly became the breakthrough of God into human existence forever. The barrier was breached, and nothing would ever be the same again.
The King of Heaven’s armies invaded earth in the form of a helpless baby, and human destiny was forever altered. The loving heart of God had made the ultimate declaration of love.
Christmas was a breakthrough, and the message of Christmas continues to desire to break through into our lives, into our destinies, into our hearts, into our view of self, and life, and eternity. Will you hear the message and rush to respond as did those shepherds of long ago? Christ the Messiah awaits your response.
Many my be shocked or surprised at these revelations, but our sources tell us that these can be relied on to be true.
The number of revelations were stunning, but here are a few of what we have been told:
1) God will continue to occupy the Throne of the universe. Our source from Exodus 15:18 (NLT) The LORD will reign forever and ever!” another source also revealed in this regard that, Psalm 146:10 (NKJV) The LORD shall reign forever– Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
2) Jesus Christ will continue to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our sources tell us that: 1 Timothy 6:14-16 that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in its own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen.
3) God will continue to work all things together for the good of those who trust Him: sources assure us that: Romans 8:28 (ASV) And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.
4) There will continue to be in the world millions who are without hope: Ephesians 2:12 (NKJV) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
5) All authority will continue to be given to Jesus Christ: Our sources quote Jesus as saying:Matthew 28:18 (ASV) And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.
6) The Church will continue to be commissioned to go into all the world with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Matthew 28:19-20 (ASV) Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
The Election and the Toothpaste Tube
Our nation is in a state of turmoil and confusion. We are facing elections soon in which it seems we have two candidates that many are describing each one as the “lesser of two evils.” Accusations, name calling, and stories abound that no one seems to know what is truth and what is not.
The Church is in a state of turmoil and confusion. We are facing elections soon in which it seems we have two candidates that many are describing each one as the “lesser of two evils.” Accusations, name calling, and stories abound that no one seems to know what is truth and what is not.
What is going on here? Why do we find ourselves in such a quagmire? Some would say that we have indeed entered into a time of judgment upon our country as a result of the decisions that have been made over the past decades regarding abortion, the removal of prayer from our schools, the removal of Judeo-Christian values from our society. Some would disagree that this is judgment, but that God has lifted His hand of protection from this nation because of those and so many more issues, as well as the lethargic and lukewarm condition of the Church.
A few are standing up and trying to give direction in this situation we find ourselves in, but would you allow me to give another perspective to what is happening here? And I want to use the illustration of the toothpaste tube. Most of us have heard and many have used the illustration of the toothpaste tube, how once you take the cap off the tube, and squeeze, whatever is in that tube comes out. You squeeze the tube, you will find out what was really inside there. No matter what the label may say, or what pictures are on the outside, when you squeeze it, you know soon enough what is on the inside.
In Deuteronomy chapter 8, Moses is recounting to Israel, how the Lord dealt with the while they were in the desert. In verse two he says:
And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Moses reminds Israel that the testing in the wilderness for forty years was to show what was in their hearts, whether they would obey the Lord or not. God in other words, was squeezing the tube to see what was on the inside. Perhaps, just perhaps the Lord is allowing these circumstances in our nation in order to squeeze the tube and to reveal to us what is on the inside.
And I have to say, a lot of what I have seen come out of the tube has not been nice.
And I’m just talking about those who call themselves “Christians,” or “believers.” If social media is any indicator, the tube has been full of bitterness, and hatred and conflict, and discord, and venum on every side of these issues. And it seems that we feel quite justified in hurling insults and spewing venum back and forth, sometimes even in the Name of Christ.
Let us please take some time to truly examine the condition of our hearts before our perfectly just and holy God. Let’s stop with our self-justification, and humble ourselves before Him with the realization that there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).
Can we stop long enough to examine from God’s perspective what has been squeezed out of the tube or our lives, and our interactions?
Absolutely we need to stand for and support those who reflect the values we hold dear. But for God’s sake (REALLY!) let us take some time to allow the Spirit of God to do His work of examination of our attitudes and the condition of our hearts. We want God to come and turn things around, but He will not do that despite our sinful unrepentant attitudes. He desires acknowledgement of our sin, and genuine repentance. II Chronicles 7:14 is addressed regarding a people who had turned their backs on God, and had built their own idols, and refused His counsel.
That is us.
I bless all of the movements of prayer that are trying to call us to prayer and repentance, but we have been doing that for years! I have been a part of those. And we are still in this mess. Perhaps it’s time we take responsibility before God for what has been squeezed out of the toothpaste tube of our lives, and fall on our faces before God and confess our, my, your contribution to this current situation. If you say you have no responsibility, it is only a reminder of how far from God’s standard we have strayed. It is missing the understanding that what is laying out for us all to see now, squeezed out of the tube so to speak only indicates that there is a sickness at the very root that must be acknowledged.
Richard Owen Roberts in his amazing book, “Repentance, The First Word of the Gospel.” Asks, “It is clear in your mind that there are sins which are fruits and sins which are roots? If one repents merely of the fruits of sin, the roots will continue to produce more fruits.”
Take some time alone before God, and give Him in His Holiness, to search your heart and reveal to you the roots of the issues, the actions, the attitudes that have been squeezed out of your life, your mouth, your thoughts in this season. You might find yourself on the floor before Him in tears for what He has shown you. Then truly repent, and ask Him to help you to reflect the heart of Christ through your thoughts and words and actions. Let us start being the light of the world again, and not a reflection of our own darkness.
God bless us, and God bless America
The “Early Church” lived in a culture that was not receptive to the message of the Gospel. The culture was hostile to the message of the Gospel. The mindset of the people and the reaction of the government was one of hostility and confrontation. That is what we are seeing rising up today. The early disciples were emboldened to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel in the midst of this culture and government, not because they had hours of seminars and instruction, but because they were firm in their relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because they had a firm and solid faith and understanding of the power of God in the Gospel, they did not need to be intimidated or have fear. They knew it was better to obey God than be intimidated by mere man. This new move of the Spirit will be a move of intimacy. Ingrained in these warriors because they have learned how to take time in intimacy with their Lord, and hear clearly His voice, and be confident of His reality in and through them. Because of this rock solid assurance, they will give no thought to their own lives, but be radically concerned for the lives of others. Through these wounded warriors God will raise the dead, heal the sick, stop plagues, and demonstrate the true power and mercy of the Son of God.
This army will march INTO the darkness
Because YOU ARE the Light of the World – Matthew 5:14
An Angels Easter Story
based upon Matthew 28: 1-7
Zaphnath-Paaneah took his place before the Throne of the Great I AM. The sense of anticipation that he had had from the beginning now seemed to be palpable. From the time of his creation, he had known that this would be his assignment. He did not understand all of it until this day. Now, he felt like he was the most privileged of all the angels of heaven. Like all the other un-numbered angels, he felt most fulfilled when he was privileged to serve in some way, the King of Heavens Armies. It was what he was created for, and he felt the Lord’s pleasure in him when he would serve the King.
But these days were different. He had watched in amazement as thousands of his fellow angels had sung “Glory to God in the highest” as the Son, in some eternally mysterious way had been born in that dirty, and smelly, stable. But at the same time as it was in many ways revulsive because of its smells and looks, it was a holy place. None of them could quite fathom the mystery or the wonder that they felt to see the One who had created them, now wrapped in human flesh as a helpless newborn child. On the day of his birth, it seemed like all of heavens inhabitants were peering over the portals of heaven to get a glimpse of this unspeakable act of humility.
They watched as he grew in his human form, and walked among those he loved from before they were created. All of heaven never quite understood how those he had created, those he had called as a special people, and by his presence in the pillar of fire and smoke had lead them all those years in the desert, was now rejected, reviled and renounced by the objects of his eternal love
But it had become so much worse. Zaphnath watched with others as their King and Lord submitted himself to such cruel beatings and torture. He could still hear the echoes of the weeping in heaven as “Messiah” as they called him, was beaten and crucified without mercy. The stunned silence when he spoke from the midst of his pain, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” No one among the angels or creatures of heaven could fathom the depth of love in that simple expression.
Then, he died. None of them quite grasped how this could be possible, that the King of Heaven’s armies, the Eternal One who spoke all things into existence, now hung in a battered body, dead on that cross. How could it be? How could anyone love with that kind of love? They knew only in part of this plan that the Father, Son and Spirit had conceived. They had heard about it, but this idea of salvation was a mystery to them. Now, however, some of the pieces began to fall into place. Not one of those countless bulls, and goats, and sheep and birds that were prescribed for sacrifices had ever been enough to pay the eternal price for the rebellion of mankind. But now eternity took on mortality, and died. What love the Godhead had for this creation, just a little lower than themselves as angels.
But, oh the celebration throughout heaven when he who had suffered this unexplainable death, had risen, and conquered death! All of heaven rejoiced as one when the Son, now forever in human form, joined them again in heaven’s glory. It was a celebration unlike any they had ever experienced. But then came that moment when the glorious Son called his name, “Zaphnath-Paaneah, it is time.” The time had come for him to fulfill the purpose for which he was created. The reason why he was given the name that he had carried from the beginning of his existence, Zaphnath-Paaneah which means “revealer of mysteries.” Now! Now he understood. Now he put the pieces together. What an honor! What privilege was his. “Yes, Lord!” was his immediate response… it could be none other. And with his inner being filled with the joy of this occasion, he flew from the glories of heaven to that place where they had laid his master.
The sun was beginning to show it’s beautiful rays of light over the horizon. The morning was brisk and the air was filled with electric excitement. It had been three days and nights, and now was the time. The moment he arrived there was a strong earthquake, as the Master seemed to put an exclamation point on that had happened, and what was about to happen. When the Roman guards felt the earthquake, and saw him before them, they were filled with fear and ran away. Now all was ready. With little effort, he rolled away the stone. He already knew what he would find. His master had risen, now the only thing in the tomb were the grave clothes they had wrapped him in those three short days earlier.
There they came, the women. They were prepared to finish the task of preparing the body. They had not had time before, and bless their hearts, out of their love for the Master, they were ready to finish the task. But they were not ready for what Zaphnath had for them. As they approached the empty tomb, they were at first dismayed that the tomb was open. In their thoughts, someone, maybe the Romans or the Pharisees had come and stolen his body. But how was his time. He revealed himself to them and said the words He was commissioned to say, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. Now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”
The women were frightened and ran away. But Zaphnath was filled with joy. He had completed that for which he was created. The mystery conceived before anything was created. As he flew back to the splendors of heaven, he could hardly wait to join his fellow angels to once again be in the presence of the great I AM, and worship him around his glorious throne. But from this time on, forever and ever, for Zaphnath-Paaneah that worship would have a special meaning. He was honored and privileged to be the revealer of the mystery of the empty tomb. He wondered if the Masters disciples would feel that same sense of privilege when they would be commissioned to be revealer of the empty tomb, and be send with this glorious message throughout all the earth. He thought, surely they would feel that same joy that he now felt. He would be watching from the portals of heaven to see what they would now do with this glorious message.
This past week I went and saw the movie, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Bengazi,” It was a very powerful and moving story of the September 11th attack on the American Consulate in Bengazi, Libya. I would recommend going and seeing it. Afterward, I sat in my car and wept for what I saw and the tragedy that could have been avoided.
But at the end of the movie, after the battle was over, two of the men were on the roof, battered, and tired, and bleeding. One was dying and spoke of his family and life. The other spoke some words that immediately grabbed my attention. That phrase is: “Warriors never retire.”
This is not a thought just for intercessors, but to all of the Body of Christ, because realize it of not, we are those who are entered into this warfare against principalities, and powers and rulers of darkness (Eph. 6:10; 2 Corinthians 10:3). We live in days when the forces of darkness are raising the stakes, and being much more overt in their deceptions, and their attacks. This is a time when, especially those who have been fighting this battle many years, are weary and wounded, and there seems that there is no support, that we just want to find a place of peace and safety, and just quit the battle.
If you have been discouraged, if you have been wounded, if you are weary of the battle, let me tell you folks, we have a Commander in Chief who is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and you are NOT abandoned! You are not forgotten! We are called to fight, but with the weapons of the Spirit of God, and against these weapons, no forces of hell can conquer. But we must rise up and fight! There are souls whose eternal destiny will depend upon us being members of His Body who, though wounded and battle weary, will continue to put on the armor of God, and continue to contend in prayer.
You do not always see the unseen consequences of your prayers, but you must keep fighting… because A“a warrior never retires.” As the few remaining men are waiting to board a plane to take them home, one of the guys calls home. He’s made many such trips and been away from home too long. In the course of the conversation, he is speaking to his wife and says; “I’m coming home to stay.” Yes, there is a God appointed day when His warriors will go home to stay. There will be a day when our Commander in Chief, who is the Captain of Heavens Armies, will welcome us home, heal our wounds, and reward us for being faithful warriors… but until then…
My last post I began to talk about how I have been challenged with the idea of learning to think the way God thinks. God had challenged me during a day of prayer when I was in Brazil that I needed to learn to think like He thinks. This is an all-encompassing subject, but it has been working on me for some time. And given the recent uproar surrounding the murder of fourteen Americans in San Bernardino, California, and other terrorist attacks, I began to ask, “how would I respond with God’s way of thinking in this situation?”
This is a topic that is far broader than is possible to address in one post here, but I would ask you to prayerfully consider how the following might apply in our current situation in our land. And how the Church needs to rise up and be the Church in these days, not simply in political activism, but as ambassadors of the King of Kings and Ruler of the Universe. Thinking and acting and speaking as God would.
My first reaction would be to realize that at the very outset I must love. The very and maybe sometimes too familiar verse, John 3:16, says, “for God so loved the world…” As perverted, as deranged, and as “radicalized” as these people may be who carry out these acts of terror and murder (yes, let’s call it terror. That is part of the whole purpose of their actions is to put us in a state of terror of the next time) may be, they are still people for whom Jesus hung and died on the cross. They are people for whom Jesus rose from the dead an ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Does my heart break for them in the same way that God’s heart breaks for their “lostness?” If not, then I must start by repenting of the hardness and the waywardness of my own heart. That is not to excuse their actions – never. It is to put God’s perspective on my perception of them as people whom Jesus loves.
Secondly, if I am thinking the way God thinks, I would be outspoken in denouncing sin at every level. Not only the sin of murdering innocent people, but the sin of turning people away from the true and living God to follow the deceptions of demons. Let’s be honest, the desire, the teaching that it is pleasing to any god to behead your enemies, kill and subjugate those who do not believe like you is sin. Yes, that includes anyone who teaches in such a way. I know there is a whole discussion to be had about the Old Testament actions of God’s directions to Israel, but that is for another time. Here, the point is, the people of God must denounce sin. And the sin of those who use these kinds of situations for their own aggrandizement, or gain socially, politically, or financially. This must be done from hearts that have been examined for our own sins first.
Thirdly, if I am thinking the way God thinks, I would be fearless in pointing out the hypocrisy at every level. Hypocrisy in the Church when we are quicker to point out the sins of others than confessing with tears our own sins. We must denounce the hypocrisy of those like our president and other political leaders who use “selective language” for his own purposes. Like John the Baptist calling out Herod, or Jesus speaking plainly to the Pharisees of His own time. Let us ask God for His wisdom to see through the deceptions and call out hypocrisy when it is found.
Fourthly, if I am thinking the way God thinks, I will understand how I need to understand the words of Jesus when He said, “render therefore to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Jesus said that He was about His Father’s business. Jesus chose His battles, whether it was when He was tempted by Satan, or whether he was being tested regarding political issues. I’m not saying that we are not to be involved in politics. We are to be light and salt in every sphere of society. But we must know how to choose our battles with wisdom from Him. We ought also to take a lesson from Jesus here and learn how to answer those trying to trip us up with wise words from eternal truth. We need to speak not from our own political leanings, or even religious prejudices, but from the eternal truth of the Word of God.
As I said, this is a subject that is way beyond one blog on one website, but I think it is time that we as believers in Jesus Christ learn to look at our world through the eyes and with the mind of Christ, with humility, and with God’s truth, but not with concession to cultural or political “trade winds.” What a challenge for us to learn to think like God thinks. Especially in these days.
Thinking like God thinks… a few years ago, I had a “day of prayer” on the beach in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. And to answer your question, yes, that is a very easy place to be still and listen to the voice of the Lord. The warm ocean waves lapping over your toes, the warm breeze, and the vast expanse of beach all made it very easy to just quiet my heart and listen. There were many things on my mind… past, present, future. I needed direction and help with decisions I needed to make. At one point as I walked the beach, the Lord spoke very clearly to me and simply said, “you need to learn to think like I think.”
At first the words of Paul came to my memory, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5. I am currently doing more of a study of what does that really mean? What does it really mean to think the way God thinks? How do I wrap my puny mind around the thinking process of the creator of the universe? Well, I’m still working on that, and will post more about that here as things progress.
However, there was one thought that came to me recently in the midst of some very difficult and painful circumstances. A situation I never thought would be a part of my life, yet here it is. Unwanted, unwelcomed, un-enjoyed, but smack dab in my face. How do I react? How do I conduct myself in this situation? How do I think the thoughts that God would have?
When we are in such circumstances, our first and best option is to turn to the Word of God for direction and counsel. I found myself reminding myself of all of who God is to me. He is my savior, my strength, my redeemer, my wisdom, my protector, my shield. So many more I could recount, and then… this thought: “He does not have to remind Himself of Who He Is.”
WOW! He does not have to remind Himself of Who He Is! The depth of that began to seep down into my spirit like golden honey. I, in my struggle to try to understand my circumstances, needed to remind myself who He is. But He never has to do that. He is always totally aware of all of who He is. In every moment, in every circumstance, in every disruption, every trial that comes our way, He is constantly and totally and fully aware of all that he is. He does not have to go and search the concordance to find a character to meet today’s need. He is “I AM” totally and eternally everything I need Him to be.
As I pondered this thought, and brought it before this idea that I need to think like God thinks, WOW! What a revolution that would be in my life, in our lives, if we could come to that place in our walk and our relationship with Him so that in any situation, every circumstance, we would know who He is for that particular moment.This is profound for my daily walk. This requires not simply a study of theology (the study of God), it requires an intimacy with Him, so that in any circumstance I don’t need to search around, I will know who He is for me at that moment. It takes a knowledge and intimacy born out of time spent together. It brings a familiarity with Him and who He is for every situation. He who goes with me and lives within me desires that I come to such a place in my knowledge of Him that in any given moment I walk in the assurance of His sufficiency for that moment, that challenge, that crisis, that obstacle because the sufficiency is in who He is, and I know Him to that point I no longer have to stop and search… at that moment I know.
May the Lord grant that we come to know Him with that kind of intimacy and purity, that like Him, we will not have to remind myself of who He is, I will simply “know” and walk and rest in the character of who He is.
Turn Your Eyes…
It’s been a long time since my last blog on this site. My life has had maybe more than my share of changes and challenges in the past couple months. I have started some blogs, but then got interrupted, or didn’t want to continue that particular train of thought for various reasons. It did however get me thinking about the truth of an old tune that has been playing in my head lately; “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
So I want to scribble down here some thoughts on “turn your eyes…” Yes, I know, it’s obvious, where we are looking makes a big difference in where we go and how we get there. But what am I turning my eyes to? I have to admit that lately I have been turning my eyes to the circumstances that have been challenging me. To be honest, starting a new life in a new culture with a new language and a new family, and new habits and customs is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, and when you are my age, it makes it even more difficult to adapt. Add to that the challenges of an accident that results in a broken leg… I now have a place and eight screws in my right leg, the removal of my gall bladder, double pneumonia and a weakened heart muscle, and a burn on my hand from hot bacon grease. All of that has kept my eyes pretty much focused on my circumstances, I admit. If I were to change that little tune to the other side, it might go something like this: “turn your eyes on circumstances, look at all that is challenging your life, and the things of this world will overwhelm your soul, and you’ll be sure to despair every day.”
Turn your eyes…. Friends have asked me, “what is the Lord saying to you?” and I had to say that in this season, the heavens were bronze, and I was not hearing anything. Once I started a blog entitled, “Insights from the backside of the dessert.” But I thought it might be a little too negative. I was stuck… all I could turn my eyes on were the challenges, the difficulties, the disappointments. Not a good place to be. Not a healthy place to be. The stresses of my new challenges were taking a toll on my physical health resulting in a weakened heart muscle, and another change in my lifestyle.
Then there’s the other old song; “Where could I go, oh, where could I go? Seeking a refuge for my sould?” “Where could I go but to the Lord?” Hebrews 12:1- 2 says:Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne
OK, Lord, I am turning my eyes to you, I want to look full in your wonderful face, because I know you are beautiful, and merciful and gracious, and in your face I find the acceptance and love that you proved on Calvary. I want you to perfect my faith because I am not able to do that myself. I do not have the power. I turn my eyes to you who are in heaven, and I await the day when I will be able to look into your face in person. You have to help me because I cannot keep my eyes on you without your power and your help. It’s too easy for me to turn my eyes back again on my circumstances. Help me to strip away everything that hinders me from turning my eyes upon you, and looking full in your wonderful face. I’m looking, Lord, and I am fascinated. I’m looking, Lord and that is enough for this moment because that it all I have.
The Inconvenience of Brokenness
I was reminded recently how inconvenient the Biblical teaching of brokenness really is. In many Christian teachings, it is much easier to talk about verses such as Romans 8:37, Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, or Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But if the subject of brokenness comes up, the topic seems to be quickly diverted to all we can conquer through Christ. To talk about our weakness and frailty doesn’t seem very victorious. It’s much more encouraging to talk about how we will overcome and win the battles and vanquish every foe. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a valid place for all of this teaching, but these teaching of conquering and victory must be understood in the light of what the Bible teaches about brokenness.
Part of the problem with this thinking is a lack of understanding of how God views brokenness. You see, to God, brokenness is never weakness. Some Christian teaching and the views of the world around us would have us believe that being in a place of brokenness is a place of weakness and vulnerability. Our response is that we need to get out of this place and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going. And to be perfectly honest, at least some of what results from the teaching of overcoming and more than conquerors is nothing more than Christianized self-effort. And that is abhorrent to God. It is a glorification of our own self will, self efforts, and self talk. So we need to understand the Biblical principle behind this idea of brokenness.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most Christians acknowledge the importance of brokenness but do everything they can to avoid the experience of it. There is a fundamental teaching about brokenness that helps us to understand it’s importance in the economy of God. That is simply, brokenness brings us to the place to complete and total dependence upon God. And that is God’s gracious purpose, because when we are completely and totally dependent upon God, then He is free to fulfill in us, all the destiny that He purposed for us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). There is an interesting cycle of brokenness and strength that is found in Philippians 4: 11 – 13. We are used to quoting verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but that comes in the context of Paul saying that he has learned how to be content in any circumstance. How did Paul come to that place? To be able to be content whether starving or having plenty? This is understood in light of chapter 3 where Paul says he puts no confidence in the flesh, and considers all his fleshly advantages to be as garbage. The one thing that is of utmost importance to Paul is to know Christ (Philippians 3:10).
Allow me to give this simple insight into “brokenness.” I have read several posts where people do not agree with the idea of “brokenness” and when I read them I realize that there is a misunderstanding of what this brokenness really is, and how it works. So here is my humble attempt.
Brokenness is being in that place where we have come to realize the total emptiness, and abhorrence to God of our fleshly efforts to please and serve our Most Holy God (John 15:5). Brokenness is the state of being more and more totally dependent upon the power of God to work in and through us for His purposes (Colossians 1:29). Brokenness is constantly on guard against the subtle influences of the flesh and when it realizes that fleshly attitudes, or efforts have begun to influence our total trust in God, there is immediate repentance and turning from the flesh to God (I Corinthians 15:31).
Brokenness can occur in times of trial, where God is testing us as He did Israel, to see what is in us, and Brokenness is an ongoing attitude of dependence upon God alone for our power, wisdom, and service for Him. Think of this, take an unbroken clay jar and put a light inside, cover the top and how much light will shine through? NONE
Take that same jar,break it and then glue it together again, but the light inside, cover the top and light will shine through each of those broken places.
The flesh rebels against brokenness, the Spirit of God guides us into brokenness because brokenness is the place of usefulness and blessing, and God’s loving presence. Let us learn to embrace brokenness (James 4:10).
Finally, I leave you with this illustration that has touched my heart many times over the years…
THE TALE OF THE WILLOW
Once upon a time in the heart of the western kingdom, there was a beautiful garden. There in the cool of the day, the Master was wont to walk. Of all the dwellers in his garden, the most beautiful and beloved was a noble bamboo tree. Year after year the bamboo grew more noble and gracious, conscious of his masters love and watchful delight.
One day the master himself drew near to contemplate his beloved tree, and bamboo in a passion of adoration bowed his great head to the ground. The master spoke: “Bamboo, I would us you.” It seemed the day of days had come. The day for which the tree had been made! Bamboos voice came low, “Master, I am ready, use me as you wish.”
Bamboo, the master voice was grave, “I must take you and cut you down.” “Cut me down! Me whom you, master have made the most beautiful in your entire garden, cut me down? Not that, not that! Use me for your joy, oh master, but do not cut me down!”
The Masters voice grew graver still, “If I do not cut you down then I cannot use you.” The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his glorious head. There came a whisper, “Master, If you cannot use me unless you cut me down, then do your will and cut.”
“Beloved bamboo, I must cut your leaves and branches from you also.” “Master, spare me! Lay my beauty in the dust, but would you take from me my leave and branches also?” “Unless I cut them away, I cannot use you.” The sun hid its face. A butterfly glided fearfully away, and bamboo shivered in expectancy, whispering low, “Master, cut away.” “Bamboo, I would divide you in two and cut out your heart, for if I do not, I cannot use you!”
Then Bamboo bowed low to the ground. “Then master, cut and divide.”
So did the master of the garden cut down bamboo, and hack off his branches, and strip off his leaves and branches and cut him in two and cut out his heart. Then he carried him to where there was a spring of fresh sparkling water in the midst of the masters dry fields. Putting one end of broken bamboo into the spring and the other into the water channel of his field, the master gently laid down his beloved tree.
And the spring sang, “Welcome!” and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of
Bamboos torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted. And the days went by and the shoots grew, and the harvest came.
In that day, Bamboo, once so glorious, was truly put to use in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty, he had life abundant for himself, but in his brokenness, he became a channel of abundant life to his master’s world.
The day was January 3, 1969
I was in the Air Force with orders for Vietnam. My life up to that day had been increasingly filled with drugs and alcohol abuse. I had been watching my life slip farther and farther away, but I had no power to stop the slide.
My friend from High School, Mark McPherson had written to me about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and my response was, “I’m glad you found something that works for you, but that’s not my thing,” But January 3, 1969 found me headed for his house in San Jose, California… just for a quick visit. I was on my way home to my parent’s house in Palos Verdes, in Southern California. I was planning only about a ten minute visit. After all, we didn’t have that much in common any more. He had his faith, I had my drugs, and booze. I was coming from a time with friends in Sacramento, California where I was on drugs or alcohol most of the time.
All I had was Mark’s address in San Jose. I had no map, so at the first San Jose exit off the freeway, I pulled into a gas station to ask directions. To my amazement, when I asked how to get to that address, the attendant said, “oh, that’s easy! Just go to the next light, take a left turn, take another left turn and you are there.” I thought that was rather strange… little did I know I was being set up by the God of the universe! Mark told me years later that when he saw me walking up to his house, the Lord spoke t him and said, “Don’t let him leave until he knows where he is going.”
That planned ten minutes ended being the entire day. Mark was faithful to what the Lord spoke to him, and faithfully witnessed the love of God to me over and over again. We had lunch together, and he talked about a personal relationship with God. All through the afternoon. Over dinner, he faithfully answered my questions and continued to share about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross for me.
That night, about eight in the evening, while waiting to see a movie, sitting in my 1969 Triumph Spitfire, he asked me the ultimate question… “Are you ready?” I said yes, and prayed right there, asked the Lord to forgive my sins and make me a new person in Christ. There was no big flash of light, but the lifting of the burdens on my heart was immediate and profound. The desires for drugs and alcohol were immediately gone, and never returned.
My time in Vietnam turned out to be a time of rapid spiritual growth thanks to the ministry of then, Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers, now called Cadence International. I was baptized in April of 1969 in the South China Sea off the coast of Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Each year, on January 3, I take time to remember the power of a faithful witness, THANKS AGAIN, MARK! and the power of God to transform a life. This year, 2013 marks my 45th spiritual birthday, and I am eternally grateful to God for His grace and mercy, and how over these past 45 years, He has been faithful in every way. I would never go back, and count myself among those most blessed by God’s amazing love. I have never doubted for a moment since that night that I have a personal relationship with Him. Since that day 45 years ago, my only desire has been to serve Him in whatever way He has directed me. As Pastor, Bible Teacher, Prayer Ministry leader, I have only one desire.. that on that day when I stand before Him,
I will hear the words, “Well done, Steve! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
I invite you to give thanks with me to God for His love, and mercy and grace that sent His Son to die on the cross for you and me, rose from the dead to conquer death, and ascended to heaven, and one day He will return for us. If you do not have a personal relationship God in this way, feel free to contact me, I’d love to share with you how Jesus can transform your life, and give you a personal relationship that is for all eternity.
Thanks for sharing this Spiritual Birthday with me…. The Adventure Continues….
…till next time…
On Sunday, October 27th, in our church, I opened the prayer time by running down the isle of the church saying, “The Word of God is Running!” based upon 2 Thess. 3:1, Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.
On Tuesday, October 29th, as I was riding my bicycle home, I was struck by a hit and run motorcycle driver. The accident left me with a severely fractured tibia, and assorted contusions and bruising. I was taken to the local trauma hospital here in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.
What follows are some reflections on things the Lord has been speaking to me about this incident, and lessons for myself and all of us.
It is the most common response, and the least answered question in times of tragedy and pain… “why?” Because God made us as rational beings, with reasoning powers, our first tendency when faced with overwhelming circumstances is to ask why. What caused this to happen to me? Or my loved one? Did they do something wrong? Is this a result of some sin or poor choice? The best response to these kinds of question is found in the incident with the man born blind in John 9:1-5. Jesus response to the question of why by the disciples was to point them to the work of God, and the power of God at work in the man’s life.
Certainly being hit by a motorcycle and fracturing my tibia and being laid up for weeks of recovery was not something I ever thought would happen to me.
But in the midst of the confusion and the tragedy, God was showing that He was in the midst of the situation. My fiancé, Crizelania was on the scene almost immediately, and became my life giving advocate. The pastor of the church was there to help and to advocate at the hospital, members of the church became involved and were touched by how God was working in the midst of this difficulty.
This saga is not yet finished. God has spoken to our hearts that He can use this for His glory on into the future. When I came to Brazil, it was with the call of Psalm 71:17-21 on my life. Verses 17 – 18 say: O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
One of the things the Lord spoke to me after the accident as I was reviewing this call on this season of my life, was that God reserves the right to decide HOW that will be fulfilled. His calling is still in effect, and He can decide how he wants to demonstrate that power in and through us. Our part is to be a willing vessel.
I do not know if, in the Lord’s presence He will explain to us the “why’s” of our lives. But I suspect that when we are there in His presence, we will no longer have a need to understand why, because He will be all the answer we need.
’till next time…
I have been, as many of your have been, watching the current horrific actions of our national leaders centering around the partial government shutdown and the debate over raising the debt limit. I have been appalled at the petty actions to hurt the American people, and American Veterans by denying access, and even arresting those who cross barriers to national monuments, and denying people access to their own homes or businesses if they happen to be on federal lands.
I have to confess my total outrage and disgust at the pettiness that is being shown on so many levels, and on many different sides of our society today.
My heart is broken for our society in these days, where at a school in Washington State, balls are banned from the playground because they might harm students, and the NSA spying issues, the lack of leadership and the list can go on, and on.
I have to confess also, that I have found myself being caught up into a sense of hopelessness for a time… a negativity that we have seen the last gasps of our great republic. I had thoughts that I have lived to see the descent of The United States of America into a form of government that was never intended by our founding fathers, and that most of us so not want, but have not stood up to defend.
Those are the words that I was reminded of out of that pit of hopeless thinking. I was reminded that this is a perfect time, and a perfect opportunity for the church to respond in an appropriate manner… in the manner that has, in the past brought great awakenings to our country.
I think many American Christians today are not aware of the writings and teachings of the revival historian Dr. J. Edwin Orr.
In a speech called, “The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening,” Dr. Orr describes the conditions in the colonies prior to the First Great Awakening. This is what he writes:
Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were daily occurrence. What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennox, Massachusetts in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.” Voltaire averred, and Tom Paine echoed, “Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.”
Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole of the student body. They took a poll at Princeton, as much more evangelical place; they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and burned it in a public bonfire.
Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.
In case this is thought to be the hysteria of the moment, Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great church historian, wrote: “It seems as if Christianity was about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.” The churches had their backs to the wall, [highlights mine] seeming as if they were about to be wiped out. How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.
Dr. Orr goes on to describve how people began to gather in concerted gatherings of prayer, and in response to concerted, humble, desperate prayer, God responded with what we now call the First Great Awakening.
The Word of God is always true in every fluctuation of society, and when He says:
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and prayer and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land – 2 Chronicles 7:14
It is a promise we can count on today…
Are things terrible in our country today? Yes, on many levels. Does any of this catch God by surprise? Not at all! Is any of this beyond His ability to bring revival and transformation to our country? Not in the least.
The question is, what will my response be? What will our response be? Will we wring our hands in fear? or will we pound our fists in anger? or will we get on our knees and humble ourselves and confess that we as the people of God have been part of the problem? Will we cry out to Him in concerted, humble, desperate prayer? Or will we hold on to our own sins and pride, blame everyone else, and watch thigns continue to crumble before our eyes?
I am not claiming to be a prophet, but I know the Scriptures are true, and I know the testimony of history. If we will respond as God directs us, He will be faithful to answer us, as surely as the sun rises in the morning (Hosea 6:1-3).
Now is the time for the church to unite in humble, desperate, united prayer for our nation. Turn off CNN, and Fox News, yes and even Facebook, and gather in prayer with other believers and petition God for the salvation of our nation. It is not too late. The Lord awaits our response.
This is my plea to believers wherever you are…start now… Dont’ let up until He answers with power in your life, in your family, in your city, in our nation…
Cry out for mercy, for revival, for transformation.
Even so, Come! Lord Jesus!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the subject of saving and spending. Most people my age (65, and very happy to be here!!) are looking at collecting Social Security, dipping into the 401K and enjoying the retirement life. Granted, today’s economy makes it a lot more difficult than it was when my parents retired, but that is sort of the normal “season of life” thing that you do when you get to be my age.
But I told you this is not what you think… sure, I’m starting to make plans to utilize my Social Security and retirement ( a very, very small plan), but that is not what I have in mind when I talk here about saving and spending. You see, Jesus used this kind of terminology in Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 and 17:33.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)
In all three gospel accounts, Jesus is not talking about money but our lives. He is talking about what we spend our lives on; whether we have a mentality to hold on to our lives – saving, or spend our lives for Him and the Gospel.
Jesus makes it very clear that if we have a mentality to hold on to our lives, we lose. If we spend our lives, we win. So, I want to share with you what I have been thinking about saving and spending in this context.
I have been in ministry in some form or another for nearly 40 years. I am 65 years old. There are those who would say that at this age, I would deserve to settle back a bit, retire, and enjoy a more laid back lifestyle. Ministry? Sure in some less demanding form… part time ministry, and more time fishing, or painting, and taking it easy. I have thought about that. And I know friends who have at this point in life been on many varied points on this scale. Some have retired from ministry and are enjoying the fruit of their retirement. Others, some variation of continued ministry and retirement. Sounds nice, I have to admit. And don’t get me wrong… there is nothing wrong with that, I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m reflecting to you my own thoughts.
That would be what I call the “saving” aspect of my meditations. Now, here is the “spending” aspect, and how I have been thinking. Jesus tells us of another aspect of this that have been an exceptionally strong motivation for me in my ministry and life. It is found in Matthew 25: 14-29 and Luke 19:11-27 in what is known as the parable of the faithful stewards.
His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ – Matthew 25:23 (NKJV)
One thing in these parables is branded into my heart, mind, and soul. I want to hear on that day (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, those words; Well done, Steve!! Enter into the joy of your Lord. No other reward could be as sweet. No effort too much in order to hear those words from my Lord Jesus.
Here I am in Brazil. A crazy adventure that the Lord actually invited me on, in December of 2011 in what I would describe as a dream or vision. Even here, people ask me if I am going to retire. Well, yes and no. I will draw the monies that are mine in order to live here, and hopefully some support from those who believe in this ministry, but that is only a means to an end.
I want to spend my life. I want to spend my life on others. I want to spend my life pouring into others whatever little the Lord can allow me to spend so that they will love the Lord more, desire to serve Him more, and that they might here those words, “Well done.” I do not know how long the Lord will give me here on this earth. None of us know that for sure. My wife’s life was cut short, but she is now enjoying the joys of heaven. I am here, and I want to spend my life giving into the lives of others, so that on that day, I will know those precious words of my Lord Jesus. It looks at this point, that that kind of spending may take a very radical look. A kind of spending that most people would not expect at my age, or maybe understand. I have thought and prayed a lot about this. I could take a different road. But I believe the Lord would have me choose the “road less traveled.” The road to spend myself into the lives of others.
It will not be easy. It is not the “norm,” but then again… when have I ever done anything according to the “norm?” It will be demanding and tiring at times. But I actually get excited thinking about being able to pour my life into others in a way that could affect them for eternity. My guess is that you will be hearing more about this in the months to come.
Have you given much thought to this subject of saving and spending? Have you considered allowing the Lord to use you to spend your life for others, and shunning saving the last years for yourself? The Lord has a plan for each of our lives, and we need to discover what that is, but the words of Jesus echo through my being, and I long to hear them on that day, Well done, Steve!! Enter into the joy of your Lord. May God guide you as you pray about and consider saving and spending.
“till next time…
As you read this title, you might be thinking of excluding yourself. After all, you are not a theologian. That is someone who has gone to seminary, and studied for years and is an expert in religion.
But wait… before you leave the room. Let me remind you of who we are REALLY looking for here.
The Webster online Dictionary defines Theologian this way: one who specializes in Theology
They further define Theology as: the study of God and of God’s relation to the world
A Theologian, simply put, is someone who studies the nature and character of God and how He relates to this world and it’s people. Theology is simply, the study of God.
Does that sound a bit like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10 – 11? that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (NKJV).
We need theologians in the church… NO! I am not saying everyone needs to go to seminary… please no!! But, I am saying we need more people who give themselves over diligently to the study of the nature, character, and ways of God. We need people who are growing in their knowledge of God.
We do not need people who are studied in religious systems and theological debates. We need people who are growing in a personal knowledge of the Living God!
Why? Why is this important for you? What difference does it make? Friend, it makes all the difference in the world! And here is why:
If you are not a theologian, a person who is growing and learning the person and character of God, you will not know how to handle the challenges, and storms of life. You will be tossed about as a dingy in a hurricane. You will be left to try to figure things out by your own perception, and that is a sure formula for failure, depression and wrong thinking.
I HATE using myself as an illustration here, but for the sake of this point, I am going to use my own experience to make the point. Two years ago, my wife, Marilou was in a hospital in the Seattle, Washington area, and finally being given the news from an oncologist that she had stage 4 cancer of the pancreas that had spread to the liver. There was no cure, no treatment except to relieve pain. The doctor said we had, at the outside, two to three months. Thirteen days later, she left this life.
My experience is not unique. Many people have travelled that road. I know of a friend whose wife died in a similar fashion. His response was to retreat into his home, avoid contact with others, gain weight and start drinking to mask the pain.
But if we are a theologian, one who knows and seeks to understand the character of God, we will know that our God is a God who gives strength, hope, and a future to those who grieve. I sure did, and continue to grieve the loss of my wife. But because I am convinced that God is who He says He is in His Word, I decided I would step out into the new territory of His character. He invited me on a new adventure, and today I am experiencing new dimensions of Him that I would never had known if I had not decided many years ago to be a theologian.
Are you a theologian? Are you actively seeking to learn more and experience more of the character and personhood of God? Is your life dedicated, as Paul’s was, to “know him?”
Becoming a theologian will prepare you to be able to weather, and be victorious over any circumstance that this life may throw your way. And you and I both know this life on earth can be difficult. I urge you to decide today to become a theologian. It’s the greatest decision you can make because you will find in Him, a treasure trove of grace, and love, and mercy, and hope, and so much more that you can apply to your everyday life.
The other day, a friend on Facebook asked a very good question. “Why is it important to us what is happening in Egypt and Brazil?” She was speaking specifically regarding the public demonstrations that have been taking place in these countries (and others by the way).
I asked if I could have some time to put together a response. These are my thoughts. Certainly not complete, or exhaustive, and others may have better answers, but perhaps here is the beginning of a discussion.
Why is it important to us what is happening in Egypt and Brazil? ( and other countries)
1.) God cares about the nations.
The Scriptures are full of the evidence of God’s heart that the nations know Him as Lord. Psalm 2:7-8 (NLT) states: The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. The condition and the destiny of nations matters to our God, and by implication, they should matter to us. God’s purpose for Israel was not isolationism, but that through them, the nations would know that He is God. As the nations observed their submission to the Lordship of God in their nation, other nations would be drawn to them, but also they were to be emissaries for Jehovah to the nations. God cares about nations because nations are made up of people, people for whom Jesus died on the cross and rose in resurrection power. We should care what happens in other countries because God cares what happens in other countries. The Old and New Testaments speak about the conditions, and activities of nations, and God’s responses. But His heart is always toward redemption and restoration to Himself. We should care about what happens in other countries because God cares enough about nations to set their boundaries (Acts 17:26). We care about nations because God continues to care about these nations.
2.) We are to understand the times in which we live.
Jesus chided the Pharisees because they were not aware of the times that they were living in… the time of the Messiah…in Matthew 16:2-3 (NLT) He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!
I am among those who believe that we are living very near to the return of the Lord Jesus. It would be unwise and even disobedient, according to Jesus admonition, for us to not try to be aware of the times in which we live. The “end times” involves the nations of the world that will be in turmoil. Or look at it from another perspective. Luke tells us about two people, Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) who were so in tune with the Spirit of God and the times in which they lived, that they were privileged to greet and pray over the young Messiah. I personally believe that we as believers need to be keenly aware of the times in which we live, and be ready at all times to share the hope of the Gospel with the world around us. And, be prepared for the imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us this as well in Matthew 24 and other passages. Peter asks the question in 2 Peter 3:11, as we are aware of the future of this world, what manner of people ought we to be? A question that perhaps is not asked enough in these days. And a question that is relevant to this discussion.
3.) We can make a difference through prayer.
History is replete with the accounts of how the informed intercession of God’s people has made a difference in the history of nations. There are many books that give us examples of this. One of the classics is “Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting” by Derek Prince. One chapter in his book is entitled, “Seeing History Shaped Through Prayer.” In other words, we are not helpless victims in the stream of history. Many events in history have been turned around in answer to the prayers of God’s people. Time does not allow sharing these here, but they are plentiful. We are called to be active participants in the history of nations, and peoples. This was true in Scripture as well, Think of Abraham, Jeremiah, and Daniel only to name a few who through prayer changed the course of nations. This is not triumphalism, but it is realizing the power of prayer and intercession that God has placed in our hands to bring glory to His Name, and people into His Kingdom. The many stories of transformation and healing of the land that The Sentinel Group have documented are further evidence that God calls us to be agents of transformation through prayer, intercession and our lives in the world in which we live. Passivity is not a virtue in the Kingdom of God.
4.) It allows us to be touched by the heart of God for people.
To watch the people on the streets, whether in Brazil, Egypt or the many other countries that are in this time in chaos, reminds me of the words of Joel 3:14 (NKJV) Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. I earnestly believe that the heart of God aches and is broken for those who are in that valley of decision… believing there is no hope, or believing that the only hope is in a political figure, or institution, or in the power of the state, or any other of a number of false gods that people are grasping for in these days. If we are truly in touch with the heart of God, our hearts too will be broken for the lostness of men in our day, and that will motivate us toward taking the Gospel of Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ to them by any means possible. The promise of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:14 (NLT) is, And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. We are to go into all the world with the Gospel and reach every nation and hasten the coming of the King of Kings. If we are in touch with the heart of God as we see those scenes from this current turmoil, our hearts will be moved to pray, and give and go for the sake of the commission He has given to us, and the sake of His Kingdom.
These thoughts are surely not exhaustive, but I trust they will stimulate our thought about how we view the images that confront us of the world and times in which we live. These are indeed challenging days. It would be easy for us to want to isolate ourselves from the nonsense, violence, chaos, and confusion that is all around us, yet we are called to be salt and light in this world, not to hide our light under a cover. There are two verses that I find very interesting, especially in these days. This is not to say I believe we are in the Tribulation period, I do not, but Revelation 13:10 and 14:12 describes that in that time of trouble the saints will be characterized by patience and faith.
I believe we are approaching those days, and we are also called to exhibit those same characteristics in our world… patience and faith. Placing ourselves in the Hands of God and believing Him to carry us and direct us how to live in our present world. May God grant us each one, His patience and faith by the power of His Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Even so, Come, Lord Jesus…
Probably one of the most familiar of the Biblical “If-Then” passages is 2 Chronicles 7:14:
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) … if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
And perhaps our familiarity with this passage makes it more important to look at this more carefully. Especially in the light of where our country seems to be headed.
A Question: Let me pose a question here. Given the assumption that the Word of God is true, and the precepts upon which this verse if founded are true. In other words, when God says that if we will do the “If’s,” He will do the “Then’s,” why do we not see more “Then’s?” We have all been in plenty of prayer meetings where this verse has been prayed out and used to plead with God, or convince God to come and heal our land. But if so much pleading is happening, why are we not seeing more answers? Why are we not seeing more divine response to our pleading of this promise?
If God is true to His Word, and I am coming from the assumption that He always is, then the fault must lie with our “If’s.” We are not correctly understanding what our part is. Or we are misapplying what our responsibilities are. And the reality is, that there are numbers and numbers of examples where this verse has been lived out, and God has answered with divine fire of revival, and transformation. The Sentinel Group has been documenting such cases for years. And they continue.
So, if the fault lies with us, and it always does, what must we do, what must we understand in order for us to experience the forgiveness, and healing that God promises? We do not have time to go in depth here, but let’s look at each part of the “If’s.”
If my people who are called by my Name – This group of people is not just “anybody.” These are not simply “church people.” For there are, unfortunately, lots of people in our churches who do not truly have a personal, redeemed relationship with the Lord. Those who are called by His Name, are the ones who are not simply church members, but those who through genuine faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, paid the penalty of sin once for all, have become the children of God through faith in Christ’s finished work. These are those who have the authority to do the “If’s” in this verse. And those who know they are called by His Name have the responsibility to take that authority seriously.
Will humble themselves – We can get all tangled up in talking about what “humbling ourselves” means, but the bottom line is simply that there are no more excuses, no more self-justification, no more wiggle room. We are the reason that our society, our land is so messed up. It is our sin that is the source of the dysfunction in our society. Oh sure, that is not to take away from the effects of the lives of the unsaved. Sin has had and continues to have a devastating, and debilitating effect on every area of society. However, we cannot run away or hide from the fact that when the people of God are living righteously, and with the wisdom, grace, and love of God flowing in and through their lives, those affects are greatly mitigated, and the presence of God is invited into a community resulting in revival of the Church, and transformation of society at every level.
And Pray – Ask anyone who is living in, or has lived in a time of revival and transformation and they will tell you that what came was the result not of casual, convenient prayer, but of intense, soul wrenching, agonizing, persistent intercession. It is not my intention to do a teaching on intercession here, but I believe that we do not understand well all the dimensions of what this entails. We can tend to be one dimensional in our praying for revival and transformation, when in reality this will take on many forms … which I believe reflects the multi-faceted heart of our God. There are times for bold and forceful storming of the gates of heaven, and there are times when the weight of the sin before us relegates us to silent, desperate weeping before His Holy Throne. There are times of individual intercession, and (this is the most difficult part) corporate prayer that calls for us to set aside our church, denominational, and other preferences for the sake of the greater desire to see God come to our cities, and our countries. This is broken, desperate, peristant prayer that keeps on praying UNTIL God answers.
seek my face – A short summary would be that the “Face of God” represents His presence, and the completeness of His Personhood … in other words all that He is. His completeness for every area of our lives. To seek the Face of God means that we have adopted the heart attitude that we cannot live another day without His manifest presence in our midst. It does not mean hiding off in a monastery somewhere, but it does mean that we seek His Presence in every area, and in every situation of our lives. Every part of our lives is submitted to His Lordship and His Presence there without exception. A complete abandonment to the desire to have Him present in our home, in our work, in our schools, in our private times, in our family times, in our churches, in our government, in our arts and entertainments. In every aspect of life we hunger for His deeper presence.
turn from their wicked ways – True repentance, is not just a few words spoken out in a time of emotional outburst. True repentance is a change of lifestyle and habit patterns. Giving up of “pet” vices, and a recognizing of what are idols in our lives. Ancient Israel was constantly erecting idols of worship… the Lord called this spiritual prostitution. We are greatly deficient in recognizing the idols in our own lives. And of course one of our excuses is that the Lord wants us to “have fun.” Indeed, the Lord gave Israel many feasts and talked a lot about the joy of His presence, but He did not tolerate those things that they turned to “first,” or that they “substituted” for worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians that those things will be different for each of us. That is why it is so important for us to be willing to be instructed by the Lord in what He sees as idols in our lives, in our families, in our churches, in our society. Then we must completely turn from those things, putting them in their proper place, and making a change of lifestyle that reflects true repentance by walking it out in a different lifestyle guided by His Holy Spirit.
“IF” we will give ourselves to our part… God, who is the ever faithful One, will keep His part of the equation. Do we truly want revival and transformation in our lives, our churches, our families, our society? The choice is before us. If we will…. He will…
He only waits upon us….
In the next few weeks, I thought it would be good to look at some of the “If…then” statements in Scripture. And there are plenty of them. We will not be exhaustive here, but rather some that I hope will be instructive, and encouraging to our faith. Things that will strengthen us to continue to seek His Face, and love Him with all our heart and soul and strength and mind.
Since the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 11:10, Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10), let us begin to look at some of the “If…then’s” related to wisdom and the fear of the Lord.
I want to focus primarily in this session on Proverbs 2: 1- 11. Of course, all of proverbs could be considered an “If… Then” but for this session let’s look at what this passage has to tell us about wisdom.
Verse 1: My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you
Verse 2: incline your ear to wisdom
And apply your heart to understanding;
Verse 3: if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding
Verse 4: If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures
Receive – to capture, keep, acquire, or buy
Treasure – to hide, store up or save
Incline – to listen carefully, pay attention, to obey. paying close attention to something,
Apply – to turn, to show love, inclining one’s heart
Cry out – to call, or to summon
Lift up – to put, or place something
Seek – to seek after something, try to obtain
Search – to track down, to search with mind and imagination
Verse 5: Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
Verse 6:For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
Verse 7: He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
Verse 8: He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Verse 9: Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
Verse 10: When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Verse 11: Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
Conclusions: What we see in these verses is the promise that if we will give ourselves to search out God’s Word, capture it in our hearts and minds, treasure and keep it, and obey it, That is, we are truly wise when we reverentially submit our lives to God in obedience to His commandments. Then we will have a knowledge of God, and a fear of the Lord that will give us wisdom and understanding that will be a shield to our lives, give us understanding of how to handle ourselves in life’s situations, and preserve us on our life’s path.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me! It’s a true promise from the Lord for our lives. If we will apply ourselves in this way to His Word and His ways, then He promises us the wisdom and knowledge to walk through life under His protection and shield. He will preserve us, and we will learn to walk in wisdom, and equity in all of lifes up’s and down’s. It doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles, but His wisdom will assure us that He will preserve our path through whatever comes our way.
Worth seeking out? Worth pursuing? It is indeed, we must seek for it with the same kind of intensity as if we were hunting for hidden treasure or precious jewels. Job 28:17 (NLT) Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold.
One of the exciting ministries that has now begun here at PIB ( Primeira Igreja Batista ) First Baptist Church in Valentina… is the “Boiler Room,” or House of Prayer.
The term “Boiler Room” has reference to the ministry of Charles Spurgeon, who attributed the power and success of his crusades to the men and women who would intercede for him in the boiler. See this link: “Spurgeon’s Boiler Rooms”
Currently, we have one week per month that is 24/7 prayer and worship. The church is built upon a cell group model, so each cell group takes at least one two hour session in the “Boiler Room” each week. This includes men, women, youth, adolescents, and children.
The “Boiler Room” is located on the first floor of the house where I live. I live on the second floor. That enables me to give oversight to the “comings and goings” of the “Boiler Room,” and be blessed by the worship and prayer that takes place just below me.
The “Boiler Room” consists of several rooms and areas in the house.
First is the Area of Promises. Here intercessors can post promises from God, and be reminded of His promises in their lives and the lives of others they are praying for.
There is also the Room of Worship… click on this link to watch a YouTube video. You will get a little peek at what happens here. Boiler Room Worship
Then there is the Room of Silence. A place for meditation, Bible reading and prayer for the nations. When I moved here from the US, I brought with me some items that we had collected in our travels over the years. In this room and the Room of Promises, I have placed these items as ways to remind intercessors to pray for the nations.
In the months ahead, it is our goal to continue to expand the ministry of the “Boiler Room” until we do have 24/7 prayer 365 days a year.
Please join us in prayer that the Lord would do mighty things here in Valentina, in Joao Pessoa, in Brazil and in the Nations as the incense of intercession flows from our “Boiler Room”
I was struck today by the power of simple words of encouragement. As you may realize, most of the time these kinds of reminders come in the simplest forms. So it was today.
I was folding some T-shirts that had dried in the warm Brazilian air. And as I was folding my T-shirts, the words of my wife echoed in my head. A few weeks before she died, I was doing the same chore… folding my T-shirts, and she made the simple comment, “You fold those so nice and narrow.” It was a simple statement, but now eighteen months after her death, her words come to my mind. Seven simple words. She could have told me I wasn’t doing it right. She could have said I need to do it a different way, but she simply said she like the way I folded them “nice and narrow.” Simple positive words that actually come to my mind every time I fold my T-shirts.
How easy it is for us to forget the power of our words. Especially if we happen to be task oriented kind of people. We have a certain way of doing things, we know how things need to be done, and we have no problem telling other people how they should handle this or that task to be more efficient. And in our desire to “do things right” we often miss the golden opportunities to enrich someone’s life. Countless stories are told my people who had just one teach in school who spoke encouraging words to them and made all the difference in the direction of their lives. The simple power of encouraging words.
Scripture is full of reminders of this. Proverbs 25:11 tells us, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. (NKJV) Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Even the Lord Himself is an example of this. Psalm 85:8 (NKJV) states: I will hear what God the LORD will speak, For He will speak peace To His people and to His saints;
Every once in a while it is good for us to stop and take inventory or our lives. How is it with your words? Are you speaking words of encouragement to those around you? Are you focusing on things that are true, and noble, and pure, and lovely, and praiseworthy as you relate to your co-workers and your family? As you speak to the clerk in the grocery store? You never know what effect simple words of encouragement can have in the lives of those you encounter.
Your Servant in Christ Ministries
2012 Year End Perspectives
Paul writes to the Ephesians, and in Chapter 5, verses 15 -17,
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (NLT)
The exhortation of “…be careful how you live” has the idea of looking around, being aware of your life and what is going on around you and then “redeeming” or making the most of every moment as you understand what the Lord would have you to do with those moments He has given you. The year 2012 was a year where I desperately tried to live that way.
The year 2012 has been a year like no other in my life. The year started, still in shock and grief over the loss of my dear wife, Marilou on September 3rd. December of 2011, I took her ashes to Brazil, and returned home just before Christmas.
January of 2012 was a time of trying to find my orientation… “who am I,” “what do I do now?” I was determined not to fall into a victim mode, but to “redeem” this new season of my life. It was a time of asking and seeking from the Lord the direction He would have me to take. In December when in Brazil, Bishop Eneas Araujo, pastor of First Baptist Church in Valentina had asked me to consider coming and working with them in Brazil. In January, this was still only a seed beginning to germinate.
February brought some greater clarity to this, in a telephone conversation with a prayer/revival leader, who in the midst of our conversation told me that as they were praying for me, they had the sense that the Lord had put a “Macedonian Call” on my life. He explained, “When a nation calls, you do not take it lightly.” It was a powerful confirmation for me of what had been stirring since that December invitation.
In February, I conducted a “College of Prayer” in Wisconsin, and then began to investigate what would be needed for me to move to Brazil. I also began to seek opportunities to preach, and raise an income, since the income from The Sentinel Group had dried up back about the time Marilou died.
In March, while having coffee at Caribou with Pastor Scott McClure on the subject of prayer, he leaned over to me and said, “You need a family.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. Thus a personal and ministry relationship began with Monroe Community Chapel, who would later sponsor Your Servant in Christ Ministries, which began that month.
In April I had cataract surgery and began the process of a check list for what I needed to do to get a “Missionary Visa” to go to Brazil. I continued to work on the mission and message of Your Servant in Christ Ministries, and raise an income by preaching in various chuches.
From April until July was a matter of waiting, preaching, praying and doing what I could to prepare to move. On July23rd, the last document I needed for my visa arrived.. the FBI report arrived. I immediately made my online application and made an appointment to take the application to the Brazilian Consulate in San Francisco. The appointment was for July 30th at 11:00 am. On July 25th, I drove to California. I stayed with my good friend Mark McPherson over the weekend, and on Monday drove to San Francisco to the Consulate. I had investigated many options for my visa. The website said the processing time was 90 “Business Days” which means you exclude weekends, and Brazilian as well as American holidays. My estimate according to those figures was early December to be able to arrive in Brazil. I arrived an hour early and by my appointment time, I was heading out the door of the consulate, and the girl said I would have the visa by August 10th . It arrived the 9th.
In September I made a wonderful trip to the Twin Cities to visit friends and try to rest the rest of my support.
October was full of packing, selling and preparing to leave on October 25th – MOVING to Brazil. I arrived here in Joao Pessoa, Saturday, October 27th at about 2:30 am.
When I began plans to come to Brazil, the Lord gave me a passage in Psalm 71, verses 17-21, which says,
O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come. Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, And comfort me on every side. Psalm 71:17-21 (NKJV)
In many ways the Lord has already begun to fulfill this word to me.
I have a house to live in, and right above the House of Prayer… The people of the church have been so warm and made me feel a part of the family from the beginning… I LOVE the climate… no shoveling snow here!!… and…I have a wonderful “connection” with many of the youth in the church, and have had opportunities to begin to invest into their lives.
What an honor that is. I have seen multiple ways in which the Lord has confirmed over and over that I am in the right place. He is bringing me comfort on many levels, and I consider myself among men, greatly blessed.
Thank you for your interest in Prayer Transformation Ministries and my ministry in Brazil.
Only the Lord knows what awaits in 2013, but we can know that His desire is to bless us with all His heart… Jeremiah 32:41. Thank you for praying. Please continue to lift this ministry up to the Lord that I might was, as Paul says, redeeming the time that He gives me.
I know what came into your mind… and this has nothing to do with Christmas dinner, Turkey, stuffing, or Pumpkin Pie, although we do “stuff” ourselves with the Turkey … after we stuff the Turkey!!
No, this fullness has to do with the coming of Emmanuel… but it does not involve physical food. I want us to look at the fullness that Paul says we are to have in his reference in Ephesians 3:16-21 –
(NKJV) …that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (emphasis mine)
This fullness is to be filled with all the fullness of God! Emmanuel came, yes, to pay the deadly penalty of sin, but He came for so much more! He came that His own life should fill us to the max. One of the words that Strong’s uses for the word “filled” in verse 19 is, “crammed.” We are to be crammed full. Full of what? We are to be “crammed full” with “all the fullness of God.” What does that mean? The New Living Version puts it this way, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
Imagine! Your life, my life lived every day, with all the fullness of life and power that could come from the very life of God living in us! This is not triumphalism. Paul certainly was not one who was without trials, persecutions, and even doubts at times. No, not triumphalism, rather a realization of the purpose of God in our lives. This is the way Jesus lived. It is the way He desires us to live.
You ask, “How do I get this fullness?” Paul does not leave us to guess. He says he wants us to be strengthened in our inner person so that Christ will be at home in our lives, and we will be growing in our understanding of His love for us. A love that is so high, and deep, and wide, and long that it is impossible to comprehend it, yet available for us, each day. When we are growing in our comprehension of the love of God through Christ, we will be able to live in that kind of fullness.
But this means, “knowing Christ.” It means cultivating my relationship with Him through regular Bible study, prayer, worship, witness, humility, dependency, and humility. It means that Jesus’ advent was for so much more. Maybe it means that I have not been realizing the full potential of the life of God in me. Maybe I have not been living in the Fullness of all the completeness of God’s character and power in my life each day. Maybe, just maybe there is more to this Christmas story than I had connected with the manger.
And just in case you thought it might be quite impossible for you to live such a life, Paul makes sure that we understand that what God intended for our lives in His Fullness, He is quite capable of accomplishing… so Paul reminds us in verse 21, Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen That is a pretty strong reminder that God is able to accomplish this in your life and in mine if we live in the place of knowledge and intimacy with Him. Do you feel your heart being stirred, and drawn deeper? Me too.
This Christmas season as we remember and celebrate the advent of Emmanuel, God with us, let us remember the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3, and seek after the greater Fullness that Christmas brings to us.
Some “Different” reflections on Christmas…
“Different” Reflection #1 – A Foreigner
This weekend before Christmas 2012, I will have been here in Brazil for 2 months.
Over the past year, the Lord has done some pretty amazing things to confirm that He wanted me here, and He has demonstrated that in supernatural ways. You can read more of the story on my ministry website at, www.yourservantinchristmnistries.org.
And, my reception here in Brazil has been truly a blessing, and very humbling. The people have welcomed me and opened their hearts and their homes to me in wonderful ways.
But the reality is, that I am a foreigner here. I am trying desperately to learn the language. I am still praying for the supernatural gift of language, but in the meantime, I’m working on it.
I tried to explain to the folks here when I first arrived that “everything you don’t even think about, is new to me.” Everything. Food, cooking, shopping, cleaning, customs, expressions, bathroom things. And with the newness comes the stresses of trying to learn and get things right.
There is the issue of communication. Not only the challenges of language, but making sure that we really do understand one another. The presumption on other’s parts that I know what is going on… the schedule, the routine, the way to dress, all of the things, again that others take for granted, it is most of the time forgotten that I have not clue!
Consider the fact that I live in a house by myself, without much means of transport other than my feet (which over the years have not been used to going barefoot or with sandals), so I am isolated here and completely dependent upon others for most things. My last haircut was 6 weeks ago… I really need a haircut, but I have no idea where there is a barbershop near where I live, and I am not ready yet to just wander the streets looking. I am dependent on others for the shopping needs other than what I can get at the store that I can walk to. But they do not have some items I need, so I am dependent upon others and their schedules to take care of those issues.
The isolation also plays a role in my own feelings. I have to remind myself that it has only been 15 months since Marilou died. Part of our relationship was we could just “be” together, we could talk about things. Now, there is no one most of the time. And those who are here, because of language and culture do not understand and cannot connect with the things that I feel deeply. So this deepens the sense of isolation.
Now, what does that have to do with Christmas? Maybe you have already gotten the connection. The Apostle John puts it this way in his gospel, He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. John 1:10-12 (NLT)
The Christmas story is multi-faceted. We so often talk about Emmanuel, God with us, but John reminds us that the reception of this “foreigner” was not without difficulties. Matthew records the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 8:20 that Jesus did not even had a place to rest His head.
He had communications issues too, even His disciples did not understand Him most of the time. The religious leaders certainly did not.
Emmanuel, God with us was a foreigner in the world He made by the breath of His mouth. A word of comfort to all who may feel like strangers in this world as well. Indeed, we are made for a different world, and Peter reminds us that we are pilgrims and strangers here (I Peter 2:11).
This Christmas season, let us take great comfort in the truth that the One who was a foreigner in His own creation has gone before us to prepare a place for us with Him where we will never be foreigners, or strangers, or alone, or isolated. It is all part of the story of Christmas.
Loving God – It all Starts Here
Bring up the subject of God, and loving God, even in the Church, and you can come across all sorts of differing reactions. I have had people tell me that they struggle to love God, or understand His love for them. Some people struggle with talking of having any kind of intimacy with God. Perhaps it is hard to break through the stereotypes that attach themselves to us from our past relationships or out past religious experiences. Perhaps we cannot get past thinking of God as a theological concept, and so intimacy with God is not even a consideration for us. Our minds and our emotions create great filters through which we “filter” our relationship with God.
Yet, loving God supremely is what Jesus called the “First and Great Commandment.” Taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-6, Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. – Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
He repeats this command in Matthew 22:38 in response to the question, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? In this Old Testament and New Testament reinforcement, Jesus says to us that our love for the Lord must be primary, and comprehensive…
We must love Him with all of our heart – all of our emotions, all of our motivations, all of our affections, all of our allegiances. Whatever comes first in any area of our hearts keeps us from loving the Lord with ALL our hearts. We are to overcome every and all blockages or misconceptions in order to love Him with ALL our hearts. That seems like a pretty tall order!
But in addition, we must love Him with all our soul. That means that our love for Him trumps all of our neediness, our desires for comfort, all our inclinations for ease and for the pleasures of self and the flesh. He is to be at the very top of our “life hungers,” and our love for Him is to be the center of our life’s security. As David, we are to hunger and thirst for him as we would hunger and thirst for food and water in a dry and weary land (Ps. 63).
But we must also love Him with all our mind. Our thoughts, our aspirations, our contemplations, our meditations are all to be centered and rooted in our love for Him. Our thoughts are to be filled with love for Him that infects all of our decisions, and reactions to lives circumstances.
Now, if the Lord put this first thing before Israel at the very beginning of their “relationship” together, and if Jesus said that this is the first and great commandment, that would seem to indicate that God desires for us to understand that this is important to Him, our love for Him. Not because He is selfish for people to love Him, or lonely and needs affirmation. Of course not. He is God, He is infinite, perfect and complete in Himself. He needs nothing. He knows that for us to be complete, He must take first place in all these areas of our lives. Not because we grudgingly obey a law, as stopping for an inconvenient stop light. He made us for relationship, and for relationship with Him. We will talk at a later time about how to fall more in love with Him, but for now, He knows that we will only be complete as He made us to be if our first and primary love is for Him.
Let me ask a question of all of us… Have we spent some time lately truly and honestly assessing whether our love for God has that kind of priority in our lives? I mean, not just our lip service, but is it reflected out in the way we live our lives, what we long after, what we think about, the decisions we make?
Take some time this week to purposefully set aside time to ask the Lord to help you answer this question: “Lord, as you see my life, am I loving you with all my heart and soul and mind?” Allow Him to tell you how He sees your love for Him. And if there are some things He gently reveals to you that could be changed, write them down, and ask Him to show you how to change them.
Loving the Lord with ALL our heart, and soul, and mind, is not optional, it is not up for a vote to see where on the list it should be. By God’s repeated insistence, it needs to be first in our lives. Let’s start here in our quest for transforming revival.
Last Friday, April 27th, The Sentinel Group released a short 8 minute video addressing the issues that have been raised with the Kony2012 viral video. http://www.anunconventionalwar.com
You can watch the message presented by George Otis, Jr. at IHOP-Kansas City here; Our Response
The explosive Kony 2012 ( Kony2012 ) video was launched by Invisible Children, Inc. to raise the awareness of the atrocities that have been done by this very evil man and his followers. It has raised world wide attention, but has not communicated all of the story.
The Sentinel Group, produced a DVD several years ago documenting the amazing story of how God gave divine strategies to His people that resulted in Kony leaving Uganda and not returning.
Friday night, George Otis, Jr. Director of The Sentinel Group gave a powerful challenge via the webcast from IHOP – Kansas City regarding the truths behind what God did in Uganda. He stated that today, we have “traded God and prayer for social media numbers.” He told how the people of Uganda became desperate for God to do something in their situation, that they began to pray with perseverance, and were willing to give their very lives to see God bring a resolution.
In the light of the several social challenges that face our nation and our world, George challenged us to “return to what worked.” I would strongly encourage you to visit the website, watch the 8 minute video and explore the four responses that The Sentinel Group and others have put before us in these days.
I fully support the message and the challenge that George brought in his message and in the four responses (Watch, Pray, Learn, Go), but I would like to put forth a caution. The caution is this; In our enthusiasm to “change history,” to respond to the challenge to see God work in other places in our world today as He did in Uganda, in our enthusiasm to seek God to bring Joseph Kony to justice, let us not fall into familiar patterns. Allow me to explain.
Why is it that we have an abundance of “activities” and yet do not see the kinds of breakthroughs that are being experienced in transformed communities around the world? It is because our natural tendency is to hear such a challenge as An Unconventional War presents to us, and we revert to relying even on our “activities” and meetings rather than remembering that what God is looking for has to do, not with activity, but character. He is looking not at our calendars, but at our hearts. It is immensely critical that as we seek for the apprehension of Kony, or the solution for other key social issues that we remember to allow God to examine our hearts.
Are we guarding our hearts against the distractions that divert our absolute attention to His agenda? We are so easily distracted by all the other “important” issues that swirl around us. God requires that we be singular in our focus on Him, and His Kingdom agenda.
Are we diligently seeking a position of humility and brokenness? God’s presence is attracted to the humble hearts. Yet we, even as the people of God, do not seek after humility. Even as we pray for bringing Kony to justice, we can have an attitude of how superior we are to him. We so easily lose sight of our own attitudes as we seek God to do what we want Him to do in our society.
Are we asking God to instruct us how to pray? Are we really interested in what is on His heart? Or are we cemented to our “agendas” of what God should be doing in answer to our prayers? God will speak if we will listen.
Are we truly expectant that He will answer? There can be an underlying skepticism that invades our prayers. Not many in the West have experienced the kinds of supernatural answers that we hear about, for example in An Unconventional War, so we have an underlying doubt whether God really wants to work that way, or that He will.
I share these cautions because there is nothing I want MORE than for God to rally His people in humble, expectant, unity to ask Him to be the answer to the awful problems of our times. We already have demonstrated that we do not have the answers to these issues. Now is the time for the people of God to turn to Him to intervene for the Glory of His Name. Only let us not revert to our usual patterns. God will come as we align ourselves with His heart and His requirements.
I was deeply affected today by the words of A.W. Tozer from his book, “The Knowledge Of The Holy.” A good book to come back to time and again. Here are his words from the chapter on The Self-Existence of God,
Is is not a cheerful thought that millions of us who live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote the Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God. Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent Self back of which no creatures can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think were it will do more good — about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. And for this we are now paying a too heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives.
Last time I talked about how important it is to know who God is in order for us to truly love Him with all our heart and soul and mind as Jesus commands us. Tozer’s words are a powerful rebuke even more so to this present generation. Do we love God for who He REALLY is? or for our ideas of who He is? And how does that show itself in the way we live our lives? How is our understanding of God honestly and practically demonstrated through our daily decisions both large and small? Tozer goes on to say,
Perhaps some sincere but puzzled Christian may at this juncture wish to inquire about the practicality of such concepts as I am trying to set forth here. “What bearing does this have on my life?” he may ask.”What possible meaning can the self-existence of God have for me and others like me in a world such as this and in times such as these?”
This is what I am challenging us with. Our understanding of God is borne out in how I live my life. Or to put it another way. how I live my life gives evidence of what my concept of God is. It is inevitable, whether you realize it or not, your life is a demonstration of your understanding or lack of understanding of the character of God. But now, grasp what Tozer says next,
To this I reply that, because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological.
Don’t let the importance of this statement pass you by. In a largely secular society, we live out our lives mainly looking for secular solutions to the issues of our lives. And very honestly, this is just as true in christian ministries. What is he saying here? It is simply and so profoundly this, the answer to every issue of our lives has it’s origin in who God is. Every one. Don’t miss this now… EVERY ONE.
Do you begin to see how huge this is for your life? Do I realize this? The implications of this are life-changing. It is not a mix of secular and “religious.” Every issue, every relationship, every difficulty, every challenge in my life, in your life is rooted in the character of God. Perhaps it is time that we face this head on. And in the context of my challenges to us here, how does that work itself out into how I love God with all my heart, and all my soul and with all my mind? For each of us, coming to grips with this is profound beyond words.
A CHALLENGE FOR US ALL
Let me give you a challenge here. I will take the same challenge. Take time with paper and pencil (or on your computer if you prefer) and begin to list every area of your life. Every part of your life, down to the smallest issues… don’t thing anything here is too small. And then beside that find what part of the character of God relates to that issue. Then take time before God to answer the question of whether or not you are really addressing that issue as if it’s only solution is found in who God is.
This most especially as we are giving our attention to the agony, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
It is the Tragedy of the Uncontemplated, that which we fail to contemplate about God which will be the greatest weakness in our lives. Think about it.