Some Observations

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some observations

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?

 

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The Inconvenience of Brokenness

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The Inconvenience of Brokenness

broken vessel

 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

bamboo

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.

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A Response to the Current State of American Affairs…

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A Response to the Current State of American Affairs…

manI 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.

But God…

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 land2 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…

praying man

Cry out for mercy, for revival, for transformation.

Even so, Come! Lord Jesus!

Humbly submitted,

Steve Loopstra

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Wanted: Theolgians

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Wanted:  Theologians

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.

theologians

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.

bible fire

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?”

glory to godBecoming 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 church, and this world needs more theologians!

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Taking a Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 – Another “If-Then” passage

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Taking a Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 – Another “If-Then” passage

Bible 3

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?

question mark2

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.

praying man

 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.

pleasure of His presence

 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

 “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….

 

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Different Christmas Reflections #2 – Fullness

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Different Christmas Reflections – #2 – Fullness

Another different perspective on this Christmas season for our thoughts and meditation… Fullness.

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.

May the Lord bless you with all His Fullness this Christmas Season and each day of the New Year.

 

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Integration

Integration

I had an interesting conversation yesterday afternoon that started with talking about God’s character, and turned to the question of “integration.”

The discussion focused on the reality that we as believers, and maybe especially in Western culture/ mindset., like to Pigeon-hole things. In other words, we like our lives to be broken into manageable segments. We have the “work” part of our lives, the “family” part of our lives, the “religious  or church” part of our lives, and on and on it goes. This includes God. We have the tendency to keep Him safely in His own room, but we don’t necessarily let Him wander around in the other parts of our lives. So we are ok with leaving Him out of the workplace, politics, recreation and sports. He belongs in church on Sundays. He has His place. We don’t say it that way, but we live that way.

That might seem a bit crass, but the reality is that we tend toward that more than we care to admit. Our conversation eventually turned to the issue of how tightly we hold to our theological convictions. Whether we are a Calvinist, or an Armenian, pre-Trib, post-Trib or whatever… sometimes we argue these convictions as if God’s future, depended on it. It seems sometimes that those who argue the most vigorously seem to do so out of an insecurity that if their “system” were ever to not fit together perfectly, it would all come crashing down around them. There is no room for “not knowing.”

Now before you get all hot and bothered and think that I am against systems of belief and theological understanding, let me assure you that is not what I am saying. My major in seminary was in Systematic Theology. Paul wrote the book of Romans, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as one of the greatest books of theology we have in the Bible. It’s not “having” a system that is the problem. It is holding to a system so tightly that we act, whether we mean to or not, as though we have God all figured out. And when you say it like that, most of us would realize that is the height of arrogance. Let us make sure that we first of all allow ourselves the reality of not knowing everything about our infinite God. And secondly, let’s tear down the walls that we have built to keep God in our tightly organized boxes. It’s ok not to know!

What does this have to do with integration? It goes back to my initial premise, that when we talk about revival and transformation, we must begin at the beginning, and that beginning is what Jesus called the “First and Great Commandment,” to love the Lord with ALL our heart, and ALL our soul, and ALL our mind. I would say that is pretty much integration. God is not interested in being kept in a box in our lives, whether that is a box of moral exclusion, or a box of theological systems. Why is it that people like George Barna keep showing us as believers that we are really not any different in our lifestyles than the “world?” It is because we are not integrated. Or better put, we  have not known how to integrate God into every area of our lives and allow Him the freedom to be God in every part. It is because we do not love Him with ALL our being, every part of who we are. And maybe we don’t really believe that He loves us enough that whatever He does an allows in our lives have the ultimate purpose of our best.

Our first reaction to this idea of integration might be to resist it, or think we don’t need to deal with it, Jesus is Lord of my life, thank you very much. But this is where it gets a little tricky. Webster defines integration as: coordination of mental processes into a normal effective personality or with the individual’s environment. If we add to that the spiritual processes, then we begin to see the challenge to allow the “who” of who God is to be what coordinates all of the part of our personality, and environment. You see? Love the Lord with ALL… integrate His love, His ways, His Grace, His Mercy… ALL of who He is into ALL of who we are. You see, God is totally and fully integrated in Himself. We are created in His image. He made us to be wholly integrated. The effects of sin have chopped us into separate pieces. A part of His redemptive purpose is to make us once again whole and integrated.

How is it with you? Are you in the process of allowing God to be integrated into every area of  your life? Take some time to ask Him to show you where there is still fragmentation. He will delight to show you if you are sincere in asking. His will is for you to be wholly integrated and be able to love Him with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, and ALL  your mind.

…till next time…

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