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“What Does It Mean When They Say…”

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“How Do You Walk in the Spirit?” 

“How do you just ‘Give it to God?'”

Walking in the Spirit refers to living in dependence upon the leading and directing of the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that every true believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling them from the moment of salvation. The Spirit of God regenerates, seals, and sanctifies the child of God. In addition, He leads the child of God in the ways that God wants His child to go. So simply put, to “walking in the Spirit” means to live sensitive and submissive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

A technology that has been around for a while now serves to illustrate what this means. It is called “Dynamic Positioning”. It is used on deep sea platforms that must stay in a set location in order to do drilling but are only kept in place by constant correction made by thrusters on the sides of the platforms. By means of computers they are constantly checking their exact location by GPS and then making very minor adjustments to keep themselves right where they are supposed to be.

So the Spirit-filled child of God will be listening for and responding to God’s Holy Spirit all through the day! So as Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). In other words, since the Spirit has given us God’s Life, let is learn to trust the same Spirit moment by moment in this life!

Sometimes people will say “Just give it all to God” or “Just Let Go, Let God!” but what does that mean and how do you actually do it?

This speaks of dedicating some circumstance, decision or issue in your life to the Lord and then truly believing that He is in charge and going to do what is best for you. It is a popular way of saying “Really trust God about this matter and stop striving to make things turn out the way you prefer.”

If a child should fear a commercial airplane might crash and was allowed to enter the cockpit. The child might ask to help “steer the plane” out of his insecurity. Perhaps a pilot knowing the plane was being controlled by the plane’s computer might even allow the child to sit in his lap and put his hands on the controls. The child might even fear that the plane was changing course and think he was in real danger. The child’s attempts to “steer” the plane at that point are of no consequence and doing nothing to help the plane stay on a safe course. The plane is being controlled beyond the child’s awareness and above the child’s comprehension.

In the same way, “Giving it to God” means truly accepting that God is in control and then choosing to rest in His ability to keep His promise to work all things out for our good and His glory.

The Haves and the Have Nots

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There are the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”:  Which are you?  God says that’s up to you!

 “You have not because you ask not” James 4:2

 Well I have decided to do more than want all of God’s will for my life, my family, my church and our nation.

 I believe in a God that can heal every marriage, bring back every prodigal child, provide work for every unemployed person, and reach every unsaved soul with His glorious salvation! I believe in a God that can ignite a nation-changing revival in His people and change the course of our nation right now!. However, I realize I am not called to simply “believe” what God might or could do.

 I believe we need to access the power of God and not assume it!

  After a long and brutal battle, the great French general, Napoleon, had finally conquered a highly prized Mediterranean island. He and his generals were sitting and drinking, savoring the victory, when a young officer came up and approached Napoleon. When the general asked the man what he wanted, he looked straight at Napoleon and said, “Give me this island!” All the generals began to laugh and mock the young man, until that is, Napoleon asked one of them for a pen and paper. To their utter amazement, he wrote out a deed to the island, signed it, and handed it to the bold, but lowly soldier. “How could you do that?” one of his generals asked, “What made him worthy to receive this great island?”

“I gave him this island,” Napoleon replied, “because he honored me by the magnitude of his request.”

 Our God isn’t too small, our requests are!

 Do you want to be a “Have“? I  mean do you want all that God wants to do in and through your life? Then I am asking you to do more than say you believe, I am asking you to prove what you believe. The proof of what we believe is what we do with what God says. It’s rightly said “We only believe that portion of the Bible that we obey.”

 I am asking you to start praying for the things you know are God’s Will. 

 It is God’s will for men to be saved and for righteousness to exalt this nation again.

 I have come to realize I am a “Have”

 I HAVE access to the throne room of the KING OF KINGS! And I’m going in!!

 I HAVE a great and awesome God who’s name isn’t “Somewhat Strong” but “Almighty”!

 I HAVE a loving Savior who has already paid to redeem every sinful act of every sinful person so that real healing and restoration isn’t merely plausible but absolutely available!

 I HAVE been given not only the opportunity to ask for God to change things; I have been commanded by Him to do so and to not give up or give in until He accomplishes His will in my world!

 “You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest until He establishes 

And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6-7)

 So then since by faith I’m a “Have”….

 I HAVE to ask you to join me for the next three weeks.

 If you are a man at Calvary Chapel East Anaheim, I HAVE to ask you to come out for the next three Monday nights at 7:00 PM and do ALL God has asked you to do to turn this nation around. Come out and pray for a God-altering work in our nation! We are doing more than starting to pray for an election, we are the elect that are starting to pray! It’s time. Will you join us?

 “Lord, there is this Island we call ‘America’  and Lord, we are here asking you for it!” 

It’s Not Simply Right or Left

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So much of the debate in the public forum right now is between the two candidates running for our nation’s highest office. The nation is divided along party lines and that fairly evenly.

Some are questioning “Should a Christian vote for a Mormon?”. While others are wondering “Can I vote for a democrat?” Some no doubt are saying “I don’t like either candidate so I won’t vote at all”.

May I suggest that in our great nation each of us is free to vote our values and that this privilege should be seen as so sacred that not voting should not even be considered as a God-honoring option! Many died to give us this freedom and to not value it and use it is to demean their very sacrifice.

Yet, half of evangelical Christians are not even registered to vote and of those who are registered, half will choose not to vote in any given election! Are you registered to vote? Will you promise to vote in the upcoming election?

Jesus spoke of a man who was given but one talent by his master. Instead of employing the little he was given, the man buried it. He was judged for not using what his master intended to be used by him for his master’s sake.

If we think about our right to vote as a treasure entrusted to us like that talent, it seems pretty clear the Lord will hold us accountable for what we did with what He gave to us!

Right or Wrong

The issues of where you stand on the sanctity of life is not a matter of are you Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, leaning to the right or to the left. God has made it clear that He is the author of life. Life in the womb is considered a human being from the point of conception. For instance, David said “In sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5) Have you ever pondered the import of that text? It means from the point of conception David had culpability before a holy God for sin. Sin is characteristic of personhood, nothing less!

Marriage is created by God according to the Bible. Jesus makes it clear that God made man male and female and joined them together in marriage.
We should seek to defend marriage not redefine it.

We may disagree about foreign affairs and financial policies, how to create more jobs and who would do a better job in the White House, but we should be clear where we stand on issues that divide this nation but are decidedly clear in Scripture.

I cast a vote for voting our values and voting our conscience before a God who tries the heart and sees in secret (including in the booth.)

Where The Wise Bring Their “Whys”

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When Rachel had a difficult pregnancy she went to inquire of the Lord.

When Job lost his children he worshiped his God.

When the broken disciples of John The Baptist buried their master’s body we are told simply “they buried him and then went and told Jesus.” Nothing more.

This last Wednesday a family of our fellowship had two children swept away in a Yosemite River.

What do we do with that?

There is a question near to heart 

When a child has to die

We’re afraid to ask but we know we must

“O God, please tell us, Why?

They were so young and innocent
Their loss just makes us cry
I’ve searched my mind for answers
“O God please tell me, Why?”

I said “It seems unfair!”
“Too short and few their days.”
God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”
“My ways are not your ways.”

“I know your loss, I felt it too,
A Son of mine once died.
Today my heart shares all your grief
And for your tears I’ve cried.”

“Just trust me here and now my child
Don’t think my ways so odd
Permit these now to come to me
For of such is the kingdom of God.”

Tears of sorrow silent now
Releasing all our grief
God’s Spirit touching deep within
Brings anxious thoughts relief.

Don’t say “They’re gone forever”
As through death’s waters dived
For indeed, they’ve not departed…
Quite rather, Just arrived!

“Bring your “Whys” to the Only wise God. Then realize the only answer you really need is His glorious promises and presence.

A Time To Be Silent

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Solomon was one of the wisest man who ever lived. He writes that there is a time for every event under heaven.In Ecclesiastes 3:7 the wise king writes these words:

“There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

That’s something most of us admit to getting wrong a lot of time! How often we leave someone who needs to hear about the Lord and we keep our mouths shut. How frequently we could have spoken a word of kindness and encouragement but say nothing instead. It was a time to speak and we come up empty!

Then there are those other times…

When my wife was in intense labor with our firstborn son, Jesse, I recall mentioning to her that it was the fulfillment of God’s word to  Eve “In pain you shall bring forth children.” Somehow what I thought was a great insight was less than a blessing to her. I guess mentioning the consequences of the curse didn’t exactly “minister” to her the way I thought it would! What a dope!

We do well to remember the words of Job who had gone through the most tragic and terrible losses one could imagine. He had lost his wealth and his health, his reputation and even the support of his own wife! Yet, beyond all his other losses, no doubt, was his shattered heart for his children who had all died the very same day in the same catastrophe.

When Job’s friends came to comfort him they at first simply said nothing because they saw how great his pain was. However, when they heard him agonize and verbalize, it was more than they could handle so they started to try to “comfort” him with wise counsel. All they did was pour salt on his open wounds.

Job replied: “O that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom.” (Job 13:5)

Often what hurting people need most is what’s hardest for us to do. Simply show up and shut up.

May the Lord help me do more of what He does all the time for me. Deeply care. Quietly listen.

Kingdom Reversals

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So many things in God’s Kingdom are backwards from our way of thinking or reversed from the value system we have been raised with.

“The first shall be last and the last first” Matthew 19:30

“Blessed are the poor” Luke 6:20

“God chooses the base things and the despised” 1 Cor. 1:28

The one I want to think out loud with you about for a few minutes is how God uses the broken.

When we find something is broken we either repair it, replace it or simply stop using it.

In my garage I have a million watt spotlight that I bought eight years ago. It is amazing! If ever there is a burglar trying to hide in my neighbors bushes, he won’t have a chance! If I need to signal a passing commercial airliner at 35,000 feet, no problem! The only thing is… it’s broken! It stopped working seven years ago. Not sure why.

I refuse to throw it away. It might start working again on it’s own! Besides I paid 20 bucks for it!

I can’t fix it – no one sells parts!

I won’t buy another one. Why should I? The cops haven’t bothered to ask for my help and the airlines routinely fly overhead ignoring the awesome potential that I used to have!

Bottom line: It’s broken and simply one more piece of garbage that I have refused to admit that I have on my shelf.

On the other hand…

Jacob lived for 20 years knowing the Lord as his God. He had met the Lord that crazy night in Bethel in a dream. He made a deal with the Lord to be his God.- how kind of him! (Gen 28:21). However, Jacob continued to live pretty much the same as he always had BEFORE meeting the Lord. He figured out what he wanted (including who he wanted to marry) and worked hard for it. He made some good business deals and struggled to better himself personally and financially. Finally, he felt led to go home.

However, while on his way there, with his large family and servants and flocks, he hears that his brother Esau is coming to meet him. The problem is that the last Jacob knew, Esau was planning to kill him for stealing his birthright by deceiving their father Isaac

Now Jacob was in trouble., He wasn’t young, single or able to simply run from his sins as he had before. Now he was responsible for his wives, his sons and for protecting their assets. He does do what he can which is to divide the family into two groups sending them ahead and also send gifts by his servants to his brother, hoping to assuage his brother’s wrath and desire for revenge.

Then after he has done all he can, Jacob is left alone. This is often when it happens.

The Bible records that an angel wrestled with Jacob in the night and in the end cripples him by touching the socket of his thigh. Suddenly  Jacob is a broken man. He is in hurting, alone and he has absolutely nothing but God to cling to and in whom to trust. At the very lowest point in Jacob’s life, when his past sins are coming back to haunt him and he has nothing but fear and regrets around him, God changes his name to “Israel” which means “Governed By God”.

Now, a shattered man is ready to face whatever lies ahead.

Not because he is strong but because he is weak.

Not because he is so usable but because he is completely broken.

Now, Jacob becomes the example God can point to for anyone who wishes to live and die in faith.

I love the postscript on Jacob’s life in Hebrews 11:21

By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

Right to the end of his life Jacob “Blessed, worshiped and leaned

Wouldn’t it be great if you could be this usable to the Lord?

You can! But you must realize God intends to break you:

Not like my spotlight that sits broken and unused on the shelf.

But like the Twixt bar you break to share with a friend!

Remember what it says about the loaves “Jesus blessed them and broke them and gave them

The breaking is the preparing of the Lord for the giving of the blessing to someone else!

Which Way Do I Go?

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Alice meets The Cheshire Cat in a tree. It constantly grins and can disappear and reappear whenever it likes. Sometimes it disappears and leaves its grin behind.

On one occasion, Alice is perplexed as she approaches a fork in the road.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” she says. 

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” says the Cat.

“I don’t much care, where” says Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter much which way you go” says the Cat.

How true.

How important it is for us as believers to discern the purposes and the direction of God for our lives. Sometimes, it feels as if we are sailing the seas of life, blown by winds, drawn by currents wherever time and chance direct our sail-less dingy to go. 

However, we must remember God’s wonderful promise in Psalm 32.

      “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;

       I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  

       Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,

       Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,

       Otherwise they will not come near to you.” (Psalm 32:8-9)

So according to God’s Word “There is a way you should go”. That means there are plenty of other ways you should NOT go!

Most of us have learned there are many different ways to fall off a cliff, but only one road that is leads to the other side of the mountain. 

How do I discern the will of God? How do I know which way to go?

Much could be said. Much more has been written. But perhaps we can simplify it.

Often our tendency is to consult only the outward circumstances or merely our own desires and perhaps even block out unwanted counsel from godly friends. Remember God wants to direct you but you do need to step out in faith trusting He will steer you as you “step” out to do His will. You cannot steer a parked car and God won’t often steer a “parked Christian”.
As Paul the apostle set out on the first missionary journey he began to get direction of where he wasn’t suppose to go (as he attempted to go there). Then, as he got to the road’s end and no doubt was seeking the Lord, God gives him further direction.
The saying here is helpful “Do what you know and you will know what to do”. Remember, following the Lord is  like walking with a lantern. You can see only a few feet ahead of you when you are carrying a lantern. However, as you take a step, you discover now you can see farther than you could before you took the step! That’s how it is with God’s direction: Step By Step!

First. Pray.

James says “You have not because you ask not. If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask.”

Remember even someone as godly as Joshua was misled because he leaned on his own understanding rather asking the Lord for direction.

Then consider the following:

This illustration shows how to line up five crucial factors that will help a person seek and understand the will of God. Each light represents a factor and the safety of the harbor represents God’s will. As we line up the lights (factors) we can sail safely into the harbor (God’s Will).

Happy Sailing!

A Shepherd’s Christmas

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As I sit before my computer I am made aware that I am here yet again…

It is time to celebrate the birth of my Savior and I feel a bit like the Surprise Party that I attended last week:

Blessed to be here and  thankful I was even invited!

I think of those shepherds who had no idea when they went to work that night of the life- changing event that was about to happen. I think back to the night I had been invited to my friend’s church Junior High School retreat in the mountains. I had no idea that what would happen that night would be something I would come to think about and thank God for every day of my life.

That was the night, like those humble sheep watchers, I found out that heaven wanted me to meet Jesus. I too discovered that He had been born for me. I too was given very practical directions as to how I could personally find Him.

I didn’t have to go into a nearby town. All I needed was to open my heart.

I didn’t need to find his family. They were the ones giving me directions.

I didn’t have to make some great promise. I simply needed to believe what I was told.

Yet just like those first recipients of the “Good News”, I too responded to the divine revelation God brought to me.

The shepherds got angels. I got Jess Maples and Gene Shafer.

The shepherds got their story put in the Bible. I got my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!

The shepherds told others they met about what had happened to them.

I pray the same will be able to be said of me.

I believe my Savior still turns lost sheep and lost men into shepherds with a story to tell!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Serving or Loving?

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“Serve One another” Peter directed .(1 Peter 4:10) “Love one another.” Jesus commanded (John 13:34, John 15:17) and John repeatedly reminds us. (1 John 4:7, 2 John 1:5)

While It’s possible to serve people without loving them it’s virtually impossible to love people without serving them.

Love serves. Why? Because “Love does not seek it’s own. (1 Cor. 13:5) The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s selfishness!

This is why Paul writes  “Through love, serve one another” (Galatians 5:13)

The question is “Am I merely serving people or truly loving them?”

Jesus asked Peter the question three times: “Simon, Do you love me?” Each time, Simon Peter affirmed that he did love Jesus (even though it wasn’t with the highest type of love available). Each time, Jesus answered Peter’s affirmation with a call to serve: “Feed my sheep.”

If we love the Lord, one evidence should be that we serve His people.

Without realizing it, we can serve folks without really loving them. When that happens, our joy fades, our sense of privilege dissipates and our feeling of being unappreciated intensifies.

When Martha was serving the Lord and the guests within her home, she sensed that she was doing more than her fair share of the work. She was sure that she was being left with all the work while her sister Mary was being lazy and just enjoying the Lord’s Word.

Martha asked Jesus to take up her cause and speak to Mary about her failure. However, Jesus commends Mary’s choice to sit at His feet and listen and gently reproves Martha’s unloving busyness!

Do you delight in serving people and see it as a true privilege? Or has it become a routine, a responsibility, a duty? Our internal attitude towards what we are doing often is our first “red flag” that we have stopped loving and begun instead serving by “impulse power” rather than Spirit-infused love.

“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.” (Gen 29:20)

Love oils the wheels of service.

“O, then I should just quit the ministry altogether.” you say. “I’m an unloving person and a hypocrite!” That’s exactly what the enemy would whisper into your ear and have echo inside your mind. Don’t buy it!

The answer isn’t to beat yourself up and condemn yourself. You need not resign serving as an usher or ministering in the nursery. No, the antidote is to confess it to the Lord and admit you are empty. That isn’t so much a sin as much as an admission that you simply need more of the One who, so loved, that he laid down His life for others.

The answer isn’t to disconnect yourself from people’s needs as much as it is to get yourself back under the faucet of God’s abundant supply of love. Jude writes “Keep yourself in the love of God.” Love for people comes from God not from somewhere within our self. Our job is to stay near enough to the source that we continually experience God’s heart for the needs of the people around us.

Jesus remains passionate about His bride and her needs. Just tell the Lord you need a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit who’s primary fruit is God’s agape love. Then watch, as He gives you renewed and enlarged capacities to love the people around you. When that happens, Spirit-filled serving will just begin to flow!

More Fire!

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Let’s call her Cathy.

She gave her life to Jesus through our street witnessing team that shares Christ down at the beach on Saturday evenings. The next day she came and met me after the morning service and told me what had happened the night before. We prayed and celebrated her decision. With her daughter in hand and a brand new life ahead of her, she agreed to come out and be baptized later that same afternoon. It was a great day!

She hasn’t missed a Sunday or Wednesday night service since. Hungry for God’s word and desiring to grow in her new found faith, Cathy has come up for prayer and to update me on how she is doing. Her smile betrays the peace she is experiencing even though she has no friends or family in our area and is currently out of work and homeless. You would never suspect it.

This last week after service, Cathy came up to me and said “I really feel God’s presence and power when I’m here at church but I don’t feel it so strong when I am not.” Then she simply added “But I want to.”

That is not something that only Cathy experiences. It is in fact a universal experience of Christians everywhere. Why is this? Can anything be done to enjoy God’s presence all the time instead of just at church?

Jude writes this: “But build yourselves up on your most holy faith.” (Jude 20).

Faith, like a muscle can and must be exercised to grow. Most of us are old enough to know this when it comes to our physique: it’s “Use it or lose it brother!” This is also true of our faith. If you wish to grow in faith rather than waiting for church to start, you must exercise your faith while you are NOT at church!

On one occasion early in his spiritual development, David was strengthened in his faith by Jonathan, his brother-in-law. However, there came a time when Jonathan wasn’t around and David was in deep trouble. We read  “But David encouraged himself in God.” (1 Samuel 30:6). You have to learn to do the same.

How do we do that?

Solomon wrote “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out.” (Prov 26:20) Now, he was speaking of gossip and the strife it produces. However, the principle is also true of our faith in God. Paul writes “He who sows to the flesh will reap from the flesh corruption. He who sows to the Spirit will reap from the Spirit, eternal life”  (Gal 6:8) There are things that fuel our spiritual life. We must know what they are and how to keep those things in ready supply.

Read God’s Word and Pray every day!

These two spiritual disciplines are each modeled in the life of Jesus Christ.  They enabled Him to live in constant intimacy with His Father and also in victory over the enemy. As I pray, I release my burdens and fears to the Lord. As I read and believe my Bible, the fires of my faith are stoked because “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17)

“Is not my Word as a fire, saith the Lord?” (Jer. 23:29)

Martin Luther once commented “If I should neglect prayer for even one day I would lose a great deal of the fire of my faith”

Daily Bible reading and prayer are God’s ways to privately ignite our faith and excite our passion for Christ. Remember, all you need is to come close enough to the fire. When that happens, you will catch!

When God says “No”

We love the open invitation of Jesus to “Ask and it shall be given unto you” found in the sermon on the mount. In the same way, I am moved to persistent hope given by Jesus when he taught that men ought to always pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:10) Even David said he would have despaired if he had not believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Yet is there a time when we should stop praying for something? Is there a time when our desires are clearly on a collision course with God’s revealed will and what we need to recognize is what Solomon said “There is a time to give up as lost”? Ecc 3:6

The answer simply is YES!

Surrendering to the undesired will of God may come as a crushing heartbreak of a young man or woman who watches the love of their life walk down the aisle with someone else. Or it may come through the  painful perception that God has chosen not to heal you or someone you love of a life threatening disease.

There are a myriad of ways that God can simply whisper “Enough my child” to our persistent passionate plea for answered prayer or renewed hope.

Consider the following example from the life of Moses…

 “I also pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? ‘Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ “But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.”  Dt 3:23-26

 Even someone as close to the Lord as Moses still was told “No” by God when it came to his desire to cross over the Jordan and see the promised land of Canaan.

Then I realize when God says “No” to us we are actually in pretty good company.

The Lord also said “No” to David when he asked that God heal his infant son 2 Samuel 12:16)

And again God said “No” when David asked to build God a temple. (1 Chronicles 17:4)

The Lord said “No” To Paul when he wished to be healed of his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:8-9)

The Father even said “No” To Jesus when in the garden he asked if there was any other way than Calvary’s cross (Matt 26:42).

The bottom line isn’t will God say “No” to you. No matter how long you have walked with Him, love Him or seek to reflect Him. There are “Nos” in your future. The question is what do you do when He says it to you? Do you become angry? Do you walk away from the Lord in depression?

A pastor and his wife had one child. Their boy had become ill and the couple and their church family had begun to pray earnestly for the Lord’s healing in their precious son’s life. The man of God was sure God would heal his child. Many caring believers from church stopped in to encourage them to keep believing that God would intervene. Several even assured them that they were confident of God’s plan to heal their sick child.

desperate prayer

Yet, the boy became worse and worse until it became very apparent he had only hours to live. The father went into the boy’s room and prayed at his bedside as he lay agonizing in fevered pain. Finally, the father walked out of his boy’s room. He saw his wife in the dimly lit hallway with tears streaming down her cheeks. The man said to his wife “Dear, we are not going to let God take our son…” Then he paused. Then through his own tears he finished, “We are going to give him to Him instead.”

Your greatest act of worship may actually be what you do when God say “No.”

 

 

 

 

“Wake Up America!”

As the world is reeling in the tragic loss of life in Paris, we pray for comfort for the families of the deceased, healing for the wounded and peace and security for a nation suddenly in the grip of suicidal terrorists within their own borders.

It is an unpopular idea that tragedies and acts of savage aggression are appropriate times to call people to repentance. This is seen as insensitive to those who are suffering and as a naïve perspective on both the causes of such evil acts as well as their remedy.

Yet, as we approach Thanksgiving, we should be reminded of another Presidential Proclamation made by Abraham Lincoln just a few months prior to establishing this national holiday. In March of 1863, Lincoln called a divided, war-torn nation to a day of prayer and fasting. In that proclamation, there is a bold profession of faith in God and the holy scriptures. Then within the proclamation there is a clear connection made between the sins of our nation and the ongoing Civil War tragedy itself.

Here are some choice excerpts:

“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations…”

“…whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

• “…insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?”

What our national sin may be is actually then laid out in black and white by the President of the United States:

• “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

Prideful, prayerlessness and ingratitude in response to God’s gracious blessings is pointed to as the possible root cause of the Civil War itself. Then a call is given to the nation to stop what they are doing, go to church, and fast and pray for forgiveness and healing of a broken nation.

 “It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness… All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

Two years later the Civil War ended, peace was secured and the nation began to heal.

Is it too simplistic to believe the war on terrorism will be won on our knees or not at all?

Jesus was asked in his day about an incident that was stealing the current headlines:

“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-3

The mistake of those in Christ’s day was in looking to blame the victims for the evil acts of the perpetrator and interpreting their suffering as evidence divine personal judgment. Jesus says that the “take away message” from such a terrorist act (or any calamity for the matter see Lk 13:4-5) isn’t to focus on the guilt of the victims particularly but to realize our urgent need for repentance personally.

“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In other words, acts of savage terrorism that produce universal shock should be taken as a “wake up call” to humble ourselves spiritually as individuals and ask God to forgive us.

May God help each of us hear God’s“alarm clock” and refuse to hit the snooze button yet again!

Boy Story

samuel-listens-to-god

He was just a lad and he was tired. As he lay in bed ready to fall asleep, he heard it for the first time. It sounded like his master, Eli calling him. “Samuel!” the voice called. Samuel got out of bed and ran to where Eli was. “Yes master, you called?” Eli said “I didn’t call you, go back to bed.” After this happened twice again, Eli, the High Priest realized God was wanting to reveal himself to the boy Samuel.

Eli told Samuel how to respond if he ever heard “the voice” calling his name again. Eli said “When you hear it say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Indeed, that instruction was right on the money. When Samuel heard his name called later that night, he realized God was speaking to him personally. He didn’t need to ask anyone else to interpret what God was saying to him. In fact, Samuel began regularly hearing from God after this as God would reveal to him what was on God’s heart and what he wanted Samuel to speak to others.

Spiritual sensitivity isn’t something we are born with. Jesus said “That which is flesh is flesh”. We need to become spiritually aware of God’s voice and learn to discern how to receive it personally. A Good proverb to live by is “To know God’s choice, you must hear God’s voice.”

If you want to hear God speak to you more. Approach your prayer time and Bible reading time with the same approach as the boy Samuel. Ask God to speak to you personally. Perhaps even more important, make it clear to God you are listening as “a servant” and not as a spectator or even merely as a student. A servant has only one reason to listen to his master – and that is to obey.

Paul wrote if we want to discern God’s unknown will for our lives, we must present ourselves completely to God as living sacrifices first (Rom 12:1-2). Consecration precedes revelation.

So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Rom 12:1-2

THE SMALLEST CHURCH I EVER ATTENDED

It didn’t have a steeple, a cross, or a pastor for that matter. No opening song, offering or sermon. It was the smallest church I ever attended! In fact, we didn’t even realize we were in church! 
The two of them walked down that dusty road on their way to that town on purpose for some unknown reason. This day, it certainly would not be about the destination, it would be all about the journey. As they walked, they talked. There was nothing special about their conversation that day either, at least not until “He” joined them. They didn’t recognize Him as He began to walk with them. He appeared to be just another traveler on their road that day. They simply walked on and talked. 

The conversation turned to what had occurred recently in town. These were facts the two friends were surprised the stranger seemed completely ignorant of. They admitted they had believed Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited Messiah. That is, until the Romans had crucified him last week. Now they were just discouraged and heartbroken. 

The Stranger told the two that they were not believing all that was written concerning the Messiah in their Bibles. He said, the Messiah was predicted to come and die and only then, to enter His glory. This kind Teacher then opened their minds to the Scriptures as He led them through passages they had read but never fully understood before. It was all there! How had they missed it? 

As they arrived at the fork leading to their destination, the wise Stranger appeared to be going further. They begged Him to stay with them because it was so late in the day. He agreed. As they sat to break bread, their Guest, took the bread and broke it in order to give it to them. As He did, they suddenly recognized the Christ they had been discussing theoretically was actually right there with them personally. Then suddenly, He vanished! 

Jesus had said “Where two or more are gathered in my Name, there am I in their midst.”  

Now, It may have happened as you spoke of Him with your spouse at the breakfast table, or discussed what heaven will be like with your grandchild. It could have happened when you paused to thank God for an evening out with friends while you all were still in the car or any of a myriad of other times and places. 

The “where”we are, Jesus made clear, is the utterly unimportant. The “how” we are, where we are, is the all important. Gathering “in His Name” invites the presence of the invisible Savior to manifest Himself to everyone present. In fact, It’s more than an invitation, it’s His solemn declaration: “There I Am, In your midst.” 

A little boy wrote his letter to God. It was brief and to the point. “Dear God, I went to church last Sunday. It was okay, but it would have been better if you had been there!”  

You see, gathering in His Name can happen any “where” we are or it can fail to happen “everywhere” we are!.  

Enough said. I think we now know what to do. 

“Can We Count On You?”

In the book of Numbers the very first thing we read is that God ordered a census of the fighting men of Israel. Now mind you, these men had been slaves in Egypt and although they were now “saved” they had not engaged in much warfare.

There is a clear intention on God’s part that every man see himself as a soldier and one who is ready to fight the enemy on behalf of himself, his family and all of God’s people.

Among all of God’s people, God “counts” each one who is “able to go out to war”. That phrase is used 14 times in the chapter. Are you one that God would recognize as able to enter the spiritual conflict and fight? Each family of God’s people were represented by someone that could and would fight! It appears nearly all the men of every tribe were involved.

1. They were mature (over 20 years old). These were not children and no one was forcing them to battle. So too we must be spiritually mature to engage the enemy successfully! The mature see the need of spiritual battle and are the “young men” to whom John writes “You are strong, you have the Word of God abiding in you and you have overcome the wicked one”. 1 John 2:14

2. They were able to fight – so then, they were not injured, sick or disabled. We must be spiritually healthy, and willing and able to enter the battle and engage our enemy. Paul wrote “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.Eph 6:12

3. They understood they would be fighting for more than merely themselves. Their battle was not merely their own. They fought for their families and all of God’s people. That means we do more than pray about our own problems and provision. We intercede for our families and all the brethren.  Once suited up with the armor you need to know what to do next: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Eph 6:18 

E.M. Bounds wrote “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.” 

Can we count on you to get into the fight? Lord, count me in!”

Spiritual Authority

Spiritual Authority

One of the characteristics of the ministry of Jesus was spiritual authority.

“He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mat 7:29)

This same Jesus quality was seen in the apostles as they stood for the Lord.

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Ac 4:13).

Read the following text:

27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. (Exodus 34:27-35)

Notice Moses becomes the mouthpiece of God to the nation of Israel. He speaks with divine authority. However, this is the result of his first having first spent time in God’s presence significantly, receiving God’s Word personally and spending time speaking with the Lord intimately.

Spiritual authority always flows out of spiritual intimacyThere simply are no shortcuts, or workarounds.

Then, the spiritual intimacy must be refreshed on a regular basis for the glow to continue. Like those glow sticks that must be recharged by exposure to a light, so we must go regularly before the One who is Himself Light and allow Him to renew and increase our ability to reflect Him and to shine Him to others.