Sunday, December 1, 2013

A word of encouragement and Blessing to Homeschoolers

Word of Encouragement and Blessing to Homeschooling Mothers, Fathers, and Children

If Jesus were speaking directly to you right now, and he is speaking to you, he would say: 
Thank you for choosing the narrow path, the difficult way. It leads to abundant life, great blessing, and eternal benefits and rewards.  I have called you to a Holy, set apart lifestyle and you have responded.  I know the way is difficult and you feel like giving up sometimes.  Come to me when you feel worn-out, tired, burned-out, stressed out, and heavily laden with many burdens.  I will give you rest and life.  Resist the pull to compare yourself with others and look to the right or the left.  Re-focus your gaze and your heart upon me.  Remember that your main purpose in raising your children is to teach them to love me with all their hearts and to follow me.

Homeschooling Moms, the Father is so pleased with your love and care for his children. Nothing escapes the Father’s notice.  Your purpose and calling as a mother and teacher during this season is valuable and significant beyond what you can see with your limited perspective.  You have sacrificed much to make the decision and accept the call to train up your children in the way the Father has created them.  The Father is pleased with you and proud of you.  Don’t grow weary in doing good, continue to fight the good fight of faith and finish the race.  Strength, wisdom, and energy will fill you.  May an increase of love, purpose, and vision come upon you.  Moms, resist the lie that comes and tells you your task is without purpose or significance just because nobody seems to honor or recognize you.  The First will be Last, and the Last will be First in my kingdom.  You may appear to be Last according to the values system of this world, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, you are first because you are a loving servant.

                Homeschooling Dads, support and love your family in more ways than just financially.  Encourage your wife and children, be genuinely interested and engaged in their day.  Your interest and encouragement will help pull them through difficult seasons.  You have sacrificed much to be a homeschooling Father, and the Father notices.  He is pleased that you work hard to support your family in many ways.  Your words have life and can encourage your family to be the overcomers I have called them to be.  You, as a Father, have the power to call forth and encourage the identity of your wife and children.  Your example of hard work, servant-leadership, self-sacrifice, love, and courage sets the tone for your family.  Come to the Father for your true identity and vision, do not go to the world for identity and their standard of success.  You are a true son of God, now go and call forth your children as sons and daughters of God.  Teach them to love this world with my love, and train them for war to defeat the darkness.  I didn’t call you to homeschooling so that you and your family would hide from the world, but I called you to homeschooling so you can raise up world-changers who will carry my love to the lost sons and daughters.

                I declare over the children clear vision, ears to hear, and teachable, tender hearts.  Let them have open minds that listen to their mother and father’s wisdom.  Give the children the Father’s heart for this world and his love for people.  Let the spirit of rebellion over this generation be broken and not touch these children.  Let the children choose wisdom and life that leads to blessing.  Let the children really come to know God in a deeply personal way.  Let them resist the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Let them avoid the snares of the enemy and stay on the narrow road.  Let them learn to hear the voice of God and obey that voice.  Let the Holy Spirit fill them and flow through them.  Show them who you really are, Father, and show them what you have created and called them to do.  You children are precious to the Father, you are his beloved.  Come to the Father through me and you will know true life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cessationism is Dead!

Cessationism is on its way out, but those like John Macarthur with his "Strange Fire" conference, are still trying to beat this dead horse.  Here are a couple links I would like to share regarding this issue.

AW Tozer states the issue very clearly when he says in the article I have linked to below:

"it will be seen how empty and meaningless is the average church service today. All the means are in evidence; the one ominous weakness is the absence of the Spirit’s power. ... The power from on high is neither known nor desired by pastor or people. This is nothing less than tragic, and all the more so because it falls within the field of religion, where the eternal destinies of men are involved.
Fundamentalism has stood aloof from the liberal in self-conscious superiority and has on its own part fallen into error, the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind."

An open letter to John Macarthur from A W Tozer

Michael Brown appeal to John Macarthur

Link to earlier article on our Blog - Cessationism is heresy

"John Macarthur's Strange Fire" - from Stephen Crosby

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lawyers or Lovers

Loved this Post by Steve Crosby.  Right along the lines of what God has shown us these past couple years.

Lawyers or Lovers

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Prophetic Lifestyle

A post by Brian Harrison prompted me to begin thinking about the apostolic nature of our lives, and what it means to speak apostolically.  What does the Apostolic look like?

Brian mentions 4 things that are characteristics of apostolic statements/actions.
1. It's Heavenly and not Earthly
2. it is corporate and not personal
3. It is sacrificial and not self-serving and therein emits the aroma of Christ.
4. It is authentic and not fabricated

I was reminded of the close tie between speaking/living  prophetically and speaking/living apostolically.  Just a couple days previous to reading this article by Brian, I had read the preview for a book at that talks about what it means to live prophetically.  I love the way this guy writes.  I had stumbled across his web-site when looking at the forum.

Let your Light Shine - Ray Ashmore

Here is the the Amazon description for the book:
Jesus is The Prophet. Every word that comes from His lips is prophetic. Every expression of His will is prophetic. Every work of His Spirit is prophetic. The Holy Spirit is the conveyer of truth to the church both in words and deeds; and the church is to be a picture of that very truth to its community and world. Prophecy is far more than words or visions. Prophecy is a life lived individually and in a gathered community that bears testimony to God and His redemptive work. Prophecy isn't restricted to the simple understanding of the prophetic ministry that most charismatics espouse. True prophecy always, without exception and in every way, lifts up Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

and a profound excerpt from the book:
"By extension, as we steep ourselves in the word of God, we learn from Him, grow in Him, and become truly prophetic. It's not that we will be prophets, but we become prophetic in our living. How does this take place? It takes place by the Holy Spirit as He transforms our lives into Christ's likeness. As we grow into His image, The Prophet Jesus grows in us. He is put on display through us. His words and thoughts are expressed by us. Our words reveal Him and our lives display Him. Our actions, the events in our lives, and our responses to them are all symbolic of Christ's life and His will for us. We are prophetic in the truest sense of the word."
This got me thinking about how our lifestyle as Christians is to let the Life, Love, and Character of Jesus flow out of us in such a way that we become a prophetic statement to the world.  We become a testimony of what God and his Kingdom is really like.  The advancement of his Kingdom depends upon us entering into union with Jesus and living the life of the Spirit.  This is what living a prophetic life is all about!  I had always thought of prophecy as being prophetic utterances - but this has opened my eyes to the fact that there is much more.  Prophetic utterances flow out of our union with Christ and getting a hold of his heart of Love.  They do not flow out of our intellect, they flow out of deep communion and identification with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. 

Old Testament prophets did not just pronounce "Thus saith the Lord", their lives also became prophetic statements of the Heart of God for his people.  They did not just pronounce judgment, their lives became so filled with God's heart of Love, Mercy, and righteous anger it drove them to do some fairly interesting things that looked quite ridiculous.

One of the problems with many Christians is this: We have a tendency to Know a lot of stuff, Say a lot of stuff, but are can be very deficient in the area of Doing much of the stuff.  Jesus said that we would be able to Do the same works he did, even greater works.  It is not enough to know what to do, even to talk a lot about what to do.  When we become Doers of the Word, and not hearers only, we enter into the true prophetic lifestyle.

I also believe that this strong disparity between what we Christians preach and what we practice has made us an object of scorn and ridicule from the world's perspective, and not in a good way.  Listen to this comment by Steve Crosby he posted on Facebook.

Many of you are not going to like this post because of how "broad a generalization" it is. I don't care, so please don't respond to me about how "every one is not that way." I won't post your comments if you go down that road. I am not talking about the EXCEPTIONS here. I am talking about the NORM. I am talking about the PUBLIC PERCEPTION of Christians and Christianity. My wife has worked for Sta...rbucks for 8 years. Her UNEQUIVOCAL, NON-NEGOTIABLE, REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE (not phony baloney-Sunday-morning-Wayne's world of Christianity) is that the customers who are the most vocal about their "Christianity," who come in for their "Bible studies," and their "fellowship groups," who "pass our their gospel tracts," are the nastiest, rudest, most inconsiderate, demanding, selfish, impolite, cheap, self-centered, and unthankful of all her customers. Nothing hinders the cause of Christ more than . . . "Christians." I understand why our culture despises "Christians and Christianity." I do too. I don't even use those terms any more when describing myself. They are hopelessly contaminated in the minds of the world. Lord, please deliver the world from your "followers."

I realized that if we focused more on letting our lives be so consumed with Jesus and his love, we would present a much different testimony to the world - the testimony of Jesus, the true spirit of Prophecy.  Didn't Jesus say they will know we are Christians by our love for one another?  They will not know we are Christians by our doctrines, how well we know our Bible intellectually, our ascetic lifestyle, faithful church attendance, good preaching, cutting-edge worship, or hyper-spiritual experiences.  They will know we are Christians by our LOVE. 

Sometimes, the Love of Jesus within us will compel us to say things that will offend people, but they will know we are speaking from Love - not self-interest, self-righteousness, or condemnation.  They may hate us, reject us, and kill us - but let it not be because we were too Religious.  Let it be because of our identification with Jesus Christ.  Let it be because "the" prophet Jesus is speaking through our life.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Don't forget what you look like!

Why do we believers sometimes do the things we don't want to do?  Why do our children disobey us when they know better, even though we have taught them and trained them to do right?  When they get around other children and act like fools, we as parents sometimes ask: Why?  And then, why do we sometimes start to think we are bad parents because our children are disobedient?  The list could go on and on. 

When I was praying about this the other day, I realized that one of the roots goes back to forgetting who we are in Christ.

James 1:22-25
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

2 Cor. 3:18
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
a. Or reflect

When we behold Christ in prayer - we are actually reflecting the Lord's glory, and being transformed into his image.  That means the glory of the Lord is in us and reflects from us!

When we start to get our identity from what anyone else says about us, or from what the enemy says about us - we have forgotten who we are in Christ.  When we allow others to tell us who we are instead of God, we have forgotten what we look like and have just raised them above what God says about us.  When we make what someone else, our self, or the enemy says about us more important than what God says about us, it is a form of idolatry!  Only God has the legitimate right to tell you who you are!

Here is what you look like in Christ.
1. God's dearly-loved child
2. Perfect, Righteous, Holy, Pure, spotless
3. A child of light, not a child of darkness
4. The light of the world
5. Inheritors of all God's great and precious promises
6. A new creation
7. Full of power and love from the Spirit of God
8. Overcoming, overwhelmingly-conquering saints
9. Blessed with abundance beyond compare.  Filled with life to the full and overflowing.

I believe the root of sin is forgetting who we are in Christ.  When we forget who we are in him, we begin to separate from him and function from the flesh.  When we know deep within who we are, we will not act independently of him. 

Along with Adam and Eve, Jesus faced the same temptations we do from the enemy and from others. For Adam and Eve, the temptations from the Devil were not only to get them to doubt God's nature and character, but to get them to believe Lies about themselves.  In Jesus' Temptation, notice the words Satan used in Matthew 4:3 & 6. "If you are the Son of God" The Devil wanted Jesus to take a shortcut and function independently of his nature and identity.  He wanted Jesus to function independently from God as his Father, and his identity as the Son of God to make things happen prematurely and illegally.

When other people wanted to make Jesus their King prematurely, he would have no part of that either.  The opinions of the masses did not sway him from who he was and what he was called to accomplish.

When we are secure in our identity, traps like shortcuts, sin, pride, and what others think about us will have no root.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Barriers to God's Love

In pondering our earlier Post, the Significance of God's Love, I was thinking about things that can hinder us from expressing God's love.  What keeps us from really moving out in faith to love our families, our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters in Christ?

1. Ruts
One of the major barriers I see in my own life is the tendency to fall into a Rut.  It is entirely possible to lock ourselves into a mindset that never looks outside our daily routine.  Even seemingly good, religious activities can become a rut that prevent us from seeing what God is doing and keep us from seeing the real needs of those around us.  If my goal is to get to the "church meeting" on time, why would I stop to help my neighbor?  In the parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37, isn't it interesting that it was the "professional" religious men who passed by the hurt man.  I assume they were too busy and stuck in their "rut" to allow themselves to feel compassion on him.  They allowed what they deemed good, getting to their destination on time, to get in the way of seeing from God's heart of love and compassion.

We Christians need to learn to slow down, relax, and just love the people right in front of us. "Stop for the One" as Heidi Baker says.  Instead of getting grand ideas about doing big things for God, if we could just get in touch with God's heart and then crawl out of our rut long enough to see a need and "stop for the one" right in front of us, we will be the ones Jesus works through to change the world "with" him instead of "for" him.

In church meetings, even in so-called Charismatic churches, ruts often keep God locked up.  He is "in" us, but he desires to get out.  We can assume that the order of service is to be followed, but miss the real needs and what God is doing. Our rut keeps us from ever expecting anything different, it keeps us from seeing the real needs around us, and it limits our faith.

Order of service in a Charismatic Church: Pray, worship, preach 5-15 mins about giving financially, take an offering, worship some more, preach again, alter call with musical accompaniment, done.
Order of service in a traditional church: All stand, sing Hymn 596, All Sit down, sing Hymn 278, All stand up, repeat Lord's Prayer, Pastor Prays, take an offering, scripture reading, All sit down, preach, most people fall asleep, Sermon complete, most people wake up, all stand up, sing Hymn 193, done. 

2. Wrong Judgments about others
Another barrier I see is the tendency to lock ourselves and others into an imaginary rut through critical, negative thought patterns.  The tendency can be to look at ourselves and others based on past experience instead of peering prophetically into truth by faith.  If we look only at what lies on the surface, we fail to see the beauty and potential that may lie beneath.  Only when we see as God sees can we really love.    Could this be why the words "Faith, Hope, and Love" are tied to each other.  A hopeless, faithless perspective is an unloving perspective.  Of course, seeing sin as wrong does not preclude faith and hope.  Truth and Love are also tied to each other very closely and cannot be separated from one another.  John 1:14  To see truthfully is also to see lovingly and with a grace-centered perspective.  To see with all of these(Faith, Hope, Love, and Truth) is to see from God's perspective instead of a fleshly perspective.

 1 Cor 1:27  Jesus chose disciples who were the most unlikely to be world changers, but he also saw their potential.  God rescued and saved many of us, also the most unlikely to amount to anything from the world's perspective.  We need to be careful to see others by the Spirit and discern by the Spirit.  If we make wrong judgments, we will miss what God is doing and operate in unbelief.
Personal Examples
These are things I noticed in my own life when pondering this issue.  I realized I had some repenting to do and a need to allow God to deliver me from my "rut". 
1.  Judging others outwardly or from past experience:  I often pass by co-workers several times a day,  some of them I have known for years, but rarely assume they might have needs or may have an interest in God so I mostly ignore them and expect nothing.
2.  Daily Routine, busyness:  We eat at approx. the same time each day, do our chores, and I put my children to bed at about the same time every night, anything that strays out of the routine is often seen as a hindrance.
3.  Compartmentalizing God:  I get up and spend some time with God in the morning, maybe read my bible or a devotional,  maybe worship and listen for his voice, but many times don't consult him about throughout the day or remain sensitive to his presence, love, or inward voice.
4. Separating Sacred from Secular.  Seeing religious activities as Sacred, and all else as worldly or unimportant.  Therefore, not seeking God unless the activities are seen as sacred or religious.

I realized this tendency toward "ruttishness" and religiousness was a generational sin that needed to be broken. If we come out of agreement with these ruts and wrong perspectives, and come into agreement with God's perspective of love and freedom, they lose power over us.

3. Wrong judgments about God
When we really get to know what God is like, and we know experientially and by faith how much he loves us, we will be free to love others in the same way. The more we comprehend the love of God, the more we will desire to love people in the same way. If we view God as distant, mean-spirited, out to get us, and waiting to catch us in an act of sin so he can strike us dead and throw us into hell, we will certainly not treat others with a loving spirit. If we see God as our best friend, close to us, for us and not against us, bearing our burdens, ever-present, kind, compassionate, forgiving, fun-loving, etc, we will become like him. As we behold God, we will become like how we view him. That is why it is critical to have an accurate picture of who God really is and how he relates to us.
2 Cor. 3:18 He does not relate to us like he did to those under the old Covenant so we do not need to relate to him out of fear and condemnation. We relate to him on the basis of the new covenant he has made with us through Jesus, we are Righteous and Holy, fearless, his beloved children, and his close friends. 2 Cor 3:7-9

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tribute to my Wife

It is my wife, Ondrea's birthday tomorrow, and I want to say a few things in her honor.  

Ondrea is the most faithful, dedicated, devoted, loving, and beautiful wife I have ever known.  Ondrea has been like a rock to me during the many times when I have struggled and been up and down.  Her unconditional, unfailing love has been a beautiful picture to me of the love of God and his heart for me. I am so thankful for all the times where she demonstrated love to me when I didn't deserve it.  I know I have been a clod at times, and she knows me better than anyone else, yet still loves me.

Ondrea's wisdom and insight into the heart of matters is amazing.  I can't count the number of times where her encouragement and Godly wisdom has lifted me out of wrong, negative, ungodly thinking.  Her prophetic insight from the heart of God helps clear up my cloudiness.   I don't even want to think where I would be right now if not for my wife.  It is amazing to see how God put us together because we complement each other so perfectly!

Ondrea's example of one who wholeheartedly loves to do God's will and obey him has been a tremendous inspiration to me.  She has a strong desire to listen to God's voice and be obedient no matter what.  And, she does it because she loves God so much, not out of obligation.

Her commitment and love for our children also amazes me. It's not easy training, teaching, and taking care of 6 children.  It takes a lot of energy, time, and love to make a Godly home.  Great children don't just happen by accident.

Happy Birthday, Ondrea!!  May greater blessings, health, love, and fulfillment be yours this year!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Significance of God's Love

My wife and I have been pondering the significance of and meaning of Love.  We are convinced that gaining a proper understanding of God's Love, and then walking in it is the most significant thing we can do.  We are also convinced that in mainstream Christianity, this is the one thing that is most often missing.

For some of us who have been Christians for a while, it is important to examine why we do what we do.  We need to be asking, "what is the point of what we are doing"?  Are our activities and effort rooted in the 2 greatest commandments: love for God and others, or rooted in selfishness?  Do we view life and relationships with a what's in it for me perspective, or are we living in love?

For some of us, our picture of love needs to be re-painted.  It is critical to avoid defining love in the context of our twisted culture.  The greatest type of Love described in the Bible is not eroticism, family love, or feelings of affection toward something, although some types of love may involve these things.  When the Bible says that God is love, what does that really mean?  We must be careful not to define God and love through the lens of our culture or the world. Much of the world's way of seeing love is based on sentiment.  Sentiment is defined as: marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism.  Most of us define love as a feeling, based on past experiences, especially ideal experiences.  If someone makes us feel good, we may define that as love.  Although this is an aspect of love, it is not the whole enchilada.  And, it is easy for our experience of love to be twisted and distorted if the person seemingly expressing love toward us was doing it for selfish reasons.

Several different words for Love
My wife and I did a study of the Greek/Hebrew words for love and came up with some interesting observations.  Without going into great detail, I would like to share a few highlights. Most people who have read their bible are aware that there are several greek words for love while the English language only has one word for Love.  However, love can mean a lot of things depending on the context it is used in.  "I love pizza" means something quite different than "I love my children".  I want to center in on the greek word Agape primarily, but first give a brief description of the greek word Phileo. 

Phileo is a friendship affection for someone, mainly based on qualities that are considered loveable and likeable.  However, Agape is based primarily in the qualities of the giver, not the receiver.  Since Agape originates from God, who IS love, this would make sense.  Rather than loving us for what we can do for him, or because we possess certain lovable qualities, God loves us because of who HE IS.  Since Agape originates in who God is, nothing we can do will change his love for us.  God does Phileo us, and we also Phileo him as our Father and friend.  See this article: Does God love us with phileo love?

It is important to note that Agape sometimes contains the concept of Phileo and cannot be entirely separated from it.  When someone expresses Agape towards us, we are probably going to feel loved.   However, Agape love is primarily defined as an esteem, regard, and commitment to someone or something that then results in action.  Agape involves being so committed to something or someone that we give of ourselves sacrificially.  Interestingly, Agape is not just descriptive of God's love toward us, it is also used of those who loved darkness in John 3:19 - This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  These people loved darkness, which means they were wholeheartedly committed to darkness and this resulted in evil deeds.  Agapao is most beautifully seen in God's love toward us. John 3:16 describes God's love for the world, which compelled him to sacrificially give Jesus, his son for us. Jesus sacrificially gave of himself for us on the cross.  John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  The giving of one's life is demonstrated by Jesus as the supreme act of Love. 

Agape is the word used in all these scriptures.
1. Matthew 22:37 - Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
2. 1 Corinthians 13
3. Revelation 12:11 - They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

The meaning in Revelation 12:11 is that they did not esteem their own lives so much as to hold on to them.  They released their lives up to God and allowed his greater love to replace their desire to hold onto their own lives.  This is what is meant by Jesus when he asks us to give up our lives for him.  We will either love our own life so much that we hold it back from God and others, or we will give our life to him so his love can flow in and pour out of us to others.

Agape love is the most important thing - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Without love, we are nothing and we have nothing.  We can do loads of good works, but without God's love, all our accomplishments, efforts, programs, meetings, and interactions with others are meaningless and amount to NOTHING.  If "God is love" 1 John 4:8, it must be exceedingly important.

Love can only be fully understood and appreciated experientially.
It is interesting to learn about and study what Love means, but unless it is received and given away experientially, Love will remain shallow and incomprehensible to us.  "We love him because he first loved us". 1 John 4:19.  As we understand the nature of God's love in Jesus for us, and we come into a revelation of it for ourselves, we are changed and find that same love flowing out of us.  If we say we love someone, but there are no tangible actions or emotions expressed toward them, they will likely remain feeling un-loved. James 2:16

I have experienced this with my family, my wife expecially.  When she or my children bring a concern, feeling, or problem to me,  I sometimes start out by trying to say all the right words to comfort them like: "I know how you feel", "I understand", or "That must be difficult".  But these words sound hollow unless coupled with God's love.  Real love only ignites when I seek God's heart of love by listening without self-preservation, seeking to truly identify with and understand them.  At this moment, true compassion and empathy forms within me and my desire is to truly seek what is best for them rather than what is best for me.  There is a bridge of selfishness and pride that must be crossed over to embrace the other person right where they are at.  When love activates, it frees me from the desire to prove myself good or right, and it frees me from the desire to prove them wrong and seek to fix them intellectually and externally.

As we meditate upon and increase in revelation about the single greatest act of love in history, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we will gain insight into the true nature of Agape love.  This song powerfully communicates Jesus' amazing love for us.  Arms Wide Open

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Relationship and Friendship with God

My wife and I have been pondering the significance of relationship with God in the Christian life.  We are convinced that without relationship with God, there cannot be a Christian Life.  How can you claim to be a Christian without a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?  How can you be his disciple if you don't really know him personally.  It isn't enough to have intellectual knowledge about him, it isn't enough to have all your doctrines about him straight, it isn't even enough to claim you believe he exists, or to believe intellectually he has died for your sins on the cross.  It isn't even enough to cast out demons, work mighty miracles, and lead lost people to salvation in his Jesus name.  Without a genuine, authentic relationship with him, you aren't really his disciple. 

Matthew 7:22,23
22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?'
23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

I know this verse can be over-quoted to put people in fear and condemnation, but the point of it is, do you know Jesus?  If we really know Jesus, we will act like him.  1 Cor. 13 comes to mind.  Of course, I understand that relationship with God is something that we grow into.  But, with childlike faith - I believe we can grow in our relationship with him much more quickly.  Religious strongholds in our culture hinder us from enjoying the kind of relationship we were created for.  He is our loving Father, our closest friend, and our bridegroom.  If you are experiencing anything less, you are believing lies.

A couple Old Testament examples come to mind that beautifully illustrate the kind of relationship God desires to have with us.  How much more closely can we walk with God as his sons and daughters in the New Covenant!  We are only limited by our level of desire, and what we believe about him and ourselves.

1.  Abraham - James 2:23 - And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.

 Why was Abraham considered a friend of God?  I can see at least 3 reasons: 
  • He had great Faith and trust in God's character and nature.  He trusted in the goodness of God. He believed God would take care of him no matter what came his way.  Abraham left the comfortability and predictability of his home in Ur to set out for a promised land he knew nothing about.  He blessed Lot with first choice of land, knowing God would care for him.  He believed God would give him a child, even though he and Sarah were well past child-bearing age.  Yes, he tried to shortcut this process at first, but he learned his lesson and his faith grew until he was convinced God would do a miracle.
  • He walked in obedience because of this great trust in God, even being willing to give up his promised son if necessary.
  • He communicated with God regularly (see Gen. 18:16-33).  Friendship with God grows with communication. This means we will take time to not only talk to God, but listen to God.  
2. David - Acts 13:22 - After removing Saul, he made David their king.  God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

What made David a man after God's heart?
  • David, like Abraham also had great Faith and trust in God.  In faith, he slew Goliath.  In faith, he refused to take a shortcut to becoming King by slaying Saul.  He entrusted his life to God.
  • David was a worshiper - he wasn't afraid to let his emotions show about God, and he really loved God.
  • David was transparent - He wasn't afraid to share his deepest, darkest thoughts about God, his struggles, and his enemies.
  • David owned up to his sin and was truly repentant when he made mistakes.  He realized he had not only sinned against man, but he had also grieved God's heart and sinned against him.  (Ps 51)
Why do you think David had such a strong friendship with Jonathan?  David's friendship with Jonathon probably went a bit deeper than "How many philistines did you slay yesterday?"  Or, "did you catch last night's game between Philistia and Israel?  Lahmi the brother of Goliath was really on fire until Sibbeakai the Hushathite and Azmaveth the Barhumite double-teamed him and shut him down." Not only did David and Jonathon risk their lives for each other in battle and in the struggle with Saul, but David and Jonathon must have trusted each other because I am confident they communicated honestly and transparently with each other.  They knew each other.  The depth of our friendships is directly proportional to our ability to share with each other on an honest, open heart level.   As our relationship with God grows, he frees us to have more open relationships with the people in our life - whether with our wives, children, or others.

Friend rules
My wife and I were also pondering relationship with God as it relates to a list of rules about friendship we communicated to our children last year.

1.  Learn to laugh at yourself, don't take yourself so seriously.
Why not have fun in our relationship with God?  Sometimes, we take ourselves way too seriously as Christians.  God is full of joy and playful. He enjoys it when we embrace this aspect of his nature.  See my post: The exuberance and Joy of Jesus

2.  Let others go first.
How many of us let God go first when we pray, in making decisions, or in the details of life? How often do we start off with our lists and requests before first considering what is on God's heart? How much deeper could our relationship with him go if we learn to let him go first.

3.  Make playtime fun for everyone.  "If it's not fun for all, it's not fun at all"
How often do we ask ourselves in our times with God, or in our gatherings as the Church - "Is this fun for God"? Many of the meetings I have been in were probably NOT fun for God(as a matter of fact, they weren't fun for anyone).  I'd rather gouge my eyes out than attend those kinds of meetings.  You know the kind, where 75% of the people are snoring or bobbing their heads.

4.  Have a pleasant/cheerful attitude. 
How much do you enjoy talking with people who complain constantly?  Yes, God wants to hear our honest thoughts, and there's no sense being fake with God, but we can also determine to praise him and be thankful despite the circumstances.  God doesn't enjoy it when we remain locked in misery.  Being mired in misery and complaining is not the inheritance of a child of God.  Yes, we will be in process at times, but we must not remain in process indefinitely.

5.  Don't push other's buttons.
What pushes God's buttons?  Willful disobedience, pride, dishonesty, hypocrisy, rebellion,  etc.  Of course God has grace for us as his children, and of course he still loves us, but as a friend of God, why would we want to do things he doesn't like?

In relationship with God, it's not all about us! We must learn to take God into consideration and ask, WHAT IS GOD GETTING OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP? Is God really enjoying this?

An Interesting observation
Recently, I was reading H.A. Baker's autobiography Under His Wings. H.A. Baker was a missionary to Tibet, then China and is best known for his book, Visions beyond the Veil.   Both books deal a death blow to the lie of Cessationism. Below is what he wrote shortly after his born again conversion experience. After his conversion, he began to feel great love for others, and things like Prayer and the Word of God began to make sense to him finally. However, he was surprised to learn that other members of his church hadn't also experienced this same thing.

When I looked over the congregation I felt sure that these churchmembers did not know what I had just found out: that God is still alive, that the Bible is for Now, that we and God and the Bible need to get mixed up together.

During those two years my personal dealings with the members of that little church confirmed my first impression after my experience in the barn that other members of the church, with perhaps a few exceptions, had never received what I received there in the barn. Now, why was that? Evidently because these church members, like myself, had never been properly taught that each should personally contact Christ by prayer. This weakness was largely due to the belief and teaching of the fundamental part of that church at that time. It taught that on the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached the first New Testament gospel sermon, he made known the Lord’s plan of salvation and the conditions of church membership when he said to the convicted multitude, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” So far all right. But that church made its great mistake in stopping the middle of that verse. The verse continues, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38.

Why did out church stop in the middle of that verse and not follow Peter’s instructions all the way? It was because of the theory that no one could receive the Holy Spirit since the days of the founding of the church by the apostles. This misconception, as well as failure to teach the necessity of individual prayer to make the “repent” effective, resulted in that little church’s membership being made up of people who had never really prayed and made personal contact with Christ. Through ignorance and unbelief they had missed the promise, “ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Without communication/communion with God, it is impossible to be a real Christian and grow in relationship with God.  Granted, friendship with God is something we are all growing in, but if there are false, religious mindsets in us, it will be impossible to mature and grow in this relationship.  Let's get rid of the idea that God is confined to the pages of the Bible, and we can only hear his voice when we read it.  If all I have are biblical principles to live by, that makes me no better than a Mormon, Jehovah's witness, or Muslim.  Let's get rid of the idea that the Bible has replaced the Holy Spirit and become the third person of the Trinity.  As Steve Crosby says, that's nothing more than Bibleolatry.  Hear my heart, of course the Bible is very important.  However, without the activation of the Holy Spirit, the Bible in itself has no power to change us.  It will become law to us, and it won't make any sense.  The real power and life of God is found only in connection/relationship with him.  Apart from him we can do nothing.
John 15:5 - I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dangerous children

As I was praying for my children today, I was reminded of why we are doing this parenting thing.  Why did God want us to have six children?  What purpose other than to do our part in fulfilling the mandate to be fruitful and multiply does God have in mind for our children?  I want more for them than to just land a decent job, have a nice family, afford a house and car, be good citizens, have enough money, be tithers, go to church(tongue in cheek), and be hard workers.  Although some of those can be good things, I want them to be a Godly seed who seek first the Kingdom of God.

Several things came to my mind that I really desire for my children from a Kingdom perspective.  I know these are also the things their heavenly Father desires for them.
  1. Be passionate for God, radical lovers of Jesus, worshiping him in Spirit and truth.
  2. Be more than once-a-week Christians, I want them to love and worship God with their entire lives.
  3. Discover and walk in their God-given purpose, talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts.
  4. Be full of the Holy Spirit and power.
  5. Not just know by faith that God is present, but also regularly sense God's inner presence and peace in their spirits.
  6. Know and experience the immeasurable love the Father has towards them.  I want them to know his smile and sense his blessing upon their lives.
  7. Know that their Heavenly Father is not distant, but he is close to them and cares about them deeply.
  8. By God's Grace, be wholeheartedly committed to remaining morally pure until they get married to the spouse God has in mind for them (if he wants them to get married)
  9. Listen to the voice of God and be led by the Holy Spirit, even in the details of life.
  10. Regularly experience the joy and freedom that comes from the Holy Spirit.
  11. Commune with God in prayer on a regular basis, not out of discipline or habit, but because they love to spend time with the Father.
  12. Give of their time, talents, gifts, and finances for the building of God's kingdom, not to build an earthly kingdom and build up earthly riches.
  13. Love their own children and all people with God's love.
  14. Deal ruthlessly with any sin issues or idolatry in their life so they remain pure and unstained, maintaining a clean conscience.
  15. Live a life of non-compromise with the World, or the world's way of doing things(Church, money, entertainment, appearance, music), but not in a legalistic sense.  I desire them to do what is right and holy with a heart of love for God and others.
  16. Rather than living in fear of the enemy and his lies, I want them to strike fear in the heart of the enemy.  I want them to be courageous and bold, not backing down in the face of opposition.
  17. I want them to be free to confront the status quo and speak their minds in freedom and truth.
  18. I desire them to be truthful, honest, and humble.  Able to be real in their relationships with others and with God.
As you can see, the accomplishment of these things is impossible without God. In fact, I am continually growing in many of these things myself.  However, if we don't raise the target high, they won't have anything worth shooting at.