Calling, recalled, promotion, chosen, destiny

God calls and God chooses.

Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

-1 Corinthians 1:26-27

God’s economy is different than ours.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

-Matthew 19:29-30

God can recall people who were rejected or fumbled (Joseph, Moses, Jephthah, Peter).

So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead. The people made him their leader and commander, and Jephthah repeated all his terms in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah.

-Judges 11:11

God’s ways are different than human promotion and advancement.

The Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you will only move upward and never downward if you listen to the Lord your God’s commands I am giving you today and are careful to follow them.

-Deuteronomy 28:13

Kingdom promotion is based on God’s call, servanthood, and faithfulness.

“‘Well done, good servant!’ he told him. ‘Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, have authority over ten towns.’

-Luke 19:17

Servanthood and friendship both are part of the calling. He chooses our assignment, our gifts, and calling.

I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.

-John 15:15-16

God calls, but we must lay hold of it and respond to God.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

-Matthew 22:14

The ministry is power through weakness.

Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

-2 Corinthians 12:8

A calling from God works out under illogical, impossible, inconceivable circumstances.

This is what the Lord says—
who makes a way in the sea,
and a path through raging water,
who brings out the chariot and horse,
the army and the mighty one together
(they lie down, they do not rise again;
they are extinguished, put out like a wick)—
“Do not remember the past events;
pay no attention to things of old.
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.

-Isaiah 43:16-19

Called ones must give up everything for the calling.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.

-Matthew 13:44-46

God Might Give Us Back The Dream We Gave Up On

Fairy Tale, Night, Music, Fish, Sky, Fly, Flight, Sleep
The Lord came to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time God had told him.
-Genesis 21:1-2

What if God wants to give us back the dream we gave up on?

Maybe we are like Sarah, given a dream that does not come true; and then we give up on it.

We know God gave Abraham and Sarah the call to have a child. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that they were barren.

I imagine that they wondered why God would call and then not deliver.

What about delays?  God presides over our delays.

Can a dream be dead, or so far past it\’s \”use by\” date, that it is never coming back?


If your dream is a dream that was not fulfilled and God knows it never will be, then I believe God will give you a new dream.

And if you gave up on the dream God gave you and God\’s says it\’s not over, God can give you back that dream.

Sarah gave up on her dream of having a baby. But God fulfilled the dream she gave up on.

What if God wants to give us back the dream we gave up on?

Joseph, The Righteous Man

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.
-Matthew 1:18-19

Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary, when she told him that she was pregnant.  She told him something that didn\’t make sense.  She told him that she had not had another man in her life, but that she was visited by an angel, who told her that God would cause her to be pregnant, in a miraculous way. 

We do not know how Joseph judged Mary\’s account of how she became pregnant.  What we do know is how he responded to this crisis.  He responded with mercy and honor in a righteous way.

Joseph\’s betrothal to Mary was a more serious  matter than engagements of couples today.  In today\’s language, Joseph was already Mary\’s husband, while Mary remained at her father\’s household. 

It would be hard enough to find out that your fiance, today, was pregnant with someone else\’s baby; but Joseph\’s responsibilities were heavier in his day, because he was legally bound to Mary and had to decide what to do.  In this kind of situation, a man could have his betrothed branded as an adulteress.  But that is not what Joseph had in mind to do.

Joseph was righteous, kind, and merciful with Mary.  He was going to annul the marriage quietly and let Mary have her baby.  We do not know whether he believed Mary or not.  What we do know is that he treated her with dignity and respect.  Joseph acted with benevolence, charitability and kindness.

Adultery was punishable by stoning under the law, although there is no evidence that it was practiced during Jesus lifetime(1).  Joseph reminds us of how Jesus treated the woman brought to him who was caught in adultery (John 8:3-11).  The men who brought her were asking Jesus to endorse the stoning of her.  They brought her to Jesus, saying that the law demands that she be punished by death.  Jesus, the embodiment of God\’s righteousness, did something else.

Joseph, who was living out an authentic, righteous life; had to decide what to do in response to Mary\’s news that she was pregnant.  Joseph\’s righteousness was tempered with kindness, honor, and mercy; just like Jesus.  Joseph did not want to punish Mary.  He also did not want to go ahead and marry her, because that would be unrighteous as well, in his mind.  The righteous thing to do was to not humiliate her and quietly divorce her.

Joseph shows us what righteousness is.  He desired to live within God\’s laws, but also to have God\’s heart.  God\’s heart says, \”I desire mercy and not sacrifice\”(Hosea 6:6, Matt. 9:13). 

Joseph seems insignificant compared to Mary.  After Jesus\’ childhood, we don\’t see him.  But Joseph is very significant.  How he treated Mary is very important.  God inspired Matthew to tell us in a matter of fact way that Joseph was a righteous man and illustrates this.  Joseph was interested in following God\’s heart.  He was kind, merciful, and benevolent.

This is the man who got to hold baby Jesus.  This is the man who got to raise him.  This is the man who taught Jesus a trade.  He taught him how to live.  He taught him how to treat a woman.

If you are a man and specifically a father or will be a father, you need to understand that this is your second most important function, role, or assignment in your life.  Your most important thing is being God\’s child.

Joseph and Mary\’s lives were not a charade.  They were real people trying to live out normal, godly lives.  God selected Mary to do a one time thing that people have not stopped talking about.  Joseph has something in common with God, in that he saw something in Mary and selected her also.

While Joseph was making his selection of Mary, God was also selecting Joseph to be Jesus father.  Joseph would be the man that Almighty God would trust with raising Jesus.  Joseph watched over Jesus and protected him and gave him a home to grow up in.  Joseph provided one of the greatest services in history.  This man is the servant of God, literally.

All of this might not get our attention as important, in our culture that bashes fatherhood.

When the Bible introduces us to Joseph, it shows us the kind of man, the kind of husband, and the kind of father that we men want to be.  These traits apply to ladies as well.

True righteousness covers the faults of others.  True righteousness is honorable, humane, and benevolent.  The truly righteous person is merciful.  They see sin and weep over it.  They want to connect sinners with God\’s forgiveness.  They want to see redemption.  Sin is not ok with them, but they know it\’s destructiveness and want to lead people out from and away from it, through God\’s forgiveness.

The truly righteous one sees themself as a sinner saved by God or a beggar leading other beggars to the bread of life.  The truly righteous one is not self-righteous, but humble.  Humble means that your God is big and you are small, but you know that God is your all in all.

Joseph shows us that the righteous person is concerned with doing right before God in justice, with humility before God and man; while living out the kindness of God\’s character in mercifulness and benevolence.
1. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, p. 18

Am I Called? (by Dave Harvey) Book Notes 1

As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter), and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.  “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fish for people.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, preparing their nets, and he called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

-Matthew 4:18-22
Calling, as in being “called to the ministry”, has been a painful topic for me.  It used to bother me when guys would say, “when I was called”, or “God called me”.  That painful feeling was a clue, about me, my makeup, and my personal destiny.  I wanted to be called, I wanted to be special, and I wanted to serve God with my whole life.  So, “going into the ministry”, made perfect sense.  But I also had a belief that one must be called, have a special calling experience from God, in order to become called to the ministry; which would be full-time vocational ministry.  Right?
I got even more confused as I adopted and integrated the belief that all Christians are called to the ministry.  You know, the priesthood of all believers.  I am very passionate about there not being a clergy-laity dichotomy.  I am very passionate about ‘every-member ministry’.  I believe in leadership in the church that is very different from leadership in the world and I believe in elders and ministers and ministries.  And I believe in offices, that are functional and relational, and not hierarchical/institutional positions.  I believe that the ‘org-chart’ of the church is ‘flat’.  Jesus is the head and we are all under him.
That’s me, and this is Dave:  I picked up Dave Harvey’s book, Am I Called?, after I read J. I. Packer’s endorsement that reads, “This is the fullest, most realistic, down-to-earth, and genuinely spiritual exploration of God’s call to pastoral ministry that I know.”  Dave is 58 years old, and is a teaching pastor in Naples, Florida.  Dave came to Christ in his late teens and earned a DMin from Westminster Seminary.
The forward is written by Matt Chandler, who reflects on his personal journey in ministry, and laments that he wishes that a book like Dave’s had been put in his hands, twenty years ago, so that he would have been saved from so much pain and loss, from his brokenness, sin, and blunders in ministry.  Matt gives us a preview, that the book is going to be more about character formation, roots, and foundations; in a word, Christ.
I went from feeling like Dave was going to disqualify me, to being thrilled that this is really a book about knowing Christ and living the gospel, and that Dave and I have a ton in common.
Matt writes that Dave asks these questions that unpack if you are called:
  • Are you godly?
  • How’s your home?
  • Can you preach?
  • Can you shepherd?
  • Do you love the lost?
  • Who agrees?
Lastly, Matt says that after working through these, Dave talks about waiting on God.  Sounds good to me.
In part one, chapter one, Dave clarifies that his book is written “for men who may someday be pastors”.  He’s not an egalitarian.
Dave tells his story.  When he started out in his Christian life (age 19 and early twenties), he needed a lot of work, probably just like all of us.  “I was arrogant, self-indulgent, selfishly ambitious, impatient, and intrinsically rebellious.”
But Dave had stirrings, specifically when a preacher presented a sermon in church.  His calling began to take shape.  He began to wonder about himself being in ministry someday.  Stirrings and desire, but what were the next steps?  Dave asked himself, “How do I know if God was calling me to be a pastor?” (p. 25)

Disillusionment: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing him.Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

-Luke 24:13-17

My favorite movie, growing up, was The Wizard of Oz.  And I was also a big fan of Elton John.

Elton John’s song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is about disillusionment.  That’s what The Wizard of Oz is about too.

We think that we need to go on a fantastic journey to find something.  But we find out that we we already have it, right at home.  We go on a journey, and get over our illusions.

In The Wizard of Oz, the key phrase is, “There’s no place like home.”  Dorothy had a dream about finding the answers outside her surroundings.  But, everything she needed, was right at home.

I get the idea that I need to be this to be happy.  And it does not do that.  That’s disillusionment.

We also get into a fantasy about how things are when they aren’t that way and that is an illusion.

People who have ‘stars in their eyes’, are people who are overly optimistic and idealistic and naive about set-backs, suffering, human depravity, perseverance, and real love that is sacrificial.  These folks are in for a rude awakening and disillusionment, when reality set in on them.

When disillusionment comes, it is an opportunity the get in touch with reality and grow in authenticity towards yourself, God and others.

We are supposed to dream.  Dreaming is natural.  We are supposed to have passion and follow it.  We do need to find our destiny.

But this is all natural with the supernatural.  Illusion is not natural or supernatural.  Illusion is not real.

Who I am, what God has made me to be, and where God is taking me is real.  My destiny in God is real.  And my inheritance in God is real.  God’s design for me is real.

Same thing with the church.  God’s design for the church is real and authentic, Jesus shaped you could say.

We get into illusions when we use our imaginations outside of God.  When we think about ourselves, the church, or God; outside of interaction with the living God, we might get into illusions.  Illusions are things that are not real and are not true.  They may be well-intentioned, but not real.

The two guys who were walking on the road to Emmaus were disillusioned.  Things did not turn out, they way they had imagined.  They were discouraged.

Jesus asked them why they were discouraged.  Then he was direct with them, calling them foolish and slow.  He taught them through the Old Testament, about how the Messiah had to suffer before his glorification.

Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked them.

So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third daysince these things happened. Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

He said to them, “How foolish and slow you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.

-Luke 24:17-27
Their illusion was that Jesus would redeem one way, but the reality was that he redeemed Israel another way.  We have a good goal in mind and think we will get there through a certain way, that becomes an illusion.  But there is another way that is the authentic way, without illusion.
An illusion is when we see something that is not there.  We say, “He fooled himself into thinking…”  That’s an illusion.
We fool ourselves into thinking something about someone that is not true.  We think they are good when they are actually bad.  When we find out the truth, we become disillusioned.
We enter into to a relationship.  Maybe a friendship, maybe a romance, maybe a business relationship.  We assume things are all good, but then something not good happens, maybe even a betrayal.  Then we get disillusioned.
This can happen with church.  We have high hopes and together we are engaged in a very nobel purpose.  Then bad things happen and we get disillusioned and don’t want to play anymore.
I was just thinking about all the pastors out there, who suffer failure, and go into disillusionment with the church.
Disillusionment is painful, but it is actually a good thing.  We need to not be illusioned.  We need to be in touch with reality.
Suffering is reality.  Betrayal is reality.  Love and forgiveness is reality.  Broken people is reality.

God has no illusions about us, so he never gets disillusioned about us. We walk with God without illusions.

There is a paradox in that the path is where we find ourselves, but it is at home where we are our authentic selves.

All of life is a journey towards our ultimate home in and with God.  Life is not a time of just waiting for the event, but becoming the person.  Life is about knowing God and knowing who you are.

To think that we are going on a journey to becoming famous or powerful is a misconception and illusion.

Being the person God created you to be and being loved by God and then loving other people, is the simple calling for everyone.  God can choose to elevate us or not, for a short time or for a long time.

Jesus would not allow himself to be lifted up into the illusions that some people had for him.  Think about it.  Jesus lived in the tension that each of us are called to, to be ourselves and to let God elevate us.

Negative disillusionment goes into cynicism and bitter criticism, that has its root in a distrust of self and a feeling of alienation.

Sometimes a rude awakening precedes a breakthrough into authenticity.  It requires humility.  Humility sometimes only comes through humiliation.

Much of the pain of disillusionment is self-inflicted.  We ran with something that really was a lie, it was not true; and we built our reality around it.

People constantly suffered from disillusionment towards Jesus.  He never caused it, but they did it to themselves.  We have Judas and we have the other eleven misunderstanding him.  We have the fact that at the very end of the gospel account, it says that some people, who had seen and heard him, still did not believe.  And then there is the fact that only a portion of the people that saw him, after the resurrection, made it to the room where the day of pentecost happened.

We can be disillusion with the church.  Jesus has no illusions or fantasies about ideal church life, and neither should we.  If we are idealists, we need to let that go, be disillusioned, and be realists, with Jesus; based on love.

Many of us are disillusioned, disappointed, and distrusting of the church right now.  A great dissatisfaction is out there, among people who are unhappy in church, done with church, or have no regular meeting of the church to call home today.

The danger, which is toxic and poisonous is for us to be overly idealistic, perfectionist, and under an illusion that is elitist about what church has to be like.  I think we have to take people where they are and stand between them and our living God.

The bare bones, simple, and foundation of church life is, Christ, you, and I.  One way or another, we will end up eating and talking together, and then praying together, then being grateful together, and serving each other and then spilling out to serve the world around us and welcome them the table, where Christ is among us.

These are some notes and quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his book about Christian community called Life Together.  Bonhoeffer says that God actually hates our idealist illusions about what church life should be.  These are my thoughts mixed in with what Dietrich wrote.

  • A ‘wishful image’ of church life will shatter Christian community, if that is the basis on which it is lived.  Idealism.
    • Serious Christians bring with them their ideas of what Christian community should be, when they enter into it, and are anxious for it to be realized.  One person says, we need to take communion, another says we must worship together, another says we must pray either laying on hands or interceding, and still another says that we should be evangelizing.
      • I have been in several groups where one member came on very strong about how, in order to be an authentic Christian community, we should be engaged in evangelism.  The majority of the community was not interested in that.  There was a tension around this and it would have been better if the group reached a consensus, but instead, the evangelists felt rejected and ‘vetoed’, instead of enfolded and loved.
  • The grace of God is at odds with our dreams often.  Our dreams often are not God’s dreams, not from God.  God is more concerned with our ‘one another’s’ than our success.  
    • Many church planters have started with a dream, encouraged, supported, and cheered on by others.  When things don’t work, when people resist, they have a lot of frustration.  In their disillusionment, they might get angry at the people, and even bitter with themselves and with God.
      • All through this, God is after something bigger and deeper, in grace.  God wants us to really know him and know his love and to know each other and know each other’s love.
  • God’s desire is for us to be disillusioned.  That means to let go of illusions and walk in the real.
    • Disillusionment is good, if it is riding us of our idealism.  Disillusionment is unpleasant and even appears evil, but it is the pathway to authenticity, reality, and durable community.
    • Every idealism is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up.
  • “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”
  • God hates our wishful dreams, that are really idealistic illusions, because they breed pride and pretense.  
    • Idealists carry a delusional sense of entitlement towards God and fellow Christians, demanding that they get on board with their vision.
      • Their ideal replaces the living Christ as the center of community, with themselves as ‘god’.
        • My vision.
        • My way.
        • I am the builder of it, the creator.
    • When things do not work, they accuse others, God, and themselves.
  • Disillusionment with our brothers or sisters should always drive us the Christ, from whom is the only way that we can live and function together.

(From Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Bonhoeffer; pp. 34-36)

Imposing your control on others, supposedly as a function of leadership, is the essence of spiritual abuse.  I thought of controlling leaders, as I read Bonhoeffer.  When your leadership goes to controlling, you have moved into the dark side.

I am an idealist.  I have gone through disillusionment over and over.  A number of times in my life, I thought that if I believed the word and prayed hard, I would get results.

No dice.  Disillusionment.  Back to reality and authenticity.  Suffering, cross bearing, death, burial, and resurrection.  Living with the risen Christ.

One of the most painful disillusionments for me was my parents divorce.  My ideal for them was shattered and the hurtful brokenness of that was all I could see or feel.  The only way I could see was escape.

I was praying for God to make the pain go away.  And then I got ministry from a beautiful group of  prayer warriors, who ministered Paul’s word from Jesus to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

I never really comprehended that verse before that.

Jesus has proven to me, over and over that in my disillusionment, he has grace for me to experience and be transformed by.  And to receive it, I must go low.  “Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.  Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

When we try to make the case for our ideal, in the midst of shattering brokenness, that is pride, bitterness, and cynicism.  We blame, complain, and judge; having no grace for others, ourselves, or God.  No gratefulness, no forgiveness, and no happiness.  Just anger, control, and narcissism.

Shattered illusions that do not give way to grace, which is had by humility, becomes cynicism.  Cynical people believe that all of us are only motivated by self-interest.  Cynical people project their own brokenness onto the whole world.

The back-story of a cynical person is a broken heart that did not heal right.  They became deceived, they began to believe a lie.  They made a choice to go on the wrong path, in the wrong direction.

And the only way to get back on the right path is to go back to where you made the wrong turn.

The man who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, was not always like that.  He may have once been a faithful shepherd, or a sheepdog.  But he got his heart broken and it did not heal right.

That is how a wolf is born that ends up hurting and destroying sheep in the church.  Disillusionment that did not give way to grace through humility, but stayed proud and went to cynicism.

Judas is an example of bad disillusionment.  Intimate with Jesus, but had a different ideal or ideal of who Jesus should be.  And in his cynicism, he betrayed Jesus.

When he realized his mistake, he again did not find grace, but judged himself and executed himself.  He made these decisions, for which he has responsibility.  Satan was involved with him, looked for and found a road into his life, from which he could tempt Judas to do wrong.

Every disciple is tempted to sin and betray Christ.  In our disillusionment, we can turn to the dark side or just give up.  That way of Christ is the receive grace, in humility.

God knows that we will be tempted to go for fame, fortune, success; or just finding ourselves or our destiny.  Maybe we just want to go to school, find a job, find a spouse, and have kids.  Maybe we just want to pay the bills and have a decent grocery store to go to.

Along the path of life, we need to stay grounded in reality, under no illusions about ourselves.

What happened next, in the story of the two men and Jesus, on the road to Emmaus?

They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther.  But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.

-Luke 24:28-31

There is something profound here, in when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, that at that moment, their eyes were opened.  He is the bread of life and his body was broken for our life.  When we receive his life, broken and raised from the dead, for us; we can see him and become disillusioned.

His life and he as the truth, is our reality.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, sung by Casey Crescenzo:

Give Me This Mountain

Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day.

-Joshua 14:12a (NKJV)
Have you asked God to give you your mountain?  Have you considered that God has a mountain with your name on it?  Do you have a big dream that God has put in your heart that you are waiting to be fulfilled?
Joshua, chapter fourteen, tells the story of Caleb asking for and being given his inheritance.  That’s the mountain.  He is saying here, to Joshua, that he wants that particular mountain; and that it is what God promised to him, long ago:

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim).

Then the land had rest from war.

-Joshua 14:6-15 (NKJV)
It was not rude for Caleb to ask, it was assertive.  Being assertive is a good thing. 

Jesus always responded to people who asked for things and teaches us to ask God.

Caleb was asking for something he wanted and that God had promised him.  Somehow at some point, long ago, Caleb saw that mountain and maybe God said something to him, in his heart, that was like, “that’s yours”.

Stop and think about it.  God wants to give cities, companies, blocks, buildings, and spheres of influence to his people.  What God has for us is so much more than huddling in church and having a great relationship with Him in private.

It is notable that Caleb was 85 years old, and that he was not born into one of the tribes of Israel, but was a proselyte.  Caleb was a descendent of Edom, who were descendants of Esau.  Caleb was a Gentile, adopted into Israel, into the tribe of Judah.

Caleb is part of the list of heroes in the Old Testament times, who were not born Jewish.  Two other renown people, who end up in Jesus family line are Rahab the prostitute, who was an Amorite, and Ruth the Moabitess, who gets her own story of redemption written up in the book of Ruth.

You might be concerned that you don’t have the right pedigree to be used by God, because your life’s resume is unconventional.  But the truth is that God’s story in your life is what qualifies you, and not your resume or connections.

Today, there are people over 40 who think they are too old, when the complete opposite is true.  Every age has advantages.  There is a reason why the government does not draft people to be in the armed forces, during times of war, who are over a certain age.  Young adults do have the most energy.

But, as you get older, you gain a lot of other things.  Life experience and wisdom are gained over time.  Every person should have older people, a generation ahead; who are in their lives for guidance, mentoring, and counsel.

Your older friends should be your most valuable relationships.  If you are in your twenties, look for people in their forties or fifties.  If you are in your thirties, look for people in their fifties and sixties.

When we visited and became a part of a church 7 or 8 years ago, I went straight to the oldest person in the room and sat with her and became her friend.  I usually do that at any gathering.  My oldest friend is 93.

I didn’t come up with this idea, but have been prompted by God and just said yes.  The oldest people are the ones with the most gold in terms of wisdom and life experience.

Caleb’s story excites me, because I believe there are many, many people, who are over 40; mostly in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s; with a few in their 80’s and 90’s, who have yet to receive their inheritance of destiny and ministry on earth; whom are about to receive it. 

Many of us, who are over 40; with probably the highest concentration of people in their low 60’s, received a call or got a vision of their destiny or inheritance, from God, years and decades ago, that has not really come forth yet.

A bunch of us are like Caleb.  Like him, we have waited and been faithful to God.  Many, most, or all of our friends or kin, that we started with are gone, but we are still here, before God.

Now, the time finally comes to claim our promised inheritance, from God.  That season is upon us.  I don’t know how it will happen or exactly when it will happen, but I believe that this is what is going to happen.

I am encouraged and want you to be encouraged, especially if you are over 40 and have lived with the feeling that maybe you missed it and your inheritance is lost.  Whether you just turned 40 and are saying “now what?”, or you just turned 90 and gave up long ago; God is faithful.

Caleb is not the story of an extraordinary man.  It is the story, like many others, of God’s faithfulness.  God was faithful to Abraham, Moses, Caleb, David; and you and I.  That is His story. 

The story here is that Caleb saw something, a piece of land.  And he had an experience with God, where God said, “that’s yours”.  Then, a bunch of time went by.
Finally, the time came when everyone in Israel was going in to take the promised land.  Various tribes were being assigned portions of land.  In that context, Caleb spoke up.
Here is the application that this has for us.  We may have had an experience with God, a dream, a vision, God’s voice, a prophetic word, or a strong ‘knowing’ that has been refined over time and is still strong.  That experience was when we heard or saw, from God, our mountain.
Your experience, long ago was perhaps not super clear or maybe is was clear, about your mountain.  And then time went by, years or decades.  It was forty-five years for Caleb.
These long periods of time for the Bible characters teach us that it is never too late or that we are not alone, if it has been many years and even decades for us.
The time for the fulfillment of the promise does finally come.  In those forty-five years, it is very possible that Caleb forgot about his promise or was not sure about it, based on all of the negative things that happened over that time.  But he was faithful to God over that time.

Faith does not mean you understand.  It means you trust.

It was never up to Caleb to fulfill the promise or make it happen.  Only when the time finally came, was it up to him to step up and say, “I want what God promised me, long ago”.
We can be encouraged that the time is coming, when we are finished with our waiting period in the wilderness.  The promise has always been for a time, in the future.  And the future will finally come into the present.
One week, one year, or tens of years after hearing God’s promise; Caleb may have prayed, cried out to God, “Give me my mountain!”  And nothing changed.  He was stuck with his obstinate people, for over forty years.
But, over that time, a whole new generation was born and grew up.  They heard about the past, about Egypt, but they were born in the wilderness and that is the only life they knew.  And maybe they heard about the promises of God, about the land of promise.
The time finally came, when all the people were called by God, to enter into the promised land.  That is when Caleb claimed his promise.  When the time finally comes, we can claim our promise too.
The mountain (some translations say ‘hill country’, or ‘mountain region’) is your assignment, your place of work, your place of opportunity, or your area of service.  There is a mountain with your name on it, yet unclaimed.
Your mountain is your assignment.  Your mountain is where God has designed you for and destined you to be.  Your mountain is your ministry, your calling, and your sphere of influence.  Your mountain is your inheritance.
Like Caleb, we must ask for and claim our promise.  There is a continuous discernment process and refinement of what our mountain is.  And we must ask for it.
God give us gifts that are complete surprises, that are like a package sent to us.  We receive it and open it and enjoy it and are thankful for it.  But, with promises, we often have pursue God and go after it.
Babies get total care.  Children get lots of care and begin to take responsibility and be held accountable.  And adults still get a lot of free gifts, but mostly have to work and totally be responsible for their lives and well being.
Inheriting our destinies takes some work on our part.  That work is not legalism or works righteousness.  It is endurance, faithfulness, courage, and bravery.  This might be what, “many are called, but few are chosen”, means.

What I am saying is that there is a paradox, in that we do have to work to inherit the promises; but we do not inherit them through works.  Faith is never passive.  Real faith is an action.  Real faith is tested in refining trials.

It’s all grace, but with courageous perseverance.  That is the faith.

God has unlimited resources, but we limit ourselves in what we ask or what we believe for.  The problem is not on God’s end.  But there is not some lever that we get to pull, and what we ask for appears.

Faith is made real through faithfulness, which is faith acted upon, based on the belief in the faithfulness of God.  Faith is not faith unless it is faithful.  And faithfulness involves living out your faith

If we do not pursue God or pursue his promises, we probably won’t get much extra, beyond the baseline.  But if we go after the promises and pursue God, something may happen.  I personally believe that something always happens, when we pursue God, but it might be invisible to us our outside of our knowing.
God sees and hears every prayer and all our pursuits of him.  Exercises of faith are noted and have effect.  And if you pray for the wrong reasons, God deals with that.  James says that we have not because we ask not and that sometimes when we do ask, we don’t receive, because we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:2-3)
Here are some points to pray about your mountain:
  • Give me my mountain.
  • Let me see my mountain.
  • Bring me to my mountain.
  • Bring my mountain to me.
  • Let me ascend my mountain.
  • Give me the place you have chosen for me on that mountain.
  • Give me a home on my mountain.
  • Let me receive a living on my mountain
  • Let me stand on my mountain.
  • Give me sherpas, guides, or angels; to help me climb my mountain.
  • Let me breathe the air on my mountain.
  • Let me be on that mountain.
  • Give me the ministry on that mountain that you have desired for me.

Happy Landings

So, at each stage refreshed, they will reach Sion, and have sight there of the God who is above all gods.
-Psalm 84:7 (Knox Bible)

On the 4th of July, we ran out of gas on the way home.  The gas gauge was reading wrong and it was a complete surprise.

The car sputtered and the warning lights came on.  I had less that ten seconds, more like four or five, to find a spot to pull over.  I pulled right into a spot in the neighborhood, beside the boulevard.

It was the one open spot.  It was as if that spot had been saved for us.  Hours earlier, that neighborhood had been jammed and packed with cars and people, who were there for the block parties.

When something like this happens to me, I don’t jump for joy or yell something out.  I just have a calm peace.

You know the one when people say they prayed for a good parking place at Target and there is it, one saved for them, up front, near the entrance?  I think God is with us even more, when we can’t find a spot or when we have to take the spot in the boonies.

Life is a journey with unexpected challenges.  We navigate each one, growing stronger and stronger.  And God, where God lives, is our destination.

When we ran out of gas, we were on Del Amo, which in Spanish means, “Of the master”.  There’s Del Amo Boulevard and just Del Amo, tucked in side-by-side.  So, we ran out of gas on Del Amo Blvd., and then landed the car, on Del Amo, the street, where there are houses, sidewalks and driveways.

The street that we pulled off on was Autry, named after the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  And our parking spot was right before Hersholt, named after Jean Hersholt, best known as a humanitarian, who set up a medical relief fund for people in the motion picture industry, who needed medical care, when they lacked funds.  He was an actor, famous for his Dr. Christian radio program, directed by Neil Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s brother.  And he did six Dr. Christian films.  As a side hobby, he translated 160 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales into English.

I share these things because I like to look up names and their meanings, histories and biographies of people.

Let’s just say that I am happy landing on the road of the master, between the streets named after these two men.  My son remarked that it was his best 4th of July ever and that he enjoyed the adventure.

This song clip below captures the spirit of Gene Autry that I love and also carry.

Jesus’ humanity, Simeon "Your slave" & Anna "a prophetess"

Rembrandt:Hannah and Simeon in The Temple (public domain) 

I like the fact that the story that I am going to reflect on next, happened eight days after Jesus’ birth.  The story unfolds in days, weeks, months and years.

If you are like me and have been excited about the new year, with all of its possibilities, you might also be vulnerable to disappointment or being overwhelmed about just the thought of your dreams coming true.  Your feet come down to touch the earth so to speak and you wonder if your dreams will ever come true.

The thing is that your future or destiny is not just about you and your dreams, desires and imagination.  It is about God taking you beyond your dreams, desires and imagination into His for you.  Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and now here Simeon and Anna lived their lives one day at a time, in humility, and God did something spectacular, which is recorded in the book.

We do dream, we do imagine, we do plan, but we do it all with God and God takes us into something and through and it happens in minutes, hours and days that become weeks, months and years.  God is in the present and the future, walking with us in the present and preparing us for the future.

We never need to be worried about tomorrow, but live each day with God.  If I worried constantly about the future, I would never be able to participate with God in the present, where He is preparing me for the future.

What if your past was a mess?  You missed opportunities, failed at things, ruined relationships, got fired, lost money, betrayed people or were painfully betrayed, suffered losses of any or many kinds and have had a blown up and shredded life.

Not a problem for God.

God deals with us in the present and heals us, forgives us, delivers us and saves us from all our sin and all the sin that has been done against us.  Then God has a future for us and hope always and begins to change us.  He will help us with our regrets and give us comfort in our grief.

Luke, chapter two:

When the eight days were completed for His circumcision, He was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before He was conceived. And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons).

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to Your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.

-Luke 2:21-40

Fully human

In this part of Jesus’ story, the overall picture is how Jesus fully entered into humanity.  He went fully in so that he could fully take sin out.  And he did all these things or had all these human experiences not because he had to, but because he wanted to.
Jesus is the key of God that unlocks mankind from sin and opens the way to relationship with God.  To do this, God’s way is the incarnation, where Jesus lived out a fully human life.  An in so doing, Jesus is fully in touch with humanity, not just a God The Creator, but as part of his own creation, entering into it to redeem it.
Jesus was born in the usual way and was also circumcised as was usual and dedicated to God, as was usual for every firstborn male.

Simeon, Your slave
The appearance of Simeon and Anna was unusual and unexpected.

Simeon represents the old order welcoming and blessing the new order.  This is the proper or honorable or dignified way that the old should treat the new.  But so often, even in Jesus time and up through today, the old is hostile, having dishonor and showing contempt and murderous jealousy towards the new.
A couple things about Simeon’s words:  Simeon had the highest relationship with God, as slave to master.  When we walk with God, as his slaves, we are walking in an intimate trust, because God is the ultimate good master.
So much of our relationships with God is wanting God to do what we want God to do.  And we hope, pray and believe that most and maybe all of it is good stuff, that we want God to do.  But that really is not a slave to master relationship.
When I am God’s slave, I live crucified in Christ, at God’s beckon call, forever and always waiting on and looking to God.  I am not bitter, because I am so aligned with the hope of God.  Simeon was awaiting the consolation of Israel and today’s slaves of God are awaiting the rise of the bride of Christ.
Simeon rightly identified this baby as God’s Salvation.  Jesus is God’s salvation.  God was not after starting a religion or the best philosophy, but about saving us.  And Jesus came to save Gentile and Jew: everyone.  It’s salvation for all ya’ll.
And Simeon’s word to Mary is momentous:

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Jesus causes, will cause, many to fall and rise in Israel.  Jesus promotes nobodies and says “I don’t think so” to a lot of fakers.  When you see Jesus or are confronted with or by him, you ave to make a choice and it will either be promotion or demotion, a rising or a falling spiritually.

Jesus will be a sign that will be opposed.  They ended up killing him and then later killed his followers.  And today, it still goes on that people are being killed because they follow Jesus.

The real Jesus

We in my culture and in our time, I think have by and large misrepresented Jesus and how he fits into history and how that works out today.  I was recently reading Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew; and I am interested in another book by Patrick Henry Reardon, called The Jesus We Missed.  In these books, the authors talk about the historical Jesus.

What that means is that they try to get at what he was really like, based on the texts of scripture in the contexts of the times and and the culture.  In Bible interpretation, this is simply called exegesis: bringing out of the text what the text means.  We also want to get into the text, so that we can see, hear and smell the world that the text comes out of.

For example, when we see a film on Jesus or when we present Jesus to a group of people, are we going to make Jesus smile all the time, be tall and handsome, and have very clean clothing, skin and hair?  The Bible does not say he smiled all the time, nor does it say he was tall and handsome, nor does it say that he had long, flowing and glistening brown hair.

This is a testimony of a man, a very intelligent man, who met Jesus in mid-life, after having had many life experiences, and his conversion is authentic in my opinion.  And this man was a broken man, like we all are; who followed Jesus for the rest of his like, in his brokenness:

I was absolutely thunderstruck by the reality of the man I found in the Gospels. I discovered a man who was almost continually frustrated.  His frustration leaps out of almost every page: “What do I have to say to you?  How many times do I have to say it?  What do I have to do to get through to you?”  I also discovered a man who was frequently sad and often depressed, frequently anxious and scared…. A man who was terribly, terribly lonely, yet often desperately needed to be alone.  I discovered a man so incredibly real that no one could have made Him up.
    ….The Jesus of the Gospels– who some suggest is the best-kept secret of Christianity– did not have much “peace of mind”, as we ordinarily think of peace of mind in the world’s terms, and in so far as we can be His followers, perhaps we won’t either. (M. Scott Peck, Further Along The Road Less Travelled, p. 160, 1993)

How do we stop portraying Jesus and a smiling, winsome, happy-go-lucky man who enjoyed hugging people?  Let Jesus take you into real life and then show and tell Jesus there.

Anna a prophetess

Anna was a prophetess, a daughter, a wife and a widow for the vast majority of the life: she was very old, especially for the first century times.  She was addicted to God.  Her life was fasting and prayer, at the temple.

Don’t let anyone tell you that women can not preach or have ministries that go public.  Anna was a prophetess and she was a woman.  Notice that she was a prophetess and she constantly prayed.

Prophets are intercessors and intercessors are prophets much of the time or at least some of the time.  Do you love to pray?  My guess is that you may very well also be prophetically gifted and you may not know it or recognize it.  Are you prophetic?  You probably are also gifted to be an intercessor.

In a common sense sort of way, God does not give prophets prophecies just to play with or think about or speak about or write down or publish.  We do all those things, but we also must pray about the words or pictures that God gives us, as prophets.  Talk to God about what God talked to you about and God might tell you more.  That is prayer.

And the pitfall of both intercessory prayer and prophetic ministry is getting mad and judging the people or God, when your prophecy is not taken up or is not agreed with or is not seen to be coming true, or coming to pass.

Another side-note is that perhaps 50% to 90% of personal prophecies, given to Christians by well meaning other Christians are false.  Think about how the best hitters in baseball get a hit one third of the time.  That mans that everyone below that top tier gets hits one fourth, one fifth, one tenth or less of the time.

We wildly celebrate those guys that get a hit one third of the time and strike out, fly out or ground out two thirds of the time.  New Covenant prophets miss it often too.  But they get it right sometimes, so we live in this paradoxical tension in prophetic ministry.

Many prophecies are false today, but prophets who prophesy falsely are not false prophets.  There are false prophets, but prophetic people who miss it or get it wrong are not false people and it is a massive mistake to get rid of, discount or despise prophecies.  The reason we have that verse, “despise not prophesying”, is because we are tempted to.

This all boils down to the conclusion that “there must be a better way”, and there is.  The better way is not to eliminate the gift of prophecy, but to develop it and support it.

Also, God can give a prophecy that does not come true, because it was an invitation that a person or a people did not answer and sometimes negative prophecies are a call to intercede to stop a bad thing from happening.

Also being a prophet has nothing to do with being a teacher who talks about Bible prophecy.

And I don’t believe that Anna was like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah or John the Baptist.  She was not writing the Bible nor called to speak to a whole nation.  But she was the real deal and genuinely a prophetess, because the Bible says so.  I trust Luke and his sources.

We don’t have to debate whether women can have a public ministry, the same as men.  It has already been settled by the scriptures, cover to cover; and the answer of course is “yes”.

There is also a difference between being called by God to do something and calling yourself.  It has been hard always in most places for women who are called by God to go do something where men have mostly been called, many men called by God and many more men who have called themselves.

There are women that God has called to public ministry who are given a hard time by men who actually have not been called to those public ministries, but have called themselves.  Then there are women who have mistakenly called themselves to a public form or role of ministry, who God has not called, of whom men who have also not been called to that office, role, or function are calling into question.

The way I see it, is that women, like Anna, who was perhaps known in some circles as a prophetess, are authentically called by God and are living out that calling in private mostly, but also ministering in their gift in public at times, maybe rarely and maybe frequently.  She might make men who don’t see women ever as being in that role, uncomfortable.  They might say she is the exception to the rule.

Fair enough, we say.  So, we have a list of women teachers, healers, prophetesses, preachers and evangelists.  These are all exceptions to the “men only” rule.  As time goes on, other girls and ladies receive a calling to public ministry and we say, they are also exceptions.

It also depends on how you define ‘exceptional’.  I hope that each day is exceptional, but many days are not great.  And a percentage of the population is exceptional in some way.  That is how I see ‘exceptional’.

Some people believe God does not heal miraculously today and the gifts of the Spirit died out with the apostolic age or the first and perhaps second century.  Many of these people believe God can and sometimes does heal today, but it is the exception to the rule.  Except with extremely narrow minded people, these people would definitely pray for God’s healing for themselves or for someone else in need of help in their bodies.

With that same mindset, some people see an Anna as ‘an anomaly’.  Others might say that since Anna was a prophetess and remember the sermon from Joel 2 that Peter gave on the birthday of the church and women sharing the prophetic ministry, that all women can prophecy and I totally agree.

My point is that yes, women can and do have special callings and ministries.  And there are more than five offices that God can and does call people into.  The question is what is God calling you into??

There is this ongoing debate about women in ministry.  But the real question is on an individual basis, what is God call you to do? I understand what you want to do and that is fine and I know God understands your desires, but what is God calling you to do?

That is the question.  I am assuming that Anna was not what we call a “wanna be”.  She was a prophetess.

Your ministry

If you feel or believe or are coming to believe that you are called as a prophet or a prophetess, then start using your gift and when you move from prophesying to the boards in the garage or the trees in the back forty, then move up to prophesying to the pets in the kitchen, you will be ready to try it on people.  When you do, get some feedback and circle back to your secret place of prayer and live in God’s presence and try it some more with the boards, the trees, the pets and then with open hearted, forgiving and loving people who don’t offend easily.

Get a sponsor, a coach, a father or a mother in the faith who themselves is either prophetic or has a heart for the prophetic.  Practice your humility before your gift, so that it is natural for you to say, “I’m not sure this is God… “, or, “I don’t know what this means, but…..”, or, “I saw or heard _____, and I don’t know what it means”.

Realize that you can have pure and real revelation but have no idea and easily mistake the application.  Also realize that you as a prophetic person can take in false revelation, and it does not make you a bad person or a false prophet, but human and a small ‘p’ prophet, and it is probably a good idea to not ever even call yourself a prophet.  Let others say that.

I think an applicable song to close with is Be Thou My Vision:

Forget About Yourself

Then Jesus said to all the people:

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me.

-Luke 9:23 (Contemporary English Version)
I was in a situation where someone else made or stated that they had already made a decision for me. Then, I had a passing thought that said, “hey, wasn’t that my decision to make?”.  But, in that moment, I submitted myself to the other person, and the way I would describe how it felt was, ‘strangely peaceful’.

I realized that Jesus had been with me, beside me, between us and in me; at that very moment.

In this state of ‘strange peace’, I reflected on what was going on in me, and I said, these words, in my mind: “I’m dead”.

This is what it feels like to be dead to self.  I sort of captured the moment and wanted to learn from it.

And it felt good, but in an unusual way.  I was not in control and I was not getting my way, calling the shots, or dictating to others; and I felt peace.  I realized or came to believe that this is an example of denying my self and allowing Christ to live within me.
Jesus made this statement a number of times, that if you want to be his follower, that you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.  We call it self denial.  We are supposed to truly deny our own selves to follow Jesus.  I like this translation, the CEV, that says, “you must forget yourself”.  
Do you know the song, “Let’s Forget About Ourselves”, by Bruce Ballinger (1945-2004)?

Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Oh worship Him, Jesus Christ our Lord

I think that forgetting about ourselves is a good way to put what denial of self means.  It is the norm for some of us to be consumed with thinking about our selves.  Jesus calls each one of us to lay down our all consuming thinking of and living for our selves.

Forgetting yourself means denying yourself.  It also means disowning yourself, giving up your way, or saying “no” to yourself.  Disowning yourself is blunt, and strait up what Jesus means.
Walking with Jesus, following him and taking on a life of learning how to live his way, is not something we dabble in or take the course of or go through the program of.  But it is a life where I die and he lives.  It really is about death, my death, and life, his life.
My life or rather my self, as in selfishness or self-centeredness, has to die, for me to have him.  He may be very attractive to me and I want to follow him.  I believed that he saved me and I believe who he is, so I want to follow him.
Before I get to the next step or what happens next, I have to cover this category of people who say they believe and many of them also would say that they are Jesus’ followers, but they have not heard him call them to self denial, or to forgetting about themselves.
When we read the gospels, there are crowds that followed Jesus and who received from his ministry.  I imagine that the people in the crowds ran the gamut from just curious people who did not believe, to full throttle, lock-stock-and-barrel believers.  In Jesus day and also today, people can choose to be in the ‘Jesus crowd’, or to be an authentic disciple.
To all who were in ear shot, Jesus said these words: “if you want to follow me, you must forget about yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  The people is the crowds as well as people who were close up to Jesus, had a self awareness or a self identification as followers already.  
They might say something like, “what do you think I am doing here listening to and watching you?”, and, “don’t you know that I am missing work or took leave from my family to be here?”, and, “do you not realize the risk I am taking by being around you?”, or, “excuse me, but I have actually been giving money to you to help you with what I think is a great work of God”.
To these people, and to all the people around him, who at any level, deem themselves to be his followers, he says, “forget yourselves, take up your cross daily, and follow me”.  Do you get it, how this could be taken as an insult to some of the people?  They might see themselves as followers, but he says that if that is what you really want, here is how you have to do it.
In other words, Jesus is saying, and he says this exact thing, later in Luke 14, that this is the only way and if you do not deny yourself and take up your cross and then follow him, you actually are not a disciple.  And a disciple simply means a learner.  Jesus says that you are not his learner, pupil or student if you refuse to deny your self and take up your cross.
And discipleship is not an event, but a life long process.  The living Christ disciples us each, but we also disciple one another.  
Another way Jesus would say this, is that there is no other way to follow him, to be a Christian.  If we do not let go of our selfishness and continue in self-absorption, but claim to follow Christ; we are what?  We are fans, we like Jesus, and we say we believe; but…
When I am driving my life, when I am doing all the talking, when I need to be in control, when I have to be in charge or when I am selfish; I am not following Jesus, because following him means to forget about me and say no to myself and give up the “my way” thing.  Where this plays out in my life and where he is taking me is that he is calling me to let go of my (selfish) need to have things my way or be bossy with people and be absorbed with him instead.
The rub is, that we control because we are afraid of not being in control.  I learned that statement from John Jolliffe.  Jesus wants to teach me that he has a life for me where I do not have to fear losing control, because he is there, in-between me and all the other people I interact with.
The fear is that if I don’t take care of me, even think about getting my needs met, and look out for my self; then I will suffer.  But Jesus says, stop doing that and let that (your self) go. and follow me.  And we know that being a Christian means Christ is in me, not just in ethereal theory, but in actual practical living here on earth.
The good news is that I get to give up my life and my self for Jesus and walk with him and let him lead me into and onto his life, here and now, today.  When I let others go first, as an example, I get to see them as someone to whom Jesus comes, and I get the opportunity to serve them and let Jesus shine or be to them through me.  The great reward of that life is intimacy with God, which is beyond imagining in satisfaction and peaceful, love filled, enjoyment.

The Reversal

The nations will escort Israel and bring it to its homeland. Then the house of Israel will possess them as male and female slaves in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and will rule over their oppressors.

-Isaiah 14:2
What God has planned and wants to do is a complete reversal in the lives of believers who have been oppressed.  God not only wants to set people free who have been held down, held back, and left behind; but He also wants to put them in charge over those that they were under before.  God wants to take people from servitude to ruling.
God wants to restore his people to their place of rest.  God wants to take his people out of bondage and into a place of stewarding authority.  God is freeing his people, so that they may serve and disciple the nations who previously held them in bondage.
The same people who imprisoned believers and kept them locked in and locked down will become the helpers, guides, and rides to take them to their inheritances and destiny places.  The people of God will capture the people who once ruled over them and be served by them.  The people who were once our oppressors in their homeland or sphere will come with the believers into their homeland or sphere.
A great deliverance and reversal is coming, and when believers are set free, their captors will leave with them and become their servants.  In the awakening that is coming, believers who have been asleep will wake up to God, to their destinies.  When they wake up, they will get up, and they will begin to go towards where God has always wanted them to go: to their homeland, and they will take some people with them, who have not been believers, who will get saved and be discipled and serve the believers who had been in bondage among them.
A great revival is coming, where believers who have become dead in their faith, will be brought to life, raised from the dead or revived.  Their testimony will be so clear and so real, that their pagan or completely non-believing friends, neighbors, or coworkers will be astonished at the change from death to life in these living witnesses, as say, “I want what you’ve got and where you go I will go, so now I will follow you, even to the ends of the earth.”
This will be like the story, in Acts 16, of the Philippian jailer, who got saved when Paul and Silas were freed by the earthquake, and the jailer and his whole family got saved.  Paul baptized them all and they had a meal together.  The jailer served Paul by being the intermediary with the magistrates, for Paul and Silas’ freedom, as well as giving them hospitality.
God is going to set his people free who have been held captive.  And when He does, the people who been around their captivity, will willingly go with, gives rides, and take or transport believers into their promises and serve them their.  This is what is going to happen, again.  God has done this in the past and is about to do it again, because it is what God does.
God sets you free to go into your destiny.  And the people who were there around you, who were part of the system, the tribe, the people, who held you back, and did not recognize you as a son or daughter of God, will suddenly become your servant and serve you, and take you to your place of promotion, destiny, calling, and promise; and not only move you there, but live there with you, as your servant.

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