God Arises

God arises. His enemies scatter, and those who hate Him flee from His presence.

-Psalm 68:1
Do you see God arising?  We pray, “God arises!”, as a declarative prayer.  He is arising, and we bless what we see the Father doing (John 5:19) just like Jesus.
“God arises”, is a statement of truth; like saying, “God is on the move”.  We are not petitioning God to come, but we see that he is already here.  We are announcing that God is here, so that we can do something.
We see and do.  We do not just see and enjoy the sight, nor do we just see and learn, all in the thinking realm.  Real learning is in the participation.
I declare, “God arises”.  Do you see?  I will help you see if you do not see God arising.
Can you see, can you hear, and can you sense God arising?   If so, what do we do?
When we see God arising, we:
  1. Repent.  Jesus message was not to accept him into your heart as your personal savior.  Jesus message was not to believe in the cross and what he did (would do) there.  Jesus message was, “Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  To repent means to change, to change your mind, to change your purpose, to change your direction.  God does not give a catalog of sins we should stop doing, because ‘sin management’ has never been the message or God’s way.  Repent also means ‘reform’: Reform or die.  You must change and re-purpose your life or you will die: you are signing off on your death notice.  Many people are the living dead, because they refuse to repent when the call to do so has been given clearly.
  2. Get out of the way.  There is a dance that reverences participating with God and in God, without ever taking God’s place of headship.  Jesus modeled how to be submissive to Father’s lead and rely upon the power of the Spirit.  He is the model for how to live and the only way to live.
  3. Join in on what God is doing.  We get to participate with God in what God is doing in the earth.  We are co-missioned into God’s mission.  He calls us child, friend, and slave; and we get to learn how to enjoy life in those three roles or dimensions with God.  Jesus gives us authority and we need to know what it is and how it works and our responsibilities for and how we use our authority.
When God arises he gets himself between you and his enemies.  When God comes into a situation his enemies are exposed and must flee.  Selfishness and sinfulness in people will not stand or live in God’s presence either.
Every person that Jesus encountered, during his years of ministry, after he left the family’s business; had issues that came up, that Jesus had a word for, a key to help then unravel from selfishness, hopelessness, delusions, or misconceptions.  This same Jesus who preached the general “Repent!” message to all, had helpful counsel and instructions for individuals.  So, God calls us all to repent and he also has compassionate, loving, care filled counsel and instruction for us as individuals.
When God arises we do not want to delude ourselves to think, “God is on our side”.  It does not work that way, because “Repent” means that we all surrender to being on God’s side, realizing that God is the king and we are all his subjects.  Some people have not realized this or taken action to bow to the king yet.
If you have surrendered and have become a subject and child of the king, it means you are in the kingdom and under and on the side of the king.  The only other side is the side of God’s enemies.  People are either with God or with God’s enemies, even if they don’t know it.  When God arises, the enemy is exposed and must flee and the peoples who are not in the kingdom, under the king, but have been captives in the enemy’s kingdom, get to be delivered or set free.
And when God comes, people get to choose if they are in or out, get free and become king’s kids, or stay in bondage.
I declare, let God rise up!  God arises!  Up with God!
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-This post was previously published on 8/2/16

Notes on Suffering From Job, By Chambers & Peterson

Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will leave this life.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.

-Job 1:20-22
This is a follow-up on why we can not and should not try to fix people.  (You Can’t Fix People)  There is a whole book on this in the Bible, called Job.  It is the story of a good guy who had bad things happen to him.

Here are notes and quotes, full of sage advice and Christ centered wisdom about how to approach suffering, from first Oswald Chambers, then Eugene Peterson.

These are some notes or quotes from Oswald Chambers book on Job called, Baffled To Fight Better.
  • The sympathy which is reverent with what it cannot understand is worth its weight in gold.
  • It is not what a man does that is of final importance, but what he is in what he does. The atmosphere produced by a man, much more than his activities, has the lasting influence.
  • (A) man may utter apparently blasphemous things against God and we say, “How appalling”; but if we look further we find that the man is in pain, he is maddened and hurt by something. The mood he is talking in is a passing one and out of his suffering will come a totally different relationship to things. Remember, that in the end God said that the friends had not spoken the truth about Him, while Job had. 
  • All we can know about God is that His character is what Jesus Christ has manifested; and all we know about our fellow men presents an enigma which precludes the possibility of the final judgment being with us.
  • The pseudo-evangelical line is that you must be on the watch all the time and lose no opportunity of speaking to people, and this attitude is apt to produce the superior person. It may be a noble enough point of view, but it produces the wrong kind of character. It does not produce a disciple of Jesus, but too often it produces the kind of person who smells of gunpowder and people are afraid of meeting him. According to Jesus Christ, what we have to do is to watch the source and He will look after the outflow: “He that believeth on me,…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
  • There are things in our heavenly Father’s dealings with us which have no immediate explanation.
  • There are inexplicable providences which test us to the limit and prove that rationalism is a mere mental pose. 
  •  The Bible and our common sense agree that the basis of human life is tragic, not rational, and the whole problem for us is focused on this (in the) book of Job. 
  •  Job 13:15 is the utterance of a man who has lost his explicit hold on God, but not his implicit hold, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.” That is the last reach of the faith of a man. 
  •  Job’s creed is all gone; all he believed about God is disproved by his own experiences, and his friends when they come, say in effect, “You are a hypocrite, we can prove it from your own creed.”
    • But Job sticks to it, “I am not a hypocrite, I do not know what accounts for all that has happened, but I will hold on to it that God is just and I shall see Him vindicated in it all.”
  • God never makes His way clear to Job. Job struggles with problem after problem, and providence brings more problems all the time, and in the end Job says, “…now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5): all he had hung onto in the darkness was true, and that God was all he believed Him to be, loving and just, and honorable…
  • Will I trust the revelation given of God by Jesus Christ when everything in my personal experience flatly contradicts it?”
These are notes from Eugene Peterson’s book, The Message: Job: Led by Suffering to the Heart of God.
  • Job was doing everything right when suddenly everything went wrong.
  • He refuses to accept the role of defeated victim.
  • Job does not curse God.
  • Neither does Job explain suffering.
  • He does not instruct us how to live so that we can avoid suffering.
  • Suffering is a mystery, and Job comes to respect the mystery.
  • Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love, and praise.
  • Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: “We take the good days from God- why not also take the bad days?”
  • Sufferers attract fixers the way road-kills attract vultures.
    • These people use the word of God frequently and loosely.  
    • They are full of spiritual diagnosis and prescription.
    • It all sounds so hopeful.
    • But then we begin to wonder, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they have said their piece?”
  • The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God’s presence in our suffering but it is also our primary biblical protest against religion that is reduced to explanations or “answers”.
  • Many of the answers that Job’s so-called friends give him are technically true.
    • But it is the “technical” part that ruins them.  They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy.
  • In every generation there are men and women who pretend to be able to instruct us in a way of life that guarantees that we will be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
  • He (Job) rejects the kind of advice and teaching that has God all figured out, that provides glib explanations for every circumstance.
  • Job’s honest defiance continues to be the best defense against the cliches of positive thinkers and the prattle of religious small talk.
  • Real faith cannot be reduced to spiritual bromides and merchandized in success stories.  It is refined in the fires and storms of pain.
  • We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.
  • When we rush in to fix suffering (people), we need to keep in mind several things:
    • 1.  No matter how insightful we may be, we don’t really understand the full nature of our friends’ problems. 
    • 2.  Our friends might not want our advice.
    • 3.  The ironic fact of the matter is that more often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more.
  • When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.
  • Instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering… we should begin entering the suffering.
    • Entering the mystery and looking around for God.
  • We need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them, and if they will let us- join them in protest and prayer.
  • Pity can be nearsighted and condescending.
  • Shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing.

You Can’t Fix People

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.

-John 15:1-9
You can’t fix people.  Have you discovered this?  It is futile to imagine that you can.
We get frustrated with others and want them to change.  We want them to get saved, become different, to move into Christlikeness and godliness.  We say and do things to try to get them to understand, to change.
We are trying to fix them.  We might even think that this is what discipleship or ministry is all about.  But we are wrong.
When we try to fix people, we are trying to save them, get them saved.  It sounds good and noble.  But we were never called to save people.
We are called to love people and let God save them.  This is what the vine and the branches analogy from Jesus is about.  He is the vine.  The vine is the source for the branches.
Branches have the vine on one side and fruit on the other.  And branches bear fruit because they are attached to the vine.  That fruit is offered to the world and the source of that fruit is the vine.
All that the branch does it produce fruit, by being attached to the vine.  The branch does not offer the power to make fruit.  The branch only offers the fruit.
When we try to fix people, we are acting like we are the vine.  And we further delude ourselves that we can somehow get our vine to influence that person to make good fruit.  But we are not the vine and that is not how it works.
We are called to love people and be fruitful.  God saves people.  Jesus saves.  The Spirit of God works to save people.
We share, we love, we forbear, and we stay in the vine.  When we leave the vine to try to be the vine, then we cease to bear fruit and become useless.
The fruit of Christ in our lives is mainly to love people.  We see every person as lovable and as a person God wants to and can save.
People might not be nice, they might be mean, annoying, or even doing evil.  We can most definitely say to them. “that’s not nice”, or, “that is wrong”, or “stop that”.  We can say, “what are you doing?” to someone who is doing something wrong.  We can stand up for someone being attacked, protect them, or shield them.
These are all good and fine.  But in all these, we need to know that we can not fix people.  We need to know this so that we do not try to force people to change (be fixed or saved) or we do not melt down internally into despair, because we do not see people change for the better.
We can forbear with rude people or ask them to not do the rudeness.  We can forbear with people who are rude with their cars on the road or push ahead and cut in line, in person.  Or, we can lovingly say something like, “excuse me”, when someone cuts or we see them steal.
How do you stay in the vine and keep bearing fruit, as you witness someone stealing at a store or cheating?  What if a secret sin that someone is doing becomes known to you?  How do you respond, or do you respond?
How do you not fix people, not be their savior, but always bear fruit from the one who is the savior?  How do you live out the great commission, as a minister, but not fix people?
We are connected to someone.  We reflect him.  We point to him.
We speak his words, his language.  We are filled with the Spirit, who is all about Jesus.
People in our lives, all around us, need Jesus.  They need salvation, need to get saved.  And we always say or need to say, “I can not save you, but I know who can”.
Meanwhile, here is what we can do.  We can give to people.  Give them sustenance, clothes, shelter, and help.  We might not have any of these, but we give what we have and what we can.
We give people attention.  We see them and listen to them.  We have to learn to see people and listen to them without trying to or needing to fix them.
Most of the time, we will not understand people.  We might think, “how will this person ever get saved?”  We’re thinking they are too far gone or too alienated from God or too far into unbelief, deception or rebellion.
Stay in the vine.  When we get into despair, at people, we have to hold on tight to Jesus, who can save anyone.
A person who is a ‘mystery’ to you, how they could, can, or will ever get saved; is a ‘my story’ to them, before Christ.
You can not fix people.  But He can.  We hold onto him, and let him bear his fruit in our lives.
We can and do call upon people to get saved and to come to be saved.  But we do it as we hold onto Jesus and bear fruit.  We are always showing him off and expressing the reality that he saves and that people can get saved, because they are loved.

Preparing For the Harvest

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.

-Genesis 8:22
A whole bunch of people are going to get saved, become Christians, and will need to be made disciples of Jesus.  I believe a huge harvest is coming soon.  God has been preparing his people for this.  Are we ready?
These are some thoughts of mine, in no particular order, about being ready for and receiving the harvest of people who will flow into our lives.
A huge number of people are going to suddenly become pastors, who have previously been minding their own business and walking with God on the sidelines.  The pastors who have been pastors will step back and be equippers, coaches, consultants, and fathers & mothers to this whole new tier of pastoral ministers about to be released in the kingdom.
  1. Be ready for and willing for God to inconvenience you, with people.
  2. You can only plan to be open to what God does.
  3. The people God sends or gives you to care for will take up your time and resources.
  4. The people that God sends you will make your plans change.
  5. You will be surprised and at first think of who you could give these people to or connect them with, rather than caring for them yourselves.
  6. Become resigned to the fact that some of and even the majority of the people will be with you for years or a lifetime.
  7. See each person God sends to you as a gift.
  8. You will get less sleep and have to care after the people God sends you.
  9. There will be messes and your stuff might get broken by the new people.
  10. The first thing they will need is natural and spiritual food and shelter, then learning how to live.
  11. Get ready to be needed by people who will need what you have, to make it.
  12. You will have to learn and practice boundaries, in love.
  13. Expect fits and starts, relapses, and even betrayals.  Don’t quit over these.
  14. Also beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Especially watch over and tend to the weakest ones.
  15. Also beware of inauthentic or false conversions: be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.
  16. Each one that God sends to you, hold lightly.  Every person has in them, through God, the capability to become a leader (servant leader) themselves.  Leaving your home and starting their own is the goal from day one for the majority.
  17. Many of us who have dutifully tithed and offered to others are going to shift to giving our whole lives to God.
  18. We are all going to shift into all being missionaries and pastors, rather than paying or supporting others.
  19. We are going to more live our lives for the sake of others, rather than for ourselves.
  20. “Give and it shall be given”, will come alive in your life, like never before.
My pastor, I grew up with, had a vision of potatoes on a conveyor belt.  Someone would separate the potatoes that did not look as good.  The Lord told my pastor that those would be his church.
Church is messy.  Community is messy.  Love is the key.  Love and grace.  Don’t be a perfectionist or idealist.
The most profound thing I heard and then read lately, that hit me, was a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from “Life Together“, that is this:

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.’ (p. 36)


And here is more, from that same section:

‘God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly.’ (p. 36)

‘Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive…. We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily.’ (p. 36)

‘Therefore, will not the very moment of great disillusionment with my brother or sister be incomparably wholesome for me because it so thoroughly teaches us that both of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ? The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.’ (p. 37)

‘When pastors lose faith in a Christian community in which they have been placed and begin to make accusations against it, they had better examine themselves first to see whether the underlying problem is not their own idealized image, which should be shattered by God.’ (p. 38)

‘…the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.’ (38)

‘Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.’ (p. 38)

‘Self-centred love loves the other for the sake of itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake of Christ.’ (p. 42)


-I pulled these quotes from Tim Chester.  I first read Life Together 30 years ago.  It’s a great book.

The Lord’s Favorite Place

The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

-Psalm 87:2
The Lord has a favorite place on earth.  His favorite place is the place where people come into His presence.  That is what the gates of Zion means.
The gates of Zion is God’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Zion is a place, a mountain, that is real and symbolic.  Zion is the hill that Jerusalem is built on and Zion is the mountain that the temple is built on.  But today it is a place that points to something.
Zion today, is a word that signifies the people of God.  The Lord loves the gates of His people.  The gates signify the entryway and authority of Christ that believers live in with the Lord.
The gates are the ways and the means.  That is to say, the Lord loves the gates of Zion, because the Lord loves people who are living in Christ.  God’s plan has always been for people to come and be transformed and then to go out with Him, into the world.
The gates of Zion are the place where people are transformed.  People come into Christ, through the gates.  Then people go out into the world as God’s missionaries in Christ, through those same gates.
The gates of Zion signify the authority given by Jesus to his church.  Jesus said, 

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:18-20

Notice that baptism comes before teaching.  The beginning of discipleship is baptism.  This is something I learned recently, from a Baptist friend, who is insightful.

The great commision is to go out and make disciples. And the first thing a disciple does is to get baptized.

Jesus method is to go out and find people, make them disciples and baptize them, where they live.

Baptism is part of mission and evangelism.  I think that if you study baptism in the NT, you will find that it always happens outside of the more formal meetings.  As soon as you become a disciple, you get baptized.

It is natural, powerful and solemn; with prayer, and in the authority of Jesus, which all believers possess.

Jesus simply said, “go out into the world, in my authority. You are all authorized, as missionaries, to make disciples.  And first baptise them.”  There is no mention from him of getting people into the church (meeting houses) first or through catechism or confirmatory classes before the event of baptism.

The gates of Zion, are the authority to say, “you are in”, to people.  And baptising someone, where you find them, says, or is symbolic of, “you’re in”.  Every Christian is authorized by Jesus, to go out, into the world, and find people; to make them disciples and immediately baptize them.

That is the great commission.  That is the assignment from Jesus to all Christians.  This is permission.

The gates of Zion signify coming and going.  Coming into Christ and going out with Christ.  And we do both, through his authority.

And there is also an enemy of Christ in the world.  He also has a kingdom and authority.  A battle is going on between God’s and Satan’s kingdoms.

Jesus said,

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”                                                           -Matthew 16:18b (ESV)

The gates of Zion prevail over the gates of hell.  The gates of hell means the comings and goings or the commerce of the forces of darkness.  Gates also means power or force, and hell also means hades.

The church has authority over the spiritual forces of darkness in the world today, through Jesus.  There is a battle going on and we are on God’s side.

The authority or authorization that Jesus gives his people, is to take territory and capture people out from the hands or clutches of the enemy.  As the church Jesus builds expands, it also extends into areas or spheres where the enemy has held influence, and takes that territory or spheres of influence away from the enemy and takes it for the kingdom of God.

The church and the people in the church, believers; are the soldiers of God, in the world, who put their feet on the ground and take the territory that Christ makes a way to be taken.  The church was never meant to be just a house of refuge, but the mountain that is Zion, and has authority from Jesus.

The way for the world to be evangelized is to take the church into the world.  And this is part of the destiny, calling and inheritance of the church that Jesus has had in mind.

The Lord has a favorite place on earth.  His favorite place is the place where people come into His presence.  That is what the gates of Zion means.
The gates of Zion is God’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Zion is a place, a mountain, that is real and symbolic.  Zion is the hill that Jerusalem is built on and Zion is the mountain that the temple is built on.  But today it is a place that points to something.
Zion today, is a word that signifies the people of God.  The Lord loves the gates of His people.  The gates signify the entryway and authority of Christ that believers live in with the Lord.

 

Preparing For The Rain

You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.

-Psalm 68:9 (NIV)
The rain is coming.  But are we ready for it?  What can we do to get ready?
I would describe what we need to do is to have:
  • Open hearts
  • Outstretched arms
  • Eyes that are open
  • Shoes on our feet
  • Clean hands

Open Hearts
Be reconciled.  Get reconciled with God, with yourself and with others.  Do not have anything against anyone.
Forgive everyone, starting with God. Make sure you forgive yourself.  Get rid of, cleansed of all bitterness.
This heart work may require set aside portions of time now to become aware of your heart problems and get free, get reconciled and purge yourself of spiritual toxins, waste and obstructions.
You may have need of heart warming or palliative care from other people right now.  Your heart disease may be killing you or immobilizing you.  Find out how to reverse the disease and get well and be well and receive from God.
Some hearts are damaged and not functioning properly.  People with these hearts are barely living and walking slow, with chest pain at times.  If this is you, seek open heart surgery immediately, from the great physician.
Be honest about your heart.  Take time off of work and check yourself in for surgery.  Sign all the papers and give Jesus everything and then let him heal your heart.
There may be people you need to talk to or see for reconciliation.  You may need to write a letter to them.  Your being reconciled to them does not mean that things will suddenly be like they were in the past.  Do not insist on that or think you have failed when it does not.
The key is for you to be reconciled to all the people that you have had anything against.  Release them from charges you have held against them.  Cancel their debt to you.
Now you are free and they are free.  If they did want to be close to you again, but they are unsafe for you or are just on a whole different path in life, you can lovingly decline the offer, without there being anything negative about it.  
The matter of the heart is to be loving: love God, love yourself and then love others as you love yourself, based on God’s love for you.  In that picture, there are many people that we can not be close to, but we can be reconciled to and hold nothing against them.  
We can not be close to some people, even many people.  But we can be reconciled to them and be willing at any time to be closer to them,  if they become safer to be around, based on God’s love in their life.
The rain is going to fall on us, if we avail ourselves to being under it.  And the main place that the rain goes into is our hearts.  Our hearts are living reservoirs or aquifers for the rainfall.
A person who has a closed heart or a calcified, dry heart; may stand in the rain and even dance in the rain.  But they will have little lasting effect from the rain and will not be able to carry the rain to others for any distance.  
The main place where the rain has lasting impact and can be held to give to others is in the heart.  Our hearts must be ready.  Building a man made container to catch, hold and dispense the rain of God sounds like a good idea, but that is not what God wants and is wrong headed.
Get your heart ready.  Get your heart right.  Get your heart healed. 
The rain of God comes upon the whole body of each person.  But it only changes lives when it comes upon and into a person’s heart.  And it is through our hearts that we live out Christ’s life and share life with others.
Get your hearts ready.  Set aside the time now to get your heart right.  Stop being distracted and get real about your heart today.
There is a time when it is too late.  And you can miss it.  An opportunity for you is imminent and you can choose to miss it if you don’t get yourself ready.
Outstretched Arms
Begin today, if you are not already doing so, to be a person who reaches out.  Reach out to give and reach out to receive.  Be less independent and more communal.
Reverse your style of estrangement and isolation from others.  Sharing is a key component to the Christian life.  Share your needs and meet the needs of others.  
Stop being needless.  If you are ‘the minister’ in your family or community, start letting others minister to you.  You may be the most gifted one, but realize your need for others, for the life in them, for you to be cared for.
Humble yourself by asking for assistance.  Delegate things to others where you have been controlling.
The impact of the coming rain will be spread and multiplied through the web or matrix of our relationships.  This is God’s design.  Today, we can be prepared for being missionaries by just being connected to those around us, right under our noses.
Stretching out our arms to touch and be touched by others is preparing a network that God can build upon.  Many of us are like the little boy, who only had a small lunch in a basket; but he offered it to Jesus.  The Lord takes our small things and multiplies them.
It is a grave error to not honor the small things we have and participate in them, offering them to the Lord.  The person who does nothing and offers nothing is a person who has a heart problem and can not be used by God, transformed by God and blessed by God.
We must do business in our very small circles, with our very small provisions or influence now and bless people in tiny ways, if that’s all we have got.  All you might have is a smile.  Then give that smile.
We need to extend out arms now to others, so that they will be extended and in service, as bridges and aqueducts; when the rain of God falls.  When the downpour happens, we don’t want to then lower our bridges and open our aqueducts and figure out how they work.
Now is the time to stretch out your arms.  Now is the time to reach out to others.  Now is the time to become available.
Now is the time to figure out how your open door policy is going to work or function.  Now is the time to make a path to your door that people can walk on.  Now is the time to venture out of your hiding place.
Eyes That Are Open
After we have got our hearts right and are stretching ourselves to reach out and be available to be touched by others, we need to learn to see.  I grew up in a revival church, where we learned to close our eyes when we worshipped, to focus on God, undistracted.  I also learned to pray for people, hands on, with my eyes open.  I also learned to see with my spirit.
We need to live with God and others, with our eyes open.  Jesus is an eyes open person.  He saw people.
Jesus heart is always wide open to his Father and his eyes are always open to people.  We need to cultivate Jesus style in this.  Some of us do not see people.
Some of us are always struggling to see God and miss all the people.  Some of us are mostly preoccupied with seeing ourselves and with how others see us.  Many of us pass through life with our eyes closed, blocking out the people in the world.
To get ready for the rain, we need to cultivate and learn to live with our eyes open to other people.  We need to learn to be seeing God with our hearts and to be seeing people with our eyes.  We need to not just look at people, but see them with our hearts.
Meet people’s eyes.  Look into the windows to their soul.  Learn to do this.
Jesus can look people in the eyes and ask them, ‘What do you want?’, or, ‘What would you like me to do for you?’, and we can learn to do that too, as we walk with him in the world.
We so often see people as being in our way.  We so often see and look to see people who we want to get something from.  Instead of this, we need to cultivate Jesus style of seeing people and coming as servants and not to be served.
This is why Jesus said, “Open your eyes and see the harvest around you”.  That is what we all need to do right now.

Shoes On Our Feet
Many of us have the wrong shoes on our feet.  We each need to have our feet fitted with gospel shoes.  Many of us are walking through life in an angry rampage and completely misrepresenting Jesus and the gospel of peace.
Take an inventory of your shoes.  Are you wearing the shoes of Jesus or something else you have fashioned?  Do your shoes stomp and kick, allure and purr or are they functional for the bringing of good news to people?
Your shoes can be high fashion, open toed or closed, sandals or boots, athletic or dress up.  What matters is where are your feet taking you?  Your shoes are about where are you prepared to go and what are you prepared for.
One person carries the good news, wearing stilettos; while another person carries the message wearing flip flops.  God fits two people differently, but they have in common that they are prepared to share the good news.  We all need to take care to be ready to share the gospel every day in many different ways, just as we put shoes on when we leave the door of our homes.
Clean Hands
Many of us need to wash our hands.  We have lived lives where we have been doing all sorts of unholy, undignified and unchristian things with our hands.  Two big ones are what you type or text and your pointing your finger in judgement at others.
Christians also take part in many sinful activities that are participated in through using their hands.  The, ‘Cleanse your hands you sinner’, message of James 4:8, is a message to Christians.  It is not meant to condemn, but is a loving admonition to ‘Knock it off’.
Many Christians, from the first century to today, have lived double lives.  We have lived as Christians but not as Christians, in the same lives.  The word of the Lord to us is, the rebuke of, ‘Stop it!’
We must stop living on two paths and only cultivate the path of Christ in our lives.  Churches should stop having recovery groups and become recovery groups.
Many people disqualify themselves from being Jesus’ hand, because of their hands.  Some have shame and guilt and see no way out of double lives.  But there is grace for escape, deliverance and emancipation.  
Many people who name Christ also need deliverance.  Nothing to be ashamed of, but something to be glad of that is a blessing.  We shouldn’t be embarrassed about deliverance, but humbly receive freedom.
If our hearts get made right, if our hearts become cleansed, we will live a different way, exemplified by what we do with our hands and fingers.  Many people do not need deliverance, but need to just begin to learn to walk in Christ, and the naughty stuff, even addictive behaviors will change and just fall off their lives.
Jesus and critters can’t live in the same house.  Our job is to open up every room in the houses of our lives to God and welcome him to live there.  Even in the basements and the belfry.  

Ministers of The Light of The Gospel

Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth. But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
-2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The light of Christ is shining.  Letting that light into our hearts is the beginning of and the way on in the life in Christ.  The light is that God has now acted in history to change humanity through Christ.

Being a believer is not about going to heaven, but about being transformed by God and then becoming an agent of God.  Being a believer is not about doing the right thing, but about knowing God and acting according to that knowledge.  Being a believer is to be a person who’s life is centered in and has come under the rule and reign of the kingdom of God, empowered by God’s Spirit and living in and for God’s glory in Christ.

Being a Christian is not being an evolved or enlightened Jew or a Gentile who has joined the true Israel, who is now able, through Christ and the Spirit of God dwelling in them, to live a lawfully wedded life to God and serve Him for all his or her days.  Being a Christian is to be a person who has placed not only their faith in Christ, but has given their whole lives to God, in Christ, and have become vessels or agents of God’s Spirit in the earth for the sake of the gospel.  Being a Christian is to be a person in whom the light of God has shone and is now shining.

The light of Christ comes as a blinding light to some, like how when Paul was blinded by the light of Christ, on the road to Damascus, which was a part of Paul’s dramatic conversion.  For others, the light of Christ is like what a poet called “the hound of heaven”, that is there in a person’s life, continually pursuing them, until the person gives in and lets the Son shine in.  T-bone Burnett has a song, where he says that God’s love is relentless; and Francis Chan describes God’s love displayed in the light of Christ as “Crazy Love”.

A Christian is a person who has gone from darkness to light, through a work done by God.  A Christian is a person who was once in the dark but now is in the light, and it only and completely happened for them because of God’s initiative.  A Christian is not involved now in a self-improvement program, but has seen the light of God in Christ and is now in a death, burial and resurrection process orchestrated by God and modulated by their own desire to know God more.

To be a Christian means one has encountered the light of God and been regenerated or born anew into everlasting life through Christ.  And just as the sun and all the stars did not come out of nothingness by themselves, but were supernaturally created by God; so too, people only become saved or are regenerated and born anew by the supernatural work of God.  Christianity is not something we thought of, that we made and that we do; but being a Christian is something that only God can make you through a supernatural creative work that only belongs to God.

Being a Christian is to be in Christ and to be in Christ requires a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Christianity is not a philosophy or religion that one accepts, adheres to, practices and participates in.  Christianity is part of the new creation of God that only begins and lives through the supernatural, creative life of God.

The whole of the ministry of Jesus Christ is to be agents of and participate with the work of the Spirit of God, who shines the light of Christ, to be seen by people, so that they will come to know Christ and then be transformed.  Ministers are agents of the grace of God, who though flawed, God mercifully uses to share and shine the light of Christ.  We see the light, but many are blind to it and will only see when the Spirit of God does a work in them to cause them to see the light.

We can not make someone see who is blind, but only let the light shine through us and welcome those who respond to it or begin to see the light through the working of the Spirit of God in their hearts.  We can love, help and speak to spiritually blind people; but only God can open blind eyes.  As agents or heralds, it would seem that we are calling attention to our selves; but we are only drawing attention to our selves in order to point to or shine the light on the one we are serving.

The beauty or handsomeness, the talent, the engaging personality or the lovableness of the minister is for one purpose, and that is to promote Christ.  Yes, follow a person, but only as they follow Christ.  Yes, listen to a person, but hear Christ.

If Jesus constantly pointed people to and reflected his Father, then we should copy Jesus and constantly point to him and to our Father.  Ministers are servants who serve on someone else’s behalf, and reflect their master.  Ministers are faithful slaves, who announce, promote, and reveal the light of their master.

I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams

I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Let The Son Shine In

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you.

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lamp stand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

-Isaiah 60:1, Matthew 5:13-16
Do you know the Cowboy Sunday School song, that says this?:

So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin.
Smilers never lose and frowners never win.
So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in.

Every Christian ought to know that the Christian life is about letting the Son of God shine into and out of their life.  I saw a cartoon, the other day, that showed a solemn seeker of Christ, who climbed to the very top of the mountain, seeking the deeper wisdom and knowledge.  When he got to the top, Jesus simply said to him, “God back down there and love people.”
Did you know that smiling makes you feel better?  Did you know that laughter is an antidepressant?  Did you know that there is a spiritual law, that says that when you give, something will be given to you?
Some people are more natural smilers than others.  I have had seasons in my life where I was either very unhappy and did not smile much or smiled constantly.  God actually took me from darkness into light and I had been very depressed, but God healed me and I was very joyous, and so much so, that people commented that I was a smiling person .
I do understand depression and I do know about plastic smiles.  I have learned though, that smiling is, to a large degree, a choice.  We can choose to smile or not smile.  
People that frown often, who are otherwise “normal” are pretty much choosing to frown.  I can not guess why they make the choice, but from my own frowning, or “refusal-to-smile-even-though-I-have-Christ-living-in-me”, I would say it is a learned behavior, from inner workings having to do with our selves.
Psychoanalyzing, asking, “why?”, is not my quest or point to make here.  
Another question that is relevant, because of who Jesus is and that he is in my life, is, “Did Jesus smile all the time?”  There is a Jesus film, and in it, Jesus smiles most of the time.  I can think of about three other Jesus films: and they range from having him not smiling at all, to having him smiling much of the time, but not always.
It is a creative, speculative decision on how much Jesus smiled.  He certainly was full of joy and love, but also serious and intense.  Bono described his saying, “Let the dead bury the dead”, as being punk rock.  In other words, straight up, direct; not smiling.
Every day, I have to walk down a long hall, from the parking structure, to my office.  I walk past a lot of people, and many days I attempt to make eye contact and smile with as many as possible.  And the reactions are diverse, but mostly positive.
Smiling at people or even smiling and letting people see your smile, if they are looking; is a gift and a blessing.  Despite all the entertainment and consumption, we really do not have a happy or joyful world.  Many people live in authentic joy, but many do not.
Happiness and joy are contagious.  It is a good thing to share and spread.  Everybody has the ability to turn from frowns to smiles, from gloom to happiness.
One of the greatest gifts that every Christian carries, and we need to give it away as much as possible, is hope.  Smiling signals hope.  I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to smile about, but the big one is that I am in love with Jesus Christ.
I smile when I think about him.  He is not like a simple love, but he is my savior and my king.  He knows me and he is very good to me.
I smile because of this.  I do believe that this has to be cultivated and practiced.  There are tons of things that the enemy does to try to rob us of our joy and our simple standing in Christ, where he loves us.  We have to practice the joy.
Our love can cool off, and the fire that burns within can dim.  But it can always easily be brightened.  Repentance like rest, is a lifestyle.
There is a time to grieve and we don’t smile the same way when we are full of grief.  And we love people by weeping and grieving with them.
But most of the time, is smiling time, because I am happy.  Frowning and doing the gloom, anger, or arrogant sarcasm thing is what makes the enemy pleased; and is not who I really am, but a nasty caricature.   Bye bye evil spirits, I am gonna smile.

Wake Up Call

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

-Ephesians 5:14b, Revelation 3:1-3 (NIV)

We had two different phone calls that woke us up, while sleeping, this week.   This got me thinking about God’s wake up calls.  We say to someone who is not engaged or is in denial, “Wake up!”, and that is how the phrase is used in Ephesians 5 and Revelation 3.

In Ephesians 5, Paul is teaching that there are two ways to live, and one is the way of death and the other is the way of life.  He metaphorically says that the death way is akin to being asleep.  We wake up, “Arise and shine”, and begin living awake.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness,righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. -Eph. 5:1-20 (NIV) 

He says that those who have been awakened and begin living in the way of Christ can go back to sleep or go back to living in the death way.  Try reading the above passage two or three times, to let the whole thing sink in.  This was written to Christians and applies to Christians today.

And this is the same kind of thing going on in Revelation, chapter 3, with the church in Sardis.  Jesus actually calls them out as being, “Christians in name only”, and calls them a dead church.

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes.They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. -Rev. 3:1-6 (NIV)

It sounds kind of judgmental when we point at any church on the scene today, and say it is a dead church.  I believe when we say this, we are often wrong, because we judge by our standard, rather than Jesus’ standard.

These two chapters basically tell us that Christians can fall asleep and become dead.  That tells us that many people who say they are Christians might be asleep or be the living dead.  If Paul and Jesus addressed it, it is real.

How do sleepers awake?

From a wake up call.

“The call” is God’s work.

What should the people of God, who are alive and awake do?

What we all need to do is make sure we ourselves are awake and then prepare and arrange our lives to make room for awakened people that God wants to send us to and send to us.  It is that simple.

There is a very wide freedom in how to live this out.  How much blessing do you want?

Some people will completely change their lives, as in selling everything, and live communally with other Christians.  At the other end of the spectrum, others will begin taking an hour or two, over and over, to get together with another Christian brother or sister, having coffee or a meal; discovering the joy of learning Christ and sharing life.

What Jesus has to offer people that wake up, whether it is a rude awakening, or an epiphany; is simply loving people.  Jesus’ church are people that love one another.  We are welcoming, inclusive, helpful and hopeful.

When the wake up call comes and people awaken, the net that will bring them into Christ are not programs or better ecclesiastical models, but simply love.  Christians either have love or lack love.  We are either loving or not loving.

Live the simple life of the most profound person, Jesus.  Love one another.  Awake, alive, loved, and loving.

God Arises

God arises. His enemies scatter, and those who hate Him flee from His presence.

-Psalm 68:1
Do you see God arising?  We pray, “God arises!”, as a declarative prayer.  He is arising, and we bless what we see the Father doing (John 5:19) just like Jesus.
“God arises”, is a statement of truth; like saying, “God is on the move”.  We are not petitioning God to come, but we see that he is already here.  We are announcing that God is here, so that we can do something.
We see and do.  We do not just see and enjoy the sight, nor do we just see and learn, all in the thinking realm.  Real learning is in the participation.  
I declare, “God arises”.  Do you see?  I will help you see if you do not see God arising.
Can you see, can you hear, and can you sense God arising?   If so, what do we do?
When we see God arising, we:
  1. Repent.  Jesus message was not to accept him into your heart as your personal savior.  Jesus message was not to believe in the cross and what he did (would do) there.  Jesus message was, “Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  To repent means to change, to change your mind, to change your purpose, to change your direction.  God does not give a catalog of sins we should stop doing, because ‘sin management’ has never been the message or God’s way.  Repent also means ‘reform’: Reform or die.  You must change and re-purpose your life or you will die: you are signing off on your death notice.  Many people are the living dead, because they refuse to repent when the call to do so has been given clearly.
  2. Get out of the way.  There is a dance that reverences participating with God and in God, without ever taking God’s place of headship.  Jesus modeled how to be submissive to Father’s lead and rely upon the power of the Spirit.  He is the model for how to live and the only way to live.
  3. Join in on what God is doing.  We get to participate with God in what God is doing in the earth.  We are co-missioned into God’s mission.  He calls us child, friend, and slave; and we get to learn how to enjoy life in those three roles or dimensions with God.  Jesus gives us authority and we need to know what it is and how it works and our responsibilities for and how we use our authority.
When God arises he gets himself between you and his enemies.  When God comes into a situation his enemies are exposed and must flee.  Selfishness and sinfulness in people will not stand or live in God’s presence either.
Every person that Jesus encountered, during his years of ministry, after he left the family’s business; had issues that came up, that Jesus had a word for, a key to help then unravel from selfishness, hopelessness, delusions, or misconceptions.  This same Jesus who preached the general “Repent!” message to all, had helpful counsel and instructions for individuals.  So, God calls us all to repent and he also has compassionate, loving, care filled counsel and instruction for us as individuals.
When God arises we do not want to delude ourselves to think, “God is on our side”.  It does not work that way, because “Repent” means that we all surrender to being on God’s side, realizing that God is the king and we are all his subjects.  Some people have not realized this or taken action to bow to the king yet.
If you have surrendered and have become a subject and child of the king, it means you are in the kingdom and under and on the side of the king.  The only other side is the side of God’s enemies.  People are either with God or with God’s enemies, even if they don’t know it.  When God arises, the enemy is exposed and must flee and the peoples who are not in the kingdom, under the king, but have been captives in the enemy’s kingdom, get to be delivered or set free.
And when God comes, people get to choose if they are in or out, get free and become king’s kids, or stay in bondage.
I declare, let God rise up!  God arises!  Up with God!

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