Friday, December 13, 2019

The Seven Mountains in Me

Recently, I’ve been contemplating the seven mountains we refer to when we talk about the “Seven Mountain Mandate.” Rather than seeing myself called to one or two of these mountains, with a presence on those mountains, I’m looking at each of these seven mountains within my life, and my personal involvement in each of these mountains.

When I first considered this, I could see a mountain range—the seven mountains—that looked like a blank coloring picture. The mountains themselves were outlined and looked something like a thermometer, which was to be ‘colored in’ to show the level of involvement I had in all of these mountains. My mission was to find out the level of involvement I already had on each of these mountains, and to what extent I should increase or fine-tune my involvement on each one. I was to ask myself, “Is each mountain up to the level and accuracy of involvement I am meant to have?”

Here are some questions I began to ask myself as I considered this.

Family Mountain
All of us are born into a family or to some person(s) who cared for us and brought us into adulthood.
  • Who are my family members?
  • Who do I consider to be “close” family members and who are extended family members?
  • How good (or bad) are my personal relationships with each one?
    Healthy or unhealthy relationships?
  • How well do I know each one? Their interests, goals, involvements, and desires. Do I understand their call and purpose in life?
  • What is my place in my family, and what kind of influence do I have over each of my family members?
          To have true positive input into their life, they must agree to it and accept our influence.
    Sometimes we are only able to pray for them and love them.A characteristic of millennials is they want relationship before lecture.
  •          Am I loving my family members? Am I praying for them? Am I peacemaker? A healer? Am I a mentor to anyone? Am I teaching them what is good and right?
  •          Which family members have influence/input over me? Which ones are “fathers and mothers” to me? Who am I receptive to?
  •           To what extent, and in what ways, am I impacting other families?
Church Mountain
This is our spiritual family which begins in a relationship with the Lord and continues with the body. You find your place and position in the body of Christ and your mission in life becomes clearer. Like our physical family, our spiritual family can help us to see our strengths and weaknesses and help us to learn and grow.
  • What level of relationship do I have with the Lord—the Head of the body?
    To what extent am I a disciple of Jesus? (John 8:31-32).
    Don’t be a “Dino” (Disciple in name only).
    How much do I study, pray, seek Him?
  • To what extent am I aware of my position within the body of Christ?
    Do I have relationships with other believers?
    Who are those I’m in ‘tribal’ relationship with?
    Who are those outside of my tribe?
    What is my position within each tribe?
    What do I receive from them?
    What do I contribute to the group?
  • Who do I consider to be my spiritual mentors?
  • Do I have any spiritual children I am teaching or mentoring?
  • To what extent do I display the kingdom?
    To what extent am I operating as an ambassador for Christ? The Ekklesia?
    To what extent am I the salt of the earth?
    To what extent am I the light of the world?
  • Am I aware of the state of the church in my community?
    My state?
    My country?
    The world?
  • Do I support any church or ministries financially? In prayer? Other type of support?
  • Do I see the church from God’s perspective?
Education Mountain
Beyond our discipleship studies, we can grow in knowledge and understanding in a variety of subjects. Particularly as we come to understand our mission in life (or in this season of life).

·       To what extent am I continuing my own education and personal growth?
What is our base level of cultural knowledge?
·       Who am I learning from?
Am I learning, or being indoctrinated? (How to think vs. what to think)
·       Am I studying, continuing to learn, both biblically and in other topics?
·       Am I training anyone in a field I am knowledgeable in?
·       Who specifically am I teaching or mentoring?
·       To what extent am I aware of the education the young people in my family are receiving?
·       What is my level of educational influence over my kids, grandkids, local kids—the next generation?
·       To what extent am I aware of what is going on in public education in my area?
Private schools?
·       What kind of input am I giving towards education in my area?
·       To what extent am I supporting what is right and addressing what is not?
·       Do I contribute financially to private schools, colleges, home-school co-ops, which are abiding by biblical and constitutional standards?

Arts & Science
As we discover our mission, and educate ourselves in it, the next step is to do some hands on exploring.
  • What is my personal level of creativity?
  •  What am I doing to nurture it?
  • What do I dream about, imagine, or wonder ‘what if’?
  • What am I currently creating, researching, inventing, or developing? 
  • Who am I in relationship with in this field?
  • To what extent do I use and/or appreciate the creations of others?
  • What do I know about other creators/inventors?
    What do I know about their discoveries and inventions?
    What do I know about them personally—Newton, Edison, Beethoven, etc.
  • What innovations do I use and support?
  • To what extent do I influence, or encourage, others to be creative, dream or wonder?
  • Am I exposing my kids and grandkids to art, science and creative thinking?
    Teaching how to think, not what to think
  • If not, how can I?

Business Mountain
You may not own a business, but even just as a consumer, the business mountain is in you. Yet as you develop knowledge and skill in your life’s mission, you may enter the business world through that as well. And, if you work for a business, you have a certain level of involvement there too.
  • To what extent is my involvement in the business world personally?
    As a consumer—what are my buying habits? Do I buy too much? Am I impulsive? Do I hoard? Do I waste? Do I give to others?
  • How do I purchase? Do I go into debt?
  • Who do I do business with? Is it just Amazon?
  • Who am I helping to prosper?
  • As a producer—What do I produce with my time, energy, money and skill?
    What is my contribution to my family, body of Christ, and community? 
  • How am I affecting my community through my occupation?
  • As a seller/distributor—what type of resources do I provide for others in my community?
  • What products or services do I recommend to others?
  • To what extent do I help others connect with good resources?

We have access to others beyond our local reach through media.
  • To what extent is my involvement with media, what types do I use, and what do I use it for?Develop Relationships?
    Preach my opinion?
    Criticize others?
  • What is “trending” that I am following?
  • What kind of “news” stories do I read or take interest in?
  • What is my response to things that have a strong impact on me?
  • Who am I in communication with about current topics?
  • What part of my media use is beneficial to me personally?
  • What part of my media use is beneficial in developing good relationships with the ‘right’ people?
  • How do I influence others in and through my media use?
  • How am I influencing or setting an example to the next generation?
  • What movies, books, and forms of recreation do I participate in?
  • To what extent is my media use beneficial to others?
  • How does my media use/disuse impact God’s purposes for me and through me?

Government Mountain
In the U.S. we have a responsibility to govern our country and keep our leaders in check. This responsibility will vary depending on the country. Whatever our nation, the Bible tells us to pray for those in authority.
  • To what extent am I aware of those who are in civil authority in my region?
    Do I know the positions?
    Do I know who holds the positions?
  • To what extent do I relate to the civil authorities?
    Am I praying for them?
    Am I writing my congressmen and holding them accountable?
    Am I telling them when I agree with what they are doing?
  • Do I have a personal relationship with any governmental persons—elected or non-elected? local, state, federal, police, courts etc.
  • To what extent am I fulfilling my responsibilities as a citizen?
    Am I obeying the laws (if within God’s laws)?
    To what extent am I praying for those in authority, the land, the nation?
    To what extent am I informing myself on current issues and candidates, and how my elected officials are doing?
    Am I voting in every election?
    How often do I speak up on topics that arise with those I come across during the day?
    How often do I take action with petitions, protests etc? 
  • To what extent have I sought out God’s opinion on a current topic?
  • To what extent have I studied the Bible on a current topic?
  • To what extent have I considered the opinions of others I consider to be my mentors/teachers on current topics?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Seed of Faith / The Fruit of Faithfulness

Faithfulness is really the mature fruit of faith. Faith is given to all who believe in Jesus. (Romans 12:3). It is a seed. This seed is capable of growing and maturing. God plants the seed of faith inside of you when you believe in Jesus. As you tend to it, it grows into a fruit, the fruit of faithfulness, which is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Jesus talked about faith with His disciples. We often think He said that faith the size of a mustard seed would move mountains. But what He said was that if you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could move mountains. (Matthew 17:19-20). If you possessed it. He didn't say the seed would move the mountain, but once you possess the seed you have the potential to move mountains. The seed has to grow to the point that moving mountains is a possibility, but being in possession of it is the first step. 

The other day, I gave my daughter some parsley seeds. If I would have handed them to her and then immediately asked her to make me a parsley salad would she have been able to? No. But did she possess parsley? Yes, but in the form of seeds which have to be planted, nurtured, and given time to grow. Until she had those seeds in her possession, eating parsley was an impossibility. However, once the parsley seeds were in her possession it became a possibility. In the same way, once you possess faith, nothing is impossible.

We're all tested. We're sent to this earth for the testing of our faith. The earth is our proving grounds--the furnace which burns off the dross and reveals the purity of our hearts because of our faith in Jesus. (See Psalm 12:6, Isaiah 48:10).

Consider the man born blind. (John 9). His disciples asked Him whose fault it was that the man was born blind. In the Old Testament, whenever the children of Israel disobeyed or got off into sin, sure enough sickness, disease, or calamity of some type happened. When they would repent, then healing and deliverance came. We see the pattern over and over again. The disciples knew that, so when they saw the blind man they wanted to know whose sin was responsible for his condition. Jesus surprised them by saying neither. This man was born into a situation, but Jesus came to bring healing and deliverance to him.

We are all born into situations, some better than others, but all of us go through tough times throughout our lifetime. Times of trials and testing. These situations of life test us, they reveal things like what kind of person we are, and who (or what) our trust is in. Although really, its the Word of God that is tested, but along with that our faith in Him and His Word is tested. Hopefully, it will be proven to be genuine--the real thing. The Bible tells us that the trying of our faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:3-9). Jesus knows what its like to go through tough times. He lived on the earth as a man and was tempted in every way that we are. (Hebrews 4:15).

The only way to test faith is to measure it by faithfulness. Anyone can believe for five minutes. But when the pressure is on for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, will your faith remain strong? Or maybe its not a long time of testing, but an intense period. Either way, if you remain true to the Lord, you have proven your faithfulness. Faithfulness is proven faith. Faith matures into faithfulness as it grows. The same is true of patience. Being patient for five minutes is not a true test of patience (in most cases). But remaining patience through the entire test or trial proves you have genuine patience.

It's also important to realize that the ultimate test of your faith is not whether or not you can turn a situation from bad to good, but whether you will remain faithful through the testing period. We often think that being able to proclaim a thing and see it happen instantly is a sign of great faith. However, look at these three examples:
  • Job...After Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health, he said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). During his entire time of testing he did not sin or blame God (Job 1:22). He knew something about faithfulness. Even though God allowed Satan to do all he did to Job, he still kept his eyes on God. He was his hope for deliverance.  
  • Joseph...His brothers sold him into slavery and told his father he was dead (Genesis 37). He went through hard times--being away from his family, false accusations, imprisonment, and yet he remained faithful to God. 
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego... When Nebuchadnezzar gave the command for everyone to fall down and worship his statue, they refused stating that they will only worship God. He threatened to throw them in the fiery furnace and they responded by saying that God is able to deliver them from the furnace, but even if He didn't, they still wouldn't bow down and worship a false god. (Daniel 3:16-18).
In all three of these examples, they came through their trials with the blessing of God. Job ended up with twice of what he lost (Job 42:10). Joseph became second in command in Egypt and saved God's nation of Israel from extinction. In Egypt he was promoted and able to prepare the nation to survive a coming famine, saving the nation of Israel in the process. He told his brothers, what they meant for evil the Lord used for good (Genesis 50:20). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the furnace unharmed and not even smelling like smoke. Their faith--really their faithfulness--was tested and proven to be genuine (Daniel3:26-27).

In the book of Hebrews11, we read of some who didn't receive the promise before they died. However, they saw them from a distance and realized that this earth is not their true home. What happens here is not the end, God is preparing a much better place for us on the other side (See Hebrews 11:13-16, John 14:1-3).

What happens if your faith(fulness) fails? You still have seeds. As long as you have faith in Jesus, you have the seed of faith within you. You still have your measure of faith He gave you. Jesus prayed for Peter that His faith wouldn't fail (Luke 22:31-32). Peter went through a time of testing when Jesus died, but he came through it and lived to proclaim the gospel as he was called to do. Jesus is praying for you too! He's praying for your faith to remain strong. He's praying for you to remain faithful during the trials of this earth. (Hebrews 7:23-25).

Prioritize. If you had to choose one thing to remain at the end of your trial, would it be:
  • That you get your answer to prayer, or
  • That you remain faithful to God during the trial (don't sin, get bitter etc.)
Which would you choose, if you could only have one? The thing that will last for eternity is faithfulness. The things of this earth will fade away and sometimes, when you choose faithfulness, you will get both--like Job, Joseph, and the boys in the fiery furnace. Just remember that the end doesn't justify the means.

God cares about your eternal life. He cares about you spiritually, your character, your heart and motivations. He knows what is most important. At times He may push you. He may challenge you. Not for punishment, but to strengthen your faithfulness. He is building faithfulness in you that will last for all eternity. Isn't that better than a new car? In fact, anything that will be done away with at the end of your life, or the end of this age, is less important than the faithfulness, or any fruit of the Spirit, that is developed during your time of testing.

The seed of faith is planted in your garden. Its meant to grow and produce fruit. Will you nurture it? Will you bear the fruit of peace during your time of testing? Will you produce love during your time of testing? What about joy, gentleness, self-control, and patience? These are all fruit that you can bear during your testing time. Faithfulness is the key to it all. The seed of faith grows into faithfulness. Don't waste your trials, allow them to do the work of purifying your faith--more precious than gold.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Beast of Revelation

Revelation chapters 13-19 tell the story of the beast. To understand the beast, and his mark, we also need to look at the harlot Babylon and her judgement.

Babylon the Great is described in the book of Revelation as a woman who is a city which is full of merchandise. Precious stones, fabric, metals, spices, food, and livestock. There is music, crafts, mills, and human slaves. Wait. What? Yes, human slaves. Yet this city is loved by the merchants who make great wealth from her. The kings of the earth love her too, as do all who live on the earth who have become seduced by her and drunk with her wine. Babylon is called a woman, a harlot, and she has risen over time and from among all peoples of the earth. You may have heard that Babylon is the harlot church, or the church who is unfaithful to God, but I believe its more accurate to say she is all people, along with their skills and resources, who have turned from God, seduced by the fleshly pleasures they receive when giving themselves fully to them. This makes her more of a corrupt economic system because a person's time, energy, skills, and resources which were intended to be used for God's purposes, are used for self-pleasure instead. The intoxicating lure of building your own kingdom.

The woman holds a cup of wine in her hand. It is the wine of her immorality. This wine is called the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. Wine is a fruit of a man's harvest, and this wine is the fruit of the harlot's merchandise which tramples on the fruit of the gifts and callings of God's people. The end result is the intoxication of wealth. The love of money. It will suck the life out of you. You become its slave.

The people of God, and really all people, are in danger of becoming intoxicated by her wine--the love of pleasure, power, or money. God gives a warning--a call from heaven for His people to come out of her, out of Babylon, for two reasons--
  • So we will not participate in her sins
  • So we will not receive of her plagues
An hour of judgement is coming to Babylon and God does not want His people on the receiving end of that judgement. Those who overcome are described as the ones who don't receive the mark of the beast. The beast conquers and replaces the harlot as we'll see here in a minute. But we must not fall into the harlot's trap. We must not fall under the intoxicating spell of the love of money or worldly power. We must choose God and His ways over everything else, even if its hard or costs us something.

God will pronounce judgement against this harlot for us--on our behalf. The blood of the prophets, saints, and all those slain is found in her. There are people of God who have become intoxicated on her wine--corrupted by the influence of wealth and power. God is not happy with that. We are told to come out of her and rejoice when she is judged. And judgement comes from a very unusual place--the very beast she sits on. Ten kings of the earth, who have no kingdom for themselves, unite with the beast which rises from the abyss. These kings give their authority to the beast and unite in purpose to destroy the harlot. 

The beast rises from the sea--from among the people--but gets his power from Satan himself. He is the image of Satan (the dragon) who also has seven heads and ten horns. The dragon is the devil, a spiritual being, who uses the beast as a physical presence in the earth. He persecutes the Jews and makes war with the Christians (Rev. 12) but he needs the earthly authority of the ten kings to establish his global rule.

The unbelievers--those whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life--will be amazed by the beast. They will love him. They will think he's great and will "worship" him. They will be impressed by his "fatal wound that was healed." (Rev. 17:8, 13:3-4). As people are amazed by the beast, they are not only following him, but worshiping the dragon (Satan) whether they realize it or not.

God has put it in the heart of the ten kings and the beast to unite and have a common purpose in order for God's purpose to be established, until His Word is fulfilled. They will make war with and conquer Babylon. She will fall. Many will mourn her fall. The kings of the earth, the merchants who gained wealth through her, and those intoxicated on her wine. But the saints are told to rejoice at her fall. However, the beast, and his global economic and religious rule, replaces the harlot. He conquers her and wants complete rule and authority.

The beast blasphemes God, His Name, His tabernacle, and all that is in heaven. He has global authority and controls the economic system. He makes war with the saints and overcomes them. They will refuse his economic system and not receive "the mark" which is required to buy and sell. The beast is worshiped by all who are not written in the Lamb's book of life. They will be dependent on him for survival. Their God-given occupational gifts and talents will be owned by the one who controls the economic system. 

This beast/ten-king alliance is allowed by God to continue for a short time--42 months. The beast will set up his own economic system which kills the saints who don't get in on it. (The two witnesses of Revelation 11 prophesy for about 42 months while the holy city is being trampled until they are killed by the beast). Alongside the beast will rise a false prophet--a religious figure who rises from the earth. (The beast rises from the sea). This false prophet makes people worship the beast. He performs miraculous signs, calling fire down from heaven, to deceive and persuade the people to follow the beast. The false prophet tells people to make an image to the beast, and he "gives breath" to this image so it speaks, and kills those who don't worship the beast or take his mark. Those without the mark will not be able to buy or sell.

In the end, the beast and ten king alliance will try to wage war against the Lamb--against Jesus--and will be defeated. The Lord will come on His white horse with the armies of heaven following Him--those clothed in white. The beast and the false prophet will be seized and thrown into the lake of fire. The rest will be killed with the sword from the mouth of the Lord. Then it's supper time, followed by the thousand year reign. After the thousand year reign Satan himself will be released from his prison to deceive the nations and gather them for war against the beloved city of God. They are devoured with fire from heaven and the devil is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are. They will be there forever and ever.

So what does this look like practically for us as believers in Jesus? 

The harlot system of the world is loved by those who gain wealth and power from it. The merchandise of this earth is not evil itself, but the love of it is. When we care more about money, increase, or position than we do about God, His ways, and His people, then we are becoming intoxicated and corrupted by the harlot. This heart-attitude prepares people to receive the evil that will follow--the mark of the beast. We must separate ourselves from this harlot, even while we live in the midst of it.

Since the scattering of the believers after Jesus' resurrection, the church has gone out into the world to live in it and preach the Gospel to it. We have "grown up" among the thorns sharing in the same economic system of unbelievers. Yet God warns us not to participate in her sins. He wants us separated from her, protected from the judgement coming on her.

God loves His people and is angered by the deception that comes against His people to pull them into this trap. Judgement is coming to the harlot yet He will use another evil to bring it down. The harlot deceives believers into following her by a seductive lure of wealth. The beast will try and use a religious approach to lure people in, but will also use force to kill those who don't follow him. When we see the fall of the harlot, we know its getting close to the time of the Lord's return to establish His rule on the earth. It may be tempting to mourn her fall, but rejoice! We must be separated from her in our heart in order to be able to rejoice at her fall. She was corrupted with immorality and the Lord's city will be much better. Yet we must also prepare for the rise of the beast which takes her place and remains for a short time before the Lord returns.

Revelation 13-19.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

I couldn't sleep much the other night after about 11 pm. I thought about Jesus asking people, "What do you want Me to do for you?" I thought about Him saying to ask anything in His Name and He would do it. I thought about how He talked about being persistent in asking, and to ask, seek, and knock. (John 14:14, Luke 18:1-8, Luke 11:5-10).

I often ask Him, "What do You want me to do for You?" But that night He was asking me what I wanted Him to do for me. Feeling there was more to the question, I asked why He was asking me that. What I realized, is that what you ask for, especially what you are persistent in, reveals a lot about your motives and your heart. When you ask for things you desire, you reveal what's in your heart. So the question is, what do you want?

Is it money, food, or clothes? Is it wisdom, guidance, or discernment? Is it to be like Him, to be patient, kind, good, or holy? Is it for loved ones or friends or co-workers or cities or nations or churches? 

Who do you need Him to be?
Who do you want Him to be?

Ask anything. Ask sincerely. Because if you just ask for what you think you're "supposed" to be asking for, then you're not revealing your heart. God already knows your heart, but you need to know your heart. Asking Him for whatever it is you want Him to do for you will reveal that. It reveals it to you.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying it's wrong to ask for your needs to be met, or for things for yourself, but there is a growth process we go through which can be explained in three levels.

Level 1--Is when you ask for things you need like a newborn babe does. A baby cries when he needs something--when he's hungry or hurting. In the same way, we cry out to God and ask for a lot of things when we are new to His kingdom. Of course, as you mature it's not wrong to ask for things, but a newborn only thinks of himself and what he needs at the moment. It's not wrong. It's just where his level of growth is.

Level 2--Is when we grow and begin to appreciate our heavenly Father's love and goodness. We feel thankful and in response to His love want to repay Him. We begin to worship. We listen for His voice and want to obey His commands. We ask what we can do for Him. His love has so filled our heart that we begin to look for others to spread this love too. This is a good thing. But this is also a level where pride can begin to set in. As we grow we may begin to think we don't need Him as much. That we've "figured out" the Christian life and can handle things just fine. We don't want to appear "needy" we want to represent ourselves like mature men and women of God! However, if this continues, our walk with Him can become routine making our work for Him seem dull. We become busy, even busy doing things for Him, and don't spend as much time in prayer, or asking for His guidance or help. We've left our first love. To get out of this, we have to go to level three.

Level 3--Is when we want to know Him and be like Him. We want to share His heart, to hang out with Him, to get to know Him intimately. We want to love what He loves, and hate what He hates. We want our taste to be like His. We want to view and discern and judge things like He does. We want to be about the Father's business because we know and understand why.

I would also add, that at this level when the Lord asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?" We hear Him and respond with a new level of maturity. We don't ask selfishly for just our own needs from our own perspective, and we don't say, "I don't need You. I don't want to bother You with petty things, I got it from here." We ask. We don't outgrow asking. But we ask for things that are closer to His heart and desires. We ask for things from His perspective, from His heart because His heart is now ours. We are one with Him, filled with His Spirit. We're not pretending either. It's sincere. It's from the heart.

I once had a dream where someone was knocking on the front door. I went over to it and instead of opening it, I knocked back. For years I prayed about the meaning of this dream. I thought it had something to do with someone coming to me for help and instead of opening up to them, I knocked back, or asked for help from them. I thought the Lord might be telling me I was being selfish, yet I never felt that was the right interpretation. Now, I'm thinking this is the Lord knocking on my door. He is coming to ask me, "What do you want Me to do for you?" But instead of opening up and telling Him--asking Him for what I want, I knocked back which is like saying, "No, Jesus, I don't want You to do for me, I want to do for You!" This may sound commendable, but we need to admit that we need Him. That we can't live right without Him. And we need to see what has filled our heart.

Jesus gives us an example of what it is to be a servant. He said If you want to be great, then be a servant of all (Matthew 20:25-28). He gave us the greatest example by dying for us. Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet, but Jesus told him if you don't let Me wash your feet then you have no place with Me (John 13:5-9). Peter changed his mind quickly! He didn't like the idea of Jesus serving him, but Jesus was setting an example. We should never think of ourselves as greater than one another, and the best expression of that is to serve one another (John 13:12-17). Jesus was showing us that He too, served One greater than Himself, and when the Father asked Him to serve us, He didn't hesitate.

So when Jesus asks us the question, like He did the blind men (Mark 10:46-52), "What do you want Me to do for you?" He is acknowledging that He was sent from the Father to reconcile God and man. Even He submits to the Father, and we should too. By allowing Him to do for us, we are admitting that we are not the "Most High." We are not super-Christian who can heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons all by ourselves without His help. When we ask the Father in Jesus' Name, we are acknowledging that He is greater than us. We need something from Him. He has so much to give us. It is humbling to ask. 

So when the Lord asks you what you want Him to do for you, first of all don't assume that means there is something wrong in your heart! He may just simply want to do something awesome for you today because He loves you. But still, search your heart and answer sincerely. Examine your motives, not to beat yourself up if you don't appear to be completely selfless, but to identify where you are at the moment. You just might need to clear your schedule for the day and hang out with the Lord instead, your first love!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Storehouse Tithe

Where did the Lord say to bring the tithe? Into His house? Actually, into the storehouse. Why? So there would be food in His house. So what is brought into the storehouse provided food in the house of God.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
11 Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.
12 “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:8-12
The people brought their tithes so there would be food in the house of God. What was the food used for? The meat was used for the sacrifice required for the atonement of sin, as well as offerings of dedication or thanksgiving to the Lord. Meal offerings were offered as gifts too. The nation of Israel had their sins atoned for through the blood sacrifices offered by the priests so they would continue to be a pure and holy nation--a people set apart for God.

Keeping the nation of Israel set apart was necessary so God could open His salvation to the whole world. The nation of Israel had to survive through generations, remaining holy through atonement for their sin. Jesus was born into this nation. As the Israelites followed the Law, including the tithe, it contributed to their survival as a nation of God, but not just a nation--a holy nation, set apart for Him.

We often hear people say that we tithe to the church so ministers can receive a salary and not have to work outside the church. But it may be more accurate to say that we bring our tithes so God's holy bloodline can remain. We bring our tithe into a place where the sin of the people can be atoned for. Today its a place where people can receive the power of the blood of Jesus through His finished work by His sacrifice on the cross, and live a sanctified, holy life for Him.

The place we bring our tithes to, should be a place where people come to know that God is no longer imputing their sins against them. Jesus Christ paid the price and through faith in Him their sin is washed away. Our tithe is providing for the sins of the people to be washed away so a holy people of God can remain.

So what is the storehouse? Is it just a "church"? It may be, but really its any place which helps perpetuate the bloodline of Jesus--through both Christians and Jews--in the earth. Physically and spiritually. A place which keeps the people of God alive, keeping them from dying out or going extinct. As well as a place where they remain a people set apart for God.

This is a place where people:

1. Can hear the gospel--receive atonement for their sin--be born again through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Can remain holy, not mingled with the world. In the world but not of it.
3. Can remain alive physically. The perpetuation of God's people. A place where physical needs of the people can be met so they can stay alive, so the Gospel of  Jesus Christ and His kingdom can be carried to next generation.

Its not just about performing a duty of giving 10% to your church. It's about people coming to Jesus, hearing and responding to His Word, His draw and His call. It's about living a holy life, set apart as a spotless bride for Him. It's about giving Him worship, dedication, and thanksgiving. It's about feeding the poor, the widow, and the orphans. It's about teaching our children the ways of the Lord.

Even the "sacrifice" of paying the tithe may be a purifying process. At times or for some people, it may be a real financial, emotional, or intellectual challenge to pay the tithe. But whatever we sow to is what we will reap from. Are we sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit?
6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:6-10
This isn't typically considered a "tithing" verse, but the principal remains that what we give into we will reap from. That doesn't just mean giving to the church, it means what you spend your money on and why.

I think there may be an indication here that it wouldn't be wrong to give a part to the Jewish people. To support salvation, holiness and perpetuation of the Jewish people as well. God is grafting together the Jew and Gentile to the same tree--Jesus Christ.

The 5 Levitical Offerings

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Two Ditches

I've seen there are two ditches on the sides of the path of our Christian walk. I'm sure there are other ditches on this path, but this blog is about two ditches on a particular stretch of this road.

The Two Sides
On the one side, we have a sincere desire to do something for God. We tell Him all the time,
"I want to do something for You, I want to please You" etc. When its extreme, it's almost like a state of panic because we never feel we're "doing" enough for the Lord. We may work ourselves almost to our death doing things for Him, but never feeling like we got it right. We repent for all of our sin and failures again and again.

On the other side, we start out in love with the Lord and also have a strong desire to please Him. We begin our walk with Him and have "successes." We pray for people and our prayers our answered. We tell people about the Lord and they listen. Things go well and we grow, bearing fruit for His kingdom. We feel good about it, but after a while we feel too good about it. We begin to take pride in all that we are accomplishing for Him. We feel special. We think that because we are holy enough, pure enough, dedicated enough, etc all these good things are happening. We secretly (or maybe openly) think we are somehow responsible for our success and therefore better than our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Both of these attitudes are honorable things to a certain degree. On the one hand, we need to be the Lord's bondservant and work to build His kingdom. Its not wrong to get excited about that and rejoice over the good things that happen. There are times of sacrifice involved in our work for Him and as we prove ourselves faithful to the Lord He honors that. But if we begin to take credit away from the Lord and become prideful, then we have fallen into the ditch. On the other hand, we also need to repent when we sin and fail Him in any way. This repentance needs to be sincere and heartfelt and not taken lightly. However, if we get too hung up on our failures it can paralyze us and we fall in the ditch on the other side. Both of these ditches are ruts we need His grace to get us out of. Both reveal that we fall short in our faith in Him and how well we know Him.

Lack of Faith? Don't Know Him?
On the one side, if I'm always repenting, I lack faith in the blood of Jesus to forgive sin. Especially if I'm repenting for the same thing over and over again. What do I think--that the blood of Jesus isn't powerful enough, isn't pure enough, to forgive my sin? That's a slap in the face to Him. His blood is holy enough to forgive the sin of the entire world. All people of all times in all places. Do I think that I can't be forgiven? That I'm somehow that special? That my sin is too "strong" for the blood of Jesus? That is a lack of faith in the purity and power of His blood.

If I always feel like I have to be doing something for Him, and that I shouldn't really enjoy it all that much or have time to relax with my family--then I don't really know Him. Maybe I'm doing so much because I don't know what He's gifted me to do. I don't know how to focus on what I need to. I don't know how to prioritize. I don't know how to say no. I don't know that He wants me to rest and enjoy sometimes--take a Sabbath. I am a part of His family and I need "family time" with Him. Jesus said if I believe in Him, then His Father would become my Father. Do I not believe Him? Do I think He lied? Do I think God is a Father who ignores His children?

On the other side, if I'm patting myself on the back because I've "figured out" how to have a successful ministry and I think I've come to the place where I can't fall or fail, then I've fallen into the ditch. Both of these attitudes trip us up and get us stuck in a rut--a ditch on either side of our walk with the Lord.

Focus on Self
I've fallen into the failure ditch even after having a vision once of being before the throne of God with Jesus washing my sin away. I could feel His pain at having to turn His back to the Father in order to wash my sin away. But He did it anyway, with love. I felt full of shame at having made Him do this, and yet He kept washing. I wanted to say stop for I could feel His pain and felt so guilty. But then He washed my guilt and shame away too, and brought me into the love that He and the Father shared. It was beautiful. It was liberating. Yet at times, the self-centered feelings of my inadequacies and failures have driven me to that ditch. And my stubbornness at thinking that if I just did more or worked harder that I would be in the right place with Him drove me to the ditch too. In both cases, the focus is on me.

The enemy doesn't care if you're wrapped up in repentance or hard work for God. Both can be equally useful for his purposes. He doesn't just try to get you to sin. He knows he will paralyze you if he can keep your focus on yourself. It's when you start knowing who you are in Christ, what His promises are, and the power of His blood, that you become dangerous to him. If you're always failing or always achieving then your focus will be on you rather than the Lord.

What to do?
Get still before your heavenly Father and meditate on how much He loves you. You are his child. He has forgiven you of your sin. If you believe in Jesus and have asked Him to forgive you of your sin, He has.
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
You don't need to keep trying to work for it, trust in the blood of Jesus. Meditate on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Your heavenly Father loves you! You may have had an imperfect earthly father (who hasn't?) which has made it hard for you to imagine a loving heavenly Father, but your heavenly Father loves you with a perfect love. You are His child. You don't need to earn or work your way into the family. Your place has been made through your faith in Jesus Christ. It was there since the foundation of the earth, but your faith has activated it. And if you sin, then repent. If you've become arrogant and self-centered, repent, but move on from there and get back on the path of His grace.

You can walk confidently through your day knowing your heavenly Father loves you and you are His child without becoming arrogant about it. When you do, then your life will reflect His glory, His life, and His love. Now you can be joyfully about His business while productive for the kingdom, truly bearing fruit and helping other people to come to the same place!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Accessibility, Roads, and Destinations

Years ago, pioneers explored wild regions of the earth and began to provide access to more desirable locations first through foot trails. These well traveled paths became roads which allowed for quicker and easier travel, as well as allowing people to carry more stuff on horses, wagons and so on. Of course rivers also became pathways that provided travel, and just like roads, provided opportunity for commerce allowing people to settle and build homes and businesses. Pioneers made destinations accessible, as well as travel to and from those destinations. Eventually, more means of travel developed--trains, cars, airplanes and even rockets. All of these means of travel allowed for people to move from place to place more easily and quickly.

Sometimes, people didn’t need to go to another place themselves, but still wanted to communicate with others who were in another place. Messengers would be sent--runners on foot, horseback, and eventually postal systems were developed. Technology kicked in again and the telegraph and telephone were invented. The telephone was a big deal because it allowed for two-way communication. It was more than just a message being sent from one person to another, it allowed for both parties to talk, ask questions, share news, laugh, and so on.

Eventually, radio, television, cable, internet, wireless, and satellite technologies also allowed for communication between people who were in different places. Some of it being one way communication and some of it, like the telephone, was two way communication--ham radios and of course social media like facebook and skype. Recent technology has allowed for more than voice to be transmitted. Now we can have video chat's, webinars and so on.

What are we to think about this advancement in technology? Many people don’t like this kind of “remote” communication and feel that being physically present is by far the best. They think of it as a necessary evil. Yet, God gave the knowledge for people to develop these technologies. He designed the earth so these types of communication would be possible.

One thing to consider, is that these avenues of accessibility open the door to both the good and the bad. Just as the pioneers built roads so people could travel to, from, and within their communities, it also made it easier for thieves to come and steal, or for those with “opposing” opinion to come influence the young. The internet and social media do the same thing. They open doors for good, healthy communication and business, but also for criminals who will try to steal, entice, or influence our children with views contrary to what we know to be good and right. With different methods of accessibility, comes the need for increased discernment and different methods of protection.

Accessibility to a place gives us the capability to do stuff there--build and live our lives. As we’ve already said, roads make life quicker. You can carry more. You can travel back and forth easier so you can make purchases to help build your home and your life. You can gather and interact with other people. You can enjoy life. Accessibility through remote communication does the same thing. It makes banking and shopping quicker. It makes all kind of practical knowledge more readily available. It makes photos, videos, and typed communication with family and friends available when you can’t see them in person.

But with remote communication you can’t lay on hands to pray or impart, touch, hug, or share meals. Can you? Does remote communication allow for impartation? It might. There have been those who report having been healed or touched by the Lord in some way after watching a television broadcast. But let’s face it, physical touch is necessary and enjoyable sometimes. Think of comforting a child, getting a massage, having children… Families should definitely be together physically when possible.

How does the church fit into all of this? Jesus, of course, traveled with His disciples throughout His ministry. He sometimes set went to a certain city or place, but we see Him having encounters with people along the way. Think of Jairus, and the woman with the issue of blood. (Mark 5). Because Jesus was physically present, she was able to touch His clothes and be healed. But did she need that physical touch? According to her faith, she did. Other did not. The centurion who said that Jesus didn’t even need to come to his house said, “Just speak the word only and my servant shall be healed.” He did and he was healed. (Matthew 8).

Where the church is going in the future may not be to a destination in itself, but what occurs along the "roads" may be what we need to pay attention to. When you walk, you are up close and personal with the land. A road is more than a means to an end. Lines of accessibility, whether they are roads, wires, or airwaves, are the spaces between the places. A lot goes on there. Sometimes we need to leave the 99 and go get the one that is out there between the places. I think the key word is go, or as Jesus also said, “leave.” (Matthew 18:12, Genesis 12:1).

However, God placed Adam and Eve in a garden and told them to fill the earth, He sent Abram to Canaan, Jesus to the earth, Jonah to Nineveh, and many other prophets and preachers to physical locations. We see Paul saying that he longed to see them so he could impart a spiritual gift. We see God supernaturally transporting Phillip from one city to the next. It seems that a physical presence in these locations were desirable. Yet we also see messages being sent through angels, or dreams and visions. We read about the apostles who communicated “remotely” through letters, the times Jesus just spoke a word from a distance and things happened, the things that happened along the way like blind Bartimaeus or Zacchaeus, or even the wounded man that the Good Samaritan brought to the innkeeper for healing. Both roads and destinations have their purpose.

What really are the “desirable” destinations of God’s people? The places were we will settle, build, and enjoy life? Many are trying to get to a desirable place so they can feel like they’ve “arrived.” Is the goal to find that “perfect” church? The one where everything always goes smooth and the services are always polished? Where every prayer is answered to your liking and where the pastor never offends you? Or is the “desirable destination” out there on the road somewhere? The road where you can find one who has been beat up, ignored, and left for dead, pick him up and carry him to a place of healing? The place where you meet someone and invite them to dinner? The place where you pray for someone right then and there and he is healed? The place where you guide a child on his journey through childhood?

The destination is the transformation of our own lives to become conformed to the image of Jesus, which is our predestination. Whether that happens out on the road or in a settled place will depend on God's call for you, and your own faith.