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 (17:18) 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 (18:12-13, 22-23). Yet this city is loved by the merchants who make great wealth from her (18:15). 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 (18:3, 9). Babylon is called a woman, a harlot, and she has risen over time and from among all peoples of the earth (17:1). 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, merchants, and kings, (17:2, 18:3, 9, 11, 15), along with their skills and resources, who have turned from God, and been seduced by the fleshly pleasures they receive when giving themselves fully to them (17:15). 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 (17:4). It is the wine of her immorality. This wine is called the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus (17:6). 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 (18:4)
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 (15:2). 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 (1 Timothy 6:10). Those who worship the image of the beast and receive the mark of the beast have been deceived by the signs of the false prophet (19:20).

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 (18:24). 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 (18:20). 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 (17:16-17). 

The beast rises from the sea--from among the people (13:1)--but gets his power from Satan himself. He is the image of Satan (the dragon) who also has seven heads and ten horns (12:3, 13:1). The dragon is the devil (12:9), 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 (18:9-11). 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 (13:5-8, 16-17). 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 (13:5). The beast will set up his own economic system which kills the saints who don't get in on it (13:15). (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 (13:11-18). (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 (19:19-20). The Lord will come on His white horse with the armies of heaven following Him--those clothed in white (19:11-16). The beast and the false prophet will be seized and thrown into the lake of fire (19:20). The rest will be killed with the sword from the mouth of the Lord (19:21). 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 (Rev. 20).

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 types of economic systems of unbelievers. Yet God warns us not to participate in the harlot's sins. He wants us separated from her, protected from the judgement coming on her (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Isaiah 52:11, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).

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, even a major change or shift n the economic systems, 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 now, before her seduction takes hold in us, for us to be able to rejoice at her fall. She was corrupted with immorality (17:2-6, 18:2-5, 7, 9,23-24) 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.