Monday, September 21, 2009

The Power of a New Song Part 1


Passage

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
2 Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever.
3 Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever:
4 To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy endures forever;
5 To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy endures forever;
6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy endures forever;
7 To Him who made great lights,
For His mercy endures forever--
8 The sun to rule by day,
For His mercy endures forever;
9 The moon and stars to rule by night,
For His mercy endures forever. "

Ps alm136:1-9 NKJV)

Pondering

There is a song in the Old Testament that appears many times and was used throughout Jewish history at important events and had a powerful impact when used. This song became known as the 'Great Hallel' and was sung at all the important feasts of Israel and is recorded in full in Psalm 136.

This Psalm was probably originally written by King David. King David was a worshipper who established the Tabernacle of David to renew worship in Israel. It was at this Tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant was stationed, that he probably sang this song first as a spontaneous new song in it's basic, primitive form. It may later have been adapted and had additional verses added by David himself or other Psalmists and became a powerful anthem for Israel at important times in their development.

It was sung responsively (see Ezra 3:11), meaning that the leader of worship would sing one line and then the whole congregation would sing the next line and so on until the end. I have only included 9 verses above, the Psalm is actually 26 verses long. As you progress through the Psalm it is a powerful declaration of God's goodness and lovingkindness to the nation of Israel. When this Psalm is quoted in Scripture only the first verse or a variation thereof is quoted but the rest was probably sung in its entirety.

It is important for a group of God's people, whether it be a local church , cell group or missions organization to have a clear identity. A song or motto that comes from within is a powerful binding agent and motivates the members to move on for the greater glory. In the case of a local church, or any group of God's people for that matter, a prophetic song of praise to God that rises out of the body of believers is a powerful force.

Do you have a song that God has given you for your life? A song for your family? For your Church? Pray for Davids to arise up who will pen songs that speak in a specific and powerful way to those God has placed together with you. Maybe you are that David!

Poem

We must decrease, You must increase,
Let Your glory fall in this place.
We must decrease, You must increase,
Lord we want to see You face to face.


(This was a spontaneous new song the lord gave in this Tuesday night's prayer meeting and the whole congregation was singing it together.)

Prayer

"Father, fill me with songs of deliverance, songs that are meaningful to me, to my family and to my local church. Raise up Davids in my fellowship that will write new songs that minister powerfully and take us to the next level. Amen."

The Power of a New Song Part 2


Passage

"Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying:

"For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever,"

that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God."
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Pondering

David's new song, as recorded in Psalm 136, was so powerful that it was continuously used in Israel's history. The first recorded instance of its use is at Solomon's dedication of the Temple. As the worship team played and sang this song the whole Temple was filled with with the glory of God and the priests were overwhelmed and unable to continue ministering as they were used to.

Notice that the new song is totally God focused! There's no me or I in it and it totally exalts and dwells on the character and nature of God as good and full of mercy. The Hebrew word used for "good" is "toeb", meaning "good in the widest sense: Beautiful, best, bountiful, cheerful and prosperous". Hence, it goes way beyond our modern meaning and may be best interpreted as "full of abundant richness". The Hebrew word used for "mercy" is "checed" which is always used of the covenantal lovingkindness and faithfulness of the Lord.

As we sing forth new songs with our whole heart, dedicating our temple, our body, to the Lord, focussing solely on God and His goodness and mercy then the Lord will meet us in a special way, maybe even sweeping us off our feet as the priest were in Solomon's temple! I've experience this quite a few times - when I focus wholly on God and worship Him with new songs I have sensed the glory of God falling, sometimes even physically seeing what appears to be a cloud fill the place where I am and I am dumb struck with His goodness and loving kindness, unable to minister, only able to be ministered to!

I challenge you to simply sing out the phrase, "For He is good and His mercy endures forever" with all your heart before the Lord in your quiet time with Him and you will experience something of God's glory.

Poem

As we sing of His goodness,
As we sing of His grace,
He will reach down to bless
And reveal His face.


Prayer

"Lord, Your are totally good and awesomely merciful, full of lovingkindness and compassion. I pour myself out before You, singing of You and focusing on You alone. Amen!"

The Power of a New Song Part 3


Passage

"And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:

"Praise the LORD,
For His mercy endures forever."

Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. "

2 Chronicles 20:21-22 (NKJV)

Pondering

The next time we see David's new song sung by Israel is when they are under attack under the reign of Jehoshaphat. They are surrounded by the enemy and as the king prays before God in the Temple the Lord tells him to send out His mighty army. However, His mighty army is not quite the kind of army we expect! It's an army of singers and musicians who go forth singing the new song of David as they march towards the enemy.

This singing army does not even engage physically in battle with the enemies of Israel because the Lord sets ambushes against them and they scatter, fighting each other and are totally destroyed when Israel finally reaches where they were station as a once mighty, intimidating force.

We may find ourselves surrounded by enemies, towering over us and intimidating us. However, as we march forward singing new songs of God's goodness and mercy then the Lord will send angelic ambushes against the enemy. Where the enemy formed a mighty barrier in our way we will walk right through with the new song on our lips. This new song of praise will be like a mighty sword that will go ahead of us and slay the enemy.

I have experienced this reality many times. At times when I'm overwhelmed by the attacks of the enemy on my thoughts, my health, my finances, my relationships and so forth, as I have chosen to march forth singing new songs of His goodness and mercy then defeat is turned to victory. There are times I can remember when I have walked along burdened by financial woes and, after a simple bursting forth of a new song, I have ended up my journey dancing and skipping along with great joy and release.

Poem

When the enemy comes in like a flood,
New songs shall gush forth from my lips,
And they will drown in the power of His blood,
And be lost like sinking ships.


Prayer

"Father, put a new song constantly on my lips, especially in the presence of my enemies. I will rise up to sing when the enemy rises up to attack. Amen!"

The Power of a New Song Part 4


Passage

"The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:

"Praise the LORD of hosts,
For the LORD is good,
For His mercy endures forever"-

and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,' says the LORD. "

Jeremiah 33:11 (NKJV)

Pondering

The final time we explicitly see David's new song being used by Israel in Scripture is when they return from captivity. Jeremiah prophecies that the Jewish captives in Babylon will return and joyfully sing this song. This is fulfilled in Ezra 3:11 where we see the new Temple has been rebuilt after the Jews return and on the dedication of the second Temple they sing this song:

"And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD:

"For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever toward Israel."

Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. "

Ezra 3:11 (NKJV)

Singing new songs to the Lord sets the captives free, especially ourselves! Recently in our Church Tuesday night prayer meeting we have been singing new songs and there are testimonies of many burdens simply lifting off people as they sing. Last Tuesday I led the congregation in a responsive singing of Psalm 136 and the Lord's presence was awesome and He was setting many captives free.

Open up Psalm 136 now and sing through it with all your heart. If you are with Christian friends you can sing or speak the first line as they responsively say or sing "For His mercy endures forever". This is powerful stuff! Try it!

Poem

Lord You are good
You've set us free
And as we sing
New life we see.


Prayer

"Father, You are good and Your mercy and grace has delivered us from slavery to sin and the word. Praise You Lord that you have set this captive free. Let me sing forth this freedom so many others may be set free. Amen!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Should Christians Judge?


Passage

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.." Matthew7:1-5 (NKJV)

Pondering

For the next few days I'll be looking at the common Spiritual Urban Legend that says, "Christians Shouldn't Judge". This SUL (Spiritual Urban Legend) says something like, "Jesus forbade His followers to judge, therefore Christians should not judge others."

This thinking come from such verses as:

"Judge not, that you be not judged." Matthew 7:1 (NKJV)
"Therefore let us not judge one another anymore." Romans 14:13 (NKJV)
"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge." James 4:11 (NKJV)

However, as we shall see, this is not what these passages teach us! As in the other SUL’s, this one takes Bible verses out of context and makes them say whet they never intended. Indeed, not only does this SUL take these verses out of context but it fails to see the whole Biblical context of teaching on judging. For example, what about 1 Corinthians 2:15? This verse seems to state the opposite of the above verses when it states, "But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one"(NKJV). The Greek word for ‘to judge’ is the same in all instances (‘krino’), meaning "to properly distinguish between right and wrong".

To see how we are to know when to judge and when not to let’s start by examining Matthew 7:1 in context.Jesus was here addressing the Jewish leaders who were pointing their fingers at others in judgement, like those who came condemning the woman in adultery. Jesus was not saying there's no place for such judgements as sin needs to be exposed. However, He was bringing forth the principle that we cannot judge hypocritically, where we are living with sin in our own lives, often in similar areas to those we are accusing.

Jesus ends up by saying, "First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.." Here He is clearly saying that there is a time for removing the sins of others, only not when we are having bigger sins in our own lives due to hypocrisy. Indeed, Matthew 7 goes on to say that we must judge who are "dogs" and "swine" (v6) and judge between true and false prophets (v15).

In the case of the woman caught in Adultery (John 8:3-11). Jesus exposed the scribes and Pharisees hypocrisy and then did not condemn the women but let her go. You may look at this as proof that we are not to judge. But Jesus did make a judgement when He said, "Go and sin no more" (v11) and He was also judging the hypocrisy of the others! There is a time for us to judge but we need the wisdom of God to know when that is. That's what I will look at in over the following days.

Poem

To judge or not to judge?
That's a tricky question.
If , in sin, I will not budge,
Then it is I who is undone!


Prayer

"Father, purge me of all hypocrisy that I may live an upright life that others will judge as worthy of following. Amen."

Righteous Judgement


Passage

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
John 7:24 (NKJV).

Pondering

So, what exactly is Jesus’ teaching about judging?

Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:24 (NKJV). This excellent verse gives us a needed balance that helps us unravel what Jesus really taught on this subject. There are times when we must not judge but there are also times we are to judge with righteous judgment. The question we must ask then is, "What is righteous judgment and what is unrighteous judgment?"

It is important to know when to judge and when not to because the consequences can be dire. If we judge when we are not supposed to then, according to Matthew 7:2, we will reap judgment back in our own life and bring others under unnecessary condemnation, even stumbling other Christians (Romans 14:13), maybe causing them to sin. If we do not judge when we are supposed to then we are protecting others in their sins and indirectly showing that it alright for them to continue sinning.

"Righteous judgment" basically means we can judge when we have the right to judge. When do we have the right to judge? As we have seen, we can only judge when there is no unconfessed sin in our lives, especially in the area we are judging. And, as we shall see, we should only judge when we have the authority given to us to do so, judging only in the area of clear cut morality as revealed in Scripture.

The problem is we tend to judge when we shouldn't and not judge when we should!
We tend to judge according to what we see externally (by sight) and not according to how a person measures up to the Word (by faith). Over the next few days I will be looking at important Scriptures showing us when we should and should not judge.

Poem

We should judge with righteous judgment,
But what does that really mean?
It means to judge when we have the right
And not merely from what we have seen.


Prayer

"Father, You are the righteous judge. Help me to be like you and only judge when I have the right to do so and to keep my mouth shut at all other times! Amen."

When not to Judge Part 1


Passage

"Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way". Romans 14:13 (NKJV)

Pondering

There are some areas that we are not to judge in.

Firstly, don't judge others personal convictions/preferences.

Romans 14:13 says, "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way". This does not mean that by judging others in any situation we are stumbling them and so we should not judge at all. We must read the whole context that starts with Paul pinpointing a particular problem the church in Rome was experiencing.

Romans 14:1-4 gives us the context: "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand."

The problem with the Roman Christians, that Paul is addressing, is that they were disputing "over doubtful things". They were judging each other concerning their own personal convictions and preferences in their worship to God. These were not black and white moral issues but grey areas of conduct.

Personal convictions include Christian practices such as what food and/or drinks they can or cannot consume, which day is the Sabbath and what can or cannot be done on the Sabbath and so forth. Paul's teaching in Romans 14 is that these are not black and white areas and we may differ greatly in these areas. In Christ we have been freed from legalistic practices but that does not mean we must force others into the same freedoms we have if their conscience cannot take it. We must not put stumbling blocks before Christians in areas where they have a weaker conscience.

One example Is drinking beer. I come from a culture and background where drinking beer is a socially acceptable practice among Christians, as long as we do not get drunk. I go on missions trips to Cambodia and make sure that I do not openly drink beer there as it is not acceptable for Christians for a variety of reasons. If I did drink beer in front of other Christians there they may think, "This pastor is drinking beer, why can't I?". However, they may well start drinking and have too much and be stumbled, feeling shameful due to the cultural context. I could say to them, "You are free in Christ to drink alcohol in moderation, Jesus did!" but I would really be judging their convictions.

Therefore, the over riding principle that Paul is getting to is that we must always take the most loving course of action. If we know person has certain convictions that are not sinful we should not judge and challenge those conviction and we should act in a way that will not stumble them.

Poem

Do not judge others in areas that are gray,
Such as the food they prefer or their chosen special day.
These personal convictions are not life and death,
But show the variety we have from the one who gave us breath.


Prayer

"Lord, help me to hold judgment when it comes to other's personal preferences that are not necessarily sinful, but different to mine. Help me not to be a stumbling block but a stepping stone for your love to walk into our relationship. Amen!"

When not to Judge Part 2

Passage

"You pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:3-4 (NKJV)

Pondering

Secondly, don't judge by outward appearance.

We are not to judge a book by its cover. Do you remember Susan Boyle from Britain's got Talent 2009? She came onto the stage looking like an eccentric old maid and everyone turned up their noses at her when she said she wanted to be a singer like Elaine Paige. Well, as soon as she opened her mouth to sing the entire audience watched on in amazement, many dropping their jaws in wonder, many ashamed that they had judged her so harshly.

This kind of judgment is wrong because it is not based on any sin of the person, but our sinful, judgmental perceptions of that person. Often, the root is pride or conceit ("I’m better than they are"). Racism falls into this category because we are judging merely on the person’s appearance and our preconceptions as to what they will be like.

We have no right to judge on a person’s appearance because, even though marred by sin, all people are made in the image of God. So we are really judging God’s choice of skin colour or His choice of looks. Even if we are judging people on the outward appearance due to the effects of sin (such as severe deformities), it is not their own fault and we are really still judging God as He allowed them to be born in this manner.

In the passage of Scripture quoted above James presents the Churches he is writing to with a very real issue that was plaguing their gatherings. There was a division between rich and poor and the rich were taking the better places in the Church meetings and ordering the poor to sit on the floor! To James the issue was not that they were judging but that they were judging "with evil thoughts". In this case the evil thoughts were thoughts of pride and haughtiness where the rich perceived themselves to be more important than the poor.

We are all created equal and have no right to judge others by appearance alone, especially in the Church. The Church should be a place where all are treated equally and this should be a powerful witness to the world.

Poem

Do not judge a book by its cover,
You never know what you may discover
As you humbly love and accept one another
As did Jesus towards us as our Divine lover.


Prayer

"Yes Father, give me the strength to accept others who seem unlovable on the surface. Let me never judge a book by it's cover, but accept others as You do. Amen!"

When not to Judge Part 3

Passage

"Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord." 1 Corinthians 4:2-4 (NAK)

Pondering

Thirdly, don't judge by Ministry Style.

Ministry style and ministry content are not the same thing. A certain ministry style may offend you, not because it is sinful or wrong but because it is different to what you are used to or what you prefer. However, if the content of a ministry is heretical, with false doctrine, then it is wrong no matter what style it comprises of.

We know that some in the church at Corinth were judging Paul on his ministry style, especially his personal delivery. Compared to other teachers of the Word there he seemed to lack certain speaking skills (see 2 Corinthians 11:6) and he was rather odd in appearance with some physical problems (though we are not told what they were exactly). Later this proved to be a real problem in the Corinthian Church with many preferring self proclaimed leaders who had more of the style the locals preferred but who were teaching heresy!

What is more important, style or truth? I would rather listen to a stuttering, boring Bible teacher who is teaching the truth from God's Word than to a well polished, enjoyable, entertaining, motivational teacher who throws in Bible verses but whose teaching is not Scripturally sound.

So, when a ministry is Biblically sound it does not really matter what style it takes, as long as the style does not cause one to sin. We may have a preferred style but we must not judge other ministries purely on our preferences.

Even when we do see other ministries that teach heretical content we should not publicly pronounce judgement on that ministry unless we have the authority to do so. I have seen many so-called "Discernment Ministries" on the Internet, exposing and shaming many other ministries, claiming them heretical. Who gave them the authority to do this? We have authority to openly judge and correct wrong ministries if they are under our jurisdiction, but if they are not then we should bring it to the attention of those who actually have the authority to do anything.

Poem

Hands up, hand down, noise level high or low,
Jumping up, falling down, dancing or no,no,no!
Red faced preacher shouting out or church mouse teacher so sane,
As long as the truth is being proclaimed, it's all lifting up His name!


Prayer

"Father, thank you for creating us all so very different. However, sometime that means other's ministry style can offend me or cause me to judge. Help me not to ctiticize wrongly concerning ministry style but to loving listen and learn from the truth they do proclaim. Amen!"

When not to Judge Part 4

Passage

"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"
James 4:11-12 (NKJV)

Pondering

Lastly, don't judge with critical opinions of others.

In this passage in James we learn me must not "speak evil of one another". James does not say we must not judge at all, only that we must not speak judgmentally against others with a critical spirit, even if what we say is true.

When we criticize others, we are placing ourselves in the position as judge and pronouncing judgment upon them when we may not know or understand all the details of why they are doing what they are doing. If we have the authority to judge their situation (such as when they come to us for counsel and we are in the place to counsel them), we need to judge purely from the principles and truths in the Word of God without imposing our own opinion.

Here James is primarily saying that we should not judge others based an outsider's perspective. It was F.B. Meyer, I believe, who once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.

At a pastor's conference in Spokane, Chuck Swindoll told of being at a California Christian camp. The first day there a man approached him and said how greatly he had looked forward to hearing Dr. Swindoll speak and his delight at now finally being able to realize that desire.
That evening Swindoll noticed the man sitting near the front. But only a few minutes into the message the man was sound asleep. Swindoll thought to himself that perhaps he was tired after a long day's drive and couldn't help himself. But the same thing happened the next few nights, and Dr. Swindoll found his exasperation with the man growing.

On the last night the man's wife came up and apologized for her husband's inattention to the messages. She then explained that he had recently been diagnosed as having terminal cancer and the medication he was taking to ease the pain made him extremely sleepy. But it had been one of his life-long ambitions to hear Dr. Swindoll speak before he died, and now he had fulfilled that goal.
Unless you have the authority given to you to judge a person in a moral issue (such as if you are their parent or counsellor) then you should always give them the benefit of the doubt and keep your mouth firmly closed and your heart open to them.

Poem

What I see concerning others
is only one small part,
I tend to look only on the surface
But God looks at the heart.


Prayer

"Lord, help me to see others through Your eyes and not judge others with critical opinions not know their full story. Help me to withhold judgement when it is not right to judge and release love and mercy instead, giving others the benefit of the doubt rather that gossiping and speaking critically of them. Amen!"

When it is right to Judge Part 1


Passage

"Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?"
1 Corinthians 6:3-4 (NKJV)

Pondering

Firstly, it is right for the Church to deal with disputed between members.

In the Church at Corinth there were Christians taking other Christians from the same church to Romans law court to settle differences.Paul said that this was crazy as Christians will ultimately be judges of such matters in the Millennial Kingdom, even judging Angels.

Ideally, Christians should not take other Christians before secular law courts but should offer the matter up for the Church leadership to deal with. A major reason for this is so that the problem does not spill over into the non-believing world, which discredits the Church's witness to the lost.

"Have you ever considered how standing up for your rights - particularly against another Christian, with unbelievers present -- impacts your witness? The entire sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians deals with the issue of a believer taking another believer to court. The bottom line is, it just shouldn't be done.

Unfortunately, much of what the world sees of the church is not good. They see division and strife. They see all manner of disputes, and they don't want to have anything to do with such unloving, uncaring people. Can you blame them?

So then, what should you do if there is a dispute between you and another believer? According to the context of verse above, you should accept the wrong, and let yourself be cheated, unless it is a serious case where you need to bring in Church leaders to help resolve the issue. Ouch! That hurts, but it is the course of action that is preferable to taking your brother or sister to court. After all, in most cases, you would take your brother to court over a material matter, that, from an eternal perspective, really doesn't matter."

(Taken form an article by Rebecca Livermore entitled, "Why Christians Shouldn't Sue Each Other" - http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/205559/why_christians_shouldnt_sue_each_other.html)

Poem

The world will only really see
That we are His disciples,
When they see you loving me
Even when we've been rivals!


Prayer

"Father, the witness of Your Church to the world is very, very important. Help me to love my brother and sister in Christ, especially the unlovable and even those who place themselves as my enemy, so You may shine brightly to the lost. Amen!"

When it is right to Judge Part 2

Passage

"For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
1 Corinthians 5:3-5 (NKJV)

Pondering

Secondly, it is right for the Church to deal with unrepentant sinners.

One area the Church has been given the go-ahead and authority by God to judge others is in matter of serious sin within the Church. In the Church at Corinth there was a serious sin that was being left unchecked by the Church, indeed the Church was boasting that such a thing was happening as they thought it showed their true freedom in Christ.

As bad as it may seem to us, one of the Church brothers was actually having sexual relations with his "father's wife" (v1). The Corinthians were deluded into thinking this should not be judged as they bought into the Spiritual Urban Legend we are currently looking at. Paul wrote back saying that he had judged the situation and so should they. They should judge this brother as Jesus clearly taught the Church to do in Matthew 18:15-17:

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." (NKJV)

As we have see, there are times the Church must rise up to judge as that is our destiny in Christ, to be judges and rulers. But it must be righteous judgment where we have the moral authority. In such cases where there is obvious sin the Church must not turn a blind eye, but turn a non-hypocritical eye of judgement towards the situation.

When a Christian brother or sister clearly sins against you, you must firstly confront them one on one and seek reconciliation. You extend forgiveness to them but if they reject you bring in two or three more mature counsellors. If this fails the matter needs to be brought before the whole church (through the leadership) and be dealt with accordingly. This may even lead to the Christian being ex-communicated from the Church (notice the purpose of this is still restorative - we are to treat them as non believers, ones we are to reach out to in love).

Notice that this is in the context of the Church. If non-believers sin against Christians then the Christians should immediately forgive them and shine forth the love of Christ. What is the point of a Christian judging a non-Christian when they are already under eternal damnation without Christ! The Christian's role towards the non-believer is to declare the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Poem

The Church often judges when it should not,
And fails to judge the creeping rot,
The sin that's so often is left unchecked
So that many believers end up ship wrecked!


Prayer

"Father, help me to judge when I have the moral authority to do so. That means pointing out my brothers of sisters sin so they an repent and be restored. Give me the boldness to be a righteous judge when I need to be. Amen."

When it is right to Judge Part 3

Passage

"I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say."
1 Corinthians 10:15 (NKJV)
"Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge."
1 Corinthians 14:29 (NKJV)

Pondering

Thirdly, it is right for the Church to judge the doctrinal teaching of preachers/prophets.

Remember I said that we are not to judge ministry style but we are to judge ministry content. However, this only extends as far as we have the God-given authority to judge. If the ministry is not in our own local Church we are to discern if their teaching is right or not but we do not have the right to publically judge and criticize them. If we are a Church leader we can warn those under our authority about this false ministry but we should leave it at that.

If a false ministry arises within a Church or Denomination then the leaders of that Church or Denomination have the right and should judge and cut off that ministry if necessary. There are many so-called "Discernment Ministries" on the internet I have seen bombarding all types of ministries they feel are heretical (most times they attack their ministry style not content). In these cases they do not have the moral authority to do so. Even if they are warning other Christians they should only warn those under their immediate authority, not the whole world through the internet!

When done properly, this judgment saves Churches and Christians from being deceived and entering into error. In our Church we used to be very laid back about inviting guest speakers until we had an unfortunate encounter where a preacher came and taught heresy with a very proud and rebellious spirit. After that we have been very careful who we invite, checking up on their ministry track record and doctrinal beliefs, usually needing strong personal references.

What this means for the individual Christian is that we must be like the Bereans, checking out from Scripture to see if what we hear from the pulpit is truly Scriptural. If it is not we can only publically judge if we are in the place of authority to do so. If not we must guard our hearts, refraining from back biting and making sure we distance ourselves from such error and warn those we should about the ministry in question.

Poem

Lord, let Your Word dwell in me richly,
So I may tell when falsehood comes.
That I may judge with righteous judgment
Warning my sheep so that none succumbs.


Prayer

"Father, help me discern properly between the truth and false teaching and help me judge righteously according to the moral authority You have given me. Amen!"

When it is right to Judge Part 4

Passage

"For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."
1 Corinthians 11:31-32 (NKJV)

Pondering

Lastly, it is right for the us to judge our own faith first.

Actually, this is where it all starts! As we daily judge ourselves by the Word of God we will become more and more like the Righteous Judge Himself, Jesus. That is our goal. But how many Christians daily ask the Holy Spirit to reveal their sin or wrong attitudes, allowing Him to shine the light of His Word on their hearts?

The following thoughts from "Our Daily Bread, January 9, 1994" are helpful here:

"State employment officials in Tucson, Arizona, posted an interesting sign over a full-length mirror. Directed to all job hunters, it read, "Would you hire this person?" In another office a mirror and sign posed this question: "Are you ready for a job?"

Self-evaluation was what the apostle Paul called for in 1 Corinthians 11. Believers in Christ need to judge themselves, he said, to avoid being judged by the Lord as unfit for His service. In the Corinthian church, the "appearance problem" was especially serious. Those Christians "looked" awful. They were actually getting drunk and quarreling among themselves while going through the motions of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. So Paul said, in effect, "Look at yourselves. What a mess! If you don’t get your lives straightened out, the Lord will have to do it for you." Then the apostle added the sobering fact that God had already begun to cleanse the church by sending some of them to an early grave. This is a hard truth, but one the church still needs to hear today."


It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of God, experiencing His judgment. Therefore let us judge ourselves first and start living as we should. Only then can we stand as righteous judges. If we fail to judge ourselves properly then we will be like the Jewish leaders in Jesus' time who were speck inspectors with huge planks in their own eyes.

Poem

Lord shine Your light upon my heart
So I can judge and clean out sin,
Before You come as judge to start
A terrible process I don't want to begin.


Prayer

"Father, help me to daily come before You so Your Spirit may show any sin in my heart and I can come clean before You through the blood of Jesus. Let this be a regular habit so that I need not come under your terrible hammer of judgment. Amen!"

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Do We Think About God?


Passage

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

Pondering

Practically, our view of God, consciously or otherwise, affects every thought and action we perform, since it functions as the central premise of our world view. If we do not believe in a god but that we evolved from apes then we will think and act like an evolved ape! If we believe in a god of war then we will become a warring people (e.g. The Vikings). Therefore, it is vital that we grasp from His special revelation of Himself (the Bible) what He really is like so that we can then become like Him.

We become like what we worship. Some people have got it backwards. They worship their dog and start to look and act like it! Let’s turn things around (turn DOG backwards you get GOD) and worship the true and living God to become more like Him. As Daniel says, "Those who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits" (Dan 11:32). If we know God as He really is (strong and mighty), we shall become like Him!

What image of God do you have? An angry old man up in the sky, uninvolved in our affairs except when he throws a few thunder bolts in judgment? A harmless, jovial, "buddy" who always pats you on the back and gives you what you want?
Often our image of God is shaped by our own Father’s relationship with us. If he was overly strict and distant then we can project that image onto God Himself and relate to Him in that way, feeling that He cannot be known intimately and speaks to us only to condemn us. If our Father was too permissive and let us do what we wanted, we will see God as too laid back, one who fails to correct us, and one who is indifferent to our sin.

Let us be like Daniel, one who really knows his God. We only know God by spending time with Him and letting Him reveal more of Himself to us. Today, determine in your heart to draw near to God that He will draw near to you, showing who He really is.

Poem

What image of God fills your mind?
An angry old man or one who is too kind?
Turn to Him and let Him reveal His reality,
As You seek Him on your knees, simply let Him be.


Prayer

"Father, strip me of all wrong images I have of You. Show me who you truly are that I may worship and serve You in spirit and truth. Lord I want to draw nearer and nearer to You so You will draw nearer and nearer to me and I'll become more and more like You. Amen."

The Biblical View of God


Passage

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

Pondering

How do we answer pre-believers who say that all religions ultimately worship the same god or that Christians worship three gods (Father, Son and Holy Mother)? We need to have a clear grasp on what Scripture tells us about the God we worship so that we can communicate this to others through our testimony and response to their questions about our God.

God created all things. Before creation there was only God. All God created was good but became corrupted by sin. God is far greater and superior than the sum of all His creation, which includes the Devil and his fallen angels (demons). Hence, there is not a DUALITY of good and evil in this world as all that is evil is definitely not equal and opposite of God. God is in control and only allows evil to seemingly triumph as He knows what is best and is working in all things for good to outwork His divine plan.

The following story shows various ways man has developed to understand life:

MICE IN THE PIANO

Imagine a family of mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. To them in their piano-world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. At first the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was Someone who made the music - though invisible to them - above, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see. Then one day a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano and returned very thoughtful. He had found out how the music was made. Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths which trembled and vibrated. They must revise all their old beliefs; none but the most conservative could any longer believe in the Unseen Player. Later, another explorer carried the explanation
further. Hammers were now the secret, numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world. The Unseen Player came to be thought of as a myth ....But the pianist continued to play. (James S Hewett, ed ILLUSTRATIONS UNLIMITED p187)

Pantheism believes that God is in all things and all the universe is God. Most primitive animistic beliefs in any area of the word hold to this view of life. Hinduism is Polytheistic (worshipping many gods) as were the religions of the ancient empires such as Greece and Rome. They believe each god is responsible for one aspect of the universe (such as war, love, agriculture etc.). Atheism has only gained wider acceptance in recent years with the advances in Science and the rise of Communist nations. Agnostics (or Freethinkers) generally believe there is a god or that there are many gods but they have no relevance or real impact in their life. Buddhism is more of a philosophy of life and its believers can be atheistic, monotheistic or even polytheistic. Christianity is Monotheistic, meaning the worship only one God. Other Monotheistic religions are Judaism and Islam.

The main difference between Christianity and all other religions or philosophies is the gracious, loving personal relationship we enjoy with God through the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The Trinity does not mean Christians worship three Gods but worship one God in three persons. Indeed, because God is three in one He eternally lives in gracious, loving, relationship. He is a God of Love and Grace. That distinguishes Him form all else and that is a reason to worship Him and love Him and serve Him!

Poem

The mice thought the piano was their god at first,
A living, throbbing deity, that had given them birth.
Then one found many strings, each singing a different song,
So they started worshipping each string not knowing they were wrong.

Then one mouse found the hammers beating on the strings,
And came with a theory for why the piano rally sings.
It's just a mechanical wonder formed by amazing laws,
There's no gods of great player who really deserves applause.

And all the while the Great Player sat and played on the piano's keys,
Playing a song of love and joy , calling the mice to sit upon His knees.
It was not through simple observation that the mice could know what's real,
But by following and living for the one the music did reveal.


Prayer

"Thank you Lord for revealing Yourself to us in Your Word. Show me who You really are that I may worship You in spirit and in truth. Amen!"

What is God Like?

Passage

"No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."
John 1:18 (NKJV)

"Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"
John 14:9 (NKJV)

Pondering

Scripture has progressively revealed the nature and attributes of God. There is a revelation of God's essence and His pesonality. God cannot be seen and heard in His essence but can be seen and heard in His person. In John 1:18 it says no one has ever seen God (His essence) but John 14:9 says that when the disciples saw Jesus they saw the Father (His Person hood). Another example of this is Moses speaking to God face to face (Exodus 33:11) and then being told he could not see God’s face (Exodus 33:20) - an explanation of this is that the first meeting was with the Angel of the Lord (pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, one of the persons of the Trinity) and the second was with the very essence of God.

The fact that God is revealed in personal terms means we can have a relationship with Him in His three persons.The revelation of His essence means that He is unlike any other personal being and is to be feared with reverential fear above all else.

God’s essence is that part of Himself that is unique to Him (He is self-existent, unchanging, all powerful, all knowing and all present) but His personality is seen in us as we are made in His image (the image of His person hood - man is tripartite, body, soul and spirit, as God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

We cannot display His attributes of essence (i.e. none of us is all powerful, all present or all knowing) but we can and should display these attributes of His person hood.

Holiness - What He IS - pure and separate. We are to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16).
Righteousness - What He DOES - right and just. We are righteous (Matt 5:20) only by the imputed and imparted righteousness of God in Jesus (Rom 3:22).
Sovereignty - His perfect REIGN and RULE. If we endure His will then we will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12) both in this life (1 Tim 3:5;5:17) and in the age to come (Rev 5:10).
Wisdom - Correct application of knowledge. We, the Church, are to make known the manifold wisdom of the Lord to the world (Eph 3:9-10), meaning we partake in this attribute of God just as King Solomon was given God’s wisdom.
Love - Goodness, kindness, faithfulness, loyalty. We are to move in His agape (self-sacrificial) love (1 John 4:19-21).

Hence, we should worship God in His totality. We stand in awe and wonder before His essence but we enter into intimate relationship with Him in His three-fold personality, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Poem

You are lion, You are lamb, fully God and fully man.
To be feared yet You embrace, cannot see yet You speak face to face.


Prayer

"Lord, I stand in awe before You. You are all powerful, all knowing and all present. Yet, you are my father, my lover and my friend. What an amazing paradox and one that I worship You within. Amen!"

Knowing The Trinity


Passage

"Jesus also was baptized and while He prayed the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased." Luke 3:21-22

Pondering

It has been said that if we try to fully understand the Trinity then we will lose our mind but if we don’t fully believe in it then we will lose our soul. We need to believe in and relate to what God has revealed of Himself by progressive revelation in the Bible. As we will see, He has revealed Himself as one God in three persons. It is through these three persons that we can have a personal relationship with God.

God’s unknowable essence is not blocking His personality from shining through. Rather, His personality is built upon His core essence and radiates out to humanity. He can be known and wants us to know Him in His three persons. We can clearly see His invisible Essence in and through His creation (Rom 1:20) but cannot partake in or relate with Him in this. We can, however, relate to all three of His persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - each fulfilling a unique relational role. We can partake in His holiness, righteousness, sovereignty, wisdom and love as we relate with all three, who are these attributes (God does not HAVE these attributes He IS these attributes- He is Holy, is Righteous is Love etc.)

Probably the best physical illustration for the Trinity is Water in that it exists in three states, liquid, ice and steam yet all are H2O. So Father, Son and Spirit are all GOD. However, the Trinity always exists and work together and not in isolation.

The picture of a fruitful tree is good in illustrating the WORK of the Trinity. The Father, as the root, begins all things - He is the man with the plan. The Son, as the shoot, arranges the Father's plan according to His pattern - Jesus is the pattern son and we are to be like Him. The Spirit, as the fruit, produces the desired effect in us, working powerfully in us to produce the Fruit of the Spirit (Christ likeness).

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are seen working together as separate persons who are each fully God. The most clear example of this is at the Baptism of Jesus. The Father speaks from heaven (He planned this event) over the Son (He is the pattern son, living the Father’s plan) and the Spirit descends as a dove onto Jesus (He empowers and anoints Jesus to produce the works He was called to walk in - Eph 2:10).

The Trinity gives us the basis for all Christian leadership (Parents to children, husband to wife, church leadership). They are all equal but submit to one another in a loving environment. The Father is treated as the first among equals. Jesus, though equally God, did nothing without the Father’s go ahead and the Spirit likewise responds to the will of the Son. The Spirit’s main ministry may be termed a “spotlight” ministry, where He lives to glorify the Son, Jesus.

Let us ask the Lord to reveal Himself to us in all His fullness, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Poem

Our God can be known as He is Three in One,
Father, Spirit and Jesus the Son.
He has always been three in loving community,
And He reaches out in love to you and to me.


Prayer

"Father God, beautiful Jesus and sweet Spirit, show more of yourselves to me day by day. Let me enter into deeper relationship with each one of you. Take me deeper into You, the great three in one. Amen."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lambs and Lions.


Passage

1 "Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,"
Says the LORD of hosts.
2 "But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner's fire
And like launderer's soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the LORD
An offering in righteousness.
4 "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
Will be pleasant to the LORD,
As in the days of old,
As in former years. "

Malachi 3:1-4 (NKJV)

Pondering

Last night, in the Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting of our Church, one sister came forward and spoke Malachi 3:1-5 as a prophecy for our Church. As she spoke it the Lord gave me a vision that, at first, I thought did not have much to do with this passage of Scripture.

In the vision I saw many lambs all going humbly into God's Temple. In the temple they all merged into one sacrificial lamb who was sacrificed on the altar. Then a kingly lion arose from the altar and roared with a mighty roar from the Temple and the sound echoed from the mountain into the valley and to the sea, shaking all things. Then the lion became many lions going forth from the Temple into the nations with great authority and miracles took place wherever they went.

Now I see that this vision fits perfectly into Malachi 3:1-4. Malachi is actually prophesying about the coming of John the Baptist before the first coming of the Lamb of God, Jesus. Jesus came to cleanse the natural temple in anticipation of cleansing the spiritual temple, the Church. We as the Church are awaiting His second coming as the mighty lion of Judah, who comes as a refiners fire.

The vision is actually a picture of what God wants to do in His church before His final return. We are to come together as one offering, each of us a living sacrifice through the one perfect sacrifice of Christ Himself. Only offerings in Christ are acceptable. We must all come humbly as lambs to offer ourselves before God through the blood of the Lamb until we become one living sacrifice.

As we come together, Jesus , the Lamb of God will come and make us one body in Him. He will come to cleanse us and raise us up as the mighty army of the Lion of Judah. Then we will be prepared as His army to go forth into the nations declaring His might name with signs and wonders following.

Poem

Lord may I come to you as a lamb,
Humbly to sacrifice all I am.
Then You will cleanse us and raise us high,
And, as lions our united roar will shake the sky!


Prayer

"Father, prepare us, Your church, for You second coming. Come into Your Temple and cleanse us. Let us come together as one living sacrifice to glorify Your name and then rise up as Your end-time army to storm the gates of hell and save the lost. Amen!"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Which Tabernacle are you in?


Passage

"So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD. Then he distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the LORD God of Israel."
1 Chronicles 16:1-4 (NKJV)

Pondering

Following on from my thoughts about Blueprints and Game plans, I have been contemplating the differences between the Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacle of David. The Tabernacle of Moses was given as a blueprint to Moses when he was on Mount Sinai. The Tabernacle of Moses was the pattern and place of worship for God's people until the Ark of the Covenant was plundered by the Philistines. When the Ark was finally retrieved it was not returned to the Tabernacle of Moses on Mount Gibeon but spent time in priest's houses before being taken by David into the Tabernacle he had erected for it on Mount Zion.

If The Tabernacle of Moses is God's blueprint for worship, then the Tabernacle of David is God's game plan for worship! We are in the Church age where God is restoring Tabernacle of David worship (see Acts 15:16-17). The Tabernacle of Moses speaks of worship under the Law. It had many items of furniture that had to be accessed by the priests in a particular order to enter into God's presence (e.g first was the altar where sacrifices were offered and then the priest went to the Brazen Laver to wash). The Tabernacle of David, however, was a simple tent with only the Ark of the Covenant (God's manifest presence) in the middle.

In the Tabernacle of Moses only the High Priest could enter in before the Ark of the Covenant but in the Tabernacle of David all the priests could freely go before the Ark with expressive worship in song and probably dance too (not seen in the Tabernacle of Moses). Now, it must be understood that the Tabernacle of David did not do away with the truths about worship expressed in the Tabernacle of Moses, indeed the Tabernacle of Moses actually brought those truths into fulness and full liberty (just as Christ fulfilled the Law and brought us into grace).

The Bible teaches us that the Law is like a school teacher leading us into maturity in Christ (Galatians 3:24). We're not meant to remain in the restrictions of the blueprint but we are to move onto the freedom there is in His grace game plan! In worship this means we are not to follow the Tabernacle of Moses rigidly as a model of worship, religiously going step by step into God's presence. We are to enter the freedom of worship expressed in the Tabernacle of David where all of the truths of the Tabernacle of Moses are given a freedom in His Spirit. Being filled with His Spirit gives us wisdom to know His will (Ephesians 5:17-18)l and His way of worship. It is significant that after King Solomon had asked God for wisdom at Gibeon (before the Tabernacle of Moses) his first step of wisdom was to go and sacrifice to God at the Tabernacle of David on Mount Zion (1 Kings 3:15).

Let us enter wisely by the Spirit into the kind of free worship that the Tabernacle of David speaks of. It was here that many of the Psalms spontaneously came forth as new and spiritual songs. Let us burst forth into new spiritual songs as His priests in the freedom of worship brought to us by Christ!

Poem

Take me past the outer courts, into Your Holy place,
Not by clever method but by Your loving embrace,
Lead me past the brazen altar with the sacrifice of praise,
Not by rigid order but by grace my hands I raise.


Prayer

"Lord, I ask for Your wisdom to worship you in Spirit and in Truth, to worship You freely like in the Tabernacle of David. Lead me on into free, dynamic and powerfully prophetic worship. Amen."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Does God have a Blueprint for my Life? Part 1


Passage

"For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.." Ephesians 2:10

Pondering

There is a Spiritual Urban Legend (SUL) that says "God has a Blueprint for my life". This SUL causes one to believe something like, "Every little detail of my life is in God’s blueprint and I need to seek His specific will for each step that I take as there’s only one right option." This belief is backed up by such verses as Ephesians 2:10, which is interpreted as meaning that God has mapped out every step of our life and there are specific activities we are to do if we are to remain his perfect master pieces!

This all leads to the faulty assumption that for each one of us, there is only one right spouse, one right church, one right school or college, one right job, one right house and the list goes on and on! However, if you take this thinking to its literal conclusion we have many problems.

What if God only has one wife or one husband for you in the whole world and, in a moment of weakness, someone else marries them? Wouldn't that also mess it up for the right one they were supposed to marry (and the chain reaction would go on and on). You may say that God would stop such a thing from happening, but then He would be over-riding the free will that He has given us.

As we will see in the next few days devotions, this belief leads to many dangerous results and is not what the Bible really shows us concerning God's will. God does have all planned out for us, but only He is outside time and space and can view that blueprint objectively and properly. From our side of heaven the blueprint is not the best metaphor for our life journey.

Poem

Does God have only one spouse in storage for you and me?
What if someone else wins their heart and they marry?
What about the person destined to be with the other one?
Oh no! This has set of a chain reaction like an atomic bomb!


Prayer

"Father, keep me from the trap of a "blueprint mentality" where you only have one right choice. in every situation. Help me to have the wisdom to make right choices based on what Your Word really shows me concerning Your will. Amen."

Does God have a Blueprint for my Life? Part 2


Passage

"For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.." Ephesians 2:10

Pondering

There are three dangerous results of this SUL.

1. Paralyzed by Fear - This faulty thinking can cause one to say something like, "I can’t see the next part of the blueprint, I’m scared I’ll miss it so I’ll just wait until I see clearer ." Often this means that Christians are hesitant to go into any form of "ministry" or make any major decisions (such as getting married or moving jobs) until they receive a thunderbolt from heaven, some clear sign from God (usually backed up by many so called "God-incidences"). This is not to say that God does not give specific guidance. He did not put up His nose to Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:26-40), twice giving Gideon clear signs that He would use him to save Israel (something He had already clearly spoken to him). But, remember, this was at a time that Israel was under threat of destruction by the Midianites. It was a crucial and decisive time in the history of God’s people so crucial and decisive direction and action was needed.

2. Preoccupied Focus - This spiritual myth can cause one to say something like, "I must focus on my blueprint at all times even if it means I can’t see anything else". We can be so preoccupied with "not missing His best" that we miss opportunities to show justice, mercy and obedience to God’s revealed will (revealed in His Word). We may be so concerned with looking into His blueprint for our life that it actually becomes an obstacle, a blockage to really seeing the way ahead. We may become like a builder walking around with the blueprint in his face knocking into existing structures and treading on other people’s feet! It’s like the single who makes an impressive list of all he is looking for in a bride (that He believes to be God’s blueprint) that he fails to ask, "Why would such a perfect bride want to marry someone like me?"

3. Punished by Failure - Another dangerous result of such un biblical thinking is that it could lead us to say something like, "Oh no! I got it wrong, my boss will be mad at me as I’ve messed up the blueprint". A blueprint makes no room for flexibility. What is written in ink is the final plan and cannot be changed. This view sees God as some tyrannical architect who is not pleased with us unless we’re following His blueprint 100%. What happens if we believe God has only one partner for us to marry and we later marry out of desperation and find ourselves in a marriage we believe to be out of God’s will? Should we seek divorce and continue our hunt for Mr. or Mrs. Right or remain in the relationship under a punishing cloud of failure? Of course not, both options given are not God’s will.

Poem

If there's really only one right way for me to go,
And I sit around waiting but never know,
I'm like a rabbit in the headlight's blaze
That freezes in fear and dies in a daze.

If i'm forever seeking God's blueprint for me,
Then His justice, mercy and obedience i'll not see,
And I'll walk around with the plan in my face
And knock into all things and people all over the place!

And when I finally do make a move
I may find that I've missed the groove!
Then i'll walk under a black cloud of failure,
And sit around in fear year after year.


Prayer

"Father, keep me from the fear, wrong focus and failure of the "blueprint mentality". Give me Your wisdom to walk in your ways as revealed in Scripture,. Amen."

Does God have a Blueprint for my Life? Part 3

Passage

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2

Pondering

All that we have seen so far about the myth that God has a blueprint for us brings us to ask the question, "What then is God’s will?"

The main Greek word use for God’s will is "Thelema", which is usually said to mean something like, "a specific intent referring to the plan, will and purpose of God". This understanding actually comes from the modern meaning of the word "will" and not the actual meaning from Bible times.

With this faulty understanding, verses containing the word "will" in reference to God mean His specific blueprint. Hence, Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God", is seen as meaning we must find out God’s specific actions for us that are good, acceptable and perfect (some interpretations split His will into three categories, the first (His good will) being inferior to the second (His acceptable will) and the second inferior to the last (His perfect will), but this actually contradicts the blueprint mentality which says that there’s only one perfect choice and all the rest are just plain wrong).

However, the actual meaning, and the meaning that the original co-authors and recipients of the Bible would have understood, is better expressed as "God’s preference, His desires for the way we conduct our lives." His will is His stated preference, desire and mode of conduct as revealed in the canon of Scripture. Hence, the real meaning of Romans 12:2 is seen to be that God’s preference, and desire for us in every situation is totally good, pleasing and perfect (read "mature"). As we understand His preferences and desires from Scripture we’ll walk in His wisdom and maturity.

Poem

God's will is not some cold, hard set-in-stone narrow way,
That if we slip from it we'll never see the light of day!
But it's a network of love that leads up His holy mountain,
And as we commune with Him he'll lead us to the source of the fountain.


Prayer

"Lord, teach me Your ways, help me to understand and live in the light of your holy will, your preferences and desires for the way I conduct my life. Amen."

Does God have a Blueprint for my Life? Part 4


Passage

"For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.." Ephesians 2:10

Pondering

A better term than "Blueprint" for our understanding of God’s will is "Game plan". In a blueprint everything is decided, even down to the smallest details, and should not be changed, especially if the designer is perfect. However, a game plan is a stated plan of execution that has a series of "if..then" statements, allowing for some flexibility and also for mistakes that are inevitably made along the way. A blueprint has only plan A, but a game plan allows for a whole variety of plans (Plan A,B,C,D..) based on the actions of the opposing team and other factors.

Hence, in any decision, we are to seek God’s game plan. Think about choosing the right person to marry, going to the right university, getting the right job. A blueprint mentality would say that there is only one correct choice. A game plan view, however, would follow certain strategies and principles of the game. So in choosing a right partner to marry there are certain guidelines the Bible does give us such as seeking for a fellow Christian of similar maturity and vision (and there may well be more than one who meets these criteria).

This is not to say that God does not give specific direction when needed. Think of the guidance given to Paul and his team as they wanted to enter Bithynia (Acts 16:7-9) - the Holy Spirit forbade them to go east but instead gave a vision of the Macedonia man, showing they were to continue west into Europe. God’s game plan was missions, discipling the nations according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and with a westward emphasis. Paul was busy doing this, using the strategy he understood from Scripture with the wisdom he had gained by the Holy Spirit. As he was about to step a bit out of the game plan the Lord intervened with specific direction. However, Paul was not hunting for this direction but busy doing what he considered to be the will of God.

So, Ephesians 2:10 could be best expressed as "For we are God’s spiritual soccer team, hand picked by the manager’s son, Jesus, and coached by the Holy Spirit to follow a good game plan that’s already been prepared and presented to us by the coach from Scripture." Indeed the manager’s son is the world’s best and He is our elder brother, His name is Jesus. We are sons and daughters of the manager and destined for a glorious and famous win against the best team the world can throw at us!

Poem

I'm part of God's spiritual soccer team,
The goal is "The Lost to redeem",
The game plan is reaching every tribe and tongue
Ministering with my God-given gifts to old and young.


Prayer

"Father, mature me in understanding and moving in Your gameplan for every area of my life. Let Your Word dwell in me richly so I can constantly make choices wisely and glorify Your name. Amen."

Does God have a Blueprint for my Life? Part 5


Passage

"For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.." Ephesians 2:10

Pondering

In order to understand and move in God’s Game plan we need to:

1. Master the Basics - Know and keep the basic disciplines and rules of the game.

Just like a soccer player needs to go through basic disciplines and keep the basic rules of the game so Christians need to have their spiritual disciplines (personal prayer, worship, Bible reading, fellowship etc..) and basic obedience to God’s laws firmly in place. For example, a Christian who is staying and sleeping with his girlfriend may be asking if she is the right one to marry. The first thing he should do is repent of fornication and live separately from her and then follow God’s game plan for marriage, whilst building up an effective prayer and worship life and understanding of the Bible in fellowship with other Christians.

2. Move Biblically - Think and act according to the ethics and codes of the game.

A soccer player may know all the basic rules of the game but then get on pitch and start shooting at their own goal! They would not be breaking any basic rule as such but it is something that is not helpful for the team to win the match! In the same way, as Christians we may not be breaking any basic laws of God but we may not be doing things with a Biblical mind set. One example of this is a pastor who gets involved in a get rich quick pyramid scheme saying that the money can be used for God’s kingdom (this is ethically wrong according to the Biblical mind set - see Proverbs 28:20).

3. Modify our Bearings - Fine tune from experience and the Coaches guidance.

Even when we have mastered the basics and are moving with a Biblical mind set we are still sinners saved by grace and can make mistakes. Even seasoned soccer players occasionally need the coach to correct them. We have already seen that the Apostle Paul was moving within God’s game plan until he tried to go to Bithynia and then the coach (the Holy Spirit) had to intervened supernaturally to redirect him. This is the role of the prophetic, pointing out God’s specific game plan for the moment and giving further guidance and correction when needed.

Poem

To really enter into God's great game plan,
We must firstly know the rules of the game.
Then with daily discipline, run as Jesus ran
And, as Jesus, think and do the same.


Prayer

"Lord, help me to join in your great game plan by mastering the basics, moving Biblically and modifying my bearing as led by Your Holy Spirit. Amen!"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Engaging in God Part 1


Passage

"So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household. Now it was told King David, saying, "The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." 2 Samuel 6:10-12a (NKJV)

Pondering

Previously the Ark of the Covenant, God's manifest presence, had rested in Abinadab's house for some years (1 Samuel 7:1) . There's no mention of Abinadab's house being blessed as Obed-Edom's was, and all within only three months. What was the difference between Abinadab and Obed-Edom?

I believe the difference is summed up in the word ENGAGEMENT. Obed-Edom invited and welcomed the Ark (glorious presence of God) into his home. He engaged with God where Abinadab did not (even though they both had the Ark in their house).
Two Christians can have God in their life by being born again, but only one may be experiencing the blessing of God as only they are engaging in God!

WHEN THE INVITATION GOES UP, THE BLESSING COMES DOWN!

Obed-Edom worshipped with real worship, with all his heart inviting God's presence into his house. As a result God blessed him and his whole household. Abinadab had years with the ark in his house, but never really engaged with God. He and his sons just practiced a dead, dull religious formality of "worship" before the Ark.

Let us decide today to engage with God. Invite His presence into your life. Worship Him in spirit and in truth and experience His blessings in your life.

Poem

The Ark may be in your house,
But is your heart in the Ark?
Invite the Lord to be your spouse,
And He will lighten up your dark!


Praise

"Lord, let me engage with You like never before. I don't want to go day by day with you living in me by Your Spirit and yet never really engaging with You. Lord, I long to worship you more and hunger and thirst after you like Obed -Edom and his household did. Let Your blessing fall on me and my household as I do this. Amen!"

Engaging in God Part 2

Passage

"So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household. Now it was told King David, saying, "The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." 2 Samuel 6:10-12a (NKJV)

Pondering

When we ENGAGE in true worship to the Lord He blesses us:

1. PERSONALLY ("the LORD blessed Obed-Edom"v11).

As Obed-Edom pressed on into real, abandoned worship, the Lord poured out His blessing on his life. His name means "Servant of Edom". Edom comprised of the peoples descended from Esau. Esau had missed out on the promised line inheritance due to selling his birthright to his brother Jacob. As a result he and his line were cast off by the Lord. However, Obed-Edom refused to live under the curse of the pass and pressed on in to engage with the Lord. Because of this the Lord blessed him in spirit, soul and body. In Christ every curse of the past has been broken and we can press in to claim every spiritual blessing.

2. RELATIONALLY ("and all his household" v11).

Not only was Obed-Edom personally blessed but his whole household was too. The whole house had an atmosphere of true worship and his wife and kids were mightily blessed. Their relationship with each other would have blossomed and been wonderful too. If you fill your household with the fragrance of engaged worship then the blessing will go from you to your household and it will truly become a heaven on earth. I can remember an occasion where my our household was very tense, full of anger and frustration. I went into my office and worshipped until the Lord broke through, blessed me and changed the atmosphere in the house so that we ended up laughing together!

3. COMPLETELY ("and all that belongs to him" v12).

Not only was he personally and relationally blessed but all he owned (property and possessions) was blessed with abundance and fruitfulness. As you engage with Him in real worship even your electrical appliances, car, furniture, business acumen and so forth will be blessed! I can remember a time when our video player broke down and I went into worship with my guitar and when I tried the player it worked perfectly!

Poem

Engage in God in abandoned praises,
His blessings will pour down as the worship rises.
Your whole house will be filled with his fragrant spices,
And all you own will be free from ungodly crises.


Prayer

"Father, I do not seek your blessing, I seek Your face. AS I engage in You in worship I know that I will be blessed and so will my household and all I own. Blessed be You glorious name. Amen."

Engaging in God Part 3

Passage

"So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household. Now it was told King David, saying, "The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." 2 Samuel 6:10-12a (NKJV)

Pondering

We have seen that Obed-Edom and his household was blessed as he remained in God’s presence. Scripture says that the Ark 'remained’ in his house. The word 'remained' in Hebrew means 'dwelt , communed, married''

We ENGAGE GOD by:

1. COMMUNING - first thing.

Our quiet time with the Lord should start first thing in the morning. This time is not a business proposition where we come with our agenda and lists of things to discuss, but an intimate relationship where we commune with the Lord. Another word for 'remain' is 'abide". As we abide in Him then we will bear much fruit as apart from Him we can do nothing. I love to sing intimate worship songs and spend time communing with the Lord in the morning.

2. COMMUNICATING - Through day.

Our time of communing with Him at the start of the day should spill over into all that we do and say as we journey through the day. We can communicate with Him, asking for His wisdom and direction as we meet different situations. I call these times of communicating "arrow prayers" - sometime t is a simple "help Lord", other time it's "what would you have me communicate to this person Lord?". They are quick prayers to communicate with the Lord all through the day, even if we are very busy.

3. CALIBRATING - At end of the day.

When we come to the end of the day it is a good practice to take time to calibrate our relationship with the Lord. Calibration means "to ensure accuracy of something: to test and adjust the accuracy of a measuring instrument or process" (Encarta Dictionary). This is a time where we go over the day with the Lord and assess how accurate we were in following His leading and living as He would want us to. As the Spirit to shine His light on your inner life, revealing anything that needs repenting of or fine tuning in your life.

This process of Communing, Communicating and Calibrating will allow us to remain in His presence day after day.

Poem

Early in the morning
Bow down and love Him deeply,
Then rise up and launch forth
To obey Him completely.

Speak to Him in busy times
In things big and small,
Incline your ear to hear Him,
Be attentive to His call.

Then at the end of the day,
When all is said and done,
Pause to seek his correcting words
And then sleep sound in the Son!


Prayer

"Lord, Help me to remain , to abide in You and You in me, just as Obed-Edom remained in Your presence and Your presence remained with Him. Every Day strengthen me to commune, communicate and calibrate with you. Amen."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

D-Day


Passage

"As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?"

Psalm 42:1-2 (NKJV)

Pondering

According to the Encarta Dictionary D-Day is the "day when operation is to begin: a day chosen for the beginning of a military operation or other major venture". As I was preparing for the Tuesday Night Prayer meeting I sensed the Lord say that it would be "D-Day". As I prayed further my attentions were led to Psalm 42 where I heard these three couplets: The Deers will Drink, The Downcast will Dance and Deeper and Deeper!

For us to reach our D-Day, we need to pant for the River of God like a thirsty deer. This is not just a whim but a passionate desire to drink from His goodness and come to His River of pleasure and purpose. We need to realize our emptiness before Him and seek for the River. If we seek with all of our hears He will bring us there.

It is at the river (with the multitudes that keep the pilgrim feast - v4) that our downcast souls need to be commanded to hope in God and praise Him (v5). It's as our souls choose to praise Him, even when so cast down, that He shines His countenance on us and takes us into the depths of the river (v7).

As "deep calls to deep at the noise of Your waterfalls" (v7a) we are taken deep into the river where "His waves and billows have gone over" us (v7b). When you are deep under the waters, even when there is a violent storm above, you do not feel the turbulence above. You are in the stillness and the place where treasures in darkness are found. This is the place the Lord wants to take us as we launch forth from our D-Day, the day we dare to drink deeply like a deer!

Then God promises He will "command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with" us (v8). The downcast soul shall rise up under His glorious countenance to praise Him in song and dance, no matter what storms surround. When the darkness of evil night creeps in the Lord gives us a victorious song and then he helps our countenance (v11) to shine and not be downcast.

AFTER NOTE: I led the congregation through the above journey found in Psalm 42 on Tuesday night and truly the Deers were Drinking (many came forward to drink deeply), the Downcast were Dancing (almost everyone was dancing at the end of the time) and we went Deeper and Deeper with new songs in the night and our countenances shone. The next day I awoke with a smile on my face and such tremendous peace and joy!

Oh! And by the way, all the songs were in the key of D!!!

Poem

Our D-Day is at hand,
Where we enter the Promised land
The operation begins to expand
And enter into all He has planned.

It all starts as thirsty deers,
Casting aside all foreign fears,
And drinking deep from the one who hears,
PIercing through the veil of tears.

He will then wrap us in His waters deep,
And like a revived deer we'll leap
Into the promises He will keep
And a harvest of joy and purpose we will reap.


Prayer

"Father, draw me deeper and deeper into Your river of purpose and delights. Let this be my D-Day where I truly enter into your plans and purposes by thirsting after Your best and let my soul rise up to shine forth your love and joy all the days of my life. Amen!"