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!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lightning bolts and the Fear of the Lord!


Passage

"The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD."

Isaiah 11:2

Pondering

Tonight as I was leading worship in the Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting something very unique happened to me that i've not experienced before. One lady came forward during the worship to read out Isaiah 11:2, asking us to pray for this spiritual anointing.

I started to read out loud this passage of Scripture, praying for each aspect of the spirit's anointing to come upon us and I was just coming to the conclusion. I said "The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear.....", then it happened. I was standing behind the pulpit, and as I said the word "fear" what seemed like a lightning bolt from heaven knocked me off my feet, literally!

I'm sure people were bending their heads to see me sprawled out behind the pulpit, wondering if I really was slain by the Spirit and had gone to meet my maker! All I knew was that some physical force like electricity had hit me and I was knocked to the floor and found my self prostrated face to the ground in utter awe and adoration of my living God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of it all. If we want wisdom then we must first fear God. Fearing God is not negative fear such as fear of a tyrant who is angry or unpredictable. It is reverential fear that realizes that no unholiness can stand in His presence.

Lord hit me again with the lightning bolt of the Fear of the Lord that I may love you and serve you more and more.

Poem

The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me
To bring good news to the poor.

The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me
To proclaim the year of the Lord.

.The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me
To bind up the broken heart.

The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me now,
The Spirit of the Lord God's upon me
To set the captives free.


(New song given during Tuesday prayer meeting, 25th August 2009)

Prayer

"Father, as I ask for Your wisdom I'm painfully aware that it all starts with fearing You. Teach me what it means to fear you and not fear man. Hit me witth a lightning bolt of the Fear of the Lord! Amen!."

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Help of our Countenance


Passage

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you so disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." Psalm 43:5 (NKJV)

Pondering

After I came back from Church on Sunday I sat down and watched an old Doctor Who TV episode on DVD.This is a UK TV series about a Time Lord who travels through time righting wrongs. In the episode I watched the Doctor thwarted a threat from the Sigorax, a hostile alien race who came in a huge spaceship to destroy Earth. As the spaceship was leaving, and the Doctor and his team were celebrating, a haggard looking Prime Minister gave the decision to shoot down the spaceship.

When the spaceship debris was raining down on London the Doctor turned angrily to the Prime Minister and said to her, "I can bring your government down with only six words". He then went aside with her (yes, a female prime minister) aide and whispered into his ear, "Don't you think she looks tired?" Eventually, the strain of office did get to her and her government was overthrown. All because of six words that indicated a downcast countenence!

In this Psalm we see that our countenance is effected by the state of our soul. If our soul is downcast within us then our countenance will be downcast. The remedy is praising God. We can actually speak to our souls, "Hey Soul! Get a grip! Why are you in such a blue mood? Come on and praise the Lord right now."

Say this to your soul right now and choose to praise God for who He is and what He has done. We praise Him not only when we feel like it but especially when we don't. We can choose to command our soul to praise Him and He will strengthen us to do so! This is how David strengthened himself in the Lord and we too can do the same thing.

He is the glory and the lifter of our head. Amen!

Poem

If your soul is feeling blue,
And your face shows it too,
It's time for a praise renew,
And you'll surely get a breakthrough!



Prayer

"Father, thankyou that you are always worthy to be praised no matter what I go through. I choose to command my soul to praise You in every situation, good or bad. Soul! Praise the Lord. now! Hallelujah! Amen!"

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Does a Godly Home Guarantee Godly Kids? Part 1


Passage

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Acts 16:31 (NKJV)

Pondering

This SUL (Spiritual Urban Legend) says something like, "The Bible promises that if you bring up your kids properly in the ways of the Lord they will eventually be strong in the faith.." People will confidently base this assumption on one or two main verses of Scripture, the commonest being Proverbs 22:6 and Acts 16:31.

Both of these verses are taken as promises by the Lord that if we do the right things in bringing up our kids then they will turn out great in the end, even if they stray away for a while.

The problem is that this erroneous thinking leads to three possible and very damaging results with faulty reasoning attached to them:

False Guilt: "My kids have turned out wrong so I must be at fault."
False Hope: "My kid is a mess now but I’ve done all the right things so they will come back to the Lord eventually."
Foolish Pride: "My kids are great. I’ve done all the right things. Yours are a mess, so you must be at fault!"

In the next few days devotionals we will see that these mind sets are not Bible based and will cause untold hurts if we embrace them. IF you have said any of the faulty statements above ask God to forgive you and calm your heart to have the right perspective.

Poem

I did all things right, my kids came out wrong,
I sang God's tune, they sang another song!
I blame myself and so do those around,
But this blame game really has no solid ground.


Prayer

"Father, help me to be the best parent I should be and to look at other parents in love, helping them and not hindering them from being the best parents they can possibly be. Steer me away from false guilt, false hope and foolish pride in all matters related to parenthood. Amen!"

Does a Godly Home Guarantee Godly Kids? Part 2

Passage

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Acts 16:31 (NKJV)

Pondering

Underlying the erroneous thinking that "A Godly Home Guarantees Godly Kids" is a wrong understanding of what the Bible actually teaches. As mentioned, Proverbs 22:6 and Acts 16:31 are seen as iron-clad promises to be claimed and, as long as we do our part, the promise will definitely come into reality.

However, let us look deeper at these verses and see what the verses actually teach us. We'll look at four points, two today and two tomorrow:

1. Proverbs are not promises and Biblical narratives contain observations not hard and fast teachings.

Proverbs are general God-breathed observations on life put into a short, pithy statement. They are generally correct but there can be exceptions to the rule. The righteous aren’t always honored. The wicked sometimes succeed. The diligent can lose it all. The lazy can strike it rich and kids brought up well in the Lord can still be rebellious, even to the end.

Acts 16:31 are not God’s words, but the God-inspired words of Paul and Silas to the Philippian Jailer. They are right in his situation but are not a universal promise to be claimed by parents of all eras.

2. The Hebrew word for "Train" in Proverbs 22:6 is "chanak" (strongs 2596), which is best interpreted as "dedicate".

Our kids are to be dedicated to the Lord from the start. Just like Hannah dedicated Samuel to the service of the Lord, naming him prophetically as one who would lead Israel to hear the Lord once more (his name means "heard of the Lord"). This proverb only refers to one aspect of child-rearing, that is dedicating your kids to what the Lord has in store for them and helping them to succeed in this with proper discipline and spiritual guidance.

So, even though there is no hard and fast promise that our kids will turn out right when we bring them up rightly, this is generally the case. Hence, we need to dedicate our kids to His ways for them and He'll take care of the rest.

Poem

Train a kid in the way he should go
Does not mean that he will steal the show.
In fact he may be stolen by another crowd,
So we need humility and not be over proud.


Prayer

"Father, help me dedicate my kids (physical or spiritual) to Your way, not mine or theirs. Let me have the spirit of Hannah who committed Samuel to your service and allowed him to go in your ways. Amen."

Does a Godly Home Guarantee Godly Kids? Part 3

Passage

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Pondering

We continue to counter the faulty belief that "A Godly Home Guarantees Godly Kids" . Let us continue to look at the next two observations that help us interpret Proverbs 22:6 properly:

3. "In the way he should go" not "the way you want him to go" or even "the way he wants to go".

This ties in with what we had seen the meaning of "train" in this verse. We are to dedicate our kids not to our own dreams, or even their own earthly dreams, but to God’s dream for them. That is the way they should go - the way He has prepared for them beforehand (Ephesians 2:10), as He knows best and is their creator. This means we need to pray for them, help them discover God’s gifts and calling on their lives and mentor them in this pursuit.

4. "Will not turn from it" is not the same as "will turn back".

As mentioned, some interpret Proverbs 22:6 as meaning that if they train their kids properly in the Lord (and there are many theories on what this actually means), even if their kids turn away and become rebellious, God promises they will come back again eventually. However, as we have seen, a proverb is not a promise and this proverb says nothing of the sort anyway. It says that, generally, if parents dedicate their kids in God’s way, they will not even turn away in the first place!

Hence, Proverbs 22:6 is a general scenario but it does have exceptions. If a kid is trained in all the rights ways he or she should turn out well, but if he or she does not there’s no guarantee that he or she will come back. The only guarantee is that God is good and He knows what He’s doing . As parents, therefore, we can only lift the wayward kid into God’s hands and , like the Prodigal Father, pray he or she comes home.

Poem

Let me not live my dreams
Through my kids.
So that their screams
Don't pierce my ear-lids!

Let me draw out the gifts
God has placed within.
So my training lifts
Them closer to Him.


Prayer

"Father help me not to live out my own dreams through my kids (physical or spiritual), but help me to draw out the gifts and abilities you have fashioned them with to be a blessing in this world and beyond. Amen."

Does a Godly Home Guarantee Godly Kids? Part 4

Passage

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Pondering

The SUL (Spiritual Urban Legend) that "A Godly Home Guarantees Godly Kids" is based on some fundamental non-Biblical beliefs.

1. Children are born sinners not blank slates.

Modern parental techniques are very much influenced by the teaching on Psychologist B. F. Skinner. Skinner believed that children are born as blank slates, able to be shaped and molded in any direction so long as we use the proper rewards and stimuli. This teaching leads to the belief that parents make or break a kid by their parenting methods and the environment in which they raise their kids.

However, this does not square up with what the Bible teaches. In Scripture we see the proclamation of David, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5), which is in agreement with many other Scriptures teaching that, since Adam and Eve, all humans are born with the sin nature (see also Ezekiel 18:1-20, Jeremiah 17:9,Romans). 5:12).

There’s such a thing as a willful child. You can train up three kids so they turn out great and godly and then use the exact same methods but see the fourth child become a rebel. In this case the parents are not at fault, their child bears the blame as they have let sin take control.

2. The best surroundings do not guarantee the best sons and daughters.

Skinner’s legacy has led people to believe that if you have the picture perfect home then you will raise picture perfect kids. However, as we have seen, sin spoils that perfect picture and, as kids grow up, they become responsible to live right before God. Even with the best training they can still choose the wrong path!

This is best illustrated by going right back to the start of mankind. Remember the Garden of Eden? There probably has never been such a perfect environment since then. God, the perfect father (and mother come to think of it) trained his first children in the best way possible and in the best environment. But they still rebelled!

3. Parents are basically stewards so stop blame shifting (or boastfully showing off!).

Children are a blessing from the Lord, they are not ours to own but belong to Him and we are put as stewards over them. Parents, therefore, are NOT responsible for how their kids turn out but they are responsible for how they raise them. They are accountable for INPUT not OUTPUT.

Unfortunately, most times parents are blamed for the way their children turn out, often piling much false guilt onto already hurting hearts. Only God knows if a faulty child is the result of parental neglect, parental heavy handedness or the child’s own willful rebellion.
If, like Eli in the Bible, the parents are at fault (1 Samuel 3:13), then God will deal with them without our unhelpful intervention.

The other extreme is also quelled by seeing parents as stewards. We have no right to boastfully show off if our kids turn out well as we are simply performing a servants role. We are not the owners of our kids, God is. If anyone gets praise for how well kids turn out then it is God, not the parents.

So in conclusion: Give it your BEST SHOT then BE STILL!

Poem

Just as Adam and Eve had the best parent,
And they lived in the best place,
So kids can grow up to resent
And turn away their face
Even living in the best home
Their hearts can take off and roam.
But like God extended out His grace
We too must give mercy it's rightful place.


Prayer

"Father, keep me from all the traps of parenthood and from judging other parents wrongly. Let me be a humble steward of all you give me, especially my kids. Amen."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aeroplanes and Rockets


Passage

"After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne."
Revelation 4:1-2 (NKJV)

Pondering

The glory realm is a place we can be caught up into. It is the very Throne room of God where only one focus is possible - The King on the Throne. It's all about Him and His will in the glory realm. In the Bible, those who were taken up into the glory realm lived and walked in His glory and signs and wonders followed them. Think of the Apostle Paul who as captured up into the realm (2 Corinthians 12:4) and then moved in an exciting grace-filled ministry that saw many signs and wonders.

In the glory realm ministry becomes exciting, easy and a great joy. It's like the difference between being ground bound and then flying higher and higher until eventually you hit outer space. On the ground it is impossible for us to carry a car with one hand! In outer space it is no problem at all.

Just like the earth has many "atmospheres", so the spiritual life has "atmospheres". In the natural we have the Troposphere, which is the realm in which we live on the ground. Then we have the Stratosphere with the Ozone Layer and where jets and planes whizz about. Then we break through to the Mesosphere which is really the beginning of outer space. This sphere can only be reached by Rockets.

Many Christians are still struggling in the spiritual Troposphere , weighed down by the gravity of sin, worries, fears and stresses. Some rise up to fly like eagles in the spiritual Stratosphere. But very few break through to the Spiritual Mesosphere where the glory realm is and the will of God is the main focus and signs and wonders are every day occurences.

Notice that Aeroplanes do not have a strong enough structure to puncture through to the Mesosphere. They would break up if they tried. Only Rockets can pierce through. Man-made structures are torn apart in the Mesosphere and only God's Rockets survive. I believe the Rocket is like our abandoned prayer, praise and worship unto Him. As we pierce through in Spirit-Led prayer and Praise then we will experience the glory realm. We have been seeing this in our Tuesday Night Prayer Meetings the last few weeks. Throne Room New Songs have been breaking forth and the glory of the Lord is being glimpsed (with spontaneous healings as we worship). But there's so much more!

Let's pierce through into the spiritual Mesosphere and beyond! Let's be Rockets and not merely Aeroplanes.

Poem

Flying high in the Plane of Successful Christian living,
That's usually the goal of our sacrifice and giving.
The successful structures that fly above the mountains high
Must be set in stone as surely they cause the Church to fly.

But when they are set in stone they sink to the ground,
And God shows us visions of a place where His glory shines around.
It's in the realm beyond where planes fly, where man made structures fail,
Where only the Rockets of true praise and abandoned worship can prevail.


Prayer

"Father, let me glimpse more and more of Your glory realm. Forgive me when I settle for the safe and comfortable "Aeroplane" structures to fly high in my Christian life - well tested prayer techniques, song leading routines, sermon preparation methods and so forth. Take me beyond those to Your higher atmosphere of Glory. Amen!"

Emus and Eagles


Passage

"But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)


Pondering

Over the weekend I had a wonderful time teaching and preaching in Full Gospel Church J.B, Malaysia. After all my hard work I went for a delicious meal with Pastor James. It was the first time i'd ever eaten Emu meat and I was so chuffed to be eating this delicacy that I even took a picture of it on my PDA!

As I was eating the meal I heard the Lord say to me "Many leaders (including me some of the time) and old time Christian in church are like Emus, like overgrown chickens!". I didn't really take this thought into deeper meditation until our staff meeting this morning at church. Pastor Song was talking about the need for us to be like Eagles, not ground-bound, doing things in our own strength. He implied we must fly on the currents of the Holy Spirit.

Then sister Anna had a vision. At first it was a group of chicks with their legs bound at the bottom of a mountain. Then the vision changed into a group of eagles soaring the summit of the mountain. This reminded me of my Emu meal. Suddenly it dawned on me what the Lord meant. Like the chicks, the Emu is a ground-bound bird but it is much bigger, more impressive and quite fast. However, one thing it cannot do is fly.

In the same way we can be fat christians, full of knowledge of the word. We can be tall, upright and impressive looking with all our refined Christian posturing and even very fast in running in the ministry for Him. However, without wings we're ground-bound and not breaking through into the glorious ministry God has for us. The wings are faith and love. We need faith in the Lord and the Love of the Lord so we can soar higher and see further for Him. Soaring far above fleshly, ground ministry, far above the clouds.

Poem

A big, fat, furious Emu,
That's what many of us are.
Looking good and standing tall,
And going so very far.

But one thing that is missing
On the emu's resume
Are wings to fly so very high,
And leave the ground so far,far away.

Without You I am nothing,
An eagle without wings.
But with You even mountains move,
And above the clouds my spirit sings.


Prayer

"Father God, help me to soar like and eagle and not run gound-bound like the emu. Lord, strengthen my faith so I can boldly flap my wings of faith and love and leave all fleshly, earth-bound ministry to be led by Your Spirit. Amen!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

The G Race


Passage

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)

"...looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;" Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV)

Pondering

Today I was preparing for my teaching on New Testament Survey. There was one pictoral outline of the epistle of Hebrews that caught my eye. It has pictures of all the things Christ is better than on the left hand side. On the right are the cloud of witnesses watching on as a person (representing me) stands before an upwards race track leading to Jesus on His throne. On the track, in big letters is GRACE. Suddenly saw that word as being 'G Race' - the Grace Race.

We are called to throw aside all that hinders us running in His grace. One big thing that hinders us in this race is bitterness, by which we "fall short of the grace of God". Just yesterday I almost fell into a trap of bitterness! There was a quiz on Facebook that I took showing me the ideal location that I should be living in. The conclusion was that I should be living in the countryside by a river in beautiful solitude. Actually this is my ideal dream place and a pang of longing came over me when I read this and saw the attached picture. I could have followed through the thought process and started to blame God for bringing me to this concrete jungle with so many people and get bitter at Him. But I didn't.

This feeling had also come a few days earlier when I saw a friend from Singapore who was going on a trek in the Lake District, England, my favorite place of all. I felt a bit trapped here in Singapore and longed to escape to such a place. However, I started to think of God's grace in my life and the undeserved favour lavished on me. He has given me a wonderful wife and three great kids. He has led me into ministering in a fantastically supportive Church fellowship and opened many doors to teach His word in the nations. Just this weekend i'm off to teach New Testament Survey in Malaysia. This is enough. His grace is enough.

I will run the G Race.

Poem

Amazing Grace has saved my soul
And set my feet on the track.
I'll run the 'G Race' and be made whole
Pressing onwards, no turning back.


Prayer

"Father, thank you for You amazing Grace towards me. I don't deserve to be where I am with all You have given me. So, out of undying gratitude I will continue to run the "G Race" until that day when we meet face to face. Glory to You always. Amen!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Sound of Many Waters


Passage

"His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters." Revelation 1:15
"And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne.." Revelation 14:2-3a
"..the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters.." Revelation 19:6

Pondering

As I was preparing to lead worship for Tuesday night's prayer meeting at church I felt the Lord was asking me to lead the congregation in "new songs". As I pondered on what this meant I was led to the passages in Revelation concerning the sound of many waters. It's interesting that the voice of Jesus is as the sound of many waters, the same as the voice of the multitudes, His saints, gathered worshipping in heaven, who sang "new songs".

As I meditated on these thoughts I realized that God wanted us to sing prophetic new songs that were actually the voice of Jesus as all of us together sang with one voice. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10) - as we sing together new songs with one voice it is the voice and testimony of Jesus and this is the spirit of prophecy.

What the Lord was saying was that we were to sing new songs not just with one person standing with the microphone singing a spontaneous spiritual song, but as one whole body sounding forth as the sound of many waters - each having streams of living waters flowing from them, combining as a whole to form many waters, a mighty river!

As I studied further I realized this "new song" (Psalm 33:3) or "spiritual song" (Ephesians 5:19) was a song of "deliverance" (Psalm 32:7) when sung in congregation. This was the case with Jehoshaphats worshippers who went ahead of the army before the enemy. As they sang a new song of spontaneous prophetic praise (in Hebrew "tehilla" ) "the Lord sent ambushes against" their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:22-23).

At first I was going to lead worship as usual, going through the songs I had prepared. However, the keyboard player turned up late and there were only two other musicians who turned up. After having practiced the songs we went into our pre-service prayer where we pray in the spirit and seek the face of the Lord. During this time the Lord gave me a "new song" (see the poem below). I sang it out and then all the congregation started singing it together. I heard the sound of many waters. After that we went into about an hour of singing almost all "new songs" (one songs we knew - The River of God - and at least five spontaneous "new songs").

Many of the songs were in response to spoken prophecy and directly songs aimed at declaring deliverance (one was declaring deliverance from Giants in our lives such as when David came against Goliath. The words went something like "You come to me with sword and spear, but I have no need to fear, I come to you in the name of the Lord.")

As the "new songs" came forth "as the sound of many waters" in congregational singing there was such a powerful prophetic anointing and the Glory of God filled the place as the waters cover the seas. It was truly wonderful and I believe a fresh revelation from the Lord.This was the most enjoyable time i've had leading worship and very "easy" and "light".

Let's come together and sing new songs, the sound of many waters, songs of deliverance.

Poem

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Praise the Lord
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, glory to His name.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah Praise the Lord,
Yesterday, today and forever the same.


Prayer

"Lord God, You are awesome, so much greater and bigger than we can think or imagine. Let us not limit You but allow You to be who You are and have Your way in our midst. You rejoice over us with singing and we join in that song together as one, a new song, the sound of many waters, songs of deliverance. Take us deeper Lord. Amen!"

Five Suggestions for Surviving Parenthood (pt 1)


Passage

"And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob." Genesis 25:28 (NKJV)

Pondering

We can learn from Isaac and Rebekah's mistakes concerning their failure in bringing up Esau and Jacob.

Firstly, deal with the negatives of the past.
Isaac was overindulged as a child and over-protected. He may have harbored bitterness to his father for not allowing him more freedom to take risks. This could explain why he favoured Esau, his hunting, adventurous child. This also could have caused Isaac to be attached more closely to Sarah, his mother, causing an over reaction of grief at her death and possibly leading to unhealthy comparisons of Rebekah to Sarah in their marriage.

Secondly, develop communication.
We know that Isaac and Rebekah communicated well in body (King Abimelech of the Philistines caught them making out in his court - Gen 26:8- when they were in their sixties!) and in Spirit (as they both are mentioned praying), but they lacked soul communication (communication in mind, will and emotions). Hidden bitterness may have crept in (in Isaac as Rebekah could not conceive, in Rebekah as Isaac became more withdrawn). This lack of communication caused severe problems when they finally had children.

Thirdly, destroy favoritism.
Psychologists warn us that favoritism in the family unit tends to cause serious personality defects in the children. Isaac favoured Esau and Rebekah favoured Jacob. This led to serious problems, with Rebekah and Jacob conspiring to steal the firstborn son blessing. Bitterness and mistrust ruled in their family.

This is something I have become painfully aware of in my own family. Not long ago I was very lenient to my youngest son, Matthew over a small issue. Later my wife told me our daughter, Melody, was crying. I found out that this was because I was very harsh on her when she was younger over the same issue. I was showing clear favoritism to Matthew. After that I have sought to minimize, if not destroy, favoritism (soon after that event I started the practice of 'dating' Melody to see films together and spend time with her and also equal time with my two boys).

Poem

Spend time eye to eye with your spouse early on,
Communicate in body, soul and spirit before the children come.
If not you will spend unequal time with your favorite,
And when the kids are gone you'll look at your spouse and say,
"Who is it?"


Prayer

"Father, I pray you'd help me to communicate effectively with those dearest in my life and not to have favorites. Amen!"

Five Suggestions for Surviving Parenthood (pt 2)

Passage

"So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents."
Genesis 25:27 (NKJV)

Pondering

So far we have seen three things we can learn from Isaac and Rebekah's mistakes concerning their failure in bringing up Esau and Jacob....

Firstly, deal with the negatives of the past.
Secondly, develop communication.
Thirdly, destroy favoritism.


Now let's look at a final two pieces of advice...

Fourthly, draw out their dreams.
Instead of enabling their sons to go the way they were made by God to go, Isaac and Rebekah were living THEIR dreams through their kids. Isaac had lived in a sheltered, low risk-taking relationship with his father and got excited hearing Esau's risky adventures. Rebekah had yearned for someone to communicate emotionally with and Isaac had not satisfied her in this area, so she turned to her home loving son, Jacob. They both despised their other sons as they did not fit into what they were looking for.

As parents the Bible says we must train up our kids "in the way he should go", (Proverbs 22:6) not in the way we want them to go.

Fifthly, display a loving example.
Esau and Jacob were raised with the negative examples of lack of trust and deceit. We see Rebekah listening in on Isaac's conversation with Esau, probably full of bitterness that Isaac does not speak to her in the same manner. She then hears that Isaac plans to bless Esau so she quickly conspires with Jacob to "steal" the blessing through deception (Read Genesis 27:5-8). This environment of lack of trust and deceit is played out in Esau and Jacob's lives as they go into adulthood and only remedied by the grace of God.

But that's another story for another time.

Poem

I want my kid to be a doctor as I failed in that pursuit,
So they can drive to work in my smart pin-stripe suit..
Maybe then they will be like I am. The same as me right now :
Unhappy, unfulfilled and as bored as a munching cow!


Prayer

"Father, help me to be the best parent I can be. If I have kids now help me to release them into your dreams for them, not my dreams. Help me and my spouse display a loving , trusting example to them. If I have no kids now then prepare me to be a good parent in the future, whether to my physical or spiritual offspring. Amen."

The 5 C's of Finding the Right Life Partner (Pt 1)


Passage

"So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac."
Genesis 24:2-4 (NKJV)

Pondering

In Singapore it's a joke that most seek after the 5 C's - Cash, Credit Card, Condo and Country Club membership to be considered successful. Well in order to have a successful marriage we must learn 5 C's from Isaac and Rebekah!

When choosing the right partner we are to seek godly...

1. Christians

Abraham's servant did not search among the ungodly nations around them. Instead he went to Haran to find a bride for Isaac from the chosen line.In the same way we should not go evangelistic dating, hoping the other will turn to Christ as we date them! Normally the opposite happens and the Christian drifts away from the faith (i've witnessed this many times). We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, especially in dating and marriage.

2. Counsel

Isaac chose to listen to the counsel of his father and to the decision of his father's servant. He did not follow his heart as our hearts can mislead us, especially in relationship matters. Young adults and youth of today rarely seek their parent's counsel in relationship matters, but if our parent are godly it is a wise thing to seek their advice. Also, Abraham's servant is a type of the holy spirit who not only searches out a bride for God's son, Jesus, but also searches for our partner if we seek His counsel.

I'll consider the next two C's in my next devotional thought.

Poem

You do not yoke a donkey with an Ox,
That's as dangerous as leaving a chicken with a fox.
Yoking those two will cause angry shoving,
No harvest work will be done and very little loving.


Prayer

"Father, my prayer is for the Christian youth and young adults of today that they would not dive into marriage without waiting on you and seeking godly counsel, allowing you to choose the right partner so they will be equally yoked. Amen."

The 5 C's of Finding the Right Life Partner (Pt 2)

Passage

"And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her and said, "Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher." So she said, "Drink, my lord." Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, "I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking." Genesis 24:15-21 (NKJV)

Pondering

So far we have looked only at the first 2 C's, now we'll consider the next three.
When choosing the right partner we are to seek godly..

1. Christians
2. Counsel
3. Character


Abraham's servant sought for the woman who was not simply beautiful but who was a dedicated and loving servant. His requirement was that the bride-to-be would offer him a drink and also water his ten camels. Now, one camel alone would need about six of Rebekah's water jars - thats sixty rounds of water from the well! This shows us that Rebekah was a hard working servant who thought not of herself but had compassion on others. Christian character is vitally important when you are seeking for the right life partner. Look for signs of selfless service and compassion in the other person above external beauty and an impressive resume.

4. Communing

What was Isaac doing as the servant was out looking for a bride for him?

"And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming.." Genesis 24:63 (NKJV)

Isaac was a man of prayer and he was meditating on the Lord whilst his bride was being brought to him. If you want to get the best spouse, pray for the right one. Spend time meditating on the Lord and seeking His will in all things, especially concerning your life partner.

5. Communication

This is where Isaac and Rebekah failed and later we see the terrible results of bad communication in their relationship. Isaac was a quiet, contemplative type and Rebekah was probably more bubbly and approachable. Their communication probably failed early on and led to terrible things in their marriage.

Tomorrow we will see how this lack of communication effected them and their children.

Poem

Rebekah did not just satisfy one thirsty soul
But ten empty camel humps were made whole.
Her selfless service and enduring grace
Were what put a smile on the servants face.


Prayer

"Father, help me to be the best partner to the one you've chosen for me. Help me to be compassionate and selfless and serve them with endurance all the days we are together. Help me to pray for them and, when we are together, with them, so we can be a powerful team for Your kingdom. Amen.!"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Should we Forgive and Forget?


Passage

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Hebrews 8:12 (NKJV) {see Jeremiah 31:34}

Pondering

There is a Spiritual Urban legend that we must "Forgive and Forget". This commonly teaches us, erroneously, that "Just as God forgives us and forgets our sin so we should forgive others and forget their sin."

At first glance you may say, "Well, isn’t that what the Bible says? Doesn’t Colossians 3:13 teach us that we should forgive as God does and, according to Hebrews 8:12, God "remembers no more" all our sins." But, as we will see, the term "remembers no more" does not mean "forget" as we understand it in modern English.

The key to understanding what the Biblical term "remembers no more" really means is in understanding the Biblical use of "remember". In modern English , "remember" means to not forget. Just by looking at one Biblical use of "remember" we can see this modern meaning is not the same as the Biblical one.

Take Noah, for example. Genesis 8:1 says that "God remembered Noah" after he and his family, and all the animals had been floating around in the Ark for five months. Did God forget all about Noah for five months and needed to be reminded by one of His angels? Can God forget? Isn’t He all knowing? Obviously the Biblical term "remember" means something quite different. Indeed, the best interpretation would be "to respond to and work in a situation or person" (in this case, all those in the Ark).

Conversely, the Biblical meaning of "remember no more" would be "to not respond to and work in a situation or person". So, when the Bible says God remembers our sin no more it means that He does not respond to our sin and work in our lives as we deserve. By His grace we are completely forgiven and do not need to live in shame and separation from Him. He knows all about our past sins, but if we ask His forgiveness through Jesus Christ with real repentance, He casts away ("as far as the east is from the west." Psalm 103:12) the present alienation, shame and guilt that sin brought to us.

That's good news!

Poem

To forgive and forget is what we are told,
Cause God does that, I guess He is old!
Though He knows all things can He forget them too?
How very convenient for me and for you.

It's amazing He forgets the sins of His saints,
Even though His Word records their complaints.
So, if ever God was to read His own word,
He'd suddenly remember, Oh my! That's absurd!


Prayer

"Dear Lord. Thank you that if I confess my sins you are faithful and just to forgive me my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Though you do not forget my sins you do not treat me as my sins demand as Christ has taken all the punishment of death and separation. Praise You Lord for this wonderful news and help me to embrace fully your glorious forgiveness. Amen!"

Forgiving and Forgetting is Impossible

Passage

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:12

Pondering

The Spiritual Urban Legend that we must "Forgive and Forget" is potentially very dangerous. It is not merely a small, innocent mistake of interpretation and understanding. It can cause huge problems in our relationships with God and others.

Firstly, believing we must forgive and forget is dangerous because it is IMPOSSIBLE with the big hurts in our life. Larry Osborne says, "Sure, we can and should forget the little things; the social slights, the unkind word, the fool who jumps our parking space. But when it comes to the true hurts and injustices of life, most of us are keenly aware that self-induced amnesia isn’t in the cards."

How many of you have heard a preacher say that God has turned His back on your repented sins after having tossed them into a deep ocean and then put a sign of "no fishing" there? What they mean by this is that God has forgotten about and covered all your (and others) repented sins and so must you. Don’t go back fishing for their memories and dig up the past. That kind of thinking is all well and good for small hurts and sins of the past. However, some hurts are so huge that they are like icebergs with tips sticking out of the ocean of forgetfulness!

The problem here is that such thinking can cause us to give up seeking forgiveness for the big sins and big hurts of the past. We try and bury them deep in our sub-consciousness but they keep resurrecting to haunt us. We end up paying lip service that we have forgiven those who hurt us so badly, or we have been forgiven for the huge sins we committed long ago, but because we have not fully forgotten them we feel that true forgiveness is out of our reach!

Hence, many Christian walk around with unneeded guilt due to a faulty spiritual urban legend. The truth is that God does not want us to forget really painful memories that have caused much hurt. He wants to heal those memories. To forgive others is not to forget what they have done to us but it is to relinquish our right to hurt back, to give that person a second chance and receive healing of past memories, so when we think of those events all we think of is what our glorious saviour has done to heal and restore us.

He has taken the separating barrier of our past sins away, as far as the east is from the west. When we have fully repented of past sins God can well remember those sins but knows that our repentance has restored our relationship with Him. So, as we remember our past sins and hurts we can rejoice that He has healed those memories and see how great is His love and forgiveness!

Poem

Trying to forgive and forget can cause us to quit,
As we try to throw the big sins in the pit.
To our dismay they are too big to fit,
So we hide them and just let them sit.

True healing comes when we let Him shine the light
Revealing those sins in their depths and their height.
Then seeing His cross is deeper and wider than these
We ask for true forgiveness and fall to our knees.


Prayer

"Thank you Father that your grace is sufficient. No matter how great my sins of the past you forgive them fully and restore me to full relationship with You. Though you and I can still remember those sins we know that they are forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ. A painful, hurtful memory can now be transformed into a time of deep gratitude of where we have come from - looking from the mountain top into a valley of past sin and marvelling at the deliverance. Amen!"

Forgiving and Forgetting is Irresponsible

Passage

"So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."
2 Samuel 12:13-14 (NKJV)

Pondering

Secondly, believing we must forgive and forget is dangerous because it is IRRESPONSIBLE! We can wrongly think that because God has forgotten our sin we must be off the hook when it comes to any consequences of that sin. Hence, a convicted murderer could repent of all his sins and receive forgiveness of his sin of murder. Then he may expect God to miraculously intervene so he does not have to spend any time in jail but be restored to a normal life. Imagine the prisoner’s shock when he learns he has been given a double life sentence without parole. As time goes by he could become hurt, bitter and angry at God for not keeping His word.

When God forgives us he stops treating us as our sin requires (that is, we have restored relationship to God). However, if there are seeds of negative consequences already sown, they will be reaped. This is clearly seen in King David’s life. When the prophet Nathan confronted David with his sins of Adultery and murder he said that God had "put away" his sin but there would still be negative consequences: his baby, the product of that adultery, would die and there would be ongoing problems with his children (which later surface in Amnon’s incest and Absolom’s rebellion).

Was David forgiven? Yes! Did he expect God to take away all negative consequences of his sins? No! But, in the midst of enduring the painful consequences of his sin, he experience renewed relationship with God and supernatural joy in His presence (Psalm 51:11-12). The more damaging our sin is to the testimony we have as a Christian, the more consequences we’ll have to endure even after we have received full forgiveness from God. But the most important thing is that our relationship with God will be fully restored and we’ll experience His love, peace and joy.

Poem

When we sin there's a seed of a weed that is sown,
That continues to grow even when forgiveness is known.
It may damage our garden but one thing it won't do
Is break our relationship with the gardener too.


Prayer

"Father, it's sobering to realize that sins I commit can have a dramatic effect on others. Help me to walk in true godly fear so that I live more and more uprightly, not committing sins that will hurt others. Also, help me to realize that I may be seeing consequences of past sins that have been forgiven. This is a natural outworking of the law of sowing and reaping but it does not mean my relationship with You is broken. Praise You Lord for your amazing grace and mercy lavished upon me.Amen!

Forgiving and Forgetting is Inadvisable

Passage

"Having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."
1 Timothy 1:19-20 (NKJV)
"Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works."
2 Timothy 4:14 (NKJV)

Pondering

Thirdly, believing we must forgive and forget is dangerous because it is INADVISABLE! It is not advisable to forgive others and forget completely what they have done. Why is this so? Because, if they are not fully repentant they can keep coming back to commit the same sin against you and treat you like a mat or a punching bag. You may say, "But didn’t Jesus teach us to turn the other cheek?" Well, my reply would be , "How many cheeks do you have?"

Forgiving others does mean giving them a second chance (as God gave to David a second chance to remain as King) but it does not mean allowing them to trample all over you (David still had to suffer the consequences of his sin as we have seen). You may turn the other cheek a few times but if that person is not changing in the area of the sin forgiven you need to rebuke them and even distance yourself from them (as seen in the pattern found in Matthew 18:15-17).

This is illustrated in the following story: An African man worked for Eunice, a missionary in Liberia. One day she caught him stealing clothes from her house. "Please forgive me," he pleaded. "I did wrong. I promise not to do it again." She forgave him and allowed him to continue working for her. But less than a month passed before she caught him stealing again. "Look at you!" She said. "You’ve stolen again!" The bright fellow stared at her and yelled back, "What kind of a Christian are you?" Eunice, dumbfounded, had no idea how to respond. The man continued, "If you forgive me, you do not remember it. If you did not remember it, such a thing did not happen."

Forgiving someone does not mean your relationship with them will be fully restored or you will continue trusting them as before. In the story above, the missionary was right to give the worker a second chance. However, after the worker proved that he was not really changed she should have either dismissed him or set more safeguards over her possessions. This would not be a sign of lack of forgiveness but a sign of wisdom. She should still fully forgive him each time by giving up the right to hurt back but full trust may never be restored.

In the Biblical example above Paul even delivered Alexander to Satan for the Lord to repay according to his works. Alexander was an Ephesian Christian, a member of the church in Ephesus. Something transpired where Alexander sinned and harmed Paul in a way that is not recorded. Instead of forgiving and forgetting, Paul extended forgiveness but distanced himself from the unrepentant Alexander, asking God to exact vengeance on him! Sometimes vengeance is an option but not for us to exact, but God.

Poem

Christian! You're not a door mat or a punching bag
That others can abuse.
Remember, punching bags can always bounce back
But in doing this you'll lose.
Let God send the punching bag from heaven
And giving up the right to hurt you must choose.


Prayer

"Father, help me to be wise when others trample over me as I forgive them. Teach me when to withdraw and when to ask You to come in a repay them. In every situation help me to give up the right to hurt back. Amen!"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Running The Right Race



Passage

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24


Pondering

In this life we are to run in the right race, not the rat race! I read a story recently about a cross-country championship in Riverside, California. Out of 128 runners only 5 runners finished the race properly. You see, Mike Delcavo knew the organizer of the race and knew the course very well. When he saw the others going the wrong way he motioned for them to follow him. Only four followed him, the rest laughed and mocked and went their own way. Only Mike and the other four finished correctly and gained the prize.

It is no different in this life where we're all running a race. But do we know the organizer, Jesus, who will show us the course layout by His Spirit? As we run correctly there will be many who mock and laugh at us but if we keep on running in His race we will gain the prize of being with Him eternally.

In the above story, the other runners actually crossed the finishing line before Mike and the other four but were disqualified as they had taken a short cut. That's the trouble when you run in the rat race, taking short cuts to get there first. Someone once said that you can win the rat race but you are still a dirty old rat! The only race worth running is God's glorious race that the Apostle Paul ran in and, at the end of his full life, could say, "I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness." 2 Timothy 4:7-8. I want to run this race and no other.

Poem

You may run well in the rat race,
Beating all the others flat.
But when you arrive in first place,
You'll find that you're still a dirty rat!


Prayer

"Father God, keep me from running all worthless races and give me the strength to run your race, even when others mock and laugh at me for doing so. Amen!"

How To Run The Christian Race

Passage

"And if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." 2 Timothy 2:5
"I press on toward the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14
"And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown". 1 Corinthians 9:25
"..let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith." Hebrews 12:1-2

Pondering

If we are to run God's race we must run correctly. Scriptures show us the correct way of running the Christian life.

We are to run....

1. Keeping the RULES of the race (2 Timothy 2:5)
2. Having the finishing mark as our AIM (Philippians 3:14)
3. With great self CONTROL(1 Corinthians 9:25) and
4. ENDURING until the end (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The four key words are:

Rules
Aim
Control
Enduring


We run His race by keeping the rules as revealed in His Word, the Bible. We are put in the race by His undeserved favour as we confess our sins and confess Him as our Lord and Saviour but we still have a standard to live by. If runners use illegal performance enhancing drugs they may excel for a season but ultimately will be caught and eliminated. We must run our Christian race with integrity and holiness.

Our Aim in the Christian race must always be to please God and run always towards His goal of being like Christ. In Paul's day there were regular games where runners competed against each other (the origin of the Olympic games). At the finishing line the judge would stand with the prize, a laurel wreath crown for the winner. As the runners came down the final stretch their eyes would fix on the judge holding the prize and strain forward to win. In the same way we must fix our eyes on Jesus and strain forward to be more and more like Him.

Runners need much self control and must throw off everything that hinders them in their quest for glory. In our Christian life we must walk in self control and exercise our spirits daily through prayer, worship and Bible reading and flee all temptations and sins that will slow us down in our race.

Finally, what is the point of starting well if we never finish the race. We must endure until the very end. When Carlton Heston was concerned about not being able to win the chariot race in the movie Ben Hur, Cecil B.De Mille told him, "Your job is to stay on the chariot. It's my job to make sure you win". So too for us - we're just to endure and do what God has asked us to do and leave the winning up to Him.

Poem

I may run and win, but along the way break the rules,
The only crown I will wear is the one reserved for fools!


Prayer

"Father God, help me to run the Christian life by keeping your rules found in your Word, the Bible. Help be keep my aim on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. Help me to be self controlled and run without entangling sins and baggage that will hinder me. Help me to endure to the very end by clinging tightly onto you. In the name of Jesus. Amen."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Faith is not Fearless

Passage

"Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." Acts 12:5 (NKJV)
"And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!" Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel." Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished". Acts 12:13-16 (NKJV)

Pondering

How many times have you heard preachers say that the opposite of faith is fear? Well, that may be true of the modern meaning of faith (a fearless confidence and positive attitude), but it is not the opposite of Biblical faith. If Biblical faith means ‘trusting obedience’, then the opposite is ‘mistrusting disobedience’. A person may fearlessly take risks in "faith" to set up a thriving, successful business and claim it is the blessing of God, but actually be living in mistrusting disobedience to the Creator!

Sometimes as we listen to God and hear His word (faith comes by hearing the word of God - Romans 10:17), He will speak to us clearly to do something that we do not want to do. We are fearful of taking that course. If we fearlessly do something else with what seems like great "faith" we have no faith at all. But if we apprehensively, timidly and even, fearfully, start to walk in His revealed way, even in great weakness and difficulty, we have much faith!

In the passage here the church is praying for Peter to be released from prison. They are fearful and locked away in Mary’s house. James has just been martyred and Herod was harassing the church. Their prayer was far from what we would call "full of faith and belief". When Peter really was released and turned up at their door they could not believe it and were amazed. Wasn’t that what they had been praying for? Did God answer their prayer? Yes! Was it a faith-filled prayer? Well, I would say they prayed in faith , even if that faith was the size of a mustard seed. They prayed because they loved and trusted God in the midst of persecution. Did they have fear? Yes! Wouldn’t you in their situation? But, according to the Biblical definition, they had faith.

Poem

The boy falls off the cliff and clings onto the overhanging tree,
His father reaches out his hand and says,"Son, trust in me".
The boy has faith and reaches out, but fear still lingers on,
Yet when he's in his Father's arms that fear is finally gone.


Prayer

"Father, give me the strength to trust You and obey You, especially when You ask me to move into areas I find scary. Though my heart may tremble with fear I will trust you and walk more and more boldly into your destiny for my life. Thank You Father that you are totally trustworthy. Amen!"

Faith is not Fail-safe

Passage

"Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise."
Hebrews 11:36-39 (NKJV)

Pondering

Faith does not guarantee everything will go smoothly or ‘successfully’ (at least in the world's definition of success) in this life. Reading through the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 one may originally think that if we have faith then we will be victorious and successful in this life, seeing deliverance from a wicked generation like Noah, supernatural blessing like Abraham and so forth. However, when you arrive at verse 36 your head will spin and you will be confused if you hold the urban legend view of faith!

Trusting in the Lord may lead us into great suffering and persecution, such that it may seem like none of His promises are being fulfilled. Indeed, in the cases given at the end of Hebrews 11, all those mentioned here did not receive God’s promises in this life but they did have a powerful testimony of faith. They didn’t have Jedi-like faith that blasted all the opposition in the arena to kingdom come but they had a strong trust in the Lord that He would be with them and give them His peace and joy, even in death. They trusted Him so much that they followed him obediently down the valley of a shadow of death, not fleeing to safety on the mountain of false faith.

Poem

Lord please give me the strength to stick with You always,
Through sunny times of joy and thrundrous stormy days.
My faith in You is not based on how things go outside,
But based on your unchanging grace that melts all of my pride.


Prayer

"Lord, I don't trust in you for my own benefit. I trust in you whether you take me through heaven or hell on earth. It is enough that You are with me. If You lead me through the valley of the shadow of death I will not run to the mountains of false faith but will take Your hand and trust You to lead me where I must go. Amen!"