The New Birth

The gospel is mostly a declaration of things that have happened to us. Events and happenings transpired around the shores of Galilee and near Jerusalem (now some years ago) and have had a shocking affect upon your life. You will never be the same. The important part is that they happened, and that they happened to us. Birth is like that.

A birth is something that happens to a baby, certainly not something the baby does. No one looks at the newborn and says, “Fantastic work! You did it.”

Through the turmoil, and agony, and blood of the mother a beautiful child is brought forth. The cross is like that.

We must look at the glorious suffering Christ and joyfully declare, “Fantastic work! You did it!”

A Letter to Myself

Dear young leader,

The anointing of the Lord to lead is selected by an invisible hand. God raises up leaders and tears them down.

You will face the praise and scorn of others simply because you will be in their eye. The person at the front receives the most criticism because he will also receive the most praise. These two facets: criticism and praise are the wisdom of God at work. One cannot happen without the other. If a man is only praised he will become prideful; if a man is only scorned he will become discouraged. Learn from both.

Learning from the praise of men is as critical as learning from their criticism. Their praise will tell you what they want. He will find that if he leverages the praise of others he can increase his standing in their eyes and yield greater comfort for himself. And if he can avoid their criticism it will have the same result. Yet, he will find that he is not leading them, they are leading him.

Mere leaders will always derive their sense of value from the criticism and praise of men; while heaven leaders will derive theirs from God. The praise of man is candy to the soul, their criticism, his poison. And yet, neither the praise of man nor his criticism persuades the heart of God. Leaders may be praised or scorned, yeDouglas_Fairbanks_at_third_Liberty_Loan_rally_HD-SN-99-02174.JPEGt the heart of God remains unmoved by their chatter.

When a young man finds himself in leadership he may begin to think of himself as something special. He may think that his gifts or charisma that have lent to this position are an endorsement from heaven. Yet, the endorsement from heaven comes not in the gift given but how the gift is utilized. A young man may use his gifts to promote himself to fame and glory; avoid this. Ask, who am I promoting through my gifting?

12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Sam. 5:12)

God anoints leaders for others. He anoints them for Himself.

 

The Church: a vision for present and future

A ship is built for two reasons: to weather the conditions of travel and to carry passengers to a destination. Both are necessary for a proper vessel.

One may build a church to weather cultural/social conditions with little regard for the destination. One may also envision and build a church for the destination with little regard for the tumultuous journey.

A vision for the future equips for the present. And an engagement in the present sets the course for the future.

The Battle for Jerusalem

Jerusalem, the most unique city on the earth. Everyone has an opinion on it. It divides, it unites, it infuriates; rejoicing and sorrow have filled its ancient streets. Is there any other like it?

During its long history, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. (wikipedia)

5 verses that help us understand this conflicting world epicenter:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— Gen. 15:18

This covenant with Abraham is an everlasting, unconditional promise. In the promise, God took up both sides of the agreement while Abraham slept. No one, save God, is able to nullify this pact. In fact, even the descendants of Abraham can’t nullify it. It’s as sure as the sunrise. Read these intriguing developments for yourself in Genesis 15 (see also: Gen. 12:1-3, 7, 13:14-15, 17:8, 22:2)

“Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” – Ps. 2:6

Who is speaking here? David, is eavesdropping into a heavenly conversation between the Father and the Son. Here the Father is asserting His insistence that Jerusalem (Zion) will be the capital of His Son’s Kingdom. The Father will establish His King, Jesus, on that mount in Israel.

“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem.” – Jeremiah 3:17

The throne of Christ will be seated in Jerusalem. This is the place on earth from which He will rule the nations. This is a future promise. Notice what the prophet is highlighting “at that time;” Israel will be multiplied and increased in the land and they will not call to mind the Ark of the Covenant. This indicates a future state of the Jewish people after they recognize Yeshua as Messiah, the Coming One. After that time of revival (see Rom. 11:26; Zech. 12) Jerusalem will be established as the seat of Messiah’s government.

“[Jerusalem]…is the city of the great King.” – Mt. 5:35

Christ, as the descendant of Abraham, is inextricably linked to this city. He, Himself, calls it the city of the great King. This title did not change or take on a spiritual fulfillment after His ascension to heaven It remains the city of the great King. That king will come and restore the kingdom of Israel, as the apostles anticipated (Acts 1:6), and make Jerusalem the capital of the whole world.

“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” – Is. 62:6, 7

We are in the days that the Lord is raising up intercessors who will stand up on behalf of Jerusalem. They will pray in accordance with the desire of God for this city and its people. God does not hold His peace in His relentless purpose for this city (Is. 62:1); believers will not hold their peace for His purposes for this city. The city will be a praise in the earth. Very few people see it as a praise; more often, it is seen as troubling. When the Lord makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth it means that the other nations, especially the surrounding nations, will acknowledge the sovereign purpose of God for this city. They will rejoice in its light (the glory of God) and bow before its King- Christ. (see also Ps. 122:6; Rom. 10:1)

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations [after the Day of the Lord, 14:1) which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Jerusalem will exist after the Day the Lord ensuing judgment. The nations who are left will come and worship before Christ in His capital. These nations all stood against Israel and her King prior to the Day of the Lord. After that time, they (we) will celebrate the feast that honors the commitment of God to dwell among His people forever.

As believers, we must resist the temptation to accept any narrative devoid of the Word of God. We must seek to have the heart of Jesus for all players involved: Israel, Palestine, and the nations. If we neglect seeking divine understanding of the conflict, we will by default accept the secular narrative. This issue is a complex issue involving the lives and destinies of many peoples, all the more it is critical that we are in line with Jesus during these historic times.

The Appropriate and Realistic Nature of the House of Prayer

Is the House of Prayer a valid modern expression within the body of Christ that both honors the Word of God and gives expression to the prophetic trajectory of that body? I believe that the House of Prayer is a most appropriate and realistic modern expression for the following reasons.

It is appropriate because it primarily exists to declare the incredible worth of the nature and beauty of God. This stands in stark contrast to the world and its value system which advertises all manner of important “must haves.” It asks not, “What can I come and get,” but, “What can I come and give?”

Further, it’s expression is the only realistic response we may have as finite creatures that must eat and sleep. No single person can worship God day and night. Which begs the question, how few or how many people can adequately worship God in light of the following ideas?

God called His house a “House of Prayer,” and this He knew and named with both our fragility and His glory in mind. With our vaporous existence and limitations of natural strength a House of Prayer is what was concocted in the mind of God. It is the perfectly constructed place for those children adopted into His glorious nature and family.

Just as a father adopting children makes provisions that adequately meet the needs and purposes of those He brings into his household, so the Heavenly Father constructed the optimal place of relationship and belonging and named it “A House of Prayer for all nations.”

But, why prayer and worship? What can we really give God? What glory can we really add to Him whose glory possess no bounds? What good or merciful deed can we do for the Author of goodness and mercy that would impress Him or adequately convey those attributes to another?

None. This why incense is repeatedly used in scripture to denote our worship before God. It is portrayed as incense simply because it is for the enjoyment of the God to whom it is offered.

In God’s dwelling, when the confines of sin, death and common mortality are put off we see the life and activity of those constituents. What do they do? What do they say? When do they say it? The answer is found in Rev. 4:8 – unceasing worship and adoration of God. This is not a novel expression but a necessary and practical one.

Pursue the Heart

Pursuing the heart of those we’re leading, whether in ministry, or in our home can be extremely powerful and personally humbling.

From the hearts springs forth the issues of life (Prov 4:23, Mt. 12:34). Nothing that is done externally is disconnected from something internally. The heart beats, the blood flows, the body moves.

Emphasis in ministry can be put on outward fruit of those we’re leading. Every leader has created some sort of ideal. That ideal determines how much action we put forth into a situation. When someone we’re leading breaks the mold of expectation, red flags are raised and we respond with action.

Sometimes I feel like I’m scrambling to put out fires when my aim should be starting fires. A fire started for Christ in the heart of a person becomes more powerful than exerting my pastoral energy to put out their heart fires. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is much better pastor than I will ever be. A. W. Tozer said something to effect of, “When we think rightly about God 10,000 lesser problems are dealt with.” (not an exact quote)

The root of our life, as Proverbs says, is the heart. What is in the heart? The answer to 01-06-11_OldAppleTree_Hxbythat will tell you what type of fruit will be born. Scrambling to “pick off” the bad fruit from someones life can be as frustrating as picking off damaged apples from an orchard of apple trees. If the apples are diseased the root of the tree must be examined to see of what quality it is.

In the garden God called to the man and the woman saying, “Where are you?” God knew where they were. The problem was that they didn’t know where they were. They were disconnected at the heart level from the current situation. Their hearts had believed a lie, bought into deception, and acted upon it. Similarly, Jesus when restoring Peter doesn’t say to him, “Peter, don’t ever deny me again.” What does He ask?

“Peter do you love Me?”

Peter’s denial would never resurface again if his heart was deeply connected to loving Jesus. A revelation of Christ on the inside will lead to an expression of Christ on the outside.

Pray Ephesians 1:17. Pray it for yourself. Pray it for those whom you lead. Let God give us revelation of His Son at the root of our lives.

A Sip of the Ocean

Which comes first worship or the object of worship?

God is beautiful and that beauty is transcendent. Webster defines transcendent as: being beyond the limits of all possible experience or knowledge. Simply put, it is impossible to know all of God; and because of His nature it’s impossible to know Him at all unless He reveals Himself to us. And further, no matter how much he reveals there is an infinite amount more that is possible to discover.

When God reveals His beauty to us, we catch a glimpse of His nature, but it’s just that: a glimpse.

Think of the creatures that circle the throne (as depicted in Rev. 4), as far as we know, they are creatures with most worship experience. They’re before God day and night and they’re covered in lid-less eyes for gazing at the One seated on the throne. The being with the most knowledge on the beauty of God doesn’t even really know a measurable part of it. Why? Because God is infinite. Not just in His expanse and existence but, in this case, His beauty.

Think of how large the oceans of our planet are. Estimates are that 36,614,237,300,000,000,000,000 gallons of water fill the oceans, lakes, streams, and rivers on the earth. Let’s say that the water on the planet is the beauty of God. We can take sip of water, drink a gallon or 2 during 1 day, over our lifetime we can drink thousands, if not millions of gallons of water. But what is a million gallons compared to the number above? It is incredibly negligible.

Here’s where the analogy breaks down: there is no measurable number or amount to attribute the beauty of God’s nature. Even if our entire solar system and the galaxies of the universe were comprised of water it would still be measurable. God’s beauty is immeasurable.

When our hearts encounter the beauty of God revealed at that magnitude it produces something in heart of human beings, worship. Worship is a response to beauty. We don’t start with worship and hope we end up seeing beauty. Rather, we start with beauty to bring forth worship. True beauty will produce pure worship. Those that worship God most perfectly are the ones who see Him most clearly.