One Is More Than Zero

It doesn’t take a leader to discover problems, it only takes a human who is willing to look.

The thrilling powers of observation were at work in Christ’s disciples. Sometimes it can be annoying when people point out obvious problems without presenting solutions. Jesus however, wasn’t annoyed when the disciples informed him that the coutryside-traipsing multitude of 5000 folk were now hungry. Duh guys. Duh.

A leader like me in Jesus’ position would panic. My mind would suddenly be filled with 10 ideas; 5 of them bad and 5 of them worse . And I would have to pick the best solution among the lineup of the awful and ugly. Like the disciples, I probably would have selected the best of the worst ideas: send them home.

Imagine the look on the disciples faces when Jesus happily replied to their observation, “You give them something to eat.” 

Is this not the challenge that now confronts us as leaders in the body of Christ? Jesus isn’t here bodily. In the disciples day they’d just go ask Him. But here we are, with the command, “YOU give the people something to eat.” Impossible! We check our pockets, nothing. We check our spiritual bank accounts, not much to withdraw (actually overdraft fees loom). The need FAR exceeds the resource. Or so we think…

Then, the most confusing and liberating words to any young leader: “What do you have?” Forget about what you don’t have, you can’t change that; at least, not right now. Let’s start at square one. For ONE isn’t much, but it’s something, and it might be all that God needs. Sometimes ONE is 5 loaves and 2 fish. Sometimes ONE is a prayer meeting with only 2 people in it. Sometimes ONE is just a willing heart with a freed up schedule.

Dear leader, when you feel anxious, worried, ambitious or unsettled, let these words pierce your heart, “What do you have?” Let them sink deep. Let them wash away worry. Let them wash away your ideas about how it should be done. Let them smack around our preconceived notions of leadership, ministry model and protocol.

Today, don’t worry about what do you don’t have. Ask yourself, “What do I have? And how, Oh God, will you multiply it for Your glory?”

Living to Christ

It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. – Paul

I have been gripped with the truth that when I said yes to God I wasn’t saying yes to Christianity – I was saying yes to Christ. Christian culture in America is constantly searching for the formula. What is the formula to make my ministry work? What is the formula to make my marriage work? What is the formula for me to stop sinning? Millions of dollars are exchanged yearly in this country for the next formula to make us feel better. We’re spending money to change “emotions” but many times leaving our spirits untouched and unaffected. The truth is we’re not signed up for a method we’re signing up for a Man.

Paul says, “Christ lives in me.” I want to know what it means to live to Christ.

Ask yourself this question: “How much of my faith is cultural and formulaic?” E.g. based on spiritual discipline or acceptable outward action. Be honest with yourself. If we remove every aspect of our faith except Christ living in us and our relationship to Him, what are we left with?

Christianity isn’t simply a list of “do’s and don’ts“. Like a marriage wedding, salvation isn’t a one time event. Every day we must awake to the newness of life and seek to love more deeply and humbly. Christianity is a Man – Christ!

The believer must seek to fuel their life by developing and growing that relationship with the Man Jesus. At the core of a relationship is a “knowing”. A knowing that experiences the emotions and thoughts of another. For instance, a husband seeking to grow in relationship with his wife doesn’t simply find out more facts about her; he tenderly asks her, “What are you feeling? What is on your mind?”

Let us seek this kind of relationship with Christ. Ask Him, ask Him often, “What is on Your heart?”

Slaves to Joy

Emotions are from God. God is deeply emotional, and deeply invested in His creation. He is not however unstable. His emotions are subject to His nature – one of love and goodness. He is moved by His emotions, much like we are.

Emotions are powerful. It’s not easy to “talk” yourself out of them. Your emotions are subject to your nature. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Out of human nature emotions spring. These emotions are both positive and negative.

Our culture tells us to disconnect from our emotions. Don’t cry. Don’t giggle. Suck it up. Get the job done without whining and don’t get too happy when it is.

Our emotions need to get saved. They lie, they cheat, they interrupt. They need to be plumb-lined to truth. Though God rejoices over us our emotions will tell us He’s angry. Though God is a good Father our emotions will tell us that we’re orphans. Though God is near our emotions will tell us that He’s distant. Though God says that He’s made us clean our emotions will tell us we’re dirty.

It’s time to put the smack down.

Look at what David says in Psalm 4: “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.”

This means that David was glad even when the grain and wine were absent. His gladness wasn’t intrinsically knit to outward success. His emotions weren’t always based in the present circumstance. There was gladness in his heart before the increase of grain and before the increase of wine.

We don’t have to be slaves to our emotions. We are not slaves but sons. We are not orphans we are children. We are not condemned we are forgiven.

Today, let the gladness of a glad Father fill your heart!

Faith – Eyes Open or Closed?

Man was made for the ground. Why else to do we feel nauseous when we go zipping around in our uncle’s boat? We have feet not flippers; arms not wings; lungs not gills. We jump and expect to feel the jarring impact shoot up through our knees. We lay on the grass, avoid excessive air-travel, and kiss the ground when we get home.

I wince when I travel.

Ground is our home. It makes us feel secure. Ground comforts us, exemplified by the sighs of relief when an airline touches down; or when we come down the ladder propped on the side of the house. Solid equals condolence. Man was made for earth and earth for man. The two are joined. They are twins from the same parents but you can’t tell in a crowd.

What did Adam feel the first time he stood up from his dusty womb?

The issue of faith is an issue of truth. An issue of reality. Faith can’t be faked, just as truth can’t be faked. Either something is true or untrue; fabricated or evident. While the false may parade as the true, somewhere, somehow, we believe that there is a reckoning. Some gavel must slam down and the curtain must drop, and when it does we will all gasp.

I’d guess there are more agricultural major graduates than philosophy major graduates.

Faith. Ask anyone on the street about faith and I’d bet they’d give you some answer along the lines of religion, or an eyes-closed-leap, or country music. Humanity wants evidence to have faith. Is this real? Prove it.

What if I told you you’re walking on air? Ushers have bags for the sick. What is faith? We imagine that faith steps off the cliff and walks on gases. I beg to differ.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1

Invisible stuff right? Intangible. Read it again. This time time take off your glasses, your prescription renewal is overdue.

Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen.

Makes you wonder. Imagine the man plunging brashly off the cliff was actually plunging onto it the whole time. He floated around in gas until he stepped onto the precipice. Truth is solid. No one who has been to the moon debates the existence of it. No one thinks of faith as substance and evidence, but look for substance and evidence to substantiate faith.

We might have had it backwards.

Christ Revealed the Father – Jn. 15:9-11

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you, abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jn 15:9-11

I want to take a brief look at 3 points on what Christ revealed about the Father from this passage.

1.) Christ revealed the Father’s love by loving His disciples the way that the Father loved Him.

When the Word became flesh and dwelt among humanity He was commissioned by the Father to reveal all that He desired humanity to know about Himself. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. His character, thoughts, words and deeds show the exact nature of the Father. The Father has deep and profound love for the Son; they share a relationship that would have otherwise been unknown to mankind. Yet, Christ came and invited humanity into the Triune expression of love and affection. This “same” love that the Father has and expresses towards the Son is the “same” love with which Christ has loved us. God wanted us to know how He loved us by loving us through His Son. He also wanted us to know how much He loved His Son by expressing that love through His Son to us.

2.) To experience this love, Jesus tells us that we must keep His commandments.

Love for God is expressed through the guarding of the commands of the Lord. Keeping His word will cause us to “abide” in the love of God. The commandments of the Lord are unto love not duty. For example, the man that loves his wife earnestly upholds the covenant of marriage that he made with her. Upholding the covenant doesn’t diminish love in dullness (religion) but rather inflames love causing it to grow.

The love of God is freely given, it is a tower of refuge; there is no lock on the door and anyone can come in, but to REMAIN inside of that tower, to truly dwell in that tower, we must keep His commands. Anyone can make a covenant of marriage in declaration of love, but to remain in the covenant of marriage the man (or woman) works to not break that covenant.

Grace is given to keep His commands when we understand the Father’s love and affection through revelation. If we don’t understand the war that rages outside the dwelling of the Lord’s love, we will not understand the nature of abiding in God’s love and treat it cheaply. Cheap love leads to weak faith, which ultimately ends in no love. Weak faith puts us outside of the tower of Christ’s affection and makes us subject to the fiery darts of the evil one.

3.) The full expression of joy and enduring pleasure in this life comes from keeping God’s commandments.

God wants us to experience pleasure, yet He wants us to do it in a way that honors Him, ourselves and others. There is a God-intended way to experience pleasure – the greatest pleasure is the affection of His heart. It the the pleasure that God has within the God-head. Father, Son and Holy Spirit share inexpressible joy in and of themselves. We experience that pleasure by living in their love, and we remain in that love through keeping God’s commands. The most exhilarating experience that humanity can have on this side of eternity is an ongoing reception of the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May you be blessed and enriched by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Top 5 Rapture Misconceptions:

#5: Rapture means “disappear while leaving a pile of clothes on the floor.”

Actually ‘rapture’ is taken from the Greek word ‘harpazo’ (latin: rapturo) which means ‘caught up’. Think ascending visibly like Christ at the ascension in Acts 1.

#4: The rapture will be secretive.

The rapture will not be secretive but a glorious display of light, glory, and fire. Believers will meet Christ in the sky who is shouting, singing, and stirring himself like a man of war (Is. 42). Paul describes the changing of the believers body as putting on immortality and power; he likens the resurrected body to stars shining (1 Cor 15). This will not be a hidden event.

#3: The rapture will take Christians to heaven.

The rapture, as depicted in scripture, will take Christians to the SKY to meet our returning Christ, the previously sleeping saints coming from heaven, and all the angels (1 Thess 4:17). It will be a glorious reunion in the sky as we are united with believers from all of history and see Christ face to face.

#2: The Rapture may happen at ‘any moment’.

Scripture is quite clear that the rapture will not happen at any moment. 2 Thess. 2:1, 3 says that the rapture will be preceded by two unmistakable events: 1) The great falling away (apostasy) from faith in Jesus; 2) The man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) will rise to power declaring himself to be god.

#1: The rapture will happen tomorrow ; )

The rapture will not happen tomorrow. Nor is this the common belief of Christians across the earth. The rapture will happen however at the coming of Christ.

Prayer – the Beginning and the End

Under the premise that man’s purpose is union with God (Jn. 17:24), prayer is both the catalyst and the ongoing result of a move of the Spirit. For prayer is not a religious practice for the pious, but the vehicle of ongoing relationship with the uncreated God.

Think of the man who doesn’t talk to his wife? Could such a man genuinely believe his marital relationship was healthy? A good husband does not make endless requests of his wife, lest he weary her, but in relating to her he verbally communicates his love, and affection. He tells her of her beauty and how she captured his heart when they first met. These simple words create the context in her heart for their first love to grow and blossom through the years of their marriage.

The same principle is true with prayer. The believer makes known their needs to a kind Father, and in desiring their relationship to grow also tells Him of His kindness, love, and splendid attributes. When the disciples ask, “Teach us to pray,” they are asking, “Teach us to know the Father as you know Him.” This must be the heart-cry of the believer: “Lord, teach me to pray.” In doing so, the believer receives grace to grow in effectual genuine relationship with the living God.

Not seeking to diminish the effectiveness and potency of petition, I believe the Body of Christ must spend most (not all) of their prayer time telling Him who He is rather than asking Him to do something for them. The Son of Man will not weary at the request and need of His people, but the heart that is moved by His majesty will in turn move His heart at the sound of their voice.

George Tiller

george tillerYesterday, the infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, was shot and killed inside the Reformed Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. For years pro-life movements have been after Tiller with everything from prayer, to protests, to lawsuits, to threats, and now wicked violence. When I heard about what had happened, I felt sick. The phrase that came to mind was, “The justice of man is short of the justice of God.” When man enacts God’s plans and purposes the result is more grief and pain.

I have personally prayed for George Tiller’s salvation for several years after the Lord apprehended my heart concerning the issue of abortion in America. When we think of God’s judgment, mostly what we’re imagining is what ‘we’ would do if we were God. God uses judgment to produce love, not death. We may look at the death of Tiller with indifference and a sigh of, “Justice has been served.” I believe true justice would have been that Tiller’s deception was ‘exposed’ as greatly erroneous and disconnected from soundness of mind and Godliness. This may be seen as a victory for the pro-life movement, but is violent bloodshed really retribution for the same? Can we honestly expect that the number of aborted babies will decline now that Tiller is gone?

If one has never seen pictures, or done research, of the ‘intact dilation and extraction‘ (late-term abortion) method of killing babies I’d suggest it as an important eye-opening experience. What this man did for a living, and what he was respected by so many for, was so insidiously heinous and evil there are few words to express. Over the course of his career, this man killed countless thousands of babies at the near time of delivery. These were not fetus’s, they were not masses of cells, or blood clots – they were children.

Browsing through the news articles related to this story, several lines jumped out at me.

CNNThe National Organization for Women, which supports abortion rights, called Tiller’s killing an act of “domestic terrorism.” And NARAL Pro-Choice America said Tiller had worked for years under “intense harassment tinged with persistent threats of violence.

What the NOW organization is saying is that the man who killed Tiller is on the same level as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussien, suicide bombers, and the men who hijacked aircraft for the 9/11 attacks in New York. Honestly? Let’s put Tiller’s track record into the NOW’s equation for a minute. Tiller actually was a domestic terrorist and worked for years to enact the intense harrassment of babies filled with actual violence unto death. Secondly, I’d like to point out that there is no reason to believe that Tiller’s slaying was linked with his work as an abortionist until the suspect is examined and his motives are determined. Will this be used to fuel the rights of these murderous organizations? Of course. As we can see the NOW is already jumping up and down in a frenzy calling for blood.

Another from CNN – If [thanks for that CNN ; )] Tiller was killed because of his work, he would be the fourth U.S. physician killed over abortion since 1993. In 1998, a sniper killed Dr. Barnett Slepian in his Amherst, New York, home. Anti-abortion activist James Kopp was later arrested in France and is serving life in prison. In 1994, Dr. John Bayard Britton and one of his volunteer escorts were shot and killed outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Paul Hill, a former minister, was convicted of the killings and executed in 2003. And in 1993, another doctor, David Gunn, was shot to death outside another Pensacola clinic. His killer, Michael Griffin, is serving a life sentence.

CNN went over the top and dug up all the dirt on the radical pro-lifers they could find. What did they come up with? Four abortion-related killings. Are four killings justifiable by the law? No. Is the government willing to justify 50 million murders since the 70’s? Yes, and they’re willing to pour money and propaganda into it. What we need to realize is that the liberal community of America is painting conservative Christians into a corner with other ‘well known’ mass murders. They’ll dress up a woman’s Catholic prayer group as Nazi soldiers bent on death and greed. They’ll threaten prayer meetings outside of their death clinics with weapons. What they want our children to believe is that every pro-lifer has a gun in one hand and bomb in the other, like the four…really four…men who did.

My prayer is for the Tiller family; that their eyes would be opened to the Lord.

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Life in the Millennium (Part 3) – David’s Throne

I will eventually get the subject of this series – Life in the Millennium. But for now I’m content to establish some introductory understanding concerning the foundations of this Messianic Kingdom, as well as learning a great deal myself.

I think one of the greatest benefits to the church today would be to experience the lifestyle and culture of the first century church. I’m getting a “guy” to work on a time machine. Okay, it’s not a time machine, but it does make snow cones. Consistently, I find that I’m trying to place myself into the story – after the crucifixion when the resurrected dead are wandering the streets of Jerusalem,  during those 40 mysterious days of teaching after Christ’s resurrection, into the upper room waiting for the Promise of the Father, into the house gatherings of the apostles for prayer and the breaking of bread. That’s what a good story does right? It seeks to place the reader into the storyline so that the reader begins to think, act, and feel like one of the characters. And this story is the best story ever written. It includes, Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… (the grandpa from The Princess Bride – the shinning year of 1987). The plot line is simple enough for a child to grasp, yet so profoundly intricate that it strikes the intellectual mind with wonder.

994861_jerusalem
taken by: Shlomit Wolf

One day as David is wandering around in his villa of cedar, he suddenly realizes the ark of the covenant is dwelling inside a curtained tabernacle. The injustice of the situation begins to dawn on him. Nathan the prophet tells him to do what is in his heart to do – build a permanent house wherein God would dwell. David is told by the Lord that he would not be the one to build the temple but that his seed would complete the endeavor (2 Sam. 7:12, 14). God then swears an everlasting oath to David, known as the Davidic Covenant.  This covenant ensures David that the following 3 things would be perpetuated 1) his seed, 2) his throne, and 3) his kingdom.

I. David’s Seed

The Lord tells David, “[I] will make you house. When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your father, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body…” (2 Sam. 7:11b-12). David’s “house” is meant to be understood as his posterity – physical descendants (some translate house as “Royal dynasty”). Here, David is promised that he will have a child (Solomon), yet to be born, who will succeed him. His line will always be the royal line with the right to rule. No other family will inherit the kingly linage of the Davidic seed. This seed is the same seed that is spoken of who will crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).  In one sense, it speaks of the ongoing generations of David’s descendants, yet also points to a future Seed who will embody the fullness of a King-Priest anointing and bring about the final defeat of the serpent. God has  preserved a physical seed throughout history to bring about both the redemption of mankind and the Messianic Kingdom; both fulfillment’s are found in the man Christ. Gen 49:10  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. This is what is spoken of in Acts 2 during Peter’s discourse concerning the resurrection of Jesus. His case is that Christ, as the Son (Seed) of David must be resurrected in accordance with the oath God had sworn. Christ could not rule on David’s throne if He were a disembodied spirit, for David’s throne is in Zion – the city of David (1 Kg 8:1).  Therefore, Christ has risen to fulfill all that God had spoken, part being, he was given a resurrected body capable of sitting on an earthly throne.

II. David’s Throne

2 Sam 7:13b …I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Provision is made through oath that David’s throne would continue forever (2 Sam 7:16). The throne speaks not only the political power committed to David’s seed but the geographic locale whereupon this seed would preside. This is an important and oft overlooked provision.  As previously mentioned the throne of David rests in the city of David – Jerusalem. David’s throne was meant to be understood as the seat of exulted earthly power centered in Jerusalem. God chose Israel to make a name for Himself (2 Sam 7:23) through which He would establish His government in the earth. He sent His Son to sit on that seat (Ps. 2:6). Mary is told that her Son would be given the throne of His father David and that He would in fact reign over the house of Jacob forever (Lk 1:32). Jesus is both Messiah (1st coming) and King (2nd coming).

No where in scripture does it say that David’s throne is in the heart of believers or in heaven. To come to one of these conclusions requires the symbolizing of many passages to form an uninspired idea that somehow David’s throne evaporated and entered the heart of believers through the cross. This idea came through a misunderstanding, and further denial, of both the Dadivic Covenant and earthly millennial kingdom. The Davidic Covenant presents several problems for those who seek the allegorical or spiritual interpretation of the its provisions. Foremost is the fact that both David and Solomon understood it as literal (2 Sam 7:18-29; 2 Chron. 6:14-16); moreover there is not clear scriptural basis for understanding David’s throne to be in heart of a believer nor of it being synonymous with the heavenly Father’s throne.

III. The Kingdom

2 Sam 7:16 …your kingdom shall be established forever

David is further promised that his kingdom will forever perpetuate. When this promise was given it would by nature of its longevity demand to be supreme on the earth. In theory, the armies of Israel would have no fear of their enemies going into battle because of the knowledge that their kingdom would not be thrown down. Even if it were not supreme initially it would simply outlast all other kingdoms to become so. An eternal entity cannot be subject to a temporary one. Even Rome, in it’s millennial rule of  glory, would and was,  simply outlasted by this Davidic Kingdom. The destruction inititated in 70 AD and completed in 135 AD was undone through the re-establishment of Israel in 1948. Although evil has purposed time and time again to ‘stamp out’ the Jewish people, there will always be a remnant left to humbly receive Yeshua at His coming (see Mt. 23:39).  Jesus is the only one to fulfill this promise since He is both naturally ‘Son of Daivid’ and divinely eternal. It is implied that one king will rule this kingdom forever (see also Mic. 4:7). By understanding the promise to Mary concerning Christ’s throne (Lk 1:32), the Father’s purpose to have His Son as King (Ps. 2:6), and the prophecy in Daniel 2:44 of a kingdom which will never be destroyed it can be deduced that this covenant finds its fulfillment in Christ at His Second Coming. Further, we are told by Isaiah that through this given Son, there would be no end to the increase of His peace and government when He sits upon the throne of Daivid’s kingdom (9:7).

In summary, the three provisions of this covenant are find their rest in Christ at the establishment of His millennial kingdom.