Christianity 201

February 24, 2019

Worship Should be the Moment-to-Moment Practice of our Life

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We’ve introduced well over a thousand different writers here, but our Sunday Worship feature has helped me personally to keep finding so many great writers online. Michael Wilson, who writes at Mustard Seed Faith is originally from Virginia, and now lives in Changchun, China. I encourage you to click the title below and read this at source, complete with pictures. Then take some time to look around the rest of the blog.

How do You Worship God?

Is worship learned or is it something that you just do naturally? Does it require a certain feeling or emotional state? How do you worship God?

By worship, we assume you are referring to the practice of Christians singing praise music during a church service. Obviously, worship is a much broader concept than this narrow definition, but many Christians have come to see worship in this limited context.

Scripture, on the other hand, defines worship as obedience. For example, Paul defines worship this way:

Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech (urge) you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational & Spiritual) service.

Notice that Paul doesn’t define worship as having anything to do with a mood or a feeling. It certainly isn’t focused on singing or music at all. These types of “worship” are merely outward expressions of our faith and love for God, and though they may have some value, they are not the substance of true worship. True worship is obedience to God through His Spirit and His word.  How do You Worship God

Furthermore, our feelings and mood are counterproductive when trying to establish appropriate worship practices. Instead, we are called to praise and worship the Lord despite our circumstances. For example, Paul praised the Lord for hours after receiving a beating and while chained in a dark jail cell (see Acts 16). If worship were conditioned on emotion and feelings, Paul would never have found a reason to praise God. Similarly, the writer of Hebrews instructed:

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Our understanding of praise or worship shouldn’t be merely a form of musical celebration contingent on having the right mood or emotion. The Bible says true worship and praise is rooted in a life of obedience and is a continual activity.

We can find a good example of this distinction in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. The prophet Samuel admonished King Saul with these words:

1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV)

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

Worship in that day took the form of burnt offerings and sacrifices given in the temple, and Samuel asks the King is it better to perform worship (i.e., to offer the sin sacrifices in the temple) or to obey the Lord? The answer is clear: it is better to obey God than to offer Him sacrifices. God’s first and highest desire for His people is that we obey Him. If we fail to obey Him but come to “praise” Him in “worship,” we are hypocrites.

Israel was once guilty of approaching God in worship with hearts that did not obey Him, and about those people, the Lord said through Isaiah:

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Therefore the Lord said:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”

God promises a great judgment against Israel for their conceit and hypocrisy.

Likewise, we today must be aware that how we spend our time singing or praising God’s name in a worship service is important only if it is preceded by a life of obedience and service to Him.

If a believer is living a holy and sanctified life in obedience to the Spirit and the word of God, then such a person is also likely to find it easy to express their love and praise for God in a worship service, just as they do on a continual basis outside the church building. Their praise will come naturally from the Spirit’s leading.

Conversely, if a Christian is not accustomed to walking with the Spirit and seeking God’s counsel in His word and if they don’t make a practice of worshipping as a daily (if not hourly) activity, then they will find any expression of worship difficult, including the kind that takes place on Sunday morning.

There is nothing magical about worship (setting aside supernatural manifestations of Spirit) because it should be the moment-to-moment practice of our life. When we attend a church service, we don’t come to “worship.” According to Scripture, we gather together for the purpose of serving and encouraging one another, learning God’s word, and lending our voices to public confession, prayer and praise of God. These activities are made meaningful to God when they are done in a true heart that desires to know and obey God through His word. Taken together, this is true worship.


“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

 

April 24, 2017

Water for the Thirsty and the Great Co-Mission

Today we’re again paying a return visit to David McGee who writes at Cross the Bridge which is carried on his own website as well as at Lightsource.com. There are two shorter devotions today and we’ve posted the link for each.

Give Me Some Water

John 4:15

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to haul water.”
NLT

The Israelites and Samaritans lived in a dry, thirsty land; in a desert. It is hard for many of us to imagine how valuable water is in such a desperate place. Yet, we live in a spiritually dry and thirsty land; we are often oblivious to the lack.

I wonder how many times a day someone tells us they are thirsty. Perhaps not “Please give me some of that water,” but they put it another way. When they speak of problems with their children, troubles in their marriage, trials in their life, they are really saying, “I am thirsty.” When they are short tempered, worn out and angry, they are saying they don’t know how to quench their thirst. I also wonder how many times we don’t really understand their plea and their thirst. How many times we walk past opportunities to minister to them. Look for the thirsty and look for the dry. Hear their cries and offer them living water.

Life Lesson: We should be pouring out to the world what God has poured into us.

Dear God,
Thank You for loving me so much that You allow me to serve You. Lord, I lift this land up to You and ask You to raise up workers for the harvest. You offer the water that completely quenches our need and You offer it abundantly and freely. Open the hearts of this world to Your gift and allow me to play a part in the quenching of this thirsty world. I thank You that the results are in Your almighty hands. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Great Co-Mission

Ephesians 5:14
Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

NKJV

The scriptures teach us that we have light when we are in Christ. When we have His light we have His insight. We can begin to see the world the way that He does and love people that way that He loves us.

Matt 28:18-20
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
NKJV

Jesus was the lamb without blemish offered up for our sacrifice. Jesus, through His sacrifice, has now made us the bride of Christ without blemish also. Because of this we can begin to look at other believers the way that He looks at us ñ without blemish, with no condemnation. And for those who haven’t yet come to the Lord we offer the message of our Messiah, the Gospel, to share in eternal life. Have you invited someone to hear the Gospel or to be a disciple at your church recently?

Life Lesson: Your mission is to reach and teach: to evangelize and disciple.

Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice so that I might be without blemish. Please forgive me when I fail to allow Your light to shine through me to the dying world around me. Give me the power to see things and do things with the same heart that You have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

January 14, 2017

6 Roadblock to Christian Growth

We’ve featured popular Charismatic Christian author J. Lee Grady here several times, but not in the past few years. I really enjoy the balance his writing provides. This appeared at Charisma News a few days ago; his writing can also be found at the Charisma blog Fire in my Bones. I encourage you to read it there by clicking the link in the title below.

6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

J. Lee GradyA few days ago, I was driving from my home in Georgia to a church in Alabama to preach for five days. I didn’t think the predicted “snowpocalypse” would hinder my trip until I arrived in the town of Anniston—where state troopers had blocked the main road due to ice on bridges.

The road was closed, and I couldn’t get to Birmingham on Highway 431. When I tried a different route, I ran into more ice and more roadblocks. This had never happened to me in Florida—we don’t have ice on roads. So I was stuck. I had to turn around and go home.

Thankfully, my host rescheduled our meetings, and I arrived at his church two days later, after all the feared ice had melted. But the whole experience reminded me that there are times when we can’t get where we need to go because our roads are blocked.

As Christians, we are called to move forward in our faith. The apostle Paul set the example for us when he said: “I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). You are not supposed to stay in the same place spiritually year after year. God wants you to grow. But often we get stuck, usually because of one of these six roadblocks:

1. Lack of spiritual hunger. Let’s face it: The main reason many Christians get stuck in a rut is they are happy to be there. But God is looking for people who refuse to be content with where they were last year. He is calling you higher. You must ask the Holy Spirit to set your heart ablaze with a desire for more of His presence and power.

David is our example of spiritual hunger. He wrote: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after You, O God” (Ps. 42:1). He actually felt lousy when he wrote those words, so we can’t use our discouragement as an excuse. David fanned the flames of spiritual fervor even when he felt like quitting.

2. Plain old laziness. Many of us become motivated at the beginning of the year to pray, study the Bible, go back to school or lose weight. But nobody wins a race by sprinting the first 50 feet and then sitting down. Winners must stay in the game. You must be determined to finish what you start instead of leaving a trail of aborted attempts.

Paul exhorted the Romans to be “fervent in spirit,” but first he warned them not to be “lazy” (see Romans 12:11-12). The Greek word used here, okneros, is the same word Jesus used in the parable of the “lazy servant” who didn’t invest the money he was given by his master. If you are sitting on your dreams or procrastinating when you should be growing your faith, the “lazy” label applies. Don’t just start and then give up. Be consistent and keep going.

3. Unpacked baggage. The Israelites who left Egypt could have marched into the Promised Land in a matter of weeks, but they ended up in a holding pattern for 40 years. Why? They were dragging their sin with them. The more weight you drag behind you, the less likely it is that you will reach your destination.

I knew a Christian guy who had a thriving ministry to college students. But because he refused to get help for his pornography habit, his addiction prevented him from functioning normally. It finally weighed him down so much that it destroyed both his marriage and ministry. You may think you can “manage” your sin, but it is more powerful than you are. You can’t move forward while carrying a load of shame and addictions. Repent, confess your weakness to someone else and get free.

4. Fear of change. Many people feel a tug in their hearts that says: Start that Bible study. Go on that mission trip. Write that book. Launch that business. But they never get past step one because they feel frozen in their tracks. Nothing will keep you in spiritual limbo like fear. It paralyzes.

Some people keep their dreams inside them for decades—and then they take them to the grave. If you want to grow, you must take risks. Don’t let your fear of public speaking, airplanes, crowds, strangers or people’s criticism stop you from trusting in the God who is bigger than all those things.

5. Shallow relationships. Who are you hanging around with? Abraham had to part ways with Lot because they had very different goals. Lot had a selfish motive, and Abraham was fully surrendered to God’s plan. If you spend all your time with selfish people who are content to live spiritually fruitless lives, you will end up just like them.

If you want to move forward spiritually in 2017, don’t expect the crowd to go with you. Some people don’t want God’s presence. Don’t let them drag you down. Be willing to find new friends who will support your spiritual commitment.

6. A religious spirit. Religious people build memorials to honor what God did in 1967, sing songs from that era and write books about “the way we’ve always done it.” Yet when the Holy Spirit calls them to “sing … a new song” (Psalm 96:1), or if He starts doing “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19a), they get offended. They insist God must move the exact same way He did 50 years ago.

But God does not stay in the same place or do things the same way. His character is unchangeable, but He always has a fresh word and a new anointing to pour on His people. He loves to surprise and overwhelm us. Don’t let religious inflexibility keep you from experiencing the adventure of following His Spirit.

J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.

January 13, 2016

Why People are Leaving and Churches are Dying

Today we pay a return visit to Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. (And this time we looked into it and no, Shane and Kyle are not related!) To read this at source on the church blog, click the title below; there’s also a related article by him linked at the bottom.

The Real Reason Churches Die and People Leave

Experts say that nearly 4,000 churches close every year in America and over 3,500 people leave the church every single day.

Church is boring, ​and many churches are dying ​because the power of God has vanished from the pulpit as well as the pew. Like Samson, they “know not that the Spirit of the Lord has departed” (cf. Judge 16:20). But there is hope if we once again seek God. “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn” (John Wesley).

Shane IdlemanWe need genuine revival preaching: “Revival preaching is more concerned about an outcome than an outline. The revival preacher is more aware of his text than the time. He is bent on pleasing the Lord rather than pleasing men. His ear is tuned to hear and heed the voice of God” (Harold Vaughan). “We need more prophets in our pulpits and less puppets” (Leonard Ravenhill).

​Many know about ​2 Chronicles 7:14​ , but fail to apply it​​: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

God’s call is not to Hollywood, Washington, or the media, but to us. If “My people” turn back to Me I will heal and restore. We have a form of microwave Christianity. Service times are cut to just over an hour, prayer is glanced over, and worship is designed to entertain the masses. “People are bored,” they say, “so our services need to be more appealing.” You can increase attendance with slick marketing and entertaining services, but you’ll miss the heart of God. The church will be a mile wide but only an inch deep.

To seek in the context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 means to “find what is missing.” The Hebrew word for seek, baqash, has a very strong meaning. Imagine losing your child in a crowded mall. Your entire heart would be engaged. How would you spend your time? Where would your energy be concentrated? Now parallel this with seeking God.

I’ve often said that one of the most difficult challenges associated with pastoring is not sermon preparation, leading a church, or taxing counseling appointments; it’s witnessing the tragic results of spiritual dehydration—watching people die spiritually with living water just steps away. Sadly, we are too busy and too self-absorbed to truly seek Him.

In today’s culture, there are countless enticements that pull us away from God. It is my firm belief that, second only to salvation, seeking God is the most important aspect of the Christian life…to truly know God: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Very few of us ever experience this close relationship with God because it involves things such as humility, dying to self, vibrant prayer, and heart-felt worship. This isn’t meant to discourage, but to convict. Conviction is a wonderful gift from God used to turn the heart back to Him.

Let’s be honest: how many can truly say like Jeremiah, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9)? How many have truly experienced Jesus’ words in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water?” How many can truly relate to “times of refreshing” found in Acts 3:19?

Many have head knowledge, but they’ve never truly experienced the presence of God. Often, it’s because of ongoing and unconfessed sin. Being tempted isn’t sin—surrendering to it is. Temptation is also an opportunity to do what is right by turning from it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

This “way of escape” is ultimately what tilts the scale toward seeking God. When we flee temptation, turn from sin, and seek God, the by-product is the filling of the Spirit. The door of temptation swings both ways—you can enter or exit. If we choose to enter, once inside, we may not see the exit sign so clearly again.

I’ll close with a correspondence I received from a man before he fully sought God with all his heart, “I had become someone I never thought I would become. I was in complete darkness…I would sleep in my clothes for as long as I could. I began wishing that I would die. The emotional pain was unbearable.”

Here is his correspondence after he passionately sought God and surrendered his life to Him. “I only wish that everyone could feel the love that I experienced. I’m able to forgive others and genuinely love them. I feel like I have been re-born…elusive peace has now been found.”

How long will you waver? If God is God follow Him (cf. 1 Kings 18:21). ​​

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He recently released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God at shaneidleman.com


Related article by Shane: Why Do So Many People Hate Preachers?

Related: A.W. Tozer quotation at Clark Bunch’s blog.

 

October 17, 2014

Full of Grace

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John 1:14 — The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

John 4:19, 20 — “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” (NLT)

Today we offer you a preview excerpt from Philip Yancey’s new book Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News, releasing Tuesday from Zondervan.

Vanishing Grace Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” wrote John in the preface to his gospel.  The church has worked tirelessly on the truth part of that formula:  witness the church councils, creeds, volumes of theology, and denominational splits over minor points of doctrine.  I yearn for the church to compete just as hard in conveying what Paul calls the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace.  Often, it seems, we’re perceived more as guilt-dispensers than as grace-dispensers.

John records one close-up encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.  Knowing well the antipathy between the two groups, she marveled that a Jewish rabbi would even speak to her.  At one point she brought up one of the disputed points of doctrine:  Who had the proper place of worship, the Jews or the Samaritans?  Jesus deftly sidestepped the question and bore in on a far more important issue:  her unquenched thirst.  He offered her not judgment but a lasting solution to her guilt over an unsettled life.  To her and her alone he openly identified himself as Messiah and chose her as a grace-dispenser.  Her transformation captured the attention of the whole town, and Jesus stayed for two days among the “heretics,” attracting many converts.

That scene of Jesus and the Samaritan woman came up during a day I spent with the author Henri Nouwen at his home in Toronto.  He had just returned from San Francisco, where he spent a week in an AIDS clinic visiting patients who, in the days before antiretroviral drugs, faced a certain and agonizing death.  “I’m a priest, and as part of my job I listen to people’s stories,”  he told me.  “So I went up and down the ward asking the patients, most of them young men, if they wanted to talk.”

Nouwen went on to say that his prayers changed after that week.  As he listened to accounts of promiscuity and addiction and self-destructive behavior, he heard hints of a thirst for love that had never been quenched.  From then on he prayed, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people.  And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.”

That day with the gentle priest has stayed with me.  Now, whenever I encounter strident skeptics who mock my beliefs or people whose behavior I find offensive, I remind myself of Henri Nouwen’s prayer.  I ask God to keep me from rushing to judgment or bristling with self-defense.  Let me see them as thirsty people, I pray,  and teach me how best to present the Living Water.

pp 27-29

January 9, 2014

The Two Audiences

In a blog titled Christianity 201, one assumes the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is somewhat familiar.  If not, take the time to read it here.

I’ve been reading an advance copy of the book AHA by Kyle Idleman, releasing in the spring, and he noted something that my wife said we’ve heard before, but it struck me rather fresh this time. After completely digesting the story, Kyle returned to the setup that Luke provides in the first two verses:

1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered…

There you see two distinct audiences for Jesus’ story: Tax collectors and sinners — interesting distinction, don’t you think? — representing the younger brother in the story who returns to his father at the end to say, “I have sinned…” and Pharisees and teachers of the law represented the older brother in the story. Kyle even hints that finding a way to reach the hearts of that second group may have more to do with how the particular story was crafted.

AHA Kyle IdlemanIn many respects, this represents the two types of people who sit near us at any given weekend church service. If your church is doing it right; you’ve got people from the community who you and your fellow church members are inviting who are on the road to crossing the line of faith, or have recently come into fellowship and are seeing everything for the first time. Then, you’ve got what is probably a majority of people who have been in church since they were minus-nine months; the Sunday School teachers, choir/worship team members, committee members, ushers, elders, deacons, etc.

Is every Sunday’s sermon a Prodigal Son type of story that bridges the two audiences? I can picture myself coming to your church and preaching this story and impressing everyone with how it reaches both types of people, but then what do the following week for an encore?

I was first made to think about this when I had the privilege of hearing Keith Green in concert several times before his death in 1982.  (Did I just give away my age?) Keith was one of the most spiritually focused Christian musicians I have ever encountered and he easily bridged the gap between two kinds of audience members by stressing the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The call that Jesus makes in scripture is a call to people who are (a) hungry and thirsty and (b) people who need to have that hunger and thirst — that desire for God — perpetually stimulated. There is a saying that, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, but you can put salt in its oats to make it thirsty.‘ (Okay, you’re probably less familiar with that last bit.)

Psalm 42:1 (NiRV) states:

A deer longs for streams of water.
    God, I long for you in the same way.

God wants to cultivate within us a hunger and thirst for Him. The person who has been a Christ-follower for 40-years needs this just as much as the person who has been a Christian for 40 minutes.

I believe it was Keith Green himself who pointed out that the word saviour occurs 37 times in the King James translation, while Lord appears 7836 times. That’s a ratio of nearly 212 to one. Our evangelistic and pre-evangelistic efforts are great as far as they go, but Christ’s intent is nothing less than that we make Him Lord over all our lives.

Bringing our lives in subjection to him is something the Prodigal Son story teaches both to the younger brothers and older brothers in the crowd; the message cuts across both demographics.


As I approached the end of the book, there were two brief things that also struck me that I wanted to share here.

“Let’s say the Prodigal Son lived in our culture today. He would have run out of money, but then, in order to prolong the pleasure, he would have continued his wild living by racking up credit-card debt. How much more would that have complicated his story? How much worse would it have been for the son to arrive home with looming debt? Picture him saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I have no money, and by the way, some creditors are coming, and I owe twice what my inheritance was worth.’ The longer we try and prolong the pleasure, the greater the pain will be.”  (pp 168-9)

The other insight was in reference to the older brother:

“This is the problem with confidence in our own goodness. We begin to believe we’re going to earn something from the Father. But the Father’s house is not a house of merit; it is a house of mercy.” (p. 200)

Those of us who have been in the church for awhile need to curb the tendencies to fall into older brother syndrome, because the demand for Lordship that Christ places on us is actually greater than that placed on those who are meeting Him for the first time.

June 22, 2012

The Importance of Staying Hungry

Stumbled on a most interesting website the other day, Blessed Economist.  In this recent post Hungry in Christchurch, he summarizes a sermon preached by Bill Johnson in Christchurch, NZ. 

In his sermon of the week, Bill Johnson spoke about hunger. He suggested that we get hungry by eating.

He also spoke of remaining hungry while coming into abundance of blessing. Our challenge is remain hungry while being full of the Spirit.

  • Hunger illustrates humility.
  • Hunger releases a capacity to dream.
  • Hunger cause people to move outside the place of safety.

The Lord is releasing a gift of hunger.

  • The gift of hunger is essential for the next season.
  • The gift of hunger is a gift for people on whom he will pour out a blessing that is bigger than anything has been know before.
  • The gift of hunger allows us to receive the blessing of the Lord, while remaining in the right place.

Bill quoted Ps 107:33-37.

33 He turns rivers into a wilderness,
And the springs of water into dry ground;
34 A fruitful land into barrenness,
For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.

Wickedness causes rivers to run dry and fruitful land becomes a wilderness. The key to understanding this is Luke 1:53.

He has filled the hungry with good things.
but has sent the rich away empty handed.

It is not that God dislikes the rich. He cannot bless those who have become satisfied with what they have and do not remain humble. He takes those who have been blessed and returns them to a place of need, so they can re-discover the source of their blessing, which is hunger. If blessing has caused us to wander he, out of mercy, removes the blessing, so that we will return to the source of our strength.

God blesses those who become hungry. In Psalm 107:35-37 this had happened.

35 He turns a wilderness into pools of water,
And dry land into watersprings.
36 There He makes the hungry dwell,
That they may establish a city for a dwelling place,
37 And sow fields and plant vineyards,
That they may yield a fruitful harvest.
Bill said that Psalm 107:36 is a prophetic decree for this generation.
36 There He makes the hungry dwell,
That they may establish a city for a dwelling place.

The hungry are given the unique privilege of establishing a city.
God is raising up companies of people who cry our constantly, “God, save my city!”

  • The don’t just want individuals saved, they want the systems of the city saved.
  • The want the way people do life to change.
  • They want kingdom values to permeate every aspect of life.
  • They want all interactions, including relationships, business, education impacted by the Spirit.
  • They want everything to be impacted by his divine order.

God will entrust the destiny of the city to the hungry.

  • He wants the hungry to define the DNA of the city.
  • The foundational values will be defined by those who have remained humble, kept connected with the Spirit and the purposes of God.
  • He wants the heart of the city to be shaped by those who have not become complacent and satisfied with what they obtained.
  • He wants the nature of cities defined by hungry people.
  • God will release favour and increase to the hungry.
  • Their voice will impact the destiny of cities.
  • Hungry people change the environment they live in.

The Lord is releasing a grace for remaining hungry while being blessed.

When I heard Bill Johnson’s message, I was stunned, because I remembered a description of the first communion service held when the first English settlers arrived in Christchurch in December 1850. The first ships had arrived at the Port of Lyttleton, but the settlers had not travelled over the hills to the site of the new city. On the Sunday, the settlers met in the second storey of a warehouse on Norwich Quay. The passengers, who had climbed upstairs on a ladder, sat on planks on packing cases. Here is the description of the event recorded in “Canterbury Sketches: Life from Early Days”.

The Psalm for the day, the 22nd, was wonderfully applicable to us. These are the verses I refer to, “And there he setteth the hungry that they may find them a city to dwell in; that they may plant their fruits and increase. He blesseth them so that they multiply exceedingly and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.” It seemed as if the Almighty had given us His blessing on our new life and may we not say on looking back through the long vista of years, that He has blessed many of us abundantly, and made us a prosperous and happy people?

The lectionary reading for that Sunday was Psalm 107 and the reader at the service read the same verses about the hungry establishing the city. So verse 36 is not just a prophecy for our generation, but a prophecy for the city of Christchurch.

The city has been devastated by the earthquake and left empty and barren. God is promising that the future of the city will not be shaped by powerful people who have forgotten him.

The future of the city will be shaped by the hungry. Their voice will have impact on the destiny of the city.

God is promising that the hungry will establish the city. He will bless them and their number will be greatly increased.

He makes the hungry dwell there,
that they may establish a city for a dwelling place.
They sowed.. and planted…
that yielded a fruitful harvest;
he blessed them,
and their numbers greatly increased.

The kingdom of God will be established in Christchurch through people who are hungry for the Spirit and a revelation of the glory of God.

 

January 14, 2011

Hunger as a “Gift”

Today’s post is the daily devotional from Joni and Friends, the ministry founded by Joni Eareckson Tada.  The first link above is a general one that will get you a new devotional reading each day, not necessarily the one printed here.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  –Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Humans get hungry, and not just for food but for a whole range of desires and dreams. Hunger to have hopes fulfilled and longings answered seems to be built into us.

Sometimes our hunger gets us into trouble, and we wish we could curb our appetites. But in Deuteronomy 8:2, you’ll be surprised to learn who gives us these longings. The Lord is the one who causes us to hunger. He is the one who has put within us our desires and yearnings. At first, this seems odd. Doesn’t God know that the “hungries” often get us into trouble?

God has good reasons for giving us such large appetites. He has placed within us desires and dreams in order to test us and humble us, to see what is in our heart, to see whether or not we would follow Him. He causes us to hunger so that we might learn to feed on the Bread of Heaven, to live on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To hunger is to be human, but to hunger for God is to feed on Him. Hunger and thirst after His righteousness and feed on Him in your heart. Taste and see that the Lord is good; it is He who will fill you to satisfaction.

I am prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. I’m prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, please take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. 


Want to get more out of the devotional and teaching blogs you read online?  When I’m preparing Christianity 201 entries for each day, especially the ones where I’m reposting something that someone else wrote, it’s easy to just say, “That one looks good;” and do a quick cut-and-paste.  What I find causes me to really slow down and consider what I’m reading is preparing the “tags” that accompany each blog post.  If you blog, you know about these, but if not, you can pretend you’re editing a site like this one.  What keywords or “tags” can you think of to attach to what you’re reading?  The tags don’t have to be words in the actual text — I use “Christianity” and “devotional” most days simply to attract readers who are looking for those themes — but the tag can be something else that is suggested by what you’re reading.  We often find ourselves so hurried that it’s easy to miss the essence of what we’re reading.  Slow down and look for the tags!

 

November 2, 2010

How We Approach Worship

Joshua Harris has noticed a disturbing trend in his church with people arriving later and later, even for the “late” 11:30 AM service.   “I’d rather have you guys looking bedraggled on time than looking beautiful late.”   He also introduces a pre-service prayer time.

His three points are:

1. Come Eager to sing to him, fellowship with other Christians, hear his word.
2. Come Expectant that he will speak, change us and refresh us.
3. Come Early —not walking in late, but in our seats and ready to go [when the service starts].

Is this message applicable to the place where you worship?   Do we need reminders like this to avoid the risk of complacency?

October 24, 2010

Unpacking the Meaning of Brokenness

This week I discovered blogger Daniel Jepsen, who does a great job summarizing Nancy Leigh DeMoss; but I’ll let him introduce it…

A year or two ago my friend Gina loaned me a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss titled, Brokenness. I found the whole book helpful, but especially the description of what brokenness is.  I printed this out last week to distribute to the class I am teaching on the holiness of God, and thought I would reprint it here.  Warning: it is very convicting.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

~Daniel Jepsen; source blog link

June 1, 2010

Down At Your Feet: No Higher Calling

Here is another one of those “lost” worship songs.   I knew the song connected to Lenny LeBlanc, but didn’t know it had been recorded by Maranatha! Music.

The actual title is “No Higher Calling,” but you may remember it as “Down At Your Feet, Oh Lord.”

Down at Your feet oh Lord
Is the most high place
In Your presence Lord
I seek Your face
I seek Your face

There is no higher calling
No greater honor
Than to bow and kneel before Your throne

I’m amazed at Your glory
Embraced by Your mercy
Oh Lord I live to worship You

Greg Gulley & Lenny LeBlanc
© 1989, 1999 Doulos Publishing (Maranatha! Music [Admin. by Music Services])

The video version here is a little more “polished” than I remember this song; I appreciate worship that is a little more “raw” than this.   But it’s a great song worthy of some updated exposure.

“I’m amazed at your glory; embraced by your mercy…”

Bonus video:  Here’s another version of No Higher Calling.