Saturday, December 3, 2011

True Fasting

Isaiah 58:1-4 - True Fasting
 1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.   Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions
   and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves,
   and you have not noticed?’    “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
   and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today  and expect your voice to be heard on high. 

This is such a true picture of many Christians in our nation today. We say "Why have we humbled ourselves and prayed to You God- yet You do nothing, You don't notice."  But have we really humbled ourselves? The scripture says in:
II Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sins and will heal their land. 

Our land needs healing, our sins need forgiving, and our hearts need humbling. How then shall we truly fast and pray and humble our hears as God has requested? The remainder of Isaiah 58 it will give us an insight into what God is looking for in a humble heart.

 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry  and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,  and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,  and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;  you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

   “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
   with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
   and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden,  like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,  and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land  and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

         For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. 

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Friday, October 28, 2011

In Spirit and in truth....

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." Exodus 20:7

This is a very strong command... the Lord takes His name very seriously. In the Old Testament His name was given as a facet of his being, as a description of who He is, and what the people needed at that time. Jehovah Jirah - my Provider, Jehovah Rappha - my Healer. God's Name is not just something we should just throw around recklessly. There are very obvious examples of this, I'm sure we all hear people take the name of the Lord in vain, just in our every day life, in our day to day conversations. We've all heard and have ourselves said God's name to punctuate our disappointment. But God does not want us using His name as an exclamation point. His name is Holy, because He is Holy. Therefore we should be treating it reverently everytime we say His name. Jesus taught us to pray saying: Our Father who art in heaven- Hallowed be Thy Name. Hallowed means Holy. Holy be Your Name.

But more than just in idle conversation, God's name is in my opinion even more often taken in vain in our churches during our worship. We are idly throwing out God's name in song, not meaning anything that we say.

 John 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

When I break this verse down I see that God is asking us to worship first in Spirit, this means that we are not worshiping in the flesh, the music is not as important as the heart. God is not hearing our off key rendition, He is hearing our spirit crying out to His.

Secondly He is listening for us to mean what we are saying. To worship in truth. We are not to be idly saying 'O God you are my God...' We are supposed to mean it: "God YOU are my God!" This doesn't mean He wants us shouting as loud as we can over each other. No God is not asking us to do that. He is asking us to feel, and to know that, yes, God is our God.

Matthew 12:36

36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

This does not mean that we should not sing if we don't feel it. It means that we should enter into the house of worship with intention, with preparation to worship our God. We should soften our hearts to hear from Him. And be willing to put aside all the cares of the world to truly worship God in spirit and in truth!

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here am I.... send me!

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

This has always been to me, the most frightening of verses... Here am I, send me? But what about my job my family? I always was worried that as soon as I said this, God would send me somewhere far away, with snakes and spiders galore. Well I suppose so far he has sent me to be worship leader at MMCC... where we do have our share of snakes, but that is aside from the point. I have frequently heard God's call to action, and have reacted in various and some, quite despicable ways. Reading through the bible I see a large variety in how the prophets responded to God, often very similarly to what I have personally done as well. Which one is closer to our response? Which one would we like to have be our response?

First I would like to examine Jonah... God called him to go to Nineveh, called him to tell the people(who clearly were bad people) to repent, or be destroyed. What was Jonah's response? "Here am I, I'm not going"

Jonah 1: 1-3  1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. 

God called him to a work - Preach against Nineveh, but his reaction showed lack of faith (in God) & love (for souls), cf. Jonah 4:1-5. For myself personally, most often this response is out of fear. Often like Jonah - I will be running from spiritual obligations, believing I have good reasons which clear me from responsibility.

The next biblical person I would like to have us look at is Moses. “Here am I, send Aaron”  Exodus 3:11-4:17
  Moses knew the need which existed, he just couldn’t see himself being used by God to meet the need. He offered multiple excuses aimed at removing himself from God’s consideration as deliverer of Israel. He was hoping that God would change his mind. I often rationalize why I am not best suited for some spiritual work - That surely God could find someone other than me, and better than me, to do what needs to be done? 

The last person would be Isaiah how did he react when God called him? 
Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah was overwhelmed with God's majesty, was stricken by the sin of the people, and was eager and willing to go wherever God sent him, to say whatever God told him.

What is our reaction when God calls us?

Ephesians 4:1-4

 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling

We have all been called, if you are a Christian God is calling you, calling you to service, calling you to be holy because He is holy, To be the salt of the earth, a light in the world. Calling you to shine His light forth so others might see it and be saved. What is your answer today?

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Revive us Oh Lord...


1. restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength

I have been reading a lot about revival, and what we should be praying for. One of the most powerful things that I can find is something that was initially preached by an old tent revival preacher who said: "If you really want to pray for revival, then go outside, and draw a circle around yourself in the dirt. Then pray to God that He will revive everything inside that circle." Another way that I saw it put was to go into your prayer closet and draw a circle around yourself with chalk.... in Robie Creek we have plenty of dirt, but I suppose not everyone has that luxury. You see we cannot ask God to Revive our county, our church or our nation when we ourselves our lukewarm Christians. We need a personal revival, a spiritual awakening that will take us out of our mundane lifestyle and take us back to the place where we are on fire for Jesus!

Revelation 3:14-22

New International Version (NIV)
To the Church in Laodicea
    14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:    These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
   19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
   21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Here is a list of  what we are to pray for when we are praying for a personal Revival. This is a list that Pastor Bob Stone used when he spear-headed his 'Chalk Revival' at his church, Hillcrest Chapel in WA.

I Want To Pray For

  1. A revitalization of my spiritual life and also of this church and our nation—2 Chronicles 7:14-15; Is. 6:1-8; 57:15.
  2. A repentance from sin—secret sins—sins that wrap around my feet and trip me up; along with confession of sin to others; restitution for sin; and the granting of forgiveness to others when appropriate—Heb. 12:1; James 5:16; Luke 15:21; 19:1-10.
  3. A restoration of my love for and study of the Word—Ps. 119:97-106; 2 Tim. 2:15.
  4. A release of the Holy Spirit to give me empowerment for service and a compassion for lost people—Eph. 5:18-21; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Matt. 9:36.
  5. A return to my first love, to love God and family more than ever before—Rev. 2:4; Mal. 4:5-6.
  6. A remembrance and thanksgiving for all He has done for me—Rom. 1:21; Eph. 5:4; Heb. 12:28.
  7. A reshaping of my praise and worship so I truly worship with my whole heart, body and life—Ps. 95:6; 100; Rom. 12:1; Eph. 5:18-21; Matt. 5:16; James 5:13.

Isaiah 57:15

New King James Version (NKJV)
15 For thus says the High and Lofty One
      Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

      “ I dwell in the high and holy place,
      With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
      To revive the spirit of the humble,
      And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Revelation 2:4-6

New International Version (NIV)
   4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Psalm 95:6

New International Version (NIV)
 6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
   let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; 

Habakkuk 3:2

New King James Version (NKJV)
2 O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid;
      O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years!
      In the midst of the years make it known;
      In wrath remember mercy.

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Worship.... warfare....

What is worship? I was contemplating this today... I believe that true worship is not something that we do, it is something that we are. It is not just singing a song, or a good sermon. It is something that we are, and should be continuously.
Sometimes true worship can seem embarrassing... maybe God has prompted you to raise your hands during a song and it just seemed too much. But worship is not just for God's sake. The bible says that He inhabits the praise of His people.
Psalm 22:3
 3 But You
are holy,
         Enthroned in the praises of Israel.

That means that through worship we can have a moment to be in close contact with our Sovereign Savior. A chance to enter into His presence and to pour out our hearts to  Him.  

But more than this, the bible also says that He will rejoice over us with singing. I heard a worship leader talking about this today and it really was amazing observation that he had.. He said that when he sings a song, he likes to imagine God singing back to him. 
Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Worship is not a one way street. When we worship God, truly worship God, then our hearts are prepared to hear back from Him. He delights in our praise, He inhabits our praise, and He will quiet us with His love and rejoice over us with singing.  What a beautiful picture that is to me! Us struggling to maintain a semblance of any key or music, and the Creator of voices and song, singing back to us. Delighting in what we give to Him.

More than that though the scriptures call worship, warfare. In Psalm they call the praise of God a two-edged sword used to execute vengeance.

Psalm 149:5-9

 5 Let the saints be joyful in glory;
         Let them sing aloud on their beds.
 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
         And a two-edged sword in their hand,
 7 To execute vengeance on the nations,
         And punishments on the peoples;
 8 To bind their kings with chains,
         And their nobles with fetters of iron;
 9 To execute on them the written judgment—
         This honor have all His saints.
         Praise the LORD!

We are not called to simple singing or indifferent praise. We are called to worship in spirit and in truth. How many of us can say that is something that we have done this past week?

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, July 25, 2011

The parable of the sower

Matthew 13

The Parable of the Sower
 1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

     This parable is a very common told one. Something that I'm sure we all have heard numerous sermons preached on. But this weekend I heard one that varied from many others. Of course we all can read a little farther into the chapter and Jesus Himself tells us what the parable means. The farmer is God, the seed is His Word being sown into the lives of people, and we are the dirt. Not exactly flattering, but hey, that's what Jesus says there. 

      I often hear the reference of this chapter as the seeds falling on the path are seeds to unbelievers who won't soften up and listen to what God says, that the seed on the rocky places were people who listened but fall away quickly because they did not have any depth to their belief, and that the seed among the thorns are ones who listen hear but then get concerned about trivial things and fall away. Not that this is at all incorrect, but the sermon this week took it a bit farther applying all of these things to the believer as well as the unbeliever. Since I assume the majority of people reading this are in fact believers I just want to touch on that aspect of this.

     First I'd like to start with a picture of what the path would look like. Imagine a garden, there is the soft ground that has been worked in long mounded rows and between each of these is a path, that you walk up and down to get to the areas you need to. These paths in the bible times would be walked on by hundreds of servants, the owner of the field, and the people allowed to glean in the fields with the workers. The ground between the areas where the plants grow would be unworkable, hard, and impenetrable. And the chickens, or birds are happy to get into this area and if they can find a seed they will snatch it up and eat it. This is the picture of the heart of someone who refuses to listen to what God says. Often these people are not believers, but how often have we as Christians ignored God, pretended we couldn't hear Him, or blatantly disobeyed what He commanded of us? This is the picture of the first seed. The one that fell along the path. The picture of the hardened heart of someone willfully attempting to disobey God's will. Think of Jonah running the opposite direction of what God has asked of him. Now it certainly isn't easy to soften your heart in that state. Anyone who has gardened, especially pre-rototiller days, knows how hard it is to soften packed ground. To loosen it to make it at all useful. But this is what God is asking of us, to soften our hearts to listen. I'd imagine that it is painful, I mean who wants to have everything around them tilled, and reworked? But it is not as painful as living an unfruitful, unproductive and unwilling life, producing nothing for the Kingdom of God. How soft and willing is your heart?

   The second picture is that of the seeds that fall in rocky places. In Idaho we tend to have large and small rocks all over, that a persistent plant could possibly work it's roots around and reach good soil. But in Jerusalem their terrain is a little different. Jesus was talking about places that look like good soil and for the first few inches they are, but then underneath is a large slab of limestone or sandstone that was impossible to move or work around. The only thing that you could do was not plant in those areas. This is the picture of the Christian who comes to church and hears a wonderful sermon or great worship, or reads something inspiring, they feel like nothing can stop their faith in those times, but then something happens to shatter their faith or shake them and they fall away quickly. Retreating back to complacency where they think that they will be safe from hurt and trials. They have no depth and eventually they lose faith completely. In our Christian walk, how often do we hear a good sermon, have a good word of God put into our hearts, but when we get home from church we get in a fight with our spouse or argue with our kids and the word completely withers.  We need to ensure our heart is soft so the word can plant itself deeply into good soil, and not lose it's hold on Faith.

The third picture is the one that struck me the most, that is of the seed that fell among the weeds and thorns. Anyone who has tried to garden knows that weeds don't just suddenly decide that they have plagued your yard enough and will now wander off to pester your neighbors yard for a while and give you a break. Weeds are all about territory, they will spread wherever you give them room to move. If you don't get rid of them, they will take over everything. They are aggressive, pushy, and will literally choke the life out of anything else you try to grow. My dad spends hours out in his garden trying to prevent weeds from taking over. The weeds in this picture are to me the things that are taking over the majority of our thoughts and our lives. These may not necessarily be bad things, often they are not, maybe it's work or other obligations, maybe its television or our appearance how we want other people to view us, in this superficial world that we live in, it's a terrible temptation to worry only about the outward things. Maybe it's pornography, alcohol or some other addiction. Whatever it is, God commands us to pull those weeds out of our mind and to renew our minds by the cleansing of our hearts. What is taking up the majority of your heart garden? Is it the things of God? If not then it is superficial, will not matter into eternity, probably don't even matter now, and are just weeds. These weeds will take over everything if you do not actively remove them from your life. As the saying goes if Satan can't make you bad, he'll make you busy. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The final picture is that of the Christian who has actively cared for the condition of his or her soil. Removing weeds avoiding rocky places and continually softening the area to be productive and fruitful. Therefore producing good fruit and a plentiful harvest.

When you look back on your one and only life what will your fruit look like? Will it be an empty basket? A small basket with some withered vegetables? Or a great bounty of things to bring glory to God? All of us have the potential to do great things for God, He doesn't call all of us to be Billy Graham, but He does ask us all to live up to the best that He has called us to. That doesn't matter if it is raising your children in a Godly way, loving your spouse like Christ loved the church or going to the backwoods in Mexico to spread the gospel. God will hold each of us to our own measuring stick. We just need to pray that our hearts will be soft enough to be receptive of God's guidance and will. So I ask you... what is the condition of your dirt? 

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

But if not....

Daniel 3:16-18
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If this be so,(AA) our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

I frequently pray that if I were in such circumstance, that I would boldly say to the one person that was holding the key to my life(at least on earth) in his hand; "My God will deliver me, but if not I still will not worship your gods." To have that kind of faith, that says that I know that God has the ability to deliver me out of this trial or problem, but even if He doesn't, I know that He is still there, and He still cares for me. There is a song out right now by Laura Story: Blessings- one of the verses which reads:

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

Isaiah 40:28-31“Have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

God's promises are enough! His grace is enough!! Just remember next time you are feeling discouraged, that maybe the trials of this life are just God's mercies in disguise.

(see this link for the song  Blessings by Laura Story)

Until next time: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26