Pistol Packin’ Christian?

Hello all, when writing for this Blog I try to be as out of the way as possible for many reasons. One being that I don’t really matter in the big scheme of God’s eternal plan and two, exposing myself to the entire internet world might not be the smartest idea. But since information like the style of tattoo I have on my chest is being preached from the pulpit I guess exposing my heart here can’t do much harm (Mad Love J-Mart).

Most recently I have been struggling with the idea of getting a handgun for protection. It seems that most Christians stand on one side of this issue or the other both of which I am not here to condemn, but you are reading my blog so you can expect to get my opinion and a little revelation I hope.

So after contemplating the fact that I have a family with small children in my house (not my kids, my sister’s); I have had the idea of getting a gun swimming in and out of my heart. Not that I would want or need one to protect myself, but to protect those who I feel responsible for. So I have wrestled and wrestled, I have asked for advice from folks around me who I respect and came back with even more reasons to stay right on the middle of the fence. Something in my heart was fearful that if I got a gun I would be under the influence of a spirit that I would not have control of. When I was younger (and not in the faith) I carried a gun with a gutsy paranoia and an attitude that if I could not win in a fight I would just shoot anyone who opposed me. This kind of attitude is all I have ever had towards guns and my association with them has always been that way. Since you’re reading my Blog I would hope you would have an understanding of the person God has transformed me into, and you probably understand why I would be hesitant to get a gun again.

About a month ago, I filled had out my paperwork for my handgun license and received the acceptance letter. Since then I have been kind of searching for a word from God on whether or not to go and pick it up the license, then…..

Friday morning the 16th I took the day off for work to get ready to go to the Revonare conference and decided to have my weekly Sabbath with God. As I was reading the Word the Lord led me to 2nd Samuel chapter 19.  The Lord has been leading me to this chapter for the past couple of years over and over again more times than I can count. It’s amazing how much I have studied this small passage of scripture. I can tell you all kinds of crazy facts about the characters mentioned. Like Mephibosheth one of my favorite characters of the Old Testament. Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan that was paralyzed from the waist down. David loved Jonathan so much that Mephibosheth lived with David and ate at his table until his dieing day. Do you know how Mephibosheth became “lame in his feet”? His Dad’s maidservant dropped him on the ground when she heard the news that Saul had fallen on his sword and Jonathan was killed on the same day. Crazy huh? 

So the beginning of the 19th chapter documents David wailing for his son Absalom. Absalom had started a rebellion against his father in which David chose to flee from Absalom. David sent out his troops to “deal gently with Absalom.” and end the rebellion. The troops went out and pursued the opposing army, many men died and Absalom while riding through the woods got his hair caught in a tree. The men of David saw Absalom and Joab, one the leaders of the army, decided to kill him and bury him under stones.

David gets the news and begins to wail for his son, “Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I have died instead of you, O Absalom, my son my son!” (Can you hear the grief and love)? The army of David hears of this mourning and come back to the city in shame. Joab rebukes Him for the lack of encouragement for his men who fought for him; And David begins his return to the city of Jerusalem.  

David sends word to those who were opposed to him saying “Are you not flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone?” Foes who were guilty of rebellion and who did not support David during the rebellion come to meet him on His way back to Jerusalem and he pardons them and restores them back to there rightful position.

Like I mentioned earlier, I have read this story more than any other passage of scripture in the Old Testament but I never heard from the Lord like I did Friday. The Lord revealed his great mercy and love for me and even for those who rebel against Him. David fled from his opposition and had great mercy in his heart even when it meant that His life was at stake. He mourned almost to the point of losing the favor of his entire army when Absalom died. Those who were guilty of rebellion against the throne could of been rightfully killed, but David had great mercy and let them live.

This message from the Lord has overwhelmed me with the beauty of God’s love. It has led me to pray prayers that I never knew how to pray. I have been praying for the Love of the Father; to have his great love and mercy for those around me. How could a son of God that has direct access to this kind of love and mercy ever think about being aggressive towards anyone else. When you can recognize the greatness of God’s love toward us it frees us to love others with a love that is comparable.

The way of peace and the cross breaks the injustice of violence. There is no other way for me to see it. It has been etched into my heart.

So I would like to thank Sheriff Daniel E. Bailey for permission to have a handgun but I have been instructed by the one and only Authority and He has shown me a better way;  The way of the cross, The way of Love, The way of self-sacrifice…NOT SELF DEFENSE.

 

The Lord of the Prayers: Humanity in the Heavens

In Lord of the rings, the one “ring” of power is cut from the hand of Sauron and all of the rules of power and authority are in the hands of the beholder. Centuries pass and the heart of men keep the ring from being destroyed. That is until the Fellowship of the Ring and a young hobbit named Frodo embarks on the journey.

In my humble opinion, As believers in Christ Jesus, the one power that was lost in the garden and was won back on the cross was Prayer. And as an unqualified hobbit like man, I want to embark on a journey to debunk and tear down the false teachings and understanding of this gift that has been given to man. I want to cast the ring of bad “prayerology” (My new word I think) into the fiery depths of Mt. Mordor. Won’t you journey with me?

Movement 1:

Humanity in the Heavens

It absolutely eats me up to hear anyone say that “I am not a good prayer.” This is a lie from the Devil. And by repeating it you are building a Prayerology of lies in your soul. Words carry weight…David speaks to His soul and says “Why are you downcast Oh my soul…” He encourages himself. Now don’t get me wrong I know what you mean, but the truth is that you probably aren’t a bad prayer but you’re probably not much of a prayer at all and that’s not entirely your fault. The subject is highly neglected and deeply undervalued. If you want to be a good prayer in public you must be a good prayer at home.

I hear people when they speak of accountability talking about asking each other if your prayer times are fruitful. I can understand this saying but, this is not at all the way I could ever be measured. First of all prayer is communion with God which means that we don’t determine the outcome. I can’t make Our prayer time fruitful. Seasons of prayer come and go, for example I have been in a rather different season for the past few years that is not at all like any other season I have experienced, not to say it’s deeper and richer but is it for sure different. But what I can control is how much time I spend in communion. From the very first month of being devoted to God I began to keep a timer/alarm clock going to remind me when the time I had gladly devoted to God would be up. I start to pray and all I know is that when the timer goes off I probably have to get ready for work. This method really helps to keep your mind from worrying about what’s going on around you (and obviously finding a time and a place that is extremely quite helps).

Almost every time I begin to pray I close my eyes…. and I start to wrestle with my thoughts. This can be seen as from the devil or this can be something that discourages us from even believing there is an otherness in prayer for us.   Let me just speak with authority here. This is a mandatory aspect of prayer where we transition from our humanity to the heavenlies… the more that is swirling in your mind the more it is obvious that prayer is the best place to be. You see God wants to be Lord of everything in your life… If you are concerned with it, guess what, He is very concerned with it. He needs you to get everything off of your mind that He has laid on it so that you could enter into the “things” of the spirit. You have to develop a patience… you have to wait on the Lord and before you know it when you are completely honest before God about what’s going on in you world He comes and brings His world and walks with you in union.

I use to often beat myself up for falling asleep in prayer. I doubt you have ever been there, but just in case, I want to add that I have discovered that this is not necessarily a bad thing. As we walk in a fallen world that tears away at our hearts and minds it is only right to fall asleep in the presence of the Creator. It is the recognition of His holy presence. I’m not saying sleeping is praying I’m saying that don’t beat yourself up if you fall asleep on occasion. And maybe if you find it hard in the morning to connect without falling asleep stand up, lift your hands, walk in circles, pray out loud, read some psalms out loud… sometimes you have to wrestle for the blessing.

One last thing, when you pray go and have the conversation that God wants to have with you. He is ready to speak to you about something and you are just doing yourself and injustice not facing it. I’m sad to say that for long periods of time God doesn’t visit us because we are not really talking to Him but towards Him. He wants us to be honest, to be mad, to be faithless, but He will not take it when you don’t talk to Him. He died so we could be in unity, don’t take it for granted.

So may your humanity be saturated with the Divinity. May who you are in the world become who you are in prayer and may who you are in prayer become who you are in the world.

A Hobbit of a Man,

JG

In the Garden

Prelude:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a revolutionary transformational idea. As presented in scripture it is very clear cut in regard to what it is, but there are many very different ways of interpreting and implementing that truth. In this blog I plan on presenting the Incarnational Gospel, I want to clarify that as I just said there is only one Gospel (that is Salvation through the Son of God Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, crucified, and on the third day raised from the dead, now sitting at the right hand of the Father).

As I present this Incarnational Gospel I will present other “Gospels” that are other way I see of interpreting and implementing the one true Gospel. As I use titles like the Grace Gospel or the Legalistic Gospel or any other name, I hope that you will be challenged enough to think about what I am saying and respond, I will post your response and post it. I am searching for truth and need others to be willing to seek it out as well.

The Incarnational Gospel

God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son that who ever believes in Him would not die but have everlasting life. The Father sent the Son so that we would have life. Christ came in the flesh… He put on flesh…. Creator God came in a human body to earth. Jesus came and lived among a people who did not recognize Him. Scripture says that the Father is Spirit and those who worship Him must doe so in Spirit and Truth. But Jesus had to come in the flesh to redeem us. If the Father would have had another way don’t you think He would have chosen it. He didn’t like seeing His son suffer. Christ had to come in the flesh to offer redemption for our flesh.

While Christ was here he did something most Christian’s don’t realize He taught. He instructed the apostles how to live this life of faith. He gave them specific counter cultural ways to live and in Matthew 7 claimed that this teaching would be the foundation of there Faith. These ways that were presented were ways in which in there day to day interaction to live justly and freely from sin and the current sin laden cosmos. These ways were physical acts, turn the other cheek, and bless those who curse you, when you pray go into the closet, ask, seek, knock, go the second mile, and don’t look with anger…

Christ died in the flesh so that we would have a way to the Father in the spirit. He died so he could send us the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit of God. So we receive the Sprit by the death of Christ and become supernaturally united to the Triune God. Amazing. After thousands of years of being separate from God in our bodies we are once again reunited with God. Adam knew the pleasure and now through the blood of Christ Jesus we know it.

The writers of the Epistles including and especially Paul writes to congregations rebuking strange behavior in regard to Sin and begins to speak of the Flesh and the Spirit. The language He uses promotes an incorrect thought process that the spirit and the flesh are seperate. He speaks of walking in the Spirit and not satisfying the lusts of the Flesh. This is the same circumstances in the Garden of Eden we can choose to be obedient to God or choose to be disobedient this is not speaking of a separation. Paul and the early believers knew the teachings of Christ and knew them well. Paul never imagined that we would place such emphasis on His letters to first century churches and place little stock in the incarnate God’s teachings for His disciples. In Paul’s writings he was not redefining the Gospel, he was correcting sinful behavior.

Christ’s primary topic to preach and teach was the Kingdom. He spoke of the Kingdom of God being at hand. This is the new cosmos that was made available to us by the cross. It is a present reality yet it is coming. For those of us in Christ we are new creatures redeemed and made new by the blood of the lamb.

St. Francis wrote…

  To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair  

Do you hear the language Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Francis had a glimpse of the overarching redemption plan that encompassed all of creation. The trees have always stood tall and the grass has always been faithful but we as humans fell from the position that God created us to be in. But now we have been atoned for and can come back to our position in all creation.

Scripture says to the pure all things are pure. This is where the redeemed son of God can fellowship with God, not only with Him in Worship and at in the Alter at church on Sunday, but… in the garden.

In Christ we can experience him in all creation. We live our lives yoked to the one life giving God. We go to work and see Him there, we come home and see Him in our families, and we interact with technology and see Him there. He is inescapable to those who know how to recognize Him.

But to those who are legalistic all they see is a careless life in the flesh (as we have just defined some of the terms here in this phrase I hope you are beginning to see some new truth.) They say you should be witnessing and you should be going church and you shouldn’t be watching that television program.  

The Incarnational Gospel is the most freeing Gospel there is because it is based on a deep devotion to God. One based on the teachings of Jesus and maintained by a constant fellowship with the spirit of God. That foundation frees us from trying to work our way into heaven and worrying about making a good impression with people. We are free to experience the love of God and the love of people; we are free to do the unexpected, to speak a word of prophecy or to forgive someone who hurt us. We are even free to give room and air for seeds to grow in the hearts of those around us.

What is misunderstanding about this “Gospel” is that it can be mistaken for the Grace Gospel. The Grace Gospel shows signs of the same freedoms that are perceived in the Incarnate Gospel yet there is a huge chasm in between. The chasm is the will of God and the deep communion of God. The Grace Gospel is deceptively liberating because it doesn’t cost you anything, the Incarnate Gospel is liberating because is cost us everything.  

Christ gave us an example that we are to follow, He was mistaken for a drunkard and He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He must have been perceived as having too much fun. 

You know what… this really does sound like Good News. 

 

Death to the Pious Self

For those who exalt them selves will be humbled and those humble themselves will be exalted.                Luke 14:11

In the beginning of Luke 14 Christ is visiting a prominent Pharisee, where he happened to be carefully watched by temple leaders, as he heals a man with swelling in His joints. Then He speaks to the men about healing on the Sabbath.

After that He sees the men choosing carefully their seats… He tells them this parable.(Often times when Jesus speaks parables we take a literal interpretation in hast, which just happen to be very easy and most times applicable to life, but here clearly He is speaking to the depths of who we are.)

8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In the past I have used this parable for an easy “thing” to do to try and be pious. And I can bet you money that the “prominent Pharisees” took notes of this good “teaching” and used it to try and gain honor in the future. But the point is not the honor or the seats.

Jesus here, I believe speaks to the very heart of what it means to be religious. He sees leaders of the Jewish religion and speaks to them of what it means to seek after the glory and honor from God. Jesus knows that He had come into the world to take the lowest possible seat among all of the people in the world and even to be terminated from the face of the earth.

So He speaks to us telling us to humble our selves and we will be exalted. I believe the key word here is our selves. The prominent Pharisee was quick to take the helm of leadership in the Jewish temple and desired to be known among the others as honorable, He probably wore the finest garments with the best looking tassels. He probable spoke to most high and lofty scripted prayers and said many things that dishonored others before Him. But Jesus speaks to the heart of the power of religion, the disciplined self. I don’t think He was speaking of the literal seat at a banquet I think that was not the point at all.

Jesus spent 30 years preparing for His three years of public ministry. He grew depths in God that nothing could shake. He had been the Son of God his whole life and knew His calling. (I don’t care to wrestle with the theology of this statement here, but if you have a comment go ahead and share I would be grateful.) But He humbled himself. He knew that His calling alone to the thrown of the Messiah would not be enough, He needed to grow in wisdom and favor before God and man. He needed to be completely obedient to the Father in all things so that at the perfect time and position He would bring glory to the one who sent Him. 

As I begin to come to terms with this teaching I see that what comes out of the ground is not the point in the Kingdom of God here on earth. God wants to grow deep and wide roots in Him the part of the Kingdom that is unseen in the heavenly realm. He wants you to develop a high caliber connection with Himself so that you can be like a tree planted by the river. I see people like Martin Luther King Jr. (who is one of my most revered heroes of the faith) and notice that he was not just a preacher; He was a warrior in the spirit who on occasion out of the overflow of a powerful life with God spoke words that were learned from that life.  At all costs I see that as my calling to be a preacher is a heavy one. I see that living a life of radical obedience to God is the source where I will have the spiritual influence and honor that will change and impact lives.

In Luke 14:25 after this parable on the seating at the wedding banquet and other parables, He turns to the large crowds that were following Him and said that

 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. 34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?

 Jesus never stops wanting to pour out His power and authority into your life. He looks to and fro seeking a heart that is completely turned towards Him. But the thing is that if you are not careful your self will take a position which will dam up your ability to be changed and developed.

 I pray that as you follow Jesus today you would see Him stop and turn and around, and hear Him say “whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  

 

War Weathered Hands

As we pursue the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and souls there comes a time when the comfort, ease, and blessing seem to wane. What happened?

Each Sunday after church I begin a decline, from being used intensely by God to feeling like I am all alone in the dank dark cold. I have strange mental temptations and I am most likely to fly off the handle and make a fool of myself. At that point on through Monday life pretty much sucks. I have spent my short “career” in ministry trying to figure this “thing” out and try to conquer it. I have done lots of research and have made some pretty astounding discoveries.

Some folks/denominations just completely avoid the spiritually intense environments because of this type of effects.  Taking sleeping medications after preaching at night prevent torture by weird sleeplessness. Running after church to helps kill the brain’s possibility of torment. Some just choose to quit the race because of the “funk”.

But one recent thing I have discovered is that God calls us to be warriors. We have confidence and fervency because He is the one who fights for us. And to be honest I have discovered that He is training our hands for battle so that I can swing a bigger sword. I have learned to compare the intense spiritual activity and “recovery blues” to being a part of the training program likened unto weight training. For example if I choose to lift light weight and seek to trim up I will experience little to no soreness with little to no results, but if I choose to lift heavy weight there is the possibility that I could be incredibly sore for the whole next week but with the greatest results. But one thing about weight training a lot of people don’t understand is that the rest is just as important as the workout.

I believe it is just the same with our walk with Jesus. We press in to Him and give Him our all and he gives us new grace. Most of the time, like the weight training program, our spiritual effort is followed by more of God’s grace.  Sometimes Jesus shows up in a tangible way and allows us the grace to feel his presence. And other times we are seeking healing, and a touch, and want His good feelings…. and He gets in the boat and pushes away from the shore. 

The temptation is that when He seems to be far from we have a tendency to flail around and become discouraged. This is where wisdom and trust have true value. God never leaves us nor forsakes us, our salvation is not based on our zeal, and He who has begun a good work is faithful to complete it.

In Deut. 20, The Lord establishes a beautiful teaching on War. Paraphrasing it says when you go out and see the other armies you are waging war with don’t be afraid for the Lord is fighting for you, Stiffen you necks square your shoulders and get ready to charge. And if you are afraid, stay at home don’t be a stumbling block to those who are steadfast. 

Days come when things aren’t the way you think they should be… this happens… it is part of laying down your will. You have given up the controls to God. Just try and keep from falling on your face and know that these times are part of the program God has established for your own good. Quit being worried and do something with your hands… create something, write something, go somewhere, don’t despair just wait on the Lord. He will show up…. Just wait. 

Authors Note: This is not the right teaching for some of us who have pushed ourselves back from God. That is a totally different matter and probably demands the response of a violent pusuit of Jesus. In this blog I am writing in regard to the way in the zealous life Jesus teaches us trust through faith and not feelings.

The Shackles of Self

Adam and Eve were just chillin’ in the Garden of Eden when a serpent came and brought to the attention the one thing that they were suppose to stay away from. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that was in the MIDDLE of the garden. Yes the middle of the garden, think about that a while. So from the very beginning the temptation was either the beauty of God with His direction or death and our own direction/wisdom.

Thus the battle began that would be one that lasts until today in the hearts of every individual… churched and unchurched.

A psalm of David expresses a freedom from this inner turmoil in psalm 131.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child is with his mother; Like a weaned child my soul is within me. O Israel hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever.  

Like a weaned child my soul is within me. I believe that David is expressing a deep connection and love for God that has broken the torment of trying to control His own life. The Psalms paralleled Kings in a beautiful insight into a man who was to be the example to all of Israel and to the world and to whom Jesus would be called the son of.

God brings Ezekiel up into a vision of the valley of dry bones and says to Ezekiel (Ezek. 37) “Son of Man can these bones live?” And Ezekiel responds “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then the Lord told Ezekiel “Prophesy to these bones and say…”

Ezekiel did not frustrate himself with His own wisdom, he didn’t try and rationalize or worry about what was going on. He just simple trusted in what the Lord was doing and he avoided His first and most easy choice to utilize his own brain.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is in the middle of every situation… it’s the easy choice the one that most of the time you end up paying for like Adam and Eve.

So Ezekiel was a Man of God and knew things about God that are too profound to comprehend, yet he chooses to decline His own understanding and the possible burden of it and say “Sovereign Lord only you know.”  As we see as a response to this proclamation God asks Ezekiel to Prophecy to these bones on behalf of Him. The language here is so rich with responsibility and power and yet with complete submission to God.

In these passages I believe that God reveals His easy yoke to us. Where we work with Him in power and strength and yet are free not to hold the great burden of the responsibility.   I believe whether your in ministry or whether you car payment is late, God is speaking to you saying “Can you build this church?” or “Can you make this car payment?”, and your first response is to pick the tree of knowledge and try and rationalize and figure. But God wants you to be free and say to Him “Only you know sovereign Lord”. In which he can respond with instruction and direction that gives you power and freedom. 

David says my soul is like a weaned child within me.  My soul in at rest because God is in control complete control.

May your mind be renewed as you lay down your life as a living sacrifice and trust God. I would suggest to you that David, Ezekiel, and many other great saints did not just end up in that great place of faith, they worked at it. They saw what the Lord was offering and they laid down there own lives for the sake of a greater one. A life with and for God… a living sacrifice. A life of freedom and power holding high there shackles broken shackles of self.  

 

The Way of Christ

What freedom there is in the cleansing power of the blood, and yet such a battle for peace. It seems that each day peace can sway at the drop of a hat. All it takes is a coworker’s bad attitude or an upsetting conversation with a spouse and it seems that all the joy that was once so very tangible is flushed down the toilet. How is it so easy to be so confident in Christ one minute riding high off of a spiritual experience and then the next minute seeking for forgiveness from a bad decision?

For those of us who seek to pursue the will of the Father this is everyday. There are no “days off” or vacations from protecting our hearts and from protecting our ministries. While the spiritual disciplines are the primary factor in living an active life with God, I would contest that that is not the end of our efforts. 

Before Jesus was resurrected and before the Promise of the Father (Holy Spirit) Christ strategically taught His disciples His Way. Christ taught His disciples the way of living at peace with all of Humanity. He taught them that in the most cruel and awkward situations how to escape without falling into sin. “If your brother slaps you in the cheek…”, If you remember your brother has a fault against you…”, “Bless those who persecute you…”, “Love you neighbor as yourself…” I have recently heard how great these “political” teachings are and how that if they were obeyed how wonderful the world would be made right. And to some extent I agree.

But I believe that these teachings are also specifically for Christ’s Disciples to maintain there authority as witnesses. When ever we put our hearts to following Christ and have “made up minds”, there is only one tactic that the enemy uses to keep us from being effective, that is driving us to sin and making us fall from our place of authority in the heavens. When we choose to obey the teachings of Christ in the midst of our undesirable circumstances, Christ gives us a way out. There is always a way out when we submit to the Way of Christ. There is no power where there is sin. There is no revelation where there is sin. There is no peace where there is sin. That’s why Christ came to free us from the bondage of sin. Now we are seated in heavenly places. Not that we are trying to take the glory from Christ but we proclaim our rightful position as a child of God, having keys to the kingdom of heaven, binding and loosing, knocking and opening doors in the heavens.

So when I step into my workplace where God has sent me to minister all that the enemy has to do is throw a spiritual marble under my foot to get me frustrated and angry and then that’s sometimes all it takes for me to loose my ability to hear the voice of God calling me to witness or to pray or just to be a temple of the most Holy God. 

What we have to realize is that as we pray without ceasing we always ask seek and knock for what God would have us do in any given situation. Trust me for every bad situation there is a way out without “falling from grace”. Ask for the discernment in the moment you know when it is coming. You know who those people are in your life who push your buttons. Ask for Christ’s way in the moment because that person who pushes your buttons is probably the person that needs a powerful Christian witness the most.   

 

Meditations on Prayer

Ask and it will be given to you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and the door will be opened unto you. Matthew 7:7

While Jesus was walking the earth he knew he who he was. He preached the Gospel to the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead, and forgave the sinners. He knew His mission and His authority. And He imparted His vision and power to the twelve and in turn to us. Jesus did not notice a hurting and dieing person and say to Himself “Well God is sovereign and He will take care of that person” or He didn’t pray a passive prayer to about that person.  Christ knew that the only salvation or healing there was came from Him. He knew His role and He knew where he got His power from. He knew the Father and at all time sought the will of the Father.

In the book of James it says in 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James here speaks to the heart of the matter. Many of us in reading Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and the door will be opened to you”, find this scripture to fit right along side a Santa Claus like list of prayers and when it doesn’t “work” we settle for some preachers interpretation of the scripture robbing us of the ultimate truth and power we have been given in it.

James says that if our motives are wrong then the results of our prayers will be wrong as well. I have a favorite verse in the Bible because it at one time freed me from myself and yet through the years I have began to see a different interpretation. Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I use to read this with the idea that the things I wanted God would give me if I just loved Him enough. At one point that was all I was able to comprehend but now I see that God wants to give me new desires. He want to give me new desires, desires that line up with His will and purpose, desires that help to establish His Kingdom.

Paul writes in 1Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy.” Paul’s only joy was the growth and establishment of the Church. Paul’s heart was purified from the attachments the desire of the world and even his carnal will. Paul’s delight and his joy were in the Kingdom, in evangelism, in Jesus, in the will of the Father.

So let’s go back to Matthew 7:7 and think about today. When I am in prayer with the pure desire to glorify God and establish His kingdom, I askGod to work in the heart of my friend at work who is hurting and outside of grace, then I seek for an opportunity to speak the Love and grace of God, Then when I find the angle at which to show them the Love of God, I Knock on the door of the situation and take action knowing that the door has been opened for me to speak. Ultimately I have asked for the opportunity, discerned what to say and when to say it, then I act in complete obedience to the will of the Father knowing that my action will be effective. This is God’s will and when you want to be used by God and you are willing to be in the wine press with those in the world He will use you when you ask. You have the only good news there is to tell but you can’t not go at it alone you need the power and favor of the Father.  

So Ask, Seek, and Knock; knowing that for a child of the Kingdom there is no door we can’t enter, there is no situation that God is not willing to speak into. Just ask for the will of the Father, seek for it in every situation, and when the opportunity is given to you kick open the door in the power of the Father.

You see the kind of praying that Jesus speaks of is active life giving prayer that involves action. Action for some of us seems not to be related to prayer but true prayer always involves action and I would submit to you that all actions in the life of a disciple involve prayer. Action and prayer are inseparable. It is the incarnation of God. A life in prayer is a life with God. Prayer cannot be dichotomized into a moment of the day or an act that can be compared to any other action. “Prayer is a way of being in the world with God.” Jonathan Martin  

 

Omnipresent…Only Where He is Welcomed and Obeyed

Hezekiah was one of the Kings of Judah that “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.” He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses handmade, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” (2 Kings 18: 4)

For a reference to the bronze serpent “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” (Num. 21:9) (Also John 3:14)

Hezekiah broke the historical monument that Moses had hand crafted for those who were bitten by the snakes the Lord sent (See Num 21:6). This was a landmark of what the Lord had done for them. A flag of how good God had been. This must have been a harsh moment to witness. Can you imagine seeing something so valuable be destroyed in front of your very eyes. But the word says that the people had been burning incense to it.

What a confused bunch of people. They were so wrapped up with there other god’s idols that they somehow confused the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How did this ever happen.

Well the scripture is fairly clear that Hezekiah was righteous before God. And the first acts that were documented were his removal of idols and high places where other gods where honored. I think this is the first movement (Jonathan Martin rubs off on me and I like it). We have to tear down the high places that exalt themselves above God. We know what they are… they maybe our physical appearance or our social life. These are the things that keep us from entering into a true devotion to God. For us just like the Israelites our pastor can serve as a spiritual authority like Hezekiah was identifying these things and tearing them down. Thomas Merton says that we don’t have equal freedom to choose good from evil, if sin is in our lives we are kept from the ability to do good.

Movement two is that outside of a community we can’t be touched by God. We have tendencies in us that move us toward Idolatry. If you don’t think so what do you do when no one else is around? Okay you may read and pray but then what… I play video games, I eat what I shouldn’t, and think what I shouldn’t. I need people in my life to hold me accountable and to help me discern the will of the Lord. Also I need spiritual leaders in my life that can see that I may be worshiping a bronze serpent.

The third movement is where I want to hang out for a while. The third movement is: Are you trying to get strength from an experience that has long been passed? When the Israelites where first in the wilderness complaining and somehow still receiving blessings from God. He set up the Sabbath and extra provision for the day prior to the Sabbath. God would provide for them a double portion so they could rest on the Sabbath. But the people had a real hard time with this idea they would try and get as much as they could. And as a result what they picked up in excess was rotten and maggot filled by morning. What I am saying is that our God is not “The Great I Was” He is “The Great I Am.” And to those who have ears to hear know that He is present right as you read this. He is fully capable of doing a greater act of grace right in this moment than he has ever done.

This is where I feel a lot of churches and organizations fail. So many church folk teach Christ like a motivational seminar where we learn all about this wonderful person who was born, died, and was raised again. But any church where Christ Jesus is not the head (See Eph. 4) the church is burning incense to a bronze serpent.

But some might say well they mean well and that if Christ is being preached than that’s all that matters. And to some extent I can agree, but I feel that when a leadership of a church tears down the high places in there own hearts and desire to be led by God then we can encounter the real presence of God.

So many folks who want to Love God find them selves hogtied with duct tape by the sins that they hope to hide. They starve for fresh revelation and new grace. They end up telling old testimonies and if you don’t watch out you will get comfortable in a dead church where everyone can get around and burn incense to the bronze serpent.  But I believe God is saying ion this very moment to you that you need to go back and find where you lost Jesus. What was the last thing you remember Jesus instructing you to do that you have been hiding from. What is the sin that is killing you and keeping you from the freedom that God has waiting on you right in this very moment? Speak aloud to God he hears you confess you need to see Him and know His love in this very moment. While your heart is open confess and repent of the sins that have become high places in your heart, Things that are keeping you from experiencing the Great I Am.

 

Pentecostals in the Light

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

1 John 3:8

Big doors swing on little hinges. Unbeknown to most, my denomination the Church of God, was founded upon the raw emotion and charisma of interracial congregations. Through out history revolutionary preachers such as Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this emotion and charisma as a huge part of the churches he grew up in and knew that this emotion wasn’t enough.

I believe Henri J.M. Nouwen expresses it best in his essay called Pentecostalism on Campus when he says that ”We know that electroshock, an artificially induced emotional experience, can cover a depression for many years but does not cure it. It may make us forget our problems for some years, but, in fact, it delays the process of cure by not using the human qualities to heal. One might wonder if the miraculous effect of the Pentecostal experience is not in a certain way like such a treatment.”    To be honest some might fight this kind of statement to death. But to look at life and church soberly, this statement deserves admittance to the conversation of historical Christianity.

In the Pentecostal churches I grew up in there was a huge emphasis placed on experiential spirituality. I think there is nothing wrong with this kind of experience but at what cost? Anytime there is an emphasis placed on a discipline or an act of the church something else suffers. Sadly when a church gets so caught up in the “movement of the Sprit of God” and the “feeling”, a lack of liturgy and intellect can be the result.

Liturgy is like a cuss word in some Pentecostal churches. Liturgy is simply the practices of the church that give it structure and stability. Liturgy for an individual this is how we learn to get to Jesus. They are “rituals” that we learn in our disciplined life that has been proven to work. For example the way I pray and read each morning is more or less my liturgy that even when I am sad and depressed and not “feeling” spiritual religiously return to this structure to get me to God.

Intellect in the Pentecostal church has become the “devil”. When a Pentecostal pastor who is moved by every wind of doctrine steps into the pulpit it tares the congregation’s ability to think for itself out. I believe this is what Nouwen was speaking about earlier, that when we are so caught up in the feelings it seems impossible it integrate the mind into this experience and truly be changed on every level. The emotional experience of the Pentecostal movement is the greatest tool of revival that the church has ever seen. But without the grounding of the teaching of Jesus it will be washed away like the house built on the sand.

This is what Martin Luther King Jr. rebelled against when he went to Pennsylvania to Theological Seminary where he was the top of his class. King saw the emotionalism, in the African-American churches he grew up in, as a pacifier to true revolution. And as we have seen throughout history he was right. In the days of slavery it was the biggest and cruelest punishment to a slave to keep them from learning to read. When we begin to learn for ourselves we find liberty, freedom, and strength.

And this is where we stand today in churches that need the holistic way of the Gospel. It’s easy to see the culture of the disciples, or the culture of the desert fathers who fled the “world”, and see the holes in there discipleship to Christ. But today it is easy to see that in a culture so advanced that it needs disciples of depth and wisdom to change it. I hate to say it but most of our traditional understanding of “evangelism” doesn’t work any more. Our traditional way of looking at “the World” needs to be bathed in wisdom, intellect, and understanding.

Life in the Kingdom of God is a new world or Cosmos. There is a totally new way of being in the world where spirituality and mentality are not at ends with each other, but where they are fused together in the incarnation of Christ Jesus. We look at everything through the lenses of the Kingdom. The scripture teaches that Christ is the cornerstone. If that is true for us, that means that he is not the cream in your coffee, not the added flavor to your life. That all that you have ever known about life, about scripture, about Hebrew culture, about the church, about yourself, has to be torn down and restructured where He becomes the foundation of everything in your Cosmos.

 

Side note:

I am and will continue to be a Pentecostal. I embrace the gifts of the Spirit and the Spirit with which the Church of God out of Cleveland Tennessee stands for. I have never read an essay that so clearly and soberly expresses this movement than Nouwen’s essay from Intimacy published in 1969. I would like to thank Jonathan Martin for so beautifully and consistently embracing the Pentecostal heritage yet at the same time reforming it to fit and affect the present Cosmos that we live in.  

 

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