Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More than A Nice Story

...Ribeiro's wife prayed the rosary and told the children stories about holy people.  It is possible that not all the stories were true, but children of that time were not concerned with the truth ...  (... a mulher de seu Ribeiro rezava o terço e contava hisórias de santos às crianças.  É possível que nem todas as histórias fossem verdadeiras, mas as crianças daquele tempo não se preocupavam com a verdade...) Quote from São Bernardo, a Brazilian novel by Graciliano Ramos, page 36 in the Editora Record's 1981 edition. First published in Rio De Janeiro, 1934.
Before I go to bed at night I've been reading a couple novels that I still have from the time that I lived in Brazil back in the 1980s.  Novels are interesting stories, and I learn a lot from them, but novels are not "true."  Novels are stories, made up sometimes to make a point, and sometimes just for fun.

In any case, the sentence quoted above leapt out at me as I'm looking forward now to preaching on Easter.  Easter, and by that I mean Jesus, risen from the dead--that is truth--literal, factual truth.  Jesus actually did rise from the grave.  And it is on his resurrection that I stake my life and my ministry and everything I am.  And it is the resurrection of Jesus that makes the "difference" between Christianity and all other "faiths." 

The fictional wife of "Mr. Ribeiro" in the book São Bernardo didn't understand this.  It seems that she told "holy stories" to the children to make them feel good.  Maybe she didn't know the difference between truth and "fun" stories.  Or maybe she didn't care.

I believe it's good to make clear, even to children, that some stories are just "fun," some are true, and some stories are told to give us a lesson (like the prodigal son for example).  You may not be sure as you tell the story, so just let them know you're not sure, and then check it out!

Some stories in scripture are clearly "parables," stories that teach lessons but didn't actually occur.  Others are based upon actual events.  I'm still not sure about some of them even after almost 30 years as a pastor.  It's important to be honest with our kids and tell them this.  That will be important as they grow. 

Unfortunately there are many people today, and I'm not just speaking of children, who are not concerned with truth.  There are many consider the question of "truth" to be unimportant!  There are many who are much more concerned with speaking things that make them "feel good."  There is even hesitation when it comes to clarifying what is truthful and what is not.

Adults and children need to know the truth.  And the story of Jesus is TRUE.  We'll share TRUTH at Crossroads on Sunday morning at 9:00.  Come and celebrate the TRUTH, Jesus, risen from the dead.  That truth that stands up to careful inquiry.  Come and know that your faith stands strong..

It is the resurrection of Jesus that makes the "difference" between Christianity and all other "faiths."  More about this on Sunday and, coming up in April and May, in a series of messages that we're calling "What's The Difference"?  Together with the North Heights network churches we'll look at the differences between Christianity and "Religion," "Protestantism and Catholicism," "New Age" spirituality, Islam and Mormonism.  *See note below.

The difference is truth!  If the center of your faith is not true, it's based on a lie.  And a lie will not stand, no matter how popular it may be, no matter how good it makes you feel.  All faiths are not the same.  Let's look carefully and discern the difference.

*Note - After a conversation on Maundy Thursday evening, and after spending some time in prayer, I've decided it would be good to switch up the focus for the upcoming series.  Instead of focusing our Sunday messages on other "religions" we'll be looking at the difference between the Christian faith and the whole idea of "religion" in general.  I've had a sense for a long time that such a series of messages would be important to do, and I believe this is the time to do it.  Stay tuned and please be in prayer for protection and wisdom as we move into this important series.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reasons for Praise

On Sunday the Lord spoke to me (and to us as a church) about praise and worship.  He led us to several examples in scripture, specifically in the Gospels and Acts, where praise rose when Jesus, and then later, the Apostles, touched the lives of the common people with Holy Spirit powered kindness.  You can listen to Sunday's worship and message at this link:

We began by enjoying the wide open unquestioning praise of children.  We celebrated with palms and balloons and enjoyed a clip from the almost 40 year old movie Jesus Christ Superstar...

Children teach us, or remind us, about how much fun we can have praising God!  Every Palm Sunday we hope kids will enjoy themselves like they did on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem.  You can read the story as we shared it at Crossroads in Matthew 21:1-16.  One of the sweet things about that story is that the praise goes on even as there is misunderstanding and conflict.  Hosanna!  Blessed is the One who Comes in the Name of the Lord!

Children praise freely.  Adults, however, are slower to join in the celebration.  Adults need reasons for praise, and that was something we focused on during the message on Sunday.  It is the Holy Spirit powered kindness of God at work in this world, in powerful, miraculous ways, in ways that touch the real hurts and pains of people--it is that Holy Spirit powered kindness that brings praise out of adults.  Through miraculous and practical acts of kindness, we are healed and we turn and praise like children!  Glory be to God!

The particular scripture that began to open this for us in a clear way was the one where friends carry a paralyzed man to Jesus.  Jesus first words to the man are "your sins are forgiven."  Those words contain the core of the gospel message and there should have been great rejoicing at that point.  But instead, there was only doubt and unbelief.  Jesus then said this: “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” -- then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men."

It took a practical touch of kindness, Holy Spirit powered kindness, in order to bring the skeptical adults to the point where they would with all honesty praise and worship God.

We looked at other examples of this including Matthew 15:30-31 and Acts 3:6-8.  And then we were challenged us in this way:  "...Usually, praise comes after God gives a reason... praise comes after God does something for us… after someone is healed, after someone is given new life, after a miracle or a gift of love or grace or peace… after someone does something for you in Jesus’ name, because they are a believer.  So, if praise isn't flowing, it could be that we are holding back some of the resources God has put at our disposal to bless others..."

In Acts 3, when the Holy Spirit filled disciples meet the lame beggar at the temple gate in Jerusalem, they (Peter and John, with Peter as the spokesman) say this: "Silver and gold I do not have."  They did not have the financial means to help that man.  Instead, the gave him what they did have, the Holy Spirit empowered gift of healing.  Peter spoke in the name of Jesus, put out out his hand, helped the man to his feet, the man's feet and ankles became strong, he jumped to his feet and began to praise God, walking, jumping, acting like a little kid right there in the temple courts.

But what if they DID have the financial means?  What if they would have had silver or gold coins to share?  What is the call to you and me when we come across practical needs in our community?  Should we say "no" and just share spiritual goods and prayer and expect God to act with his power when we hold back what we have?  I don't think so.  Peter said "What I have I give you."  If we desire that praise and worship flow in our community, can we do any less than give what we do have and not hold back?

Would you join me in prayer about this?  Would you pray with me that God would reveal to each one of us, and to each family, in what ways we might be holding back the flow of praise?  Pray that God would reveal any lack of faith in us and any stinginess when it comes to kindness and love.  Pray that the Lord would show us what is needed so that love, faith and praise will flow with life-changing power among us and beyond.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wash and Witness

A first draft of a meditation written in preparation for Thursday evening worship.

Is there any attitude or action that could keep me from receiving the ongoing grace and love and forgiveness of God in my life? 

I've been asking myself that question because of Jesus' harsh words, spoken to Peter "on the night when he was betrayed": "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me" (John 13:8).  I invite you to do the same.

What it is that elicited Jesus' hard words?  What it is that can keep you from having a part of the inheritance that God desires to give us through what Jesus did on the cross?

The words that elicited the condemnation of Jesus came from Peter, the disciple who, unlike the others, can't seem to keep his mouth closed.  (I'm so thankful for Peter!  We learn so much from him!  Such a great witness!)

What did Peter say?  "Never shall you wash my feet."  "Never" he said.  "No way."

Thursday evening we will opening the Word of God so the Holy Spirit can give all of us at Crossroads a good going over.  Everyone is invited, but it's often only the folks who have been around church for quite some time that come.  So, for those of us who are long-time disciples of Jesus, His words to Peter have an added punch for us. 

So here are some things to consider:  What is your attitude toward the ongoing work of God in your life?  Are you willing to let Jesus continue to work on you, continue to "wash your feet," to continue to point out the aspects of your life that aren't all that clean?  When the Lord points out areas or sin or moments of sinful attitudes, words and actions, are you ready to confess your need of His every day sanctifying work?

God desires to keep us from ever getting hard and calloused in our relationship with him.  He wants to keep us soft toward Him, to allow our most sensitive areas to come under his close scrutiny.  The danger, it seems to me, is that we can develop a hard heart toward the Lord.  Even when we have been been walking with our Lord Jesus for a long time, even when you and I have given our lives over to our Lord and have had him change us repeatedly, there is still the possibility that we are saying "No" to him in one way or another.

It was Peter's stubborn pride, his unwillingness to allow Jesus to do what it is that he desired to do that brought out Jesus' stern warning.  It was a warning filled with grace, a warning that brought Peter to his spiritual senses once more, bringing Peter to a place where he wanted Jesus to wash him through and through.  Peter immediately responded: “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head."

That led to another correction from Jesus.  Jesus said: "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all..."  (The "not all" refers to Judas, one who was, at least at that time, a fake disciple, someone who would soon betray Jesus to his death.) But when Jesus says he only needs to "wash our feet," he's telling us that all is not lost when we sin.  The First Letter of John tells us God's desire, that we not sin.  Then the Lord says, when we, as Christian people do sin, we are to confess and receive forgiveness.

Confession is a regular, normal part of the Christian life.  We should allow God to examine us and then cleanse us regularly.  But we aren't "lost" when we sin.  We can simply go to the Lord in prayer, confess our need of our Lord's cleansing, have him wipe us off and set us back on our feet, and resume our walk with the Lord.  Our Lord desires that this be a regular, every day part of our lives, so we don't ever get to think that we are self-sufficient, as long as we live.

So we allow Jesus to wash us of our sin every day.  This is a wonderful witness to the ongoing grace of God in our lives.  Allowing Jesus to kneel at our spiritual "feet," to allow him to clean us in those moments and in those areas that get dirty and stained with sin, that sort of regular washing keeps us in a good, humble place with him.  And when we let others know about the ways God is working on our lives right now, continuing his washing work, that is a great way to witness--that is, to let others know we are still in regular need of the grace of God.

So I am thankful for Peter's example, for his need to be washed, and for the witness that this provides.  My prayer as that all of us at Crossroads will continue to be open to this washing and witnessing work of God in and among us, for the sake of the world God loves so much, until our Lord returns to finally set us free.


I wrote this up as I've been preparing for worship at Crossroads that we'll be sharing at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday  I hope you can join us.  It's interesting how the Lord leads us to focus each year on different aspects of what Jesus did on "the night in which he was betrayed."  For more on this day, and for more on what had been planned in other years on this evening, you can click here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Saying Yes to God

Early this morning I read the last section of Nehemiah*.  We find some harsh words there describing even harsher Old Testament spiritual disciplines.  Nehemiah the priest takes severe and even violent action against men who will not obey strict religious rules.  It all makes me so THANKFUL FOR JESUS who makes so many changes on our behalf.  We don't live by the "law" (i.e. religious rules) any more.**

I did discern an enduring principal under what Nehemiah is about, however, and, like I did yesterday, I'm just going to lay it out here without any specific Biblical study to back it up.  Feel free to come at me with your critique if you think I'm off base on this.

What I heard the Lord saying to me this morning was that He honestly doesn't want us to be slaves to our feelings.  God wants us to be able to say "yes" to Him even when He requires changes in our lives that come against our emotional well being.  God wants us to trust him even when what He is telling us to do creates great emotional pain and inconvenience.  He wants to set us free from being captive to things that make us feel good and secure in this world.  He looks for us to treat His Word as Holy and Worthy of being obeyed.  He wants us to accept what He says as if it were coming from God.

When we obey God in terms of the spiritual disciplines He is leading us into, the reward will be a closer and even more life-giving relationship with Him and more freedom in regard to the feelings that hold us captive and the requirements of others.  As we obey our Lord in what He is telling us to release and renounce, as we are willing to say "yes" to Him when it is hard, we will receive a blessing that is above any earthly blessing--His own deep and forever presence that will never fail.

I'm sure there is more to be said about this and I'm not sure that is at all clear, but I just wanted to get a bit of this down before I say goodnight.  And that I will do right now.


* I'm reading the Moravian Daily Texts with a 6:30 a.m. prayer group.  See the end of my previous Praying These Days post.

** At some point it would be good for me to do some writing about the changes Jesus made, but that's not what God was impressing on me this morning.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Impressive Move!"

"That was an impressive move!"  Those were the words of a kindergartener (!) as I began a turn & stopped at the end of my route with my yellow then red school bus lights flashing to let him and his sister off the bus at the very end of my route today.  I said to the sister "He has quite a vocabulary!"  Said she: "He sure does!"

Praise makes me feel good.  Even from a kindergartner!  I do my best to praise the kids on the bus too, like when they put their garbage in the can or are helpful or kind to another child.  That's the "normal" purpose for praise.  It makes the one we praise feel good.

It's different with God.  I'd need to do an exhaustive Bible search to see if there are instances where praise actually is said to make God "feel" anything, but what I see and know is that praise is good for us and for others.

Praising God connects us with the TRUTH!  The truth is that God is GOOD all the time.  We know this because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  Every sadness will be taken away by our Lord.  We can rejoice and praise God always no matter what our outward circumstances may be.  This is TRUE and by praising God we are reminded of this fact.  As we are reminded of the truth, we turn even more faith-fully toward our wonderful Father, opening ourselves to his gifts!  That increases our faith and the effectiveness of our prayers.  (It even seems to turn God's "ear" toward us with even more tenderness, but, again, without an search of the scriptures, this is not something I can say with assurance.)

Praising God also serves as a recommendation or "positive review" for God in the eyes and ears of others.  As we raise our voices to God, whether with our literal vocal cords or in other ways (like in writing), we "recommend" God as a good God and raise His esteem in the eyes of others.  When we praise God we give him glory!  We make his reputation SHINE!  God is not visible to sinful human beings so our praise is one of the main ways we witness to him so others will know him better.  Some may come to a saving faith in Jesus when we lift the One True God up in praise.

This has been a very quick little writing and it's not polished up at all, and I've taken no time to even look for Bible verses.  Please respond with any comments as you have them.  Time for me to go wash my bus!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Godly Interruptions

This is just a quick word to encourage you to connect with Christian spiritual leaders that you respect via social media.  Not only do I get updates from facebook and twitter from a wide variety of people, I get quick text messages from Pastor Al Jones (daily Bible verse) and from Pastor Per Nilsen.  (Per is the lead pastor of the network of churches that Crossroads participates in.)

The text messages I get from Pastor Per actually come to me because on twitter I've opted to receive "mobile notifications." 

I'd encourage friends from Crossroads to follow Pastor Per on twitter, and if you'd like to be included on Pastor Al's list of daily Bible verse messages, let me or him know and I'm sure he'll be glad to set up up.  It's good to have healthy and godly interruptions and build us up.

Here are some of Pastor Per's recent tweets...
  1. Read Nehemiah 9/10. The repetitive nature of sin can only be overcome by the eternal nature of God's redeeming love.
  2. Claiming someone is important to us but having no idea where they are going to spend eternity just doesn't make sense!
  3. The single greatest threat to the gospel is moderation.
  4. Life makes more sense when we don’t make it about ourselves.
  5. What matters is not how much Bible you know, but how much Bible you live!— J.R. Miller
  6. OK. is releasing a CD on March 22. Would love to have you join us. for info and to check out music. See Ya!
  7. John 4 tells of Jesus ministering to a woman "stuck in the middle"-spiritually, relationally, geographically. Jesus gets her unstuck! AMEN!!
  8. "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; " Psalm 37:1. Someone needs to hear this today.
  9. "Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is." - AW Tozer
  10. Praising God this morning! 2 nights with Brother Yun and $38,000 raised to purchase Bibles for Iran, China and North Korea.Come Holy Spirit!
  11. Awesome night with Brother Yun last night. Join us at North Heights this evening, 7pm. .
  12. O Lord,God of heaven,the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands."Neh 1
  13. Great worship this morning at COH! Band did a great job and brought an inspiring message about the power of God's word.
 God bless you all on this day of God's amazing grace!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Praying These Days

God continues to teach me about many things every day, particularly about my relationship with Him.  God has taught me, and continues to teach me, about being quiet in His presence, spending time in His Word, and I've been learning to rely on Him to work in me and, by His Grace, through me.  I have learned that His major concern is not my work, as important as that may be, but, instead, my relationship with Him and His character that he continues to develop within me.  Only as I let Him work in me can I expect that He will work through me.

Chapter 4 of Romans shows us this clearly.  Here the Lord teaches us from the example of Abraham and Sarah.  Their story shows us the futility of trying to accomplish something for God under our own power, by our own efforts.  Those of us who know their story know how they gave into the temptation to hurry the fulfillment of God's promises along.  You can read that story in Genesis 16.  But their "work" on God's behalf had no effect on getting God's promises fulfilled.  It would have been better for them to simply wait and pray.

This is part of what God is teaching me.  Taking time to pray and read scripture and TRUST that God IS at work, sometimes behind the scenes--that is the pathway of blessing.  Scurrying around trying and working (for example) to "make my church a success" is not helpful UNLESS I (and we) hear clearly from God that THAT is what needs to be done.

Yesterday in an email to the friends of Crossroads Community Church, we included a quote from Gemichis Buba:
My Jesus spent most of His days praying. Isolated places. Mountaintops. Gardens. People’s homes. Upper rooms. Lower rooms. He was praying. Asking God. A church that prays will be powerful. A church that does not pray will be powerless! It is as simple as that. That is why Jesus said, "In the face of a reality where the workers are few and the harvest is plentiful, your solution is to pray."
I am learning to pray.  After 27 years of pastoral work I'm still learning.  The people of our church are learning too.

One thing that has helped me so much is to be part of prayer groups.  Becky Sorenson, who will be sharing a message on prayer at Crossroads this Sunday (please pray for her) and other women of prayer have been such great teachers for me.  The early morning prayer group that I participate in now is really helpful too.  If you're not part of a group that gathers for prayer, please find a way to do that.

As you pray, make sure you take time to listen.  That's a new part of prayer for me.  Ever since God arranged for Bjorn Pedersen and Karl Kruse of Prayer Watch International to come to Cokato for a seminar on "Listening Prayer" many of our local people have been learning this.  I feel as though I'm still quite a novice, but I am hearing from God more as I practice spending time with Him.

I pray in many ways but there is one pattern that has become consistent over the past year.  In harmony with our 6:30 a.m. prayer group I read scripture.  We have agreed to read the same scripture passages before we meet for prayer.  That puts us on a sort of similar Holy Spirit "page" when we have our 15 minute prayer group meeting... but even more important is what God has been doing in me as I get up early (or stay up late or wake in the middle of the night) and take time to read and study the scriptures.*

Over the past few years my life has been far less stable and secure from an earthly or "churchly" point of view.  That's actually been a very good thing because I find myself NEEDING GOD!  And when I do, because I now have a regular pattern of scripture reading* that fits me pretty well, I know what to do when "feelings" of various sorts threaten peace and energy God gives me for my work.  I will go and read the Psalm or the other readings assigned* and find God speaking to me there, encouraging, directing, correcting, leading.

It is a good thing to go to the Lord directly instead of just depending on finding peace and significance in my work.  Very good.  Much better.  And I'm so thankful for that work God has done in me.

I'm here if you'd like to talk or if you'd need help getting going in a life of prayer.  God deals with each of us individually so my pattern might not fit you, but if you don't have a way of praying these days that seems to work, let me know and at least we can pray together about it.  Actually that's the best thing we can do!


* It's very helpful to have "assigned" readings.  There are many ways to assign yourself Bible readings for each day.  Speak with friends, or talk with me, about ways that you can get into a pattern of daily Bible reading, study and meditation.)

The group I gather with for a 6:30 a.m. prayer phone call reads from the  Moravian Daily Texts.**  I find that really great because they include quick "watchwords" for the day and also longer readings from the Psalms, Old Testament and New Testament .  The desire to be on the same Holy Spirit page with my group keeps me reading.

The way our group works is that when we call in we chat for a bit and then one of the senior leaders suggests a prayer focus -- and today Jean Bearden brought us to Romans 4.   We have a sweet time five days of the week.  I'm so thankful for Jean, Kim, Per, Marcus, Jo, Chris, Eric, Bob, Phil and others that get up early for prayer five days a week.  Let me know and I'll let you know how you can join us some morning from the comfort of your home or wherever you happen to be! (I'm usually in the bus garage!) It's really sweet!

**That link will take you to the site of a Moravian church in Winston-Salem North Carolina that happens to put the daily texts on their website--so convenient!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Are A Pope

At some point in Christian history the devil convinced believers to think of themselves as "church members" instead of as Holy Spirit filled representatives of God.  Eventually this led to a "priesthood" that did not include all believers.  Today even non-Roman Catholic Christians are confused about this.  There is still a sense that some Christians, those we call "Pastor" or "Reverend" are somehow closer to God than the rest.  It's a sad state of affairs.  It robs us of the power God desires us to have in our every day lives.

Twice in recent days I have read or heard someone talk about coming to church to be "filled" up.  Both of these men or women, both in leadership positions, are from the Lutheran tradition.  There IS a role for leaders in the church and there is a sense that we come to church to receive--but, according to the clearest instructions that we have been given about Christian worship and church order, that recorded in First Corinthians 14:26-32, the speaking and the "filling" isn't the "job" of just one designated leaderThere is a mutual filling, an "equal sharing" of grace.  We all ought to be practiced in sharing the inexhaustible treasures of God's grace.  Each of us equally.  Men, women, young old.  Every Believer.  All who follow Jesus Christ.

What then is the point of having leaders in the church?  In Christ there are no "first class Christians" and "second class Christians" who are dependent upon the "first class" ones.  Instead, consider these verses about Christians who are in leadership:
  • Hebrews 13:7  "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith."
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7 "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you..."
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."
  • Philippians 3:17 "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us."
  • 2 Corinthians 12:18 "...Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?"
  • Romans 4:12 "... who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham ... 
  • Peter 2:21 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps."
Christian leaders, "elders" in the faith, are to be learned from and imitated.  Yes, certain members of the body have a leadership function.  Leaders or "elders" (always plural, never singular) in each local body of believers need to make sure there is some sense of order in the Christian community.  So therefore, as a matter of good order and common sense, we ought to respect those who are designated as leaders in the sense that we always respect elders, but in no way are they to be seen as being any closer to God or holding "keys of the kingdom" any more than any other believer who has received the grace and mercy of God.  They can't give you anything that you cannot receive from Christ himself.

The Roman Catholic church's teaching that there is only true or "first" representative of Christ on earth is a misreading of Jesus words to Peter in Matthew 16:13-19.  Peter was just the impulsive loudmouth of the group of disciples.  He is correctly thought of as "every Christian," one that we can imitate in his confession of Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God."  And when we do, each one of us receives the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Those keys are not reserved for any one person!

The Roman Catholic church is wrong when they teach that there is one leader, one true "representative" or "vicar of Christ" on earth.  The fact is that God gives that status to EVERY Christian believer!  Each of us is a representative or ambassador of Christ (2 Cor 5:20)!

That's why I wrote "You Are A Pope."  There is no real difference between you and Jorge Bergoglio, who was elected today, and who is now, among Roman Catholics "Pope Francis."

If there are good things taught by this new pope or any other, if what he teaches is in agreement with the Word of God, then listen and learn.  And if he lives a life that is in accordance with the Word of God, imitate him.  But don't think you can't have as close a relationship with God as he might, or that your pastor or any other Christian leader does.  We are called to LEARN from them and IMITATE their faith, not just receive from them.  There is no one who we need to go to to be filled other than to God himself: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.  There is no "spiritual ceiling" for ordinary Christians.  In your home, in your work, in your church, you are a pope, a direct representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let's pray for one another so we represent Him well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Listen and Be Free

God is speaking to you continually, but if you do not heed what He has said to you, if you don't turn and follow, if you continue in your stubborn ways, if you regularly shove God's Word aside, saying to yourself that it is not really God's Word at all but just one opinion, or someone's opinion among many others, if you say to yourself that God can't ask as much of you as it seems that other more "radical" believers say that He demands, if you wall off certain areas of your life and tell God "you can have the rest of me but not that" . . . if you put up consistent RESISTANCE to what God is saying to you, you will not be able to hear Him--not until you repent.

Repent, my people!  Heed the voice of God!  Listen to Him as he speaks and when it seems He is asking too much of you do not immediately reject it.  Bring the Word you have heard to believers who have learned to repent, to change, to be transformed, to begin acting in a new and different way.  Bring the Word you have heard from God to a mature believer, to a brother or sister who you have seen in the act of being transformed, giving up something that is precious to them in order to receive something better from God.  Bring the Word you have heard to someone who knows Jesus and the Holy Bible.  Let them help you discern if it is indeed the voice of God.  And when you know it is Him who is speaking, just do what He says.

God loves you more than you will ever know.  Hearing His voice will do you good when you obey it.  It will set you free.  "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)


Yesterday at Crossroads Pastor Lalahery (La) Andriamihaja brought what he called a "lemur" trap to show the children (lemurs are native to Madagascar where Pastor La grew up).  The trap was simply a hollow coconut with a 2" diameter hole in it... in the hole was a 1" ball of aluminum foil.

Lemurs love shiny things as much as monkeys love fruit, and millions (both lemurs and monkeys) have been trapped by grabbing whatever is put inside because they would not let go even when their hand would be caught in the coconut... and the coconut was attached to a stout cable which, in turn, would be attached to a tree.

Monkeys, lemurs, and so often, people, they just will not let go, even when they are trapped.  As a human beings, of course, you are able hear words and understand them.  You can get advice from people who are wise.  And you can learn that "hanging on" is bad for you.

Even so, you may choose to continue to hang on.  You might be more stubborn than an animal.  You may KNOW it is good to let go, but still choose to hang on.  You can decide that the "voice" telling you the Truth is actually just one more opinion.  You can become an unbeliever and no longer recognize Wisdom for what it is--the Voice of God.

One way to begin to hear God's Voice is to start obeying what He says today.  Is there an area of your life, even if you think it is not important, that you know you have kept to yourself, something that you are pretty sure is something God would have you change or let go of but that you have honestly been stubbornly hanging onto?  Your unwillingness to obey the Lord in that one area of your life could be deafening you to hearing God in other ways.


Perhaps you're not sure if this "one thing" is a concern to the Lord.  If you're not hearing from God, and think that there may be an area of disobedience in your life, pray about it and ask God to speak to you about that "one thing" first... that could be the key to a open, two sided mutual relationship with God.

If it continues to be the case that you don't seem to be able to hear from the Lord, I'd suggest that you seek out a Christian brother or sister, a believer, a disciple of Jesus, someone who has heard God and obeyed, even when it was hard, and talk with them about this.  Ask them to pray for you, to counsel you, to search the Scriptures with you, to see if indeed this "thing" may be stopping your spiritual hearing.  Jesus promises to be with us when we honestly share with a brother or sister in the Lord.  There's a verse about Jesus being present and answering prayer when "two or three" are gathered together.

Who can be a "spiritual coach" for you at this time?  Ask God to help you find someone.  Look for someone who has already heard God and obeyed even when it was hard for them to do so.  Perhaps this "someone" has repented of sin.  Perhaps this person has been through major changes and you think they could have only "made it" through that change with God.

When Christians have made the hard choice to obey God in spite of temptations to stop listening, they can understand as others are going through the same process.  Such Christians are will be both firm and caring because they know it's good to release what had seemed precious (things, ungodly relationships, attitudes, appetites, habits, addictions) in exchange for what is truly valuable.  They can honestly walk beside you as you learn to live free.  And as you do, you will begin to hear the clear loving sweet voice of our Lord.

  • “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."  Matthew 13:44-45