Friday, March 3, 2017

Spiritual Power

I am sitting here, enjoying a cup of coffee, listening to some Van Halen, and am studying Ephesians 3:14-19 this morning. While studying the book, "Walking as Jesus Walked", the author asked this question,

"What can we assume will happen if we grieve or quench the Spirit's power in our lives?"

Here are Paul's thoughts on this, found in Ephesians 3:14-19:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth is named, 

16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to:
1.  be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
2. that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have:
A.  strength to comprehend with all the saints: what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 
B.  so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Conversely, if we quench the Spirit:
1. We will not be strengthened with the power to love, leading to selfishness.
2. We will not be strengthened to comprehend his love, leading to insecurity, which leads to control, which leads to narcissism (self-preservation only). And if everyone does this, then there is no charity, except to promote oneself. 
3. We will not be filled with the fulness of God, leading to you missing all that God wants you to be. Some characteristics that the fulness of God brings is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. 

So how do we hamstring the Spirit's power in our lives?
1. By disbelief and rejecting God's means of salvation. Dependance in Jesus the Savior (Messiah) to save you too. 
2. By building your life on something other than the teachings of Jesus. 
3. By following base passions without yielding to the Spirit (see Galatians 5). Also known as "animal instincts". 
4. By not seeking God, or extreme introversion (thus ignoring loving people and entering into their lives). 
5. By allowing your mind to dwell on things that oppose Scripture (i.e. books that teach twisted theology like The Shack, The Art of Happiness, 50 Shades, lop-sided political books or activist books, etc..).

My dear friends, let us not lose focus, thus hurting ourselves and others. Instead, let's get refocused on what is good, healthy, and life-giving. 

Jeff


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Practicing the Knowledge of the Holy One

Someone asked me this question, "What would you say is required of us to properly hear what the Spirit (of God) is saying?"

Here are my thoughts on this:
"Be still and know that I am God. I will be exaulted among the nations. I will be exaulted in the earth." -Psalm 46:10 (the context of this is God's people freaking out about a nation rising up to attack them)

Elijah said to the Lord, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away." And The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of a low whisper. And Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave." -1 Kings 19:10-13
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John 15:1-17: Remain close to the vine, you branches of the vine. For apart from being close & connected with Jesus, your life is a waste. Jesus is the vine, you who "lean into" Jesus the Messiah (the Christ) are the branches.
How do we stay close to someone who we can't see? How do we follow God's voice in the 21st Centruy?

1. SUBMIT.
It begins by submitting to Him as your savior (from your sin) and lord (your leader). (John 3:16-18, John 14:15, Mark 1:15, Ephesians 2:8-10, John 3) Until we admit that we are guilty of sin and deserve eternal seperation from God, until we agree with God in that, we will not submit to him. We are still dead in sin. It is when we admit this, and bend our knee, begging Jesus to save us and to commit ourselves to Him, that we finally submit & begin a life of submission to our very capable, loving and trustworthy God. You cannot and will not do the latter without first getting this in order. There is no way around it, and God will hold you, me, all people accountable for this. Okay, now that we've got that squared away, let's continue...

2. CHECK IN.
I was sitting in the Galilee, on Mount Arbel. While I was sitting there, someone told me that the word "Arbel" means to ambush. I spent a lot of time praying there, and while I was there I sensed the Lord asking me, "Where is your Mt. Arbel, Jeff?" Where do I go to get away, so I can get some space to check in with God regularly? I wish it could be Mt. Arbel. You see, Mt. Arble was Jesus' place to get away to talk to the Father and hear from the Spirit, while he was in the Galilee. His custom was to climb this mountain to pray. One time he did this was right after he found out that his cousin John "The Baptist" was beheaded by Herod. But, I don't live there, so I need an alternative Mt. Arbel. In Ohio, it was Oakwoods or Riverbend. In South Bend I would go into my Gazebo. Here in New Market, I have a "War Room", an upper room. Over the years, I have also become more flexible and have tried to make everywhere a "sacred space" where I can check in.

A believer has the fulness of the godhead (Father, Son, Spirit) indwelling them. Like Elijah, God does lead, but we need to take time to yield, and listen. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us to "pray continually". The context is that Jewish people prayed at certain times, and at certain times prayer was not done. Paul is breaking down the walls and letting people know that they can pray in whatever circumstance they find themselves. In short, there is never a wrong time to "check in" with God.

3. FOLLOW.
John 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
When I want to be like someone, I crave time with them. I learn to walk like them, talk like them, think like them, and even use their body language. I was learning how to care for patients with dry eyes once, and how I learned was to follow closely the doctor who was the expert. He said, "Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Notice this, ignore that." And I did exactly that. Why? Because he knew how to care for people, and I wanted to be JUST LIKE HIM in that.
We remain close to Jesus by following him. Like a traveling rabbi, we need to walk so close to him, that our legs are covered with the dust of his sandals. This is seen through walking the same path that he has walked, by obeying His commands. We are his "hiking partner".  If we say we love Jesus and do not keep his commands, we are fooling ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:5-10)

4. PRACTICE GOOD.
Hebrews 5:14, "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."
How do we become mature? By practicing, training distinguishing good from evil. How do we come to know good from evil? By becoming a student of God's word (1 Timothy  3:16-17)
How do we remain immature? By not practicing, or training ourselves in godliness, by constant compromise of good from evil.
An example: Back in 1997, I asked a woman, who claimed to be a Christian, if she attended church anywhere (a basic regular practice for Christians, unless they are in a culture where there is no group of believers).  She said, "No. We are waiting for the Spirit to lead us to a place." I said, "How will you hear the Spirit in that if you won't listen to him in what he has already told you? Hebrews 10:24-25." She was offended by this...and they are still waiting. Also, there kids aren't following Jesus today. Having learned non-following from their parents.
A good read is 1 John. It teaches us to evaluate ourselves, and challenges us to go beyond mere talk or wishful thinking and to walking our talk. The book of James is another one that will surely challenge you in this area.

5. YIELD.
Galatians 5:16-26, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." 
This passage shows us what the fruit of walking by, or yielding to the Spirit's leading will look like in our life.

Galatians 5:25, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."

Yield sometimes is in real time, sometimes you need to come away and yield.
My son, Micah, was in TaeKwonDo. Before class begins you do silent meditation, or transition time. At the end of class you do the same, as you enter back into the real world. This is a great practice! Transition time.
As we grow in this, "yielding" to the Spirit's lead, we will be able to do it faster.
It is like dancing (thanks JD). The women "leans into" the man and follows his lead. At first, it is akward. Like Shellie & I doing balroom dancing on our honeymoon. I was so bad of a leader, and Shellie was following my...poor leadership, that the teacher stopped her class to tell us to stop messing around. I assured her that I wasn't. But I don't think she believed me. I was a poor leader. Not so with the Spirit. The more we lean into him, the more we lay down our pride and demand for control, respect, privilage, the better we will dance in the Spirit. And the more often we practice this, the better we will get. Even when life comes suddenly.

6. RESPOND.
Jesus taught of a seed that was planted in 4 types of soil (Luke 8:4-25). The 4 types of soil were 4 heart-conditions. The seed was His word.
Soil #1: Hard soil, the seed could not penetrate & Satan came and snatched away the word so they would not believe and be saved.
Soil #2: Rocky soil, the seed took root with much emotion and gusto, but when life got difficult, they let the plant burn out.
Soil #3: Weedy soil, the seed started to grow but the problems and worries of life choked the life out of it, and it withered.
Soil #4: Rich soil, the seed grew and produced fruit.

Ask the master to till your soil (caution: surrering may be required) and you also make sure to tend to your field. Do not sallow the weeds to choke out what JEsus has called you to.

7. EMOTIONS vs. SPIRIT
*A word about emotion.
Following the Spirit can but does not always include a feeling or emotion. Sometimes it is difficult to follow, and sometimes the thing He leads you to do is very stressful (after all Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted, and was severly stressed in the garden before his betrayal). Who can know the ways of the Spirit or put him into a box of emotion? So, if you are not "feeling" the Spirit, do what is right anyhow.

Many people have done wicked things in the name of the Spirit leading them. An example is the married woman who gets feelings for her old high school sweetheart. She feels that the Spirit is putting these feelings in her to leave her husband and children and shack up with this high school honey. All the while compromising what Scripture says, in the name of following the Lord. Nuts! So, if you emotions lead you to do what is wrong, it is NOT the Spirit. If some voice in your head tells you to do something wrong or believe something that opposes Scripture, it is NOT the Spirit. If an angel or another being comes to you and teaches you special words, that oppose Scriture or even Scriptural principles, it is NOT of the Lord. It is a lie (ie Joseph Smith, Muhammad).

We may have emotions as we follow the Lord, we may not. Our goal is faithfulness.

"The Spirit, when He comes, will lead you into all truth." -Jesus, John 16:13 (God's word)

Try practicing the presence of God. These steps alone will give you plenty to work on for a lifetime. They are sort of a "cliff-notes" for living. Enjoy.

8. DO IT.
So, not everyone will agree to this but I keep a little book. If you go to Harvest, you have probably seen me walking around with this. If you worked with me at Midwest Eye Consultants, you have probably seen me with this also.
David led his people with a heart of integrity and with a skillful hand (Psalm 78:72).
My book is with me when I pray and throughout the day. If something comes to mind and I think it is good and or from the Lord, I write it down, on my to consider list. Sometimes it is something I need to do, sometimes it is a prayer burden, sometimes it is an idea or concept that pops into my head. I want to be a person of the Book first. I want to be skilled in the things God has already laid out. This is why I went to Bible College, and getting ACBC Certified, and have a list of other certifications to counsel and handle God's word. WIth that, I also keep an open heart to God leading me, in conjunction and through the filter of His word. So, before I get written off as not being like the demonically influenced Dali Lama, because I am not odd enough {cough} know that I am open to God, but am learning to stayu open as I work hard, engage in the well-being of others, and do it in real time. To quote DL Moody, "I will pray while I am passing buckets."

This is the way I see it. Hopefully you will see it this way to.

Come, follow Jesus.

Jeff