Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Curse of Tithing

Note:= I came across this extract and was blessed by the perspective it advocated about modern-day tithing and offerings. I think it came from a heart that truly seeks to be free from the curse of the law and the deceit of modern-day teaching that focus on self-gratification rather than on the glory of God. Jesus came to walk and to show the way of the cross. Jesus expects the same from his disciples (Luke 9:23). Of course, in God's kingdom there will be blessings for those who obey and curses for those who are rebellious and still living for self. God sees the true conditions of our heart and will deal with us according to what he finds there. Did Jesus not sya a man cannot serve two masters? Read on and be similarly blessed! May you discover the true freedom of living by the Spirt and in the Kingdom of God.

1. I Needed To Renounce The Curse of Tithing To Receive Kingdom Blessing.

Karen and I desperately needed to know the Kingdom of God lifestyle. We were being pressed into financial dependence on God, and going deeper into debt! We sought God deeply in a two day retreat in the mountains. The main struggle was how to walk in Kingdom finances. Tithing wasn't working and like layers on a rotten onion, we discovered several reasons why.

First, I discovered genuine biblical tithing is impossible. I'm not jewish. I don't have agricultural produce. I don't live in Israel. Theres no priesthood or temple to take my tithes to. Instead, I had been serving a spiritualized religious version of the Mosaic law, and was expecting grace as a reward.

Second, and far worse, I had linked myself to the curse of the law in Malachi 3:9 Since I sought to keep this one point of the law, I had become guilty of the whole law. Our lives, and finances, were under legalism not grace!

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:10 Those of you who are trying to be justified by the law have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:4

No wonder I could not receive grace in my finances. I had put myself under "the law of the tithe" and potentially the curse of the whole law. When we said 'but Lord, we tithed and gave offerings, where are the finances?" we were saying we were justified by our own works. I finally saw this truth but was afraid to renounce tithing. Fear of the law still ruled me! Finally I made a violent breakthrough into the Kingdom and repented.

Another important point. As we were working through this issue we found some Kingdom teachers saying "the tithe is God's tax on citizens of the Kingdom". But, Jesus was clear when asked about the temple tax. The foreigners pay, but the citizens or "sons" are free!

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Matthew 17:25,26

If you are a member of a church organization, go ahead and pay your dues. BUT Every Christan must renounce the "law of the tithe" to fully participate in the Kingdom of God.

2. My Righteousness Does Not Release The Kingdom

The truth about tithing exposed my spiritual performance legalism. Religion says "my performance brings God's blessing" But in the Kingdom, everything comes through God's grace and love. I had spiritualized works of the law into a Christian theology for victory in life. I was a "self made man", and this included spiritual things!" I believed my ability to do the right thing released His grace! How wrong I was. Thats not grace at all!

Here are some examples:
I tied God's financial blessing to my works of tithes and offerings.
I tied spiritual freedom to my ability to confess the right words, know the right scripture and do the right program.
I tied Gods victory over the devil to my ability to identify the strongholds, find and repent of every sin that may bind me. Name the demon, and use my authority.
I tied God's ministry and power in me, to my ability to know, speak, walk and work rightly.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

Surely my Heavenly Father will provide for me, protect me, and lead me, JUST BECAUSE HE LOVES ME. I needed to repent of my own works of righteousness and become child like. In the Kingdom of God there is a higher road than my fallible ability to do it all properly. Our own righteousness does not release the Kingdom, God's love does.

3. The Kingdom Is About Joyful Receiving and Giving

As Karen and I continued to press into the Kingdom we discovered more and more of God's grace. We are not "paying our dues" hoping God will bless us, but, we live in His security knowing that He loves us and will take care of us. The Lord gives salvation, healing, deliverance and provision out of His great love! He desires us to do the same. Joyfully! It's a great blessing!

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Every man Each of you must give what you have decided in your heart, not with regret or under compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.II Corinthians 9:7

Recently Karen was wrestling over giving $200 to help a needy friend. The Lord said "give $300." Suddenly there was joy! The larger amount now seemed easy! It was God's gift to us to give.

Kingdom living truly is a life of grace! Grace to us and grace to others. Even the well used scripture "give and it shall be given to you" is actually about giving to enemies because that is God's gracious character. Check it out.

But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. ..... give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:35;38

To fully enter the Kingdom requires a radical rethinking of how we do things. It requires a radical love of evil men. It is joyful receiving and joyful giving.

Friday, October 19, 2007

We want a Formula- God wants a Relationship

NOTE:= How is your relationship with God today?

Read this short extract: and think about your relationship!

We Want a Formula--God Wants a Relationship

Do you want to know the secret of knowing the will of God?

Here it is: in everything you do, know God. But we all want a formula. “I don’t like that. Give me a formula. Give me three steps.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that the secret is a relationship with God.

Let’s talk about Joe, who has been dating Shirley for nine months. When he picks her up for their Friday night date, she asks the logical question: “Where are we going tonight?” “I don’t know. I want to take you someplace you like. I wish you would give me a three-step formula so I could know where you really want to go on Friday nights.” How would Shirley feel? Angry, upset, frustrated. “How is it that we’ve been dating every week for nine months and you don’t know what I like and don’t like? Where have you been all this time?” She has a right to be angry.

We want to reduce our relationship with God to a formula.

God says, “Know Me. Spend time with Me. Put Me first in every area of your life because when you do that I will take care of all those details.”

This is a revolutionary way of looking at life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lean Into Him, Wrap your arms around Him, Let Him help you.

NOTE= Read this today and felt so uplifted. Next time I see a person in wheelchair, I will always remember this: Lean Into Him, Wrap your arms around Him, and Let Him help You. Oftentimes, we are too strong for our own good. Many a times, our pride prevent us from throwing ourselves upon the only one who truly can help us. How we need to so empty ourselves that God may fill us full with His Spirit, His mercy and His grace. Read on and be touch !
Jessica Miller:"I Saw God the Other Day...In A Public Restroom"

While recently at a conference as everyone was rushing to get in line for prayer, I ran to the ladies public restroom. I can think much better, wait much longer and receive far more from God if I am not thinking about when I can visit the bathroom (true confessions from a real God chaser).

As I started to enter the Ladies Room, a very dark-skinned man bent over and whispered something to his beautiful wife, who was in a wheelchair. I realized she too, needed to go into the restroom, but he could not take her in.

I asked if I could help, and they nodded, "Yes." I pushed the wheelchair into the bathroom and waited for the "handicap" stall to come available. I wheeled her into the stall, and clumsily situated the wheelchair into a position which seemed to be the most advantageous spot (as if such a place even exists). Not wanting to embarrass her, and also not knowing what level of help she needed, I asked her what else I should do.

It quickly became apparent that not only did we have a tremendous language barrier, but she needed far more help than just being wheeled into the stall. I pulled the door shut so that she had privacy--even if I, a total stranger were in there with her. When I bent over her to help her to stand up from the wheelchair, my heart started pounding.

The Holy Spirit was manifesting so strongly that I wanted to weep (actually I wanted to wail). This lovely woman wrapped her arms around me, and I stood both of us up. I marveled as she trustingly leaned against me. Chest to chest, tummy to tummy, legs to legs.

We took care of the needed business, and once again, I bent over her to help her up and over into her wheelchair. In spite of the vulnerability of the situation, this stunning lady exuded no shame, no humiliation, nor any embarrassment. She had none in her. She knew she had an unavoidable need that required help and that she must choose to trust.

As I knelt down to place her feet upon the footrests, I noted her elegant garments and realized the incredible care and love her husband ministered to her as a lifestyle.

Then, all of the sudden, I saw myself as this vulnerable woman who needs the same help and care in my own life. My Husband (Jesus) is so tender and caring. In spite of my "handicaps," He lovingly tends to me. God showed me this picture of myself through the beautiful and trusting woman! Whereas she trusted me (without knowing me) in spite of cultural, ethnic and language barriers, she was without fear or shame.

In her place I would have probably freaked out and not let myself be helped. I wondered how much I do this every day in various situations--to my Heavenly Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit or to those He has sent to help me in my weakness.

After I returned this amazing woman to her husband, I went and joined the prayer line. Everyone was having a feast. I was bawling so hard I thought I'd throw up (I know, not a pretty picture). The Lord showed me His face of tenderness--chest to chest, tummy to tummy, legs to legs, as He tenderly and gently wants to help me in my need and vulnerabilities.

I saw the trap which the devil tries to lay out as he points at our weaknesses (yours and mine) and shouts shame and guilt into our hearts. Such emotions can be so potent that they effectively cut off our willingness to trust, seek and receive help.

Jesus said this in Matthew 11:28, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He also said this in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us (you and me) therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

The exact time to NOT listen to guilt, shame or humiliation is when we (you and me) are in need. In our time of need is when we must choose to be like that fantastic woman who helped me see the tender face of God, in a bathroom, during a time of vulnerability.

God's face of tenderness is turned towards you right now--in your need. Lean into Him, wrap your arms around Him and let Him help you!

Jessica L. Miller, Publications Manager
The ElijahListEmail:

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Monday, October 15, 2007

8 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

NOTE:= Read this article today. It reminded me of what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Tim 1:15-18, about how a believer named Onesiphorus so encouraged and refreshed him when many others had deserted him. May this encourage you to do your simple part to encourage your leaders; it is the practical outworking of what Jesus taught his disciples in John 13: Wash one another's feet.

(2Ti 1:15) You know that everyone in Asia has turned against me, especially Phygelus and Hermogenes.
(2Ti 1:16) I pray that the Lord will be kind to the family of Onesiphorus. He often cheered me up and wasn't ashamed of me when I was put in jail.
(2Ti 1:17) Then after he arrived in Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.
(2Ti 1:18) I pray that the Lord Jesus will ask God to show mercy to Onesiphorus on the day of judgment. You know how much he helped me in Ephesus.
8 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Simple acts that feed a Victor Parachin

Sometimes pastors are the loneliest people in the church. Often their hours are long, the pay minimal, the criticism considerable and constant. Feelings of disappointment, discouragement, and defeat may begin to plague the best of them.

Paul's admonition to "serve one another in love" (Gal. 5:13 ) should encourage us to remember our shepherds. Here are eight ways to make their lives better.

1. Cut the criticism
Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, creator and host of television's "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," recently gave an address describing the time he was a student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and attended a different church each Sunday in order to hear a variety of preachers.
One Sunday he was treated to "the most poorly crafted sermon (he) had ever heard." But when he turned to the friend who had accompanied him, he found her in tears.

"It was exactly what I needed to hear," she told Rogers.

"That's when I realized," he told his audience, "that the space between someone doing the best he or she can and someone in need is holy ground. The Holy Spirit had transformed that feeble sermon for her—and as it turned out, for me too."

Unlike most workers who are evaluated once or twice a year, clergy are often critiqued weekly after each worship service. It's not unusual to hear people say "the music was poor," "the hymn selection was awful," or "the sermon was boring." We would do well to remember that most spiritual leaders work hard to make worship a unique celebration each week.

2. Pray regularly
Ask God to shower your pastor with an abundance of love, hope, joy, faith, peace, power, wisdom, and courage. Pray for your spiritual leader's maturity and growth in the faith. As you pray keep in mind this wisdom from German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "If you treat a person as he is, he will stay as he is; but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be, he will become what he ought to be and could be."

3. Express appreciation in writing
A spoken compliment is always welcome, but a written one can be read over and over again for years. So, when you hear or see something you like from your minister, write an appreciative note.

4. Use your skills to bless
Are you proficient with computers? Help your pastor master the church's new computer. Are you a mechanic? Offer to service the car free of charge or at a reduced fee.

One pastor I know recalls: "I was pastoring my first church—a small congregation with limited resources. While there, I developed a series of dental problems and could not afford treatment. What a joy it was when a dentist in the church offered to treat me for free. Correcting my dental problem involved nearly a dozen visits. He treated me carefully and cheerfully each time. I have thought of that dentist many times since then and the memories of his kindness continue to bless my life."

5. Squelch gossip
If you hear a negative comment, respond with a positive one. If misinformation is being spread, correct it with the accurate information. Or, if people are gossiping, just walk away. Remember the Bible soundly condemns gossip and careless speech. James 1:26 says, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." And Psalm 34:13 reads, "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."

6. Offer to meet a need
Some people make their spiritual leaders defensive and angry by saying, "You need to … " That approach is seldom welcome and almost always counterproductive. If you see a need, approach your spiritual leader by saying, "I'd like to help by … " If you see an area that can be improved, take responsibility for working on it.

Be an active participant in your church. Get involved by teaching a class, leading a workshop, singing in the choir, feeding the hungry. Ask your spiritual leader where and how you can employ your gifts.

7. Be openly responsive
Nothing so animates and excites a spiritual leader as seeing people respond to the preaching and teaching. Imagine the surprise and delight of a pastor in Virginia Beach, Virginia, who, when greeting a visitor to his church, found she came because of the kindness of a church member who was her neighbor.

"I'm recently divorced, a single parent and new to this community," she told the pastor. "To keep up with rent and provide for my three children, I must work two jobs. That leaves me very little time for yard work. I was relieved when the weeds didn't overrun my yard as I had feared they might. However, when I made an unscheduled trip home in the middle of my workday, I discovered the reason why the weeds had not taken over my yard.

"My 86-year-old neighbor—a member of your church—was on his hands and knees pulling my weeds. I barely knew this man and he was embarrassed to be caught in this anonymous act of kindness. He explained that he heard you preach a sermon on the importance of living a life of compassion and kindness and decided to put that sermon into practice by weeding my lawn."

One pastor's heart filled with joy when a group of women in Washington, D.C., responded to a sermon preached from the words of Jesus—"Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matt. 7:1). After hearing the sermon, the women decided to give a baby shower for the young woman who provided childcare while they met for Bible study. She was unmarried, close to going on welfare, and without support from her family or the father-to-be. The young woman was moved to tears by the surprise baby shower.

Later, the women explained to the pastor, "Your sermon taught us that it's possible to reach out to someone in need—in this case, an unwed mother—without judging or condoning the situation."

8. Throw away the measuring stick
Don't expect that your present spiritual leaders will do things the same way their predecessors did. Lay aside personal agendas and preferences. Instead, focus on how your leader is being used by God to do effective ministry now. By serving your shepherds, you will ensure that they will not only be encouraged but will feel appreciated and continue to minister with enthusiasm and energy.

A friend is someone who stays with you in the bad weather of life, guards you when you are off your guard, restrains your impetuosity, delights in your wholeness, forgives your failures, does not forsake you when others let you down.

The friendship of Jesus enables us to see others as he saw the apostles: flawed by good children of the Father. —Brennan Manning

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Choose this day TO LIVE in PEACE, in the PRESENCE OF YOUR GOD.

Melissa Taylor, Certified Speaker

Key Verse:But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians5:22-23a NIV

I have chosen to worry about various things. My worries have often been of the future. Will my children be happy and healthy during their lives? Can my husband and I afford to send four kids to college? Will they even go to college? Will they get married? Who will they marry? Will my family be protected and safe? What will the end of my life be like? Who will die first, me or my husband? Of course, for the most part, I have no control over any of this and it does absolutely no good to worry about it. I don't dwell on these things, but I confess that they do cross my mind occasionally.

There is a church at the end of my street. Every week there is a new quote or phrase on the sign out front. This week's sign read,

"Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God."

The "security" this quote refers to is peace. And anytime I begin to worry, panic, or dwell on the unknown, I am not experiencing security or peace. I am not experiencing the presence of God.
As a Christian, I have a power within that can conquer anything threatening to disturb my peace: fear, danger, worry, conflict, stress, or the circumstances of life. That power is the Holy Spirit whose very presence brings peace - when I choose to give Him control.

Peace is one of the rewards of a personal relationship with God. What is true peace and how does it affect our lives? Peace is not about our circumstances or the challenges that we face on a daily basis. Peace is all about knowing we have a right relationship with God and that He is in control. It is placing complete confidence in Him.

Like the sign said, "It is the presence of God." To enjoy and experience peace, we have to choose peace over worry.

Do you realize that you will never have a real need that God is not able to meet? The more I understand this truth, the more I am able to let go of worry in the unknowns of my life. God does not want me spending time in a state of unrest when He has graciously given me the gift of peace..His peace. I have to trust Him.

Author, Elizabeth George, puts it this way:
We make the sacrifice of trust and experience God's peace.
*when we choose not to panic. but rest in God's presence,
*when we release our terror. and trust in God's wisdom and ways,
*when we reject our nervousness. and remember that God is in control,
*and when we ignore our dread. and instead accept God's dealings.

I have a dear friend whose daughter spent the first five years of her life fighting cancer. Her family has spent countless hours and days in a New York hospital, away from home, doing all they could to find a cure for their sweet child. This little girl has been through radiation, chemotherapy, tests, tubes, needles, and all kinds of medical treatments. In fact, this was all a part of her normal life for a longtime. Most families would've fallen apart. Most people would've been worried and afraid, paralyzed with the thought of losing their child. Not so with this family. I watched my friend over the years and what I saw was the presence of peace. She was not a mother living in fear, panic, or frustration, but a woman of God living in peace with the hands he was dealt. You see, she knew that God was in control and that He had a purpose and a plan in all the suffering and pain they were going through. She did not know what the outcome would be or why her little girl was so sick, but she knew God loved them and would never leave them. By trusting God, she allowed the Holy Spirit to fill her with His peace.

If you find yourself unable to experience this kind of peace, pray and pray often. Read God's promises in Scripture. Whether you are going through painful trials or find yourself so busy that you don't how you are going to do it all, go to God and ask Him to fill you up with His peace. It is available and waiting for you.

My prayer for today:
Jesus, you are called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Please fill me with the peace that surpasses all understanding. Thank you for taking care of me and supplying all of my needs. Amen.

Application Steps:
Begin your day with prayer. Read God's Word, filling your heart and mind with the love, joy, and peace only He offers. Whenever you feel the peace slipping away, go back to Him immediately. Ask Him to give you peace for the moment. Acknowledge that God is in control and He will take care of you and your loved ones.

Reflection points:
Do I really understand that I will never have a real need God is notable to meet?
Will I choose to live in peace?
Have I been spending time with God daily?

Power Verses:
Psalm 139:7, I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get awayfrom Your presence! Philippians 4:19, And this same God who takes care of me will supply allyour needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us inChrist Jesus.
John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may havepeace."
Isaiah 26:3, You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on You,because they trust You. Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guardyour hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We are NOT professionals.

NOTE:= A very strong reminder that God's work cannot and ought not to be done modelling after the ways of this world. We need more of the Spirit of God, not more of the spirit of this world (what this article termed 'professionalism').

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals......John Piper

We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ.
Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.

For there is no professional childlikeness (Matt. 18:3);
there is no professional tender heartedness(Eph. 4:32);
there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1).

But our first business is to pant after God in prayer.
Our business is to weep over our sin (James 4:9). Is there professional weeping?
Our business is to strain forward to the holiness of Christ and the prize of the upward call of God (Phil. 3:14);
to pummel our bodies and subdue them lest we be cast away (1 Cor. 9:27);
to deny ourselves and take up the blood-spattered cross daily (Luke 9:23).
How do you carry across professionally?
We have been crucified with Christ; yet now we live by faith in the one who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal.2:20). What is professional faith?
We are to be filled not with wine but with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). We are God-besotted lovers of Christ. How can you be drunk with Jesus professionally?

Then, wonder of wonders, we were given the gospel treasure to carry in clay pots to show that the transcendent power belongs to God (2 Cor. 4:7). Is there a way to be a professional claypot?
We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus (professionally?) so that the life of Jesus may alsobe manifested (professionally?) in our bodies (2 Cor. 4:9-11).

I think God has exhibited us preachers as last of all in the world. We are fools for Christ's sake, but professionals are wise.We are weak, but professionals are strong. Professionals are held in honor; we are in disrepute. We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill clad and homeless. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become the refuse of the world,the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:9-13). Or have we?

Brothers, we are not professionals! We are outcasts. We are aliens and exiles in the world (1 Pet. 2:11). Our citizenship is in heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil. 3:20). You cannot professionalize the love for His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed.

The aims of our ministry are eternal and spiritual. They are not shared by any of the professions. It is precisely by the failure to see this that we are dying.

The life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever a thirst for God, whose soul is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single to God, and in whom by the power of God's Spirit the flesh and the world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood of a life-giving river.

We are most emphatically not part of a social team sharing goals with other professionals. Our goals are an offense; they are foolishness (1Cor. 1:23). The professionalization of the ministry is a constant threat to the offense of the gospel. It is a threat to the profoundly spiritual nature of our work.

I have seen it often: the love of professionalism (parity among the world's professionals) kills a man's belief that he is sent by God to save people from hell and to make them Christ-exalting, spiritual aliens in the world. The world sets the agenda of the professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man. The strong wine of Jesus Christ explodes the wineskins of professionalism. There is an infinite difference between the pastor whose heart is set on being a professional and the pastor whose heart is set on being the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of death to some and eternal life to others (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

God, deliver us from the professionalizers! Deliver us from the "low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us."

God, give us tears for our sins. Forgive us for being so shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy verities, so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation. Restore to us the childlike joy of our salvation. Frighten us with the awesome holiness and power of Him who can cast both soul and body into hell (Matt. 10:28). Cause us to hold to the cross with fear and trembling as our hope-filled and offensive tree of life. Grant us nothing, absolutely nothing, the way the world views it. May Christ be all in all (Col. 3:11).

Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. Humble us, O God, under Your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings ofChrist. In His awesome name. Amen.
1. John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood andWomanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, Ill.: CrosswayBooks, 1991), 16.
2. Richard Cecil quoted in E. M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (GrandRapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1972), 59

Monday, October 08, 2007

How to view HARD TIMES in life?

We want God to change our circumstances, but God wants to use our circumstances to change us. It can be easy to think that God is obligated to make life easy for us and
to remove all of our difficult circumstances. But, the truth is that during hard times God is preparing us for greater things. If He removed the difficult circumstances in our lives, we would probably never mature.

James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." In other words, rejoice in "trials of many kinds", because they test your faith, which causes you to grow closer to God.

Indeed, God assures us that something beneficial can come from the hard times in life.
If you are going through trials now, take hope in the fact that almost everyone in the Bible who did great things for God also had to endure great hardships.

For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul recounts many of the difficult circumstances that he had gone through: "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked."

Clearly, Paul had suffered greatly for the Gospel. However, God used those circumstances to make Paul more mature and to give him a great love for God and for spreading God's Word. Now, Paul is widely considered the second most important person in the New Testament--behind Jesus, of course. However, we must remember that Paul had to go through many difficult trials. It was those times of testing that caused Paul to grow closer to God, qualifying him to be a great witness for Christ.

This same principle can be seen in almost every other person in the Bible who did great things for God. It was during times of testing that such people developed the strength and character for which we respect them.

Therefore, don't always beg God to change your circumstances. Instead, view each as an opportunity for God to change you, making you "mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul in 2Timothy1:8 asked young Timothy to join him in suffering for the sake of the gospel. Paul encouraged Timothy not to be fearful of troubles and difficulties, but to rely on the Spirit of God to be bold, not to be ashamed of speaking up in defense of the truth in the gospel, and in him as a prisoner. This ought to put a big question mark over what is popularly regarded as the propersity gospel; the gospel according to Apostle Paul is the gospel that he got from Jesus Christ himself in a vision. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about carrying your cross, the way that Jesus Christ carried his. Jesus came not so much to give us a good life in this world, but to open the good and only way to the life hereafter. Jesus' teaching is not about how to prosper in this world, but how to use what is in this world to prosper us in the next world; isn't this what the parable of the unfaithful steward is about? Think about it !

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Story of Three Trees

Three trees were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty."

Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."

Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter," and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because they knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree the woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree, I should be able to sell it to the ship yard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree, so I'll take this one", and he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for.

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end.

The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do.

The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe.

The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood and said "Peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill.

When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it!

The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined. We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

Having a RELATIONSHIP and being religious; what's the difference?

This is an interesting interview some years ago. May it encourage you to seek a real relationship that really impacts your life and those around you, rather than a dry form of religious ritual that one observed routinely without much power and meaning. Be blessed.

Henry Blackaby: What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches..

Janet Chismar..Senior Editor for Faith

People today are hungry for God’s sure guidance in their churches. But how do they find it? One of the strongest prophetic voices to the church today, Henry Blackaby, helps Christians grasp God's pattern for strengthening their churches, rather than relying on human ideas and methods that leave God on the periphery.

In our interview, Dr. Blackaby discusses these and other principles found in What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches. Tell us about your book, What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches. What is it that typically keeps church congregations from hearing what the Spirit has to say?

Dr. Blackaby: As I have observed it, and the Lord put his hand on me 50 years ago, so I have a long look at it, it's that God's people have moved from a relationship to religion. We faithfully practice religious activities, and we perfect it and keep it, but the relationship with God is like it was in Israel and Judah in Jesus' time. They were not getting the message. But we think that we're in touch with God because we're doing religious activity -- yet we cannot remember the last time that God clearly spoke to us. You write about the Lord's examining presence in your book. What do you mean by this?

Dr. Blackaby: The phrase, "what the spirit is saying to churches," you can find in Chapters 2 & 3 of Revelation. Basically, the spirit says several things in that. Number one, he comes to the church and speaks to the pastor, or the angel. He says, "I know your works." And before every church, he also gives something of a characteristic of his nature. Each one of them is different. For instance, Ephesus says that it's the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven. Well, each of them is different. So God comes to the church and each individual congregation. And if there's anything that's not right, he immediately calls for repentance. As he comes to the end of every one of these, he says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches." God walks in the midst of the churches, and of course, if Christ is the head of every local church, then He is present and active and involved. He will speak to the churches. If they won't hear, He just says, "I'm sorry, I withdraw." We can go on practicing religion and never know that He has left. In too many of the churches, what we're doing and what we're planning to do, we can do without Him. You mentioned that church leaders often fail to respond to the Spirit's calling. Why do you think that is so?

Dr. Blackaby: Well, again, Biblically, that is true. When God was about to judge Israel in the Old Testament, it was the spiritual leaders who never got the message. And when He was about to judge Jerusalem and Judah, it was the spiritual leaders who never got the message. In Jesus' day, God sent His son, and it was the religious leaders who not only did not get the message, did not listen, but they crucified the Son of God. Every person God sent to them -- the prophets -- they killed almost every one of the prophets. And my heart says, "Human nature has not changed." I don't know that the spiritual leaders of our day would be any more sensitive. Some of them are, but too many are busily practicing religion and trying to be successful and making a name. But what the Spirit is saying to the churches, he does through the pastor, and often, they miss the message. You make it clear that this book is not primarily for church leaders, but for lay people. How do you suggest that church members go about putting their convictions into action?

Dr. Blackaby: Biblically, God always works corporately through his people. In the New Testament, every member of a church is part of a local body of Christ, so each of them is vitally important. The eye needs to share with the rest of the body what it is seeing. It doesn't have the whole message for the church. The ear needs to say what it hears and the hand what it feels, and so on. God puts members in the body as it pleases Him. He even places the pastor in the body. He is not the Head. That position is occupied by the living Christ. So if each part functions in the body where God put them, then the whole body grows up into the head, and then there's no limit to what God can do through that body. I think each part is critically important. You can't leave any part out. If someone says, "I don't have much talent," I would say, "It has nothing to do with your talent or your gifts." It has to do with where God placed you in the body and what the Head is saying through you, which is uniquely important for the rest of the body to hear. So whether it is the Sunday School teacher or a deacon or just an ordinary teenager or college student, they can share. "Each person now vitally connected to the Lord needs to be involved in the body life, and not just be part of the body life. We often separate children into children's work, the youth into the youth time, the men into men things -- don't do that. The body has to function corporately together. You've been a pastor for a long time. What have you learned, or what has God shown you, about his will for churches during your time as a pastor?

Dr. Blackaby: The amazing thing is, everything I see in God's word about God and the ways of God and the activity of God, we've been experiencing as we pastored. I had to help the people know how to know when God is speaking to the body corporately. And so, I taught and taught and taught and taught from the Scriptures.But I didn't just teach the truth. I taught them how to practice the truth. Jesus said, "Teach them to practice everything I've commanded." What I see in the Scripture, I run it through my own life, and make sure that I am bearing witness to a relationship to the God that I see in the Scripture. Then I guide the people into that, and sure enough, God does exactly what He says He'll do. We've seen astounding things happen through a very little group of people. They say, "That's amazing," and I say, "No, that's just like God." This is what he said he would do. It has nothing to do with the size or the quality of the people, but the relationship they have with him. As a pastor, I sought to bring each person, personally, and then as a group corporately, into a vital relationship with the Lord so we could hear, and then obey. I had to teach them what it meant to obey, as well. We had to have one heart and one mind as we did it. But God said he would bring us to that. We saw that. I was a very, very happy pastor. My wife and I, both. All four boys felt called to pastor, having grown up in our home, which I think is a kind of an affirmation of the truths that we were living out. Our daughter is a career missionary in Germany. How do you personally hear the Lord and what do you do to spend time with Him?

Dr. Blackaby: I use the Scriptures. Jesus said, "I'm going to give you another teacher, the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will guide you into all truths." So, I spend time in God's word, clearly expecting that the Spirit of God, who is my teacher, will use the word of God like a sword. Paul talks about the sword, which the Spirit wields, as the word of God. In John 16, Jesus said, "Now the Spirit never speaks on His own authority. Whatever He hears, that's what He speaks."So I know that when the Spirit of God takes the word of God and brings me to an incredible understanding of the truth about God, or about the Lord, He is doing so from the Father's purpose in my life. In other words, when the Father says, "Holy Spirit, here's what I'm about to do in Henry's life. Make sure he doesn't miss it. So when he comes to the Scriptures this morning, that's what I want you to do." I have watched that happen over the years. I used to get up very early, probably between 4:00 and 4:30. I still spend an unhurried time before God. The greatest thing that a person can do is spend an unhurried time before God, however early he needs to get up. Jesus got up way before dawn and spent time with the Father. The relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit that rested on him and the Scriptures were very powerful in the life of Jesus. If that was so with him, it must be for us. I've found that over the years, that's exactly what He's done in my life. Your father was a layman and a church planter. What kind of influence and role model has he been to you? How has he influenced your life?

Dr. Blackaby: My father was probably the greatest single influence in my life. He was not a pastor. He was a layman. He was a businessman. He had been a deacon. Often his business took him to towns and villages where there was no church. He looked at the New Testament and realized that all the deacons preached. When they were scattered, they taught, and then started churches. My first memory of church was in a dance hall with my dad preaching, my mother playing the piano, my older brother ushering, and my younger brother and I were the congregation. Dad preached faithfully and taught us church discipline and we prayed. He lived out the New Testament Christianity. Our home was open for prayer meeting, for people to come, Native Indian people as well as business people. I watched churches develop. I watched his integrity with the Scriptures and prayer and his witness. The greatest soul winner I have ever known was my dad. He would bring business people into our home and say, "Mother and boys, would you pray? I'm going to talk to my friend about the Lord." Maybe an hour later he would come out, and the man would be weeping, and he would say, "He has something to tell you." He would bear witness that he had just put his faith in Christ. That had a profound influence on my life. Because of that, I sought to live out spiritual integrity in my life before my family. As a father of 5, my prayer was, "Father, help me to so live before my children that all of them would choose to want to serve the God they saw their dad serve." That's a wonderful testimony.

Dr. Blackaby: I have a great heritage from my father. What motivated you to write this book at this point in history?

Dr. Blackaby: The book as it's coming out from Multnomah really is a reprint and revision of the very first thing I did. God had done such a huge work in the little church. The original subtitle was, "From Disbandonment to a Mighty Ministry: A Church Discovers Its Future." We took a little group of 10 people who had called a meeting to disband the church because they were so discouraged. They had been without a pastor for about five years. I said I would come. I went from Los Angeles to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I was there 12 years, and out of that 12 years, from that little group, we started 38 additional new congregations, baptized 180 college students, saw about a hundred feel called into the ministry, and started a whole theological college just to train those being called. I felt that what God taught us about how He works in the life of any congregation, when the church listens to what God is trying to say to them, that can happen to any church, any size, anywhere. I have sensed that it is a very needed one today. Some of our churches are in great disarray, not knowing who they are, what they are, what they're supposed to be doing. They're practicing religion but without the power of God. They know the power of God is missing, but they don't know how to get back. I think this little book has a tremendous potential for touching in a very simple, clear, illustrated, but Biblical way how a church experiences God when they listen to what the Spirit is saying to them.

What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches is published by Multnomah

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Question: Should the believing community judge the teachings of its leaders?

Question: Should the believing community judge the teachings of its leaders?

Answer: Not only is it permissible, it is our responsibility to do so. Nobody's teachings are above sound judgment - especially influential leaders. Biblical authority and accountability go hand-in-hand (Luke 12:48).

The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people (James 3:1).

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were instructed to practice good judgment by inquiring, probing, and thoroughly investigating a teaching or practice (Deut. 13).

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians to test all things (1Thess. 5:21-22) and commends the Bereans for testing his teachings in the light of Scripture (Acts 17:11). Instead of rebuking them, he lauds their character as noble. While our Lord Himself cautioned followers not to judge self-righteously (Matt. 7:1-5), He also counseled them to judge rightly (John 7:24, cf. Matt. 7:15-20).

Furthermore, this responsibility to make right judgments extends to public exposure and correction of false teachings and practices within the church (see Matt. 23; Gal. 2:11-21; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). Christians are frequently uncomfortable with such judgments. They assume that since they are often painful they are also destructive. However, as apologists Bob and Gretchen Passantino explain, "The 'pain' of Biblically-conducted confrontation produces individual growth (1Tim. 4:16), encourages others to Christian maturity (1 Tim. 5:19-20), promotes church strength (Eph. 4:15), and preserves the church's reputation in the world (1 Peter 2:12; [cf. 2 Peter 2:1-2]).