Word of the Day

Rest, Relax

Psalm 37: 7

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Here is faith and trust in action. Patience is not supposed to be a nail-biting period of endurance. It is supposed to be easy for us because of our faith in God. We should be able to rest during the time of patience rather than being in a barely contained frenzy. Patience is the product of absolute faith that God is well able to carry out all of his good promises. When you have that kind of trust in Him, you are able to relax. Rest and await His deliverance. Do not be anxious. He has your every need in mind and is already moving resources to their proper place so that at the appointed time, all will be in readiness. Rest. Relax. He has it all well in hand.

Understanding the Bible

John 9: 1 – 5

And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Which Bible translation should you use? In my study, I use many translations. In some passages, they can all be very similar. At other times, different translations pick up on different nuances of a word. The first thing we must fully appreciate is that the Bible was not written in English. You know that, but it slips our minds as we read. It makes a difference, though, because someone had to take all those words and translate them into English. If you have ever tried to translate an idea or phrase from another language into English, you appreciate that there is not always a perfect word which fully captures an idea that is found in other languages.

Then, of course, languages change over time. Just read the Canterbury Tales. You see how the English language has changed. In fact, English is changing before our very eyes. The word I have known all my life as “yea” is now being spelled “yay” and no one even seems to have noticed the change. The word “invite” was a verb only. Now people are using it as a noun in place of “invitation,” a word which will, likely, soon vanish. So, what is my point and why this scripture to make the point?

Notice the two italicized words in the passage above. The New American Standard Bible is my choice of Bible for several reasons. It is one of the most precise translations but also, the editors were good at indicating where they made editorial choices. This aids our understanding. You should also know that the original text did not have punctuation. So, the first thing I want you to do is to take your NASB and, with a pencil, line through all italicized words. You will receive a huge revelation when you do. The editors added words to make the sentences flow. In this case, as in others, their additions actually change the meaning. Look at this passage without the edits:

“It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents but in order that the works of God might be displayed in him we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day night is coming, when no man can work while I am in the world I am the light of the world.”

Now punctuate it yourself. I suggest Jesus was saying, “In order that the works of God might be displayed we must heal this man.” What these verses specifically are not saying is that God caused or allowed this man to be blind in order that God can show off. It also does not say that he was born blind because of sin. God does not strike people because of sin. If so, we would all be blind. Second, how much sense does it make for God to make someone blind and Jesus heal him. We cannot honestly believe they are working at cross purposes. Some would argue that God made him blind so that He and Jesus could show their healing prowess. Okay, that is just sick. This isn’t a game. God wants people healed and saved. He is not trying to wow us with His healing power and miracles. In fact, they are not even miracles to Him. Healing and miracles are simply putting things back in proper order. Therefore, in order that God’s works in the earth be displayed, we must lay hands on the sick and pray. We are the agents of God’s works in the earth.

So, when you read the Bible, line through all italicized words. Choose a Bible like the NASB with references because the references also include editor notes. Also, when you ponder a passage or study it, read it without punctuation thinking about how that might change the way you think about it.

Pastor for Hire

Luke 10: 7

The worker is deserving of his wage.

There is an emerging trend in pastoring/mentoring in the church today of which you should be aware.

The very fabric of pastoring has changed substantially. Once upon a time, most mentoring, counseling and pastoring came through one’s local church. The church hired ministers and paid their salaries. The congregation tithed (10% of their gross income) to the church, the church using those funds, in addition to offerings, to meet the needs of the budget, including salaries. Things are very different today. There are hosts of ministers who are not affiliated with a specific local congregation. Think of all of the preachers you know from television and books.

These ministers are also called upon in a pastoring capacity. Pastoring may be thought of as caring for the flock. That may mean teaching, as it so often does, but it may also include counseling, guidance, and responding to questions. Most of these are roles which were traditionally the purview of the local pastor.

The modern church, however, is less restricted to a church building. Many Christians are what I term “the great unchurched.” These are people who receive most of their teaching and guidance online, through television or other outlets rather than the traditional attendance of Sunday Services. These are not pagans. They are the faithful. It is simply that the modern church is the product of a more mobile society and wide-spread media opportunities. We can bounce a message off of a satellite and send it around the world now. And, so we do.

There are two factors which have serious impacts on these ministers as well as on the local church. First, we have not translated our tithing and offerings to the church to those ministers from whom we draw sustenance from television, the internet or other media outlets. Second, even in our home congregations, Christians are not substantially tithers. Per capita, we give less than Christians did during the Great Depression. Some sites report that only 5% of American Christians tithe. The charitable say that the number may be as high as 20%. Regardless, there is a trend towards not giving to the church. There may be any number of factors which contribute to this trend including that people carry little cash and rarely write checks. In any event, the church is not receiving as much support as it did. It seems to me, also, that we are becoming accustomed to receiving something for nothing. Certainly, this is not to say that no one ever gives to independent ministries. That absolutely is not a true depiction. Many ministries, my own included, are dependent on contributions and are blessed by people sending unsolicited donations. None the less, there are large groups of people who take a lot, but give little. The solution?

Ministers must begin to charge for their services. Where ministers could once rely on people to honor them with donations, that may be changing. Pastors have lived on faith; giving freely. Jesus lived by faith and that has been the model others have followed. That is the space every minister and every ministry wants to live in. However, I see it changing. As the demand on independent ministries increases, those organizations are increasingly having to charge a fee for what they do. I will not be surprised when the local congregation begins to charge for some of their services too. This is not the model most of us wish for but I believe it may be the new reality.

We have lost our way in our relationship to giving to the church and to ministries and this may be a simple realignment. Our thrust was once what our donation could do for others. Christians wanted other people to benefit from the good news they heard. So, our gifts were part of our evangelism and for the support of those who carry the good news. The focus of the current church may be more inwardly focused, both corporately and personally. Corporately we must ask if our desire is only for a bigger building of if there is something the collective donations can do for our congregation and beyond. What can we do in the community to bless God’s kids?

Individually, do we give only so that we can receive. Is there a private incentive to our giving? I completely agree with expecting a harvest from your seed. I want you to expect God to be true to His word and give you a return on your donation. However, as I mentioned last week, there seems to be an element of “What can God do for me” mentality in our present working theology. This may also impact our individual giving. If I believe I will get something out of it personally, will that belief influence my giving? Sure. I might, though, balance giving away my money with buying something I want and the donation suffer in the balance. Truly in this age of consumerism, that is an impactful dynamic.

What should we do about this? Whatever you choose to do. Nothing if that is your determination. In the main, the answer is both corporately and individually that we should turn that question into the Father and get His answer. Is this a trend we should even be concerned about and if it is, is there anything we should do about it? Do you believe in your heart of hearts that there is anything you should do about it personally? Should you write a letter? Make a speech? Ask your friends their thoughts? Should you start your own ministry the entire purpose of which is to encourage people to fight back against this emerging trend by giving more of their income to the church? Should you demand more services from the church and independent ministries and encourage ala carte pricing? Maybe you can find a way to make giving easier so that people who have a heart to give are not frustrated by the process.

If you think I came bearing the answers, you are wrong. I am not even convinced it is a problem. I do think, however, that it is wise to notice emerging trends and ask ourselves the important questions so that we augment the development of them rather than await their establishment and then complain about that which is becoming entrenched. Even more importantly, I think all wisdom resides in the Father and that you, yes you, have a direct pipeline to Him. I also think that you are every bit as responsible for what happens in the church as the pastors. YOU are the church. We are only employees of God first, and you second. You are the body. The body moves the fingers not the fingers moving the body. Although the pastors are leaders in many respects we are also instruments of the greater whole. How do you want the modern church to deal with finances? What model makes sense in this day and time? What does Yahweh say to You when you ask Him these questions? I will admit that I do not want to end up in a “Buy a prayer, rent a sermon” paradigm but I also do not want to minimize the important work that I believe these anointed people are doing for us and for the Kingdom of God. Please put in your quarter and receive a prayer.

I would have you know that our prayer line is open. There is a prayer request page on our website. The Word of the Day is free to everyone and you are encouraged to freely distribute it. These things are gratis and will remain so. They are not the subject of today’s devotional nor should this message be construed as a solicitation of funds. If it is a solicitation for anything, and I think it is, it is a solicitation for prayer and meditation; a request that you talk with the Father about church finances and a solicitation of your thoughts, which I whole heartedly desire. Let the body of Christ be heard.

Devoted

Matthew 8: 20

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

I really admire Catholics. The Catholic faith has taken some hard knocks and folks can be vociferous in their criticism. I don’t think any of us have the perfect theology yet but, as much as one may criticized Catholicism, there are things to appreciate and learn from too. One of those is the devotion of many Catholics. All around the world people are sincerely devoted to their God and to service. There are those who may not be able to espouse great theological theories, but they show up; they attend mass, they give to the church and they honor their God. I could wish for more of that in the rest of the church.

I believe we have lost too much honest devotion to our churches, our faith, our God and our pastors. When I was young, many preachers/pastors were called Reverend. Can you see the root word in that title? It, essentially, means revered one. Pastors were honored and revered. Now we call our pastors by their first name. I don’t know that this is wrong, but it is certainly a change. You will have to decide where we draw lines.

Additionally, churches were sacred, even to non-believers for there was an overall sense of holiness and respect. Church doors were often left unlocked. You certainly don’t do that now. Life has changed but what bothers me is the attitude of the faithful. I have noticed it in my preaching as well, so I must counsel myself and consider where I lead those who look to me for guidance.

All too often I see what could probably be titled the “What Have You Done for me Lately” faith. This is the denomination of believers who want to hear what living to God can do for them. Basically, “What is in it for me, God?” As I said, I have fallen for this modern theology myself. Let me say first that I am not suggesting abandoning this perspective. I am, however, questioning our devotion to our God.

The way this has presented itself in my teachings is that I spend a great number of my messages showing and explaining what a life in Christ means for right here and right now. I am absolutely dedicated to believers understanding that they should be living above the fray right now on earth. Your life is meant to be one of abundance in Christ Jesus. You have been anointed and blessed with the substance of God’s very being. All of that is true and it is a central, perhaps the central tenet, of my teaching. The second part of my message is that we must learn to live “in Christ” so that we are able to experience all that he won for us. To live below the grace line is an insult to his sacrifice. It grieves me to see Christians suffering when Jesus is the answer. However noble these two messages, they really should be evangelical. By that I mean that these are the messages we should be preaching to the unsaved. Life is good in Christ. Tell them the good news. So few Christians are actually living within the anointing, though, that we need to continually feed their appetites so that they will draw closer to God in order to have more life; i.e. more money, health, success, peace, liberty, etc. Enter into a third key part of my messages – Seek God with all your heart, mind and understanding.

Of the 2800 Words of the Day I have written, roughly 1000 of them include the word seek. Why do I feel compelled to implore Christians to seek God? You will likely concur that is an interesting question. I dare not articulate my speculative answer for fear of its veracity and import.

Here is where my heart is responsive to the faithful. There are seriously devoted people of every denomination and it is to those people that I speak my appreciation today. Culturally we have lost our lifestyle of devotion to God, so those people who have found the strength and heart within them to live before God in worship have my respect. I pray the Father make me more like them. I, like many of you, find myself busying my day with so many things that I don’t spend my life before my God as I think I should. Where is He when I awaken? Where is He when I am abed? Ah, but He is there, crying out to my heart, to my hardened, unresponsive heart.

Oh my God, forgive this sinner and through my repentance, Lord, turn the heart of your people back to you. Give us a passion for you, a desire for your presence. Tune our ears to your voice and our hearts to the beating of yours. Let us be known, O Lord, as a people after your heart. Let our lives be beacons, not of works Father, but of service from a heart of love. Save us, precious Jesus, from our works of the flesh and the ego which drives them. In great humility, teach us to honor you, to give into your works joyfully, to kneel at your throne in subject adoration even as we call you Father and know you as our best friend. Lend us your strength daily through a thorough and complete intertwining with your Spirit. And Father, cause that holiness which comes through the joining with the Spirit, to saturate our bones. Teach us to be a people unto you, Lord. Give us sight. Let us look upon your glory and praise you. Lead us, dear Spirit, into being a people of devotion, honoring our God and Father with all that is within us, all that we are and with all we have. Let our homes shout, “The Lord is King!” Father, with all that we have and all that we do and say, be lifted up. In your greatness, show us to be a people devoted to honoring you and serving you. Pour out your grace upon us Father. Though we are unworthy, because of our beloved Christ, shine your love upon us and let us be signposts that all the world might know that you are God.

No Answer

Isaiah 50: 2

Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver?

I can tell you why there was no one to answer when God called. We were not listening. Though God has opened our ears, many of us have lost the ability to hear His voice.

This verse suggests that one of the reasons people have stopped listening for God to speak is unbelief in God’s ability to help our very present situations. One does not call out to Him when there is not sustainable belief in His ability or willingness to improve the condition. “Is My hand too short,” He asks. Is there no one who believes in His saving power and is that why we have turned a deaf ear to His call?

Yahweh God really is looking for people to walk and talk with. Through Jesus we have been restored to our ordained Eden status. We can walk and talk with God as Adam did, but when God showed up in the garden to talk with us, no one was there. When He called out, no one answered.

If this does not grieve your heart, you will understand why it is hard to hear Him. It is not only you. Most of us have become desensitized to His voice and our hearts have formed scar tissue which prevents us from feeling His grief. Subsequently, that fibrous layer of scar tissue hardens our heart and even makes it difficult to hear Him speak.

God is calling to you right now. He is calling to us all. This is not a generalized statement. He really is calling out to you, specifically you. He wants to be your best friend and I do mean that literally. How do you soften your heart? How do you allow your ears to hear? We must allow ourselves to feel. We need to learn to approach God in prayer seeking His heart and His emotions. From there, the next thing we can do is to meditate on the Word about deliverance. We need to read the scriptures until we find stories that speak to our hearts and then meditate on them. Also, read them over and over again. Don’t let them out of your eyes. This will help you to build trust.

Third, start a trust project. Identify something small that you can give to God, some project you can trust Him with. Then give it to Him and let go. You can check in with Him each day and see if there is anything He wants you to do. When you are successful trusting Him through something small, your trust will grow. Now adopt a bigger project. Keep going until you are a faith giant.

God is calling you. Answer Him. Open the ears of your spirit to His voice and make a new best friend.

Trust Commitment

Psalm 37: 5

Commit your way to the lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Learning to trust God is a continual work. We need to become as little children and trust him wholly and completely. You have seen a small child jump off of a height into a waiting parent’s arms. Their trust is complete and fear non-existent. Unfortunately, as we grow, the world teaches us to trust in ourselves and no one else. We learn distrust instead of maintaining that attitude of complete trust. We learn fear. As adults, and yet children of God, we need to learn to go back to what I call radical trust. It is the trust of a small child. We need to unlearn what we have learned of the world and go back to our simpler days, the days of our youth. Do you know why children are able to trust so completely? It is love. Their world is love. That is all they know in the beginning of their lives. They have not learned of the ugliness of the world because they are still in the cocoon of love. 1 John 4: 18 says that perfect love casts out fear. So, there is no fear in them.

As you grew older, the world invaded your world and taught you the things outside of love. And many of us learned those lessons so well that we let go of what love taught. We actually, then, become creatures of the world instead of children of love. But, as sentient beings we have the ability to choose. You can turn yourself away from a life of fear and skepticism and go back to a world of faith, love and trust. In the Lord is complete safety and love. I wish I could trust Him for you. I wish I could give you my trust but you must see for yourself. It begins with one small trust step for most of us. Then we see God’s faithfulness and the next time we are able to trust Him a bit more. Then more, and more. Finally, one day we will abide in radical trust of the Lord. That is where I want to be because it is a life of no worry, no stress and no fear. You won’t sweat the stuff that is driving other people crazy because you will have such complete trust in the Lord’s faithfulness towards you.

Commit your ways completely and totally to the Lord and let Him show you what He will do for you.

Free and Blessed

Isaiah 49: 25 – 26

This is what the Lord says:
Prisoners will be freed from mighty men.
Loot will be taken away from tyrants.
I will fight your enemies,
and I will save your children.
26  I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they will become drunk on their own blood
as though it were new wine.
Then all humanity will know that I am the Lord, who saves you,
the Mighty One of Jacob, who reclaims you.

There is no version in which this verse isn’t completely awesome. Genesis 12: 3 says that God will bless those who bless you but also, He will curse those who curse you. Today’s verse, from the NASB, says that God will contend with those who contend with you. Think about that for a moment. To whom does that apply? Is it the guy at work, your neighbor, the grocery store clerk? Regardless, God will handle all those folks while you smile and bless. You get to be the good guy, which is always our role, while God makes sure that everyone you encounter treats you as royalty. Any time that doesn’t happen, you just remind the entire spiritual realm that you are blessed, and that God contends with everyone that contends with you.

I know verse 26 is a bit gruesome, but you know what, I kinda like it. Your enemies will feed on their own entrails. I mean, God is serious about people messing with you and your stuff.

Prisoners are set free and your money loosed from the hands that hold it currently. These words bless me. Few of us, though, realize we are bound. Would that every Christian would be free from every bondage. That is God’s idea. No worries of any kind or limitations. Freedom from stress, bad habits, dysfunctional relationships; complete freedom in every sense, that is what Yahweh wishes to do for you.

Let’s not miss the final sentence of this passage because it is the clincher, the conclusion. When we live in God’s grace, when we live intertwined with Him and in the power of His grace, then all the world will see that He is God, that He is benevolent and that He loves those who call on His name. The world should see, and will, that life with Him is full of victory. The only thing preventing that right now is that we are living below the grace line. We are not living entwined about Him. God’s children need to rise up in the fullness of God’s plans for us and let the world see that He is good.