Opinion. Observation. Application.
The Prophet, Ezekiel, in Chapter 31 goes into allegorical detail of what he describes as pride, and I would interpret in our modern times as “self-importance.” Ezekiel is warning the King of Egypt and “his hordes” how strong and mighty the King of Assyria once appeared. “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says, Because it towered on high, lifting its top above the thick foliage, and because it was PROUD OF ITS HEIGHT, I handed it over to the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside.” It wasn’t because it towered that God had an issue–it was because it thought it was better because it towered that God had an issue. Learning from this example from Ezekiel Chapter 31 could save all of us who enjoy levels of blessing in our lives, some potential harm/hurt. Taking it verse by verse, here is what we learn:
- “Who can be compared with you in majesty?” We learn that we are nothing without God, but with God working in us and through us we are majestic in our accomplishments. We learn that majesty is God’s and God’s alone. There is nothing majestic about me.
- “Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest.” We learn that if anything is beautiful, it is God’s work in us and through us–all beauty comes from God and through God.
- “It towered on high, its top above the foliage. The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field.” We learn that God provides for us in such a way that it is perpetuating. We learn that perpetuating systems that God provides are not “SELF PERPETUATING” like we eventually believe. We learn that it is a potential error to watch out for (and not allow to creep into our thinking)–God’s supply/resources are perpetual, but not “self-perpetuating.” (I don’t have anything to do with it–it is God)!
- “So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters. All the birds of the air nested in its boughs, all the beasts of the field gave birth under its branches; all the great nations lived in its shade. It was majestic in beauty with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters.” We learn that when God blesses and prospers he does so to make provision. “Provision” is not made for just ONE PERSON TO ENJOY! “Provision” is not for a person to receive so much attention and praise they become self-important. “Provision” exists so that we look to God, NOT TO MAN. (And…NOT TO OWN SELVES).
- “The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the pine trees equal its boughs, nor could the plain trees compare with its branches–no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God.” We learn that self-importance is the basis of original sin. The tree in Eden (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) was large, nourishing, and perpetual. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was large and beautiful, it gave shade and blessed everyone. God told Adam and Eve not to “eat of it” or you will die–(become self-important). We learn an interesting insight into God: God considers self-importance as death. The tempter said to Eve, “If you eat of self-importance you won’t die. God is lying to you. God doesn’t want to you to become self-important because if you become self-important you will be like Him….!”
We all need a reality check from time to time about how self-importance is influencing our lives. Learn the lessons from Ezekiel 31 (and the cedars).
The Nissan’s New Bethlehem Store in Israel is a special place. They employ Christians to create master carvings of Biblical characters and scenes. Bethlehem is officially a Palestinian State. Hamas has slowly been pressuring the Christians in Bethlehem to get out. George Nissan, the patriarch of the Nissan family told me a little over a year ago there are only 160 Christian families left in Bethlehem. “Pastor Marc,” George Nissan said, “Have people pray for Bethlehem.” During our February 2017 Tour of the Holy Land, George’s sons, Chris and John worked it out for us to receive their premier hand carved nativity by their master carvers. The actual “acquisition” began through our long time dear friend, David Alldridge. David was on the Tour with his wife, Joyce, and the salesman at the store was working with David on a negotiation when it broke off. Chris Nissan asked me to see if his salesman wasn’t connecting. I found out that David liked it but it wasn’t going to work for them. Some how as I reported the information to the Mr. Nissan, I became interested in the Nativity. The bottom line was we were able to get the entire Nativity for a little more than the shipping cost to our home/office in Goshen, Indiana. The day after it arrived and we had it set up in our bay window next to my roll top desk, God spoke to my heart. I felt God saying, “The reason you have the Nativity is to pray for the people it represents.” As I picked up each piece, the Holy Spirit spoke to me who/what it represents in my future prayers. Each day since, as I hold each piece and pray as God directed me, it gives me a sense of hope for the lost souls in our world. I thought it was important to share the prayerful (hopeful) direction God shared with me:
Mary represents the Mothers. We need to pray for Mothers. (Especially single Moms).
Joseph represents the Fathers. We need to pray for Dads. (Dads would step up).
The baby Jesus represents the children. We need to pray for children. (Protection, safety, and they would come to Christ as early as possible in their lives).
The Manger represents the unborn. We need to pray for the unborn children. We need to intercede on behalf of the unborn. We need to pray for people who have had abortions. (They suffer in silence thinking they can never be forgiven. May God forgive and affirm his forgiveness in their hearts).
The Angel in the Nativity represents those people who need miracles in their lives. Pray that God would do something so great in the lives of others that only HE gets the credit for it! We need miracles so that we have powerful testimonies to point people to Jesus!
The Wise Man with gold represents the wealthy of our world. We need to pray for the wealthy to come to the Lord.
The Wise Man with the Myrh represents the intellectuals. We need to pray for the intellectuals to come to the Lord.
The Wise Man with the Frankincense represents the powerful, successful, self-made people. We need to pray the self made and powerful come to the Lord.
The Shepherd represents the down trodden, the poor, the poverty stricken, the paycheck to paycheck worker. We need to pray that our human condition (whatever it is) doesn’t get in the way of God.
The goat represents the stubborn. We need to pray for stubborn people.
The bull represents the bullies. We need to pray that all the bullies and those who struggle over power and control come to the Lord.
The donkey represents the asses. We need to pray for those hard to get along with, those who you struggle with, those you don’t know how to deal with….
The sheep represents the LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL. We need to pray for Israel. We need to pray blessing upon the Jewish people. We need to pray they come to Jesus!
The cave itself represents (through the hand carved olive wood trunk) the Arab nations on the earth–especially those caught up in the deceit and deception of Islam. We need to pray that all people of all nations (and of all religions) will come to Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a REAL THING. We often associate PTSD with soldiers coming back from combat. (Especially those from the Gulf Wars of the past decade or two). It comes on and brings life changes, relationship altering, mind numbing, and physically impairing consequences. No amount of descriptive words could adequately describe the experience or the consequences of PTSD on ones’ life or family. HOWEVER, it is time for us to draw the line and start to DRAW DOWN ON THE HOLY SPIRIT! We have given the enemy enough attention to disrupt and destroy families through and because of PTSD. It is time for us to seek the face of God for healing to come to the lives of those people riddled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–whether via war abroad, or war at home. It is time for us to seek God’s help to heal and release people from the bondage of their stress disorders. The only way to see a change is for God to miraculously and supernaturally change a stress disorder into a powerful testimony of healing and salvation. This kind of change comes through prayer and fasting and prayer by God’s people. If God’s people would decide individually (and then corporately) to quit giving the enemy credit and territory and start taking back what the enemy stole from us (our friends and family through PTSD). Taking back territory requires us to bind the enemy in Jesus’ name and loose the Holy Spirit to transform our stress into salvation and the traumatic into testimony. We need to see God’s power to transform a life from PSTD to PTSE in such a way that only God can receive the credit! God Bless. May it be so!
As far back as I can remember, being told the truth was the most important thing to me in any relationship. I have my suspicions as to why I developed into the guy who likes you to “just give it to me straight,” but I don’t want to digress, I want to hit it hard about telling the truth. “The truth shall set you free” basically because you can get it out there and move on. The truth has a way to come to the surface eventually so we might as well get the truth out in the open to begin with….
Jesus used the idea when (referring to the Pharisees and Religious Leaders of his day) when he said, “Only let your righteousness (honesty or truth telling) be greater than these Religious Leaders” or you may never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I have often told men who would come forward with problems to “drop it all on me, don’t hold anything back because the more truth you will tell me the better and quicker we can solve the problem.” How could/can I be so bold? Because the truth sets us free!
During the 8th Grade, I had quite a run in Art Class. I had been chosen to have my paper machete Halloween mask selected for the front page of the local newspaper and next up was the clay sculpture. I am sure it was because I was on some kind of ego high at the time but I had back to back “artful” moments. Out of me came a bust of sorts with the guy sticking out his tongue, corn row hair, complete with a hat. I followed all of the art instruction and even the teacher was impressed my the artistic expression. (I also think she had a conversation with the school counselor to make sure I was in balance). I did everything I was supposed to do to prep the sculpture for the kiln. It was going to be in there over the weekend so I followed the exact steps so my masterpiece could have the preservation and shine. I was so excited to see the finished product. Getting to school early to get to the Art Class, I think I had one of the biggest disappointments of Middle School (and most children have plenty of them). My masterpiece came out dark, milky and ugly. My teacher’s reaction stunned me, because she didn’t really have any reaction. She said, “That’s just the way it came out of the kiln.” I was quite confused because I followed all the steps to prepare it. When I pressed in as to “why,” she got touchy and terse with me. Fortunately for a guy like me who wants to know the truth, regardless of where it takes me, I confided in a beloved Social Studies Teacher who looked into the situation very subtly. It turns out the Art Teacher was having personal problems and messed up the settings on the kiln and my sculpture just didn’t get the proper attention while under her care. I will always appreciate the Social Studies Teacher who looked into it, told me the truth, and trusted me not to over react. As I told him, as long as I know the truth–the truth has a way to set us free. However, and here is the tricky part, you may know the truth, but the culprit may NEVER EVER admit to the truth. YOU HAVE TO BE ALRIGHT WITH THE FACT THAT SOME PEOPLE MAY NOT TELL YOU THE TRUTH, YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN THE TRUTH BY/THROUGH OTHER MEANS. What about the Art Teacher? She messed up and didn’t come clean. So what? Personal problems have a way to sweep a person away. Be sure never to judge people, because, sure enough, you will experience PERSONALLY the thing you judge others about. Most importantly–ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. If you are going to “judge”–“judge” my artwork!
I hate to be the spoiler, “Debbie Downer,” or rain on the parade, but it has to be said–does our “Westernized Christianity” really come to terms with what it means to be “more like Jesus” as in the songs, the sermons, the challenges of: Are we being more and more like Jesus? Specifically, that song that goes….” I wanna be more like you, Jeeesuuussss, I wanna be more like you….” It seems to me we have made Jesus into our modern version of a celebrity who we want to be like. What we miss in our “I wanna be more like you, Jesus” culture is Jesus already told us what he expects–He said, if you want to follow me then: “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Deny…take up…(A CROSS)…and follow. It sounds hard, because it IS HARD. Following Jesus isn’t supposed to be easy, attractive, or harmonic. Following Jesus IS ESSENTIAL for one very important purpose and is fundamentally the evidence of actually being more “like Jesus”–that is: Wait. For. It. OBEDIENCE. I hate to be “that guy” who rains on everyone’s party, but from time to time we need a reality check. Following Jesus–being more like Jesus–requires us first to be obedient to Jesus’ teaching. (Starting with: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him).
I think the discussion started about a year and a half ago when a Pastor/friend asked about Christmas, 2016. He was wondering what the best approach to Christmas Day landing on a Sunday. I wanted to hear his thoughts first, before jumping in. He said, “What an opportunity for the Church to reach out to families by providing a “come as you are/as you can” couple of service times IN ADDITION to Christmas Eve Candlelight Services. I was delighted at his response. My response to his idea(s) was met with resounding enthusiasm. In my active Pastoral days we never missed the opportunity to be (at times) the only Church open when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday. The only time we cancelled in all those years was a blizzard that came in on a Saturday night, Christmas Eve, leaving us stranded and having to cancel Church on Sunday, Christmas Day. (I think it was Winamac, Indiana in about 1983 or so). Since Thanksgiving I have been hearing Church after Church cancelling their services on Christmas Day, 2016 and pushing for coming Saturday night, Christmas Eve, 2016. Lead Pastor, Tim Fisher of Crossroads Community Church, in Goshen, Indiana was discussing the subject with me over the last couple of months. (Crossroads Community Church is the one I am Pastor Emeritus and Tim Fisher is now Lead Pastor after transitioning out over 3 years ago because of lung issues). Pastor Tim is an enthusiastic advocate for coming BOTH Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I am proud of his Pastoral leadership and direction to “wear your family pajamas if you want and get a family picture in your pj’s around the Christmas tree in the foyer!” As provocative as it is I want to give my Pastoral Leader friends a couple (or three) reasons why to have Church when Christmas Day lands on Sunday:
- It is another opportunity! There are some people who only go to Church on Easter and sometimes Christmas. I know..I know…I know…(“We are having services on Christmas Eve and our Christmas Eve Services have become bigger than Easter”)–is the common answer to my challenge. YET–there are those who really don’t go to Church–EVER–who might come on a Christmas Day Morning if it were on a Sunday. I know the crowd may be down–may be WAY DOWN–but you still might win one more for the Lord by capturing Christmas Day when it lands on a Sunday.
- Don’t let your family be more important than God! Yes…I just went there, and for good reason. The culture we live in has driven us to worshiping family more than worshiping God. The decision Pastoral Leaders make to cancel Church if Christmas Day falls on Sunday is often driven by the Pastor’s own family pressure to do so. YIKES! (Did I really just print that?) Often we forget that Sunday Morning Worship is about US WORSHIPING THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, not–God accommodating me. When we cancel our regular Church Service times because of cultural dictates of family desires, we are getting things out of spiritual perspective. When we start to do so: What’s next?
- Show understanding, yet be visionary! DON’T BE JUDGEMENTAL OF PEOPLE who can’t/don’t come. Don’t be discouraged by a lower attendance. (Although, at times, I was the only Church open and actually gained new people through my resolve to have Church). Make it clear to people that you understand their situations. In many cases if people push their families to come when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, it could be the opposite of a Christian testimonial to their family. No one wants that kind negative feeling toward the Church. Be positive, give vision and direction, provide positive leadership, and PRESENT A SHORT (45 MINUTE) AND POWERFUL CHRISTMAS SERVICE ON SUNDAY, CHRISTMAS DAY, 2016!
Over the last few months God has been speaking to me–AND speaking to me to speak to others about LISTENING. God is showing me that we are entering into a “season of listening.” How does listening work? The first thing required to listen is to STOP TALKING. When you are talking you aren’t listening. You can’t talk and listen at the same time. The second thing required to listen is to engage yourself in the moment (or BE IN THE MOMENT). Instead of constantly thinking about what are going to be my next words even while someone else is talking–STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU–listen to the words someone else is speaking. The third thing required to listen is to yield the moments of listening to the Holy Spirit. God wants us to know that He can speak deeper into someone than we can. HE WANTS TO BE THE ONE TO SPEAK INTO OTHERS. He wants us to listen AND to pray. God needs us to be engaging people in praying they will listen to HIM–not listen to us. The Scripture says that “no one comes to God unless the Holy Spirit brings them.” Listening lets God do His work! Jesus’ instruction to the 70 he sent out to do the work of ministry is to “not be concerned about the words you will say.” My feeling is that as we listen to others–instead of talking–we will begin to see miracles, healings, and conversions to Christ. God Bless, Pastor Marc
The Lord’s Prayer: Notes and Instructions to Help Us to Recite and Apply the Lord’s Prayer With New Understanding!
Our newest project is called “Problem Solving Prayer” and one of the chapters of the book deals with The Lord’s Prayer. I thought it might be helpful to lay out the notes from the chapter for your personal application. The most important thing after you review these concepts line by line, concept by concept, is to train yourself to SLOW IT DOWN when you recite The Lord’s Prayer!
Jesus said, “This is the way you should pray”–meaning: we BOTH recite it and apply it!
The Lord’s Prayer is a gift to us from God!
–The creator of the universe chooses to call HIMSELF my Father!
–God’s desired relationship with you is a loving, caring parent.
–Jesus’ instruction is to experience a rich and loving relationship with God. It is boundless. –Nothing you have ever done is beyond God’s love and forgiveness.
–(Ouranos) is the concept of an eternal existence BUT with a starting point.
–The “starting point” is in the “inner life” of an individual.
–Jesus’ instruction is for us to ENJOIN ourselves to a power greater than ourselves and realize life extends beyond me.
“Hallowed be Your Name”
–(Hagiazo) means to purify, sanctify.
–(Onoma) character that derives an authority to flow through person to person.
–God gives me His authority in MY world.
–His authority is constantly being sanctified through the events of my life.
–Jesus’ instruction is to step out in faith without any fear. God will take care of everything as you go and will be constantly cleansing your heart.
“Your Kingdom Come”
–This is giving God the “green light” to work on any area of my life.
–This is the commitment on my part to work on the weak areas.
–This is yielding my will to God’s will.
–Jesus’ instruction is for us to give God the “green light” to work on my inner life through my circumstances. This acknowledges God IS AT WORK.
“Your Will Be Done”
–(Thelema Ginomai) is the desire to be part of a positive life cycle: arise—be assembled—brought to fullness.
–God’s purpose in our lives in the world is to be a positive impact: arise—assemble—complete.
–Jesus’ instruction is to keep your thoughts, action, and attitude in keeping with God’s positive life cycle. It is our responsibility to stay the course of/on/in HIS WILL (in this way).
“In Earth as it is In Heaven”
–Earth (Ge) is the created world including the people.
–Heaven (ouranos) the eternal realm.
–God works through people.
–We must work with others well, pray for them, and help them be part of God’s positive life cycle.
Jesus’ instruction is to help others accept and apply God’s positive life cyle to their life.
“Give Us Today”
–Give Us (didomi) the basic idea of an adventure.
–Today (semeron) the present moment, including the moment just past.
–Our attitude toward life is excitement!
–Every moment is a potential memory. Life is a series of memories.
–Jesus’ instruction is for us to live our lives moment by moment—enjoying every single moment and building memories.
“Our Daily Bread”
–(Epiousious) means NOT ONLY our subsistence BUT ALSO acknowledgment of it.
–(Artos) a food source
–God will provide for every need.
–God expects us to express our need(s) to Him—as our “supplier.”
–Jesus’ instruction is for us to express our need to God, acknowledge that only He can fully meet our need, AND fully expect Him to meet our need.
“Forgive Us Our Debts”
–Aphiemi means to yield something up, turn it over, and send it out forgiven.
–Opheilema means something owed, something due, or a fault or failure.
–Forgiveness is freedom and comes as we turn things over and let it go.
–The freedom forgiveness brings is a clear conscience.
–Jesus’ instruction is for us to turn things over to Him and let go—and then HE will send out the freedom.
“As We Also Forgive Our Debtors”
–Opheiletes is a person who owes something, a person indebted, a transgressor.
–Release people from their sins against you.
–Allow others a clear conscience.
–Don’t hold things against others.
–Let go of things easily.
–Jesus’ instruction is for us to forgive others and send them forth with a clear conscience.
“And Lead Us Not Into Temptation”
–Eisphero; Eis; Peirasmos
–Don’t get yourself worked up.
–Getting worked up makes matters worse.
–Jesus’ instruction is not to get worked up about anything because you just make matters worse. Further: HE IS ALWAYS AT WORK…Don’t complicate matters. Stay in your lane. He knows about it!
“But Deliver Us From Evil”
–Rhumai is the idea of a current that rushes to the rescue to draw away.
–Poueros is to be hurtful, hurt, or degenerative.
–Keep yourself from being hurt.
–Keep from hurting others.
–Keep yourself from degenerative attitudes and behaviors.
–Jesus’ instruction is to not hurt others or allow yourself to be hurt by others (by letting things go quickly and easily).
“For Thine is the Kingdom, And the Power, and the Glory, Forever, Amen.”
–Kingdom—basileia—Let God be the BOSS.
–Power—dunamis—Having abundance by acknowledging to daily miracles.
–Glory—doxa—Treating people with respect and letting God flow out of your life.
–Forever—aion—Let it be perpetual.
–Amen—THIS ALL IS FIRM AND TRUSTWORTHY!
Minutes after winning Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning, the oldest starting quarterback in a Super Bowl at 39 years old was interviewed on the field by sportscaster, Tracy Wolfson. The question the journalists have constantly asked Manning was about his very possible retirement. February 7, 2016 brought Peyton Manning his 200th career win. (The most ever, by one quarterback). The whole Manning Family has been lauded by everyone as a classy family–and Peyton especially as an example to our children as a top notch attitude and role model. HOWEVER (and I have put this off all day long before offering up this challenge, just dreading swimming up stream of public opinion)–I listened to both the interview he gave Tracy Wolfson and the identical remarks he gave to Jim Nance. The Washington Post quotes him: “I’ll take time to reflect. I got a couple of priorities first. I want to kiss my wife and my kids. I want to hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser, tonight, Tracy, I promise you that.” The CBS live interview included his final statement…..”and I’m going to take care of those first. I’m going to say a little prayer to the man upstairs. I’m very grateful.” I admit I was one of those who was cheering the old veteran on. I was the cliché. (Of being a “Peyton Fan” rather then a Broncos fan). I guess my admiration and respect of his years of high quality sportsmanship both ON and OFF the field, set me up to be pretty disappointed in Peyton’s final interview describing what HE SAID were his “priorities.” The problem I have is not that he mentioned alcohol (although Brian Steinburg writing a piece for Variety says, “active NFL players are not to mention alcohol companies on air).” My first thought after hearing Peyton give the order of his priorities not once in the moment but TWICE almost word for word in the same order was: He must be getting paid to mention Budweiser. With a 30 second commercial costing companies 4.5 to 5 million dollars each–maybe it was pre-arranged with Budweiser. According to Lisa Weser of Anheuser Peyton Manning was not paid for his mention of Budweiser. (Although she tweeted that she was glad he did mention Budweiser). Another source mentioned Peyton has financial interest in a couple of Beer Distributorships in Louisiana. The sore spot for me is the ORDER of his priorities: 1. Kiss his wife and kids 2. Drink plenty of Beer 3. Once he “takes care of those first” (his words, not my words)–he is going to say a “little prayer to the man upstairs.” COMMON ON, PEYTON! Peyton, you couldn’t walk, talk, or even breathe with out the “man upstairs.” According to your order of priorities you are going to talk to God AFTER you are good and hammered….don’t you think you might RE-THINK your order? Genesis 26:25 gives us a powerful Biblical model of priorities: “And Isaac built an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. The Biblical model of priorities are this: 1. God first–in worship, in life, in everything. 2. Family second (the tent in this passage is the symbol of the domestic responsibility). 3. Work (and everything else). Digging the well was for his sheep, because Isaac’s work was of a shepherd–albeit a huge sheep operation, the most important thing to a shepherd was a water supply. Here in lies a challenge for all of us: WHAT IS THE ORDER OF YOUR PRIORITIES? If Tracy Wolfson or Jim Nance put a microphone in your face at one of the most spectacular moments of your professional life, what would you say your priorities are? Peyton says first kiss the wife and kids, then drink a lot of beer, and then after doing those (most important things), say a “little prayer” to the man upstairs. I suppose in our hedonistic, and self absorbed culture I should be happy the guy mentions his family first and puts God into the picture even a little bit–but that is what is wrong in our culture: WE HAVE OUR PRIORITIES MESSED UP. Our redemption comes through the belief in the Bible being our guide in life and our desire to build our lives through the application of Biblical models. It all starts in me believing and accepting God’s Word and God’s order for my priorities. God first. Family second. Work third. (Budweiser doesn’t come near to making the list). Just think about it. (And pray about it). God Bless, Pastor Marc