Opinion. Observation. Application.
Psalm 97 gives us a tour of the “ultimate reality check.” It does for me, anyway…
V. 1–“The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad, let the distant shores rejoice”–since the Lord “reigns” we need to LET HIM REIGN in the “kingdom of my heart.” Who reigns in your heart? (Does God reign in your heart, or do YOU reign in your own heart)?
V. 2–“Clouds and thick darkness surround him”–Where ever God is, evil is going to be close by. The darkness makes us stronger because we are forced to LEAN IN toward the light!
V. 2b “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne”–Righteousness means “honesty” and Justice means “fairness.” The foundation of God is seen in being honest and fair in every situation and with every one you meet!
V. 3–“Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes on every side”–Hebrews 12 concludes with “God is a consuming fire.” Instead of thinking “OUCH” when thinking of God’s fire, we need to be thinking of the purifying power and purging power of God’s presence. Instead of thinking “OUCH” we need to be thinking: “YES!”
V. 4–“His lightening lights up the world, the earth sees and trembles.” We are so distracted by the weather patterns of our modern times being “global warming” we miss the opportunity to point people back to the idea the earth was created by God, belongs to God, and is destined by God. The weather is a constant reminder the earth belongs to God and we have no personal control over it.
V. 5–“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” The consummate reminder in nature is that our natural surroundings THEMSELVES testify of submission to the living God, creator of the universe–why shouldn’t we have that same submissive spirit toward Him?
V. 6–“The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory.” The essential component of God’s nature, God’s natural order, God’s connection with the earth, God’s connection with humans, and human connection with other humans is HONESTY!
V. 7–“All who worship images are put to shame, and those who boast in idols–worship Him all you gods.” There isn’t any secret here: Anything you put ahead of God in your life is an idol. We live in a day of celebrity worship. Entire TV programs are dedicated to what the celebrities did today. Even larger than celebrity worship today is SELF WORSHIP. Self exaltation; pride; self-centeredness; self proclamation–selfishness is the biggest idol of all!
V. 8-12–“Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments O Lord, For You O Lord, are most high over all the earth. YOU ARE EXALTED FAR ABOVE ALL GODS. Let those who love the Lord, hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord you who are righteous, and praise His Holy Name.”
“When is it going to be MY time?” (Would have been the constant question on David’s mind as he waited out the often angry King Saul). One of David’s first responsibilities was to play the harp to soothe the mental instability of King Saul. Many times King Saul’s hostility was aimed straight at David–where he would have to actually duck from spears thrown in his direction. Although it was never spoken out loud between them–both David and King Saul would have known the truth: David was on the way up and King Saul on his way down (and out). David wrote most of the Psalms of the Old Testament. In many of them we can read of how David processed the wait. King Saul even pursued him through out the country. The tall handsome King Saul felt insecure and threatened by a shepherd boy. David ended up in a Cave out in the wilderness where the criminals were in hiding. The young boy anointed by the Prophet Samuel was numbered among criminals. MANY TIMES we question God’s timing–MANY TIMES our patience runs thin–MANY TIMES we wonder if God has forgotten about the anointing….CALM DOWN! God hasn’t forgotten anything. God uses the times of waiting in our lives to further develop your potential. (We are rarely as prepared as we think). The times of waiting are not just about developing “patience” as we often say–but it is about developing every area of your life. David hit rock bottom hiding out in a cave with criminals, but God used the situation to develop David in every area of his life. He soon became the leader of the band of criminals. Spending time on the run and in hiding developed David into the great Captain of War he would eventually become. King Saul would pursue David out of craziness. David would learn what it was like to mistreated and misunderstand. The situation David was in made him into the “man after God’s own heart” he would become. “When is it going to be MY time?” NOW IS YOUR TIME! Now is your time to develop, to learn, and to grow.
In middle of all the presidential candidate spouting off, came this ordinary guy spouting off about religion. He was concise, to the point, and intense. He ended it with: “Did ya get that on camera sport?” He took total control of the moment and spouted off. Think of it–“Take control and spout off…” (Seems to be how you get press coverage these days). It was how the press got hold of this guy: he spouted off and got it “on camera sport.” I think we need to rethink the “spouting”–especially if it is just for the sound bite. (Did ya get that on camera, sport)? Here is a idea to dissect and ponder:
Hosea 14:9–“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? Prudent, and he shall know them? For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them. But the transgressors shall fall therein.”
If you stayed with me this far into the old King James Version then you are interested enough to dig a little deeper into this idea in Hosea’s prophetic word!
Four things linked together:
1. Wisdom: (chakam) means to work at being intelligent, work at being artful, work at being skillful. Get the idea? “Work it..Work at it..”
2. Prudent: (biyn) means to–through considering something–be able to distinguish and thereby understand.
3. Right: (yashar) means to be straight up honest; straight up clear; straight up life; (A straight up person).
4. Transgressor: (pasha) means to break away from the authority basis and have your own way…”rebellion.”
Hosea 14:9—(Refined Version): “Whoever works at understanding through listening and not spouting off your mouth will gain understanding. Whoever considers things through separating your emotional reaction from the spiritual truth will know how God is working. God expects us to be straight up honest–in communication and in behavior–if we do we will see Him at work. Those who become “full of themselves” and ignore God’s refinement through circumstances will stumble and fall apart.”
The promise made to Abraham that his descendants would number more than the stars of the sky was made while his wife Sarah was known (to them at least) to be barren–as in–no children, EVER. In an effort to take the short cut, appease the moment of pressure, or be a pleaser in a difficult situation the remedy Sarah (and then Abraham by agreeing) was to have Abraham use Sarah’s slave girl, Hagar to be the surrogate. Hagar became pregnant with Abraham’s child. Sarah has a hard time dealing with what happened between her husband and her slave (even though Sarah thought it up) what happened next is what ALWAYS happens: trouble, conflict, bitterness, distain, distrust, etc. etc. In the face of the abuse from Sarah, Hagar makes a run for it. God, in his great compassion, moves in to speak to Hagar–alone and afraid–“You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his had will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16) God does what He always does–REACH OUT TO US. But what is important to understand is, there isn’t any “wiggle room” in God’s remedy for what we need to do next. God promised Hagar that her descendants would be renowned, but she had to GO BACK AND SUBMIT HERSELF TO SARAH. There wasn’t any room for debate or excuse. Hagar followed God and went back and submitted to Sarah. She stayed around for quite a while, or until Sarah became pregnant with (and delivered) her son, Isaac. We know from this Genesis 16 story that God’s remedy is for the descendants of Hagar (the Palestinians) is for them to submit to the descendants of Sarah (the Hebrews). There in is the conflict that makes everything in the world tense and on edge: “the spirit of the wild donkey.” God warned Hagar that her son’s descendants would be a wild donkey and his hand would be against everyone and everyone’s had would be against him. The remedy today is as simple as it was when God spoke directly to Hagar, the mother of Palestine, to back and SUBMIT to Sarah. As unlikely as it would seem in the natural, it is something every Christian should pray for: That the enemies of God would come and submit to God. Prayer is a defensive cover–exercised in faith and prayed using Biblical models like this Genesis 16 passage, prayer becomes an agent of spiritual warfare that will strengthen the armies of God to bring things in line in these last days before Christ’s return to earth.
Pastor Tim Fisher at Crossroads Church in Northern Indiana is launching a fall series called “Unnecessary Censorship” and his creative team has come up with great graphics to promote the series as a major event for the year. He asked me to step in on November 1, 2015 and handle the topic of “Hell” since, in his words, “You wrote the book on it.” (“Hell No” published in 2002 or so). I had most recently revisited the concept last year when TCRG released a book on eternity. (“Unfolding Eternity” published in 2014). I was giving him the condensed version of my concept and Marceil told me to get the idea up here on my blog. Here it is: Since Revelation says–death, hell, and sin will all be cast into the “lake of fire” it gives us the picture that it will be some kind of bright swirling object (like a very miniature sun) just on the edge of our view all through eternity. I think the Lake of Fire will be a kindly and humble reminder of what God did for us and through us on planet earth during our life time. Here is where it sometimes gets “dicey”……those who didn’t trust Christ with the forgiveness of sin will be in the Lake of Fire. Will we realize we have a loved one there? We know that in Heaven there will be no sorrow, but the thought of someone we know and love spinning around through all of eternity in this inferno of purging brings a sense of panic. Yet, somehow in Heaven it will all make sense to us. Somehow in the glorified state of eternity we will understand that everyone has a free will. We will understand that it is NOT people that are sent to Hell forever but sin that is cast into the Lake of Fire. People hold ON TO their sin rather than trust Jesus with it. Because they have held ON TO their sin, they will be holding ON TO it all the way into the Lake of Fire. Further, we live in a world where we constantly fight with our own flesh over issues like–pride, self protection, self centeredness etc. In our glorified state there won’t be any conflict with the fleshly desire of our ego need. On earth we conflict with our individual identity. In Heaven there won’t be the individual identity, but rather a powerful corporate identity–like marriage: two become one flesh. In the case of Heaven, we will be married to Christ, the lamb of God, through all eternity. All the ego needs will give way to the desire to be “ONE WITH GOD”–which takes away the “need to know why” and replaces with the “Oh…I…get…it…now!” I truly don’t understand how I will be able to deal in eternity with the fact that people I know and love will end up in the Lake of Fire so it makes me strive toward fasting and prayer for people to come to Christ while they still can. BTW–it’s not going to be long now…so we must endeavor to pray and target people for Christ while we still can. I find it is not so much what I say that brings people to Christ, but the time I spend in praying for people to come to Christ through binding the enemy and loosing hearts to accepting the teachings of Christ into their lives.
I thought it interesting in the news recently the Pope is making it easier to be forgiven of the transgression known as abortion. Interesting NOT in the idea of forgiveness of a sin, but interesting that one man asserting himself as the one who could make the forgiveness possible a newsworthy item. (Or interesting enough for me to mention it in a blog). It is the long held belief that Catholicism sees it’s priesthood idea as the “vicar of Christ.” The Pope, being the head of the priesthood, is the main guy among the main guys. The priest “stands in for God” and through the sacrament of the confessional, the priest can absolve people of their sins. I truly don’t want to take on a religious system over 2000 years old and built upon Jesus’ remark to Peter that “upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” But from time to time we need to clear the mechanism and get back to the basics of faith. It IS NOT man who forgives us of our sins, IT IS God who does the forgiving–through the sacrifice of Christ’s death as our penalty for sin. “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing..” Jesus said as they were taking His life away. It is through Christ we can be forgiven of ANY sin. It does NOT matter what you have done you can be forgiven by God. The only condition is you have to come to God, admit your sin, ask forgiveness, and then leave it with Him. (Leaving your sin with Him is actually the hardest part). Because it is so hard to forgive ourselves after God forgives might be why it is easier for us to follow a religious system whereby humans are forgiving other humans of their sin. Easier…maybe…but in my opinion–very wrong. As far as abortion goes, it is a sin that people carry their entire lives. People who I know who have had abortions (even if they aren’t a follower of Christ) suffer from guilt and shame. Years after they know God has forgiven them and have confessed Christ’s forgiveness, still suffer deeply for what they have done. I would say to those people: CHRIST PAID A DEBT HE DID NOT OWE TO FREE US FROM THE PENALTY OF OUR SIN..AND OUR GUILT…AND OUR SHAME. Be forgiven, then be free. Walk in the freedom of Christ. Get the joy of God back inside. Most importantly–you don’t need man to be free, you need Christ! Much Love, Marc
I was sitting across the apartment from my 83 year old mother this week and we were talking about Heaven. Since Dad passed in September of 2010, going to Heaven is what Mom wants most to do. As we talked about it I began to verbally process something that bears careful thought to us all. I think especially since the largest generation in the history of our country (the baby boom) is crossing into their retirement years. As our bodies wear out our spiritual power should strengthen! I was thinking of Mom in her weakening physical condition and desire to go to Heaven, that her mind is still with her. As long as she has her mind, she has the ability to pray in faith and move (change) the heart of God. I said to Mom, “Mom, you know that Dad is with the Lord…but his prayers are in worship not in faith any longer. All the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12) are cheering us on, and realize that the ability to change the heart of God is on our shoulders (those still living on planet earth).” This was the same week my father in law had passed away and had done his funeral the day before. “Mom, when you have those times sitting in your chair, instead of allowing the Devil to distract you–you should ALWAYS BE IN PRAYER. We are going to look back 100 years from now and kick ourselves because we missed the fact that God has put us on this planet to connect people to God through the prayers done in faith. We move God’s heart through praying for the lost. We allow God to gain more traction and we overcome the enemy with God’s help when we pray through faith. The weaker our bodies get, the stronger our commitment in faith and in faithful praying should get!” The power of senior adult prayer is untapped and needs to be unleashed against the enemy. Here is a call to all those retired folks to redeem the times. Jesus is coming soon and there are millions yet to be saved. Spiritual salvation comes through the faithful of God praying for lost souls in and through faith. Just as I challenged Mom this week, the challenge is true for all of us to realize that we could be missing one of this world’s greatest opportunities when we are distracted from full and total attention to prayer!
Marceil and I have had a bunch of interesting experiences over the last few months of a traveling ministry since her retirement from Goshen Schools.
Most recently was a trip to Haiti to do some teacher training (Marceil) and pastor training (Me). We were set up to meet in two different places and ended up doing training in three spots—from the deep in the Southern part of Haiti and way to the North. (At one time I think we must have been 90 miles from Cuba)!
Likely, I will share some of the experiences as we are able to process them mentally/spiritually and fully recover physically. It was great to meet up with Pastor Tim Fisher and the team he led from Crossroads Church. They built both a School and a Church in the Hinche Region—raising the money to do so before leaving on the mission trip. Pastor Tim, our wives, and Marc Dume all have some interesting stories about some things we faced together in our travels—but there is one thing I wanted to share on this Tuesday morning that shows us that people are the same everywhere on the planet.
On a bright and warm Monday morning we were set up to do Pastor and Teacher training in the country side about an hour outside of Hinche, Haiti down a practically impassable rutted path.
We showed up and the Pastor took us to the old school that was used for years. It was a grass hut with a dirt floor. Pastor Tim and his Crossroads Team were finishing up the new school while Marceil and I did our training.
There was one particular guy who spoke a little English. He explained that he was a Pastor in Hinche. He then proceeded to take a chair at a table in the very front of the grass hut. The table was obviously set up for Marceil and me but this Pastor pulled up a chair to the table, sitting directly in front of all the Pastors and Teachers and started writing on a sheet of paper.
I was thinking it must be their custom to have someone sit prominently in the front and keep notes (or minutes) of a meeting.
The problem was with the Pastor sitting at the table writing profusely and not looking up; he wasn’t able to anticipate my movements or Marc Dume (our translator, road manager, security, and trip advisor) as we moved in front. He was flat out IN THE WAY. Marc Dume couldn’t move, I couldn’t move and the Pastor writing profusely didn’t look up.
Finally I shook the table a little to get his attention. Marc Dume translated to him that we needed to move the large table to the side. I apologized for any inconvenience to his “note taking” but it would work better to get the table out of the way. Marc Dume translated back to me what the Pastor said, “I’m not taking notes, and I’m writing you a thank you note.” I expressed through Marc Dume my appreciation for his note and for allowing us to move the table. (There is no reason to offend others in a culture you don’t understand, especially if you are there to help equip).
At this point we are about 15 minutes into a four hour event and we have successfully moved the table and the Pastor sitting at it. About two minutes later the Pastor’s cell phone rang (LOUD), he answers it—stands up while talking—walks in front of me—continues to talk out loud on the cell phone down the center aisle of the grass hut—out the back opening and walks away. He never comes back the rest of the day.
I didn’t think about the guy until the next day. We are on a seven hour drive in the back roads to Cap Haitian when I remembered about the Pastor’s “thank you” letter. I remarked to Marc Dume—“It happened the way I thought? First, this guy is the first guy to greet us and tell us all about himself. Second, he pulls a chair up in the table, distracting everyone in the hut. Third, when we move the table so we can move and he became less prominent in the room his cell phone rang. Fourth, he answered his cell phone, talked all the way out the back and never came back. Did I understand that right, Marc? He was there for 20 minutes of a four hour training?”
Marc Dume said, “That’s right—he gave the letter to the Pastor of the Church—and the Pastor gave it to me. The letter is in my bag!”
I wanted to know what the fuss was all about so Marc Dume read and translated the letter. Marc’s translation from Creole is: He did thank us for coming, and then launches out on the fact he started the Church we were helping (Crossroads Church built a school building and a church building with funds raised by the people of Crossroads)—AND he named four other Churches he had started. He then went on to say that it was him that needed the help financially. He then clearly asked us in his letter for $90,000 US dollars for himself.
I realized at that moment that no matter what country, culture, socio/economic status, race, or creed—people are the same. Here was a guy who liked to have prominence, making a case to us of his prominence and then trying to advance his own position.
The great thing about the teachings of Christ is they aren’t from the United States culture, or Haitian culture. The teaching of Christ is for all cultures.
When Jesus said—“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me”—he was meaning something that transcends culture, history, or time. We DON’T need prominence—but we NEED to deny ourselves. We DON’T need luxury (although nice once in a while)—but we NEED to take up the cross. We DON’T need a “following”—but we NEED to follow!
People are the same where ever we go—BUT—Jesus calls us to be different!
Marc Royer Ph.D.
Because I am a “commuter walker” I developed a phrase I was using around Goshen, Indiana when Marceil was still working at the Goshen Schools Central Office. I called it the “view from the sidewalk.” I invoked the phrase when I would observe something while walking by on the sidewalk. Taking in life at 3 mph on a sidewalk gives a person a completely different view of things. Walking by on a sidewalk is vastly different from how something looks going by in a car, or from an office, or reading about it in a paper, or even hearing someone else’s opinion.
There is a certain reality check from the sidewalk view.
You see things from the sidewalk at 3 mph you don’t see if you are in the inside looking out. Ministry Leaders are notorious for being out of touch with people because they have been on the inside looking out for so long they don’t realize their entire vantage point is coming from a limited view. (Jesus addressed the “inside looking out” idea a number of times in observing the Pharisees).
Since the first of the year our travel schedule has been heavy. We have been able to observe Ministry Leadership in many different situations, contexts, and complexities in both national and international settings. I was processing our ministry settings through the “sidewalk view.”
There are dozens of things to share, but for this time I want to narrow it down to three things:
1. When looking at your ministry—(how you do ministry)—look at it through the sidewalk view of things. Look at your Church Service the way someone would look at it who was visiting for the very first time. Explain why you do what you do—don’t assume people know why you have “open altar” or an “altar call.” When you are new to a Church there are many things to acclimate yourself to. If you have been going to a Church for a long time, there are many things that occur that you have grown accustomed. Many things make people feel like they are on the outside looking in—or even: they are missing out on the “inside joke.” It is easy to look around and think: these are all “regular” people, they understand. BUT, if you want new people in your Church you have to prepare for new people. The most impactful way for your ministry to experience the growth of new people is to have a vision for new people coming to Christ. Look at every single thing the happens in your ministry as if you were experiencing your Church for the very first time.
2. People are about “THE EXPERIENCE” in our culture today. What are they experiencing in your Church? Is the “experience” a spiritual experience that gives them a way to encounter God? Sometimes (and I mean no offense) we work so hard on what we want people to “think” about our Church and the experience of our Church that we forget the main thing is for the experience of encountering Christ! My sidewalk view is that Ministry Leaders spend a lot of time wanting people to develop relationship with others and not enough time helping people develop a relationship with God.
3. URGENCY! Starting with Acts chapter one, Jesus instills a sense of urgency into the Christians mission/message. In Acts chapter two, the Church as we know it is born on the Day of Pentecost. Urgency has always been the fruit of an encounter with Christ. “To know Christ and make Him known…” is urgent! There are several troubling things I have noticed in my sidewalk view of things with regard to urgency. I sincerely want to be challenging and prophetic, not judgmental and condemning. Think about a couple of things I have noticed and apply what you can (and I will too)–disregard if it doesn’t apply:
FIRST–I am amazed at the amount of Ministry Leaders who believe the book of Revelation is allegory and not really events we will literally face. I challenge Christians every where to “lift up your heads, your redemption draws nigh..” The Prophetic events of the Book of Revelation are coming to pass right before our eyes. ISIS and the beheading of Christians is just the very beginning of the direction of things. I don’t challenge this strongly to scare people, but for us to have a reality check.
SECOND–I want to challenge Ministry Leaders to get the ownership issue of their lives settled. We always have a choice: everything either belongs to God or belongs to you. It perplexes me how Ministry Leaders can teach others to tithe by bringing their first fruits to God in worship, and yet NOT be doing it themselves! Some where along the way, we have lost our way. We have begun to believe that “giving” is the responsibility of those who can “afford” to–and not a walk of faith for all of us to give the first 10% of our increase to God.
THIRD–Urgency has been replaced by all kinds of distractions. Hebrews 12 reminds us to “cast off any sin or distraction” and set our focus on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith walk. Ministry Leaders get terribly distracted at times.
I invite (challenge) you to take a “sidewalk view” of your life and ministry.
Last weekend was the weekend before Thanksgiving, 2014 and Marceil and I had the privilege of being with a fellow Pastor, his Church Board, and his Church on Sunday for a time of development. On Friday night (this is the weekend before Thanksgiving) was their annual Christmas Parade. The downtown of this Ohio town was lit up for Christmas! On the way home on Sunday, Marceil found a Sirius station that was playing nothing but the old school crooner’s Christmas albums. Five hours of this led into her playing her Christmas music all day. Oh well…she is retired and it keeps her happy. Happy wife…happy________(well you know the rest of it, don’t make me write it down)! At Christmas time I always go back over the prophecies about/concerning the Messiah. There were 23 Old Testament Prophecies Christ fulfilled by his life. All of these 23 have definite precision to them. Last week we got back from 2 weeks in the Holy Land. We had several conversations with friendly Jews about the Messiah. One of them actually said he was open to the idea but nothing has ever convinced him enough to see Jesus other than a very special and popular Rabbi. (His attitude is actually one of the 23 prophecies Christ fulfilled). In addition, Pete Sumrall gave me a copy of his Dad’s book–” Panorama of Prophecy”–which I read on the way home. Dr. Sumrall says, “A third of the Bible is prophecy.” I invite you to celebrate Christmas this year with an eye toward the prophetic. 1. Pray for the Jews. “Open up their eyes, and lift up their ears.” 2. Pray for loved ones who need a touch from God. 3. Pray that we each would live a life that others would look at and see the kindness of a person who knows, talks to, and is friends with Jesus personally. Have a great Christmas season!