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Come join us for Grace Class at Orchard Road Christian Center in the upper auditorium this Sunday, 9:00 AM. This week we will be checking our concepts of God. Most problems are rooted in a wrong concept of our Father God. Come learn how awesome our God is!

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In Christ Word for Today

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Eternal life – aionios zoe, that is life with no beginning and no end. That life is only in Christ. “Whoever” believes steps into His eternal LIFE and out of the old death ruled life of unbelief: out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Out of death into LIFE. Out of “never enough”, so much loss, such dissatisfaction, dread, guilt, depression, loneliness, sickness, poverty, defeat, frustration, death, and separation from Him.  “Whoever” believes steps into His eternal love, presence, peace, joy, healing, “more than enough,” and victory. Have you believed already? Hope this is a welcomed reminder that you are in this LIFE. Haven’t believed yet? Ask God to help you believe. Ask Him to send you a revelation of who Jesus is. He is faithful and will absolutely give you what you need to come into His LIFE. After all He already gave His only Son, He loves you that much!

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2017 Grace Study Coming Soon – Class starts at ORCC, Sunday, January 8th, at 9:00AM. If you live in the Denver metro area, come join for this ongoing, life changing class. Orchard Road Christian Center is located at 8081 E Orchard Rd, Greenwood Village, CO (I-25 & Orchard Rd). Class will be held in upper auditorium, west end.

Hope to see you there!

Pastor Sharon

route 66“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”

I was considering this parable while reading Kris Vallotton’s manual on prophetic ministry. I love his view that New Testament prophetic ministry speaks to the high value and divine potential God has given all people and “…when we use the gift of prophecy to mine the treasure inside of everyone made in the image of God, a major shift begins to take place in him or her.” (Basic Training for the Prophetic Ministry, p. 13)

Maybe you’ve already seen this, but it suddenly dawned on me that “the field” in this parable is the whole of humanity. Jesus’ death bought every human being (the field). Of course we also know that only those who believe enter the kingdom of heaven. The treasure of the image of God in every human remains hidden until that person becomes a believer. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the (Holy Spirit quickened, rhema) word of Christ.” So when we speak a Holy Spirit quickened word, we become the miners, digging out that treasure and also delivering words that help faith to come, faith that could change a person’s day or their eternity.

We each have our own little patch of the “field” and not everyone we share with will be open to hear, but the joy that comes when one does, is absolutely heavenly!

Road Trip 2016

route 66Road Trip!! Whoopee! I’m on vacation this week and one of the things I want to do is add some “sights” here. I’ve been way too busy for several months, so I’m really glad to catch a break and touch base with my readers here. Hope I won’t disappoint.

First Stop: Philippians 1:1-7 (NASB)

1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart..

First thing I want to tell you is “thank you.”  Thank you for following this blog at all. There are so many wonderful bloggers out there and I am so neglectful, I certainly don’t deserve your attention. So thank you so much for taking the time here.

I love that Paul was a letter writer. What if he hadn’t!! We and millions of believers for the past two millennia wouldn’t have the essential revelation he shared that we are in Christ, accepted and beloved of Father God! Our Bibles would be significantly smaller! Thank you Paul for all your writings! I, for one, treasure every word of them.

The verses above are typical of how Paul opened all his letters. They followed the conventional letter style of the day. Like our emails today, letters of that day always stated who they were from at the beginning. No spam here! The saints receiving this knew immediately they wanted to hear what was in this letter.

And I love that they always sent loving greetings like “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” There’s no wonder that even today we call the Bible our love letter from God. And the greeting was always followed by a prayer for the recipient. Wouldn’t our written conversations be richer if we had to include a prayer.

But here’s the meat of what I wanted to say to you today: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I know some days it doesn’t feel like there’s anything good happening in us. In fact, some days, it feels just the opposite. Life is continuing to be more stressful, more challenging, more frustrating at times, and I don’t always respond with love and patience in the middle of it all. But these words remind me that what’s inside me is better than what’s out there. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. And when I remember that I reach deeper into the Spirit for the grace that life demands. The amazing part is that with that comes a peace that passes understanding. No matter what happens today remember that God has begun a good work in you and is present and working that good work even that this moment. He will not stop. It doesn’t depend on you and your responses. He is relentless and He will perfect it, complete it, in you. So take a deep breath! Thank Him for His Presence in you today and listen for His Spirit’s comfort and leading today. And above all, remember, there is coming the day of Christ Jesus. He is Lord and He is coming again.

Dreamscape Elephant and cometWe’ve been studying how God used dreams to speak to people in the Bible. The interpretation of dreams is from the Lord, as both Joseph and Daniel clearly stated, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t giving interpretation to dreams today. Job 33:15-16 says, “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction” and Psalm 16:7 echoes, “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me, indeed, my inner spirit man instructs me in the night.”  God often speaks to us through our dreams when our defenses are down and He can get through to us. Sometimes we clearly understand what He is saying.

About a year and a half after I was born-again I dreamed about my Dad. I saw him taking communion and obviously joyful and at peace. When I woke up I clearly understood that this dream was directing me to pray for my Dad to be led back into church to begin to take communion and that somehow that would be a part of his receiving Jesus as his personal savior. Dad had been raised catholic so communion was very meaningful to him. I began to pray that way and in a few weeks my mom told me that, after 40 years of not attending, my dad had started going to mass. It was shortly after that he found a new relationship with Jesus, was born-again, and water baptized.

But many dreams are not that clearly understood. In fact God speaks to us in His special Kingdom language, like much of the Bible is written in, made up of symbols, types, shadows and metaphors. For example think about Joseph’s dreams (Genesis 37-45), and those he later interpreted. In them were sheafs of wheat, 11 stars and the sun and moon, a vine with 3 branches that budded, blossomed and gave forth fruit, Pharaoh’s cup, 3 baskets of white bread on a man’s head, birds eating them, 7 fat cows and 7 lean cows, 7 fat corn stalks and 7 lean corn stalks. Sounds like some of the crazy things we see in our nightly adventures. God uses these kind of objects to speak to us. Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds and used these kinds of metaphoric word pictures. He told the disciples when they asked Him why He spoke like this, ” He who has ears, let him hear…To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted…blessed are your eyes, because they see and your ears, because they hear.” Entering into His Kingdom, taking Jesus as our Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to us, gives us ears that hear and eyes that see, and helps us understand what has been spiritual mystery to us in the past. We begin to understand His metaphoric language. And we also begin to have a means of hearing His interpretation of our dreams.

We will be looking at the “objects” that show up in our dreams this week in class and what they often mean in our dreams. If you are in the Denver area please come join us. We’ll also work on the interpretation of some dreams in class. I’d love to see you there. At Orchard Road Christian Center, 9:00AM in the upstairs auditorium on the west end of the building.

Blessings and Hugs, Pastor Sharon

This week in Holy Spirit Class, we continue our study of the Spirit of Prophecy with the Introduction to the Prophetic. This past Sunday we began talking about how many ways the Lord is talking to us. Think about it – He highlights His word to us, speaks to us in prayer, gives us those red or green lights on the inside and by touching our physical senses. This coming Sunday we’ll continue by looking at how He uses others to speak into our lives and then begin looking at the Gifts of the Spirit. If you are in the Denver, area come join us. We always have a time of prophetic ministry and opportunities for activation. Hope I see you there.

Have you wanted to go deeper in the Lord in 2015? You are invited to join us for:

INTRODUCTION TO PROPHETIC MINISTRY” with Pastor Sharon Mahoney – The Continued Study of the Holy Spirit, Your Spirit & the Spirit of Prophecy.

Starting This Sunday 9AM, January 11th in the ORCC upstairs Auditorium, for 8 weeks.

These Are The Topics We Will Cover:

  • How God Communicates: Learning to Hear His Voice Better
  • The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Prophecy – How God is Using Words of Encouragement Today
  • Visions: Understanding Their Meaning
  • Dreams: Learn to Interpret Your Dreams
  • Prophetic Ministry Today: To Believers, In Intercession, & Evangelism
  • Prophetic Ministry each week – come receive Words of Encouragement from the Heart of God for you. 
  • Come join us and bring a friend.
  • AND this Sunday only, a class on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit led by Linda McDonald will be held in the same room at 11AM. Come learn how to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
  •  (This class will prepare those interested to enter our Prophetic Ministry Team training which will follow this class.) Workbook with this and much more will be available for $10.

Pastor Sharon

Pastor Sharon Mahoney

Prophetic Ministries

Orchard Road Christian Center

Below is an amazing historical account From the Archko Volume, the Archeological Writings of the Sanhedrim: Jonathan, son of Heziel, upon questioning the shepherds at Bethlehem:

“Jonathan to the Masters of Israel, Servants of the True God: In obedience to your order, I met with two men, who said they were shepherds and were watching their flocks near Bethlehem. They told me that while attending to their sheep, the night being cold and chilly, some of them had made fires to warm themselves, and some of them had laid down and were asleep; that they were awakened by tose who were keeping watch with the questions: ‘What does all this mean: behold how light it is;’ that when they were aroused it was light as day. But they knew it was not daylight, for it was only the third watch. All at once the air seemed to be filled with human voices, saying, “Glory! Glory! Glory to the most high God!’ and ‘Happy are thou, Bethlehem, for God hath fulfilled His promise to the fathers; for in thy chambers is born the King that shall rule in righteousness.’ Their shoutings would rise up in the heavens, and then would sink down in mellow strains, and roll along at the foot of the mountains, and die away in the most soft and musical manner they had ever heard; then it would begin again high up in the heavens, in the very vaults of the sky and descend in sweet and melodious strains, so that they could not refrain from shouting and weeping at the same time. The light would seem to burst forth high up in the heavens, and then descend in softer rays and light up the hills and valleys, making everything more visible than the light of the sun, though it was not so brilliant, but clearer, like the brightest moon. I asked them how they felt, if they were not afraid; they said at first they were; but after awhile it seemed to calm their spirits, and so fill their hearts with love and tranquility that they felt more like giving thanks than anything else.”

Angels: they lit the heavens with Christmas lights and synced it to their songs of praise and worship. From the first God has outdone everyone in celebrating Christmas. He decorated the heavens and struck up its celestial band and as for giving, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

Less than a week now to Christmas Day!! So this week has been about the Shepherds. Let’s read about what they had to do with that special night from Luke 2:8-18:

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is  Christ the Lord. 12 “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, with whom He is pleased.”

 15 And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. [1]

My husband, (Pastor) Pat was telling me this morning how the Holy Spirit had spoken to him about the Giftings represented in the four sets of people involved in the Christmas scene: Mary, the Birth-er of the Vision; Joseph, the protector of the Vision; the Shepherds, the encouragers and intercessors of the Vision; and the Wise men bearing gifts, the supporters of the Vision. He shared how at one time or another, in the Spirit, we each seem to live these gifts, sometimes birthing new vision, sometimes protecting others’ vision, sometimes being the encouragers and intercessors for the vision and sometimes called to financially support the vision.  How true that is! I think I’d add that the shepherds also represent the gift of giving Witness to what God is doing.  Whichever part we are called to do we can be sure that heaven is sending its ministering spirits to give us insight into the Vision, giving Glory to God, and causing us to “go and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

In our recent classes, we spent three weeks reviewing the history of revival and the Spirit’s outpourings over the last several centuries and what the current outpouring of the Spirit looks like and is accomplishing. Others are birthing His Vision again in the earth. He is calling the Joseph’s and the Wise men and the Shepherds into action. I believe the Shepherds of Christmas night would also give Witness to the “thing that has happened (and is happening) which the Lord has made known to us” in this season of revival and with the angels, cry, “Glory to God.”  Let us also play the Shepherds in this season, giving Witness, giving encouragement and interceding that His Vision might bring New Life to a lost and hopeless world that so needs to come to see the Savior born that night.

[1] New American Standard Bible. (1986). (electronic edition., Lk 2:8–19). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

“O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light: the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Micah 5:2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

This week we light the candle of Bethlehem in which the everlasting Light came to be born. Jesus Christ is the Light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5)

Darkness and Light cannot co-exist. In fact, darkness is not actually a thing but is only the condition of an absence of Light.  You cannot send darkness like you can shine light into a place. It’s “smoke and mirrors” if you will. Darkness is dependent on the absence of Light or it cannot exist.  The Light only needs to come, in order to eradicate the lie of darkness. So, why is there still spiritual darkness in the world since the Light came two millennia ago? Why is there still hopelessness, hatred, bigotry, jealousy, envy and strife, murder, theft and destruction, wars and death and so on? Darkened hearts have not believed the Light.

The place of an absence of light is only enlightened when the Light is invited in. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this. A town, Bethlehem, at night, with no street lights on the corner, no porch lights in the neighborhoods, no store lights, parking lot lights, mall lights or traffic lights, or bright twinkling Christmas lights! Just darkness all around and the stars far above, the people locked away in their homes, asleep until the dawn, the Light, comes. Their lives were not too different from ours today. They loved their family, they struggled to make a living and what life they had was constantly under assault from many sides, causing them to often feel hopeless. They felt obscure, that no one noticed; that no one cared. The absence of light shrouded their day as well as the night.

Into this place, this absence of Light, God chose to send His Son, to literally shine His Light into a dark world, to eradicate darkness’ deception and to Light Hope. Jesus Christ is the Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) This week, open your heart to Him and let Him shine His Light into your darkness and Light your Hope and your Life.

Christmas Time – Time for putting up lights, shopping, and gatherings. Most important is to draw closer to Jesus.  What are you doing to keep the CHRIST child in this season? I’m following the Hope filled Advent series of verses that leads from the prophesied promises hundreds of years BC up to their fulfillment and that history changing night of His birth.

The first week begins with lighting the Prophecy Candle and opens with the wonderful grace-filled promise of evil’s defeat spoken from the beginning, Gen. 3:15 “He shall crush your head and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” I recently had evil’s thief slither into my life and steal from me, leaving behind the pain of disappointment and anger. However, my precious husband reminded me that the thief has been defeated, crushed under His feet. He delivered us now and will deliver us completely and eternally from evil’s touch. The best way to “pay him back” is to draw closer to the Savior who has come, and help others do the same. Has evil touched your life recently? This note to you is my “pay back” to the thief and I’m hoping you will “pay it forward” to many others.

The prophet Isaiah prophesied in 7:14 “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call His name “Immanuel” (God with us!) “Round yon virgin, Mother and Child”

Isa. 9:2,6 “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them…For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”  Light the lights!

Isa. 40:4-5, 8 “Let every valley be lifted up; And every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken…the word of our God stands forever.” Glory to the Lord.

“O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

https://theriverblog.wordpress.com/2013/annual-report/

Resting in His Grace

I can always tell when I’m resting in the Grace of God. For one, I trust in the Holy Spirit’s amazing ability to change a person (and leave off feeling the responsibility of acting as the “sin cop, judge & jury” convicting and condemning others of their sin.)  Instead, by His Grace, I see others as who they are in Christ and encourage them in that new identity, moving them away from their past into the present reality of their salvation; moving myself along in transformation as well.

In contrast, when I’m not in that rest in Grace, I feel the need to judge and criticize and constantly remind people of their sins and shortcomings, how they should be doing this or that; OR how preachers aren’t really “Grace” people because they don’t preach it to my criticizing satisfaction.

“Wretched person that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!!” Romans 7:24

Come on, dear ones, let’s encourage ourselves and others: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification (building up, not tearing down) according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)

Thanks Lord, I needed this.

PROPHETIC MESSAGES VS MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGES

I know it when I hear it. The words begin to come at me and they have a distinct affect. Either they awaken, stir, even strengthen something deep inside and literally raise me to another level or they remain on the outer surface, remote & exterior, trying to arouse, trying to ‘rah rah,’ by manipulations of “ought’s & should’s,” to guilt or shame me into action. Don’t get me wrong there may be an appropriate place for each of these messages but I prefer the former over the later, especially when it comes to spiritual growth.

“But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3, NIV)

Everyone who speaks prophetically speaks to others for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

My pastor of some 36 years recently moved to heaven. Many of you knew him like me as Pastor Wally. Pastor used to say that people got knocked around enough in life and shouldn’t be knocked around when they come into church. From the pulpit, he always spoke words of encouragement and comfort. He reminded us Who it was that lived inside us. After all, it’s “not by (our) might, not by (our) power but by the Spirit of God” that we overcome.

He had not been able to fill the pulpit in a couple of years and of course, we all missed his preaching,  but it was at his memorial service that I was reminded of what I missed most. A video of one of his sermons was played and immediately my spirit came alive, lapping up the refreshing water of his prophetic words. His message to his “dear ones” again spoke of who had died for me, who had come to live in me, and who was not letting go of me, but was putting me over once again.

I have been very blessed to have had many great teachers who instilled in me both practical and revelation knowledge from the Word that has discipled me all my life.  And I’m very grateful for them all. But I only needed one pastor whose prophetic words caused all that knowledge to come alive and transform me. I hope you have someone in your spiritual life who has the same affect on you. As a pastor and teacher myself, I hope I never settled on just giving people a motivational message when they really need a prophetic word. I want to be one of those who “speaks prophetically to others for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort” and be a vehicle for the Lord to bring real transformation in others’ lives.

Like many writers (bare with me for presuming I’m a writer but it’s the only way I can share this excuse), I write when I am inspired to write. I write when something begins to “cook” inside me. Sometimes you get the unfinished stuff. Other times you get what has stewed in me for a long time and has been stirred, simmered and finally reduced to a clarified morsel.

Sometimes I don’t write at all…for a long, long time. I apologize if you’ve wanted to hear from me over the past several months (though I haven’t gotten that complaint) but I have a confession to make about my absence. I experienced a significant disappointment in ministry and needed time to process it and wait on the Lord to see what He would say, so my voice here went silent. When we wait on the Lord, He will never disappoint, for He is always faithful to answer. He answered with a reconciliation of the situation and renewal of an assignment. Plus He has caused me to come into a deeper relationship with others and that is His greater purpose.

In addition, this week I’m in the middle of attending a Global Awakening  “Awaken to Destiny” conference and have been deeply touched and once again filled up with His Life. Ah…the “writer’s block” has been removed and there is new inspiration! So I’m taking this time to share a few fresh thoughts. Hope they are a help.

A Thought on Entering His Presence

I don’t know about you but I absolutely love, love, love the Presence of God. I tasted His Presence and heard His voice at the moment of my new birth and have been addicted ever since. Over the years I’ve experienced His Presence in ever increasing waves, both corporately in all kinds of gatherings, and privately, with just me and Him.  The Word reveals:  “…the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18, NASB) We are on a highway taking us into His Glory and the closer we come, the more we are experiencing His manifest Presence. And one day, I will enter His eternal Presence, to live there forever and ever, without the hindrance of this flesh which for as long as I still live in this earth, must continually be moved out of the way.  And therein lies an often asked about dilemma: What invites the Presence of God and how do I enter into it, and go deeper in?

For me experiencing the manifest Presence of God has been something I have been blessed to enjoy in my devotional time from early on. And experiencing Him with others started almost 40 years ago, when as a young born-again hippie sort, I went to Bible study groups, sat on the floor and sang along with almost as many guitars as there were people in the room until, as we said then, “the Holy Spirit came” and filled the room. Then there would be “new songs” in the Spirit, and prophecy.  Later I experienced His Presence in a church service of several hundred. The Presence came so “heavy” I felt overwhelmed and had to ease into the experience.  Still there again was a familiar pattern. We sang scripture songs of thanksgiving and praise and soon the room would fill with His Presence and then we would begin worshipping with slower music and more intimate lyrics. Prophecy, healing and other signs and wonders would follow. His Glory would come! Later I went to a big convention where the same thing took place, only with thousands of believers and greater manifestations. Over the years, the songs and the musicians changed but the pattern did not. In the late 80’s, I read Pastor Graham Truscott’s book “The Power of His Presence, the Restoration of David’s Tabernacle” and had my eyes opened to what is God’s preferred pattern for bringing us into His Presence. Of course there will be those who are always contrary and have to do it their own way, but for me, from that time until today, I’ve read and studied countless different resources on experiencing His Presence and all have agreed with His revealed pattern. Being very active in intercessory prayer early on, I studied Suzette Hattingh, the intercessory prayer leader for Reinhart Bonnke. She trained her intercessors in this pattern as well for effective sessions of prayer. And there was Ruth Ward Heflin, a fellow Glory pursuer who now lives in His Presence. Ruth Ward Heflin said that the key to entering His Presence is to praise Him until worship comes and worship until the Glory falls, then stand (if we can) in awe of Him in His Glory. Once again the same pattern seen in scripture from David’s day down through the ages brings the same experience today.

There is a tremendous difference between a song service and worship. A song service is more for the people’s enjoyment, kind of like a Christian American Idol session. In a song service, the songs people want to hear are sung. They might be so ancient the dust has to be blown off of the song books they have been laid to rest in. They are often songs with numbers assigned to them. (Now I’m just being facetious!) They are the songs everyone sings out real loud because the words are so well known and everyone’s confident in singing them. They’re like the “Oldies but Goodies.” And don’t get me wrong I love these songs as much as anyone else. Or they can be a newly written song that begs promoting. BUT, whatever the case, as long as the songs are sung for our appreciation, all we’ll have is a song service.

Just for fun let’s try to imagine some of our church services as seen from God’s perspective. He looks down upon the congregation as it gathers in the church building and at the exact moment the clock reaches the top of the hour, the song leader comes forward and opens the service with prayer. God greatly appreciates this acknowledgment and listens closely to the requests, smiling at the way He is already answering these prayers. Then He leans in closer in anticipation to hear what the church is going to praise Him with this fine Sunday morning. He has a particular song in mind that He really wants to hear this morning. He’s sent His request through the Holy Spirit to the song leader all week and the song leader’s heart has sung it over and over. This particular song right now blesses God so much He looks forward to responding by manifesting His glory in the midst of the people with words of encouragement, healing, and deliverance. God leans His ear in close so ready to be blessed and respond. The song leader calls out, “By request, we’re going to turn in our hymnals to number 67 and sing.”

“Number 67?” God falls back in His throne with disappointment, “No, that’s not the song I wanted to hear this morning. I wanted to hear the one with fresh thanksgiving from their hearts and that has a generous portion of praise for what I’ve done for them, like numbers 126, 302 or several others I had in mind, but not old number 67. Someone down there must have requested that one.  Yes, that’s right, I see now. Mrs. Nelson called that one in on Friday. They’re going to sing it to each other, remaining outside the gates, not even entering the courts, and once again, they’ve missed the point of worship.”

“Here’s the deal. I AM God! I don’t need their thanks or their praise, but they will never get the flesh out of the way and see My Glory, until they turn their attention away from what they like to hear, to what My Spirit is leading them to sing that fulfills the true purpose of worship. They need to thank Me for their own sakes so they can be delivered of the stress of worry.  I’m the source of all the good that comes to them, and not themselves.  They need to praise Me for their own good, so they get their eyes off themselves and see Me. And when I hear in their singing their hearts turning to Me, drawing close to Me, I can’t resist coming into their midst and blessing them. I don’t know what more I can do to get them to understand this. My servant David got it. He lived out the pattern of entering into My Presence in his day, 24/7, even though Old Testament law disqualified him from coming so close, still he knew My Grace brought him in. My Word is full of references to this pattern.  But here they are again singing old number 67 for their own enjoyment.”

“Wait a minute. What is this I’m hearing coming to my ears from somewhere over there?…” God zooms out to locate the source of this new sound and soon smells a wonderful fragrance that draws His attention to another church building down the road. There are fresh notes of thanksgiving being played there and hearts fervently declaring His praise. He can hear the worship leader praying under his breath, “Holy Spirit, help me know what the Father wants to hear this morning. After all this is for Him. It’s not for us. It’s all for Him.” The Holy Spirit looks to the Father and asks, “What was that song you wanted to here, again?” And Father God smiles and moves in closer and fills that church with His Glory.

Sadly, the 1st church will finish up singing number 67, proud of themselves and satisfied that they sang well again this Sunday morning, secure that they can depend on things staying the same in their church from week to week. In their minds, it was a good Sunday morning. Little do they realize what they have missed.

“You”, “we”, or “I:” my pronoun usage needs changing. (Principle 4, Step 5) Here’s the truth: When I use the “you” pronoun I don’t really know what I’m talking about especially when I declare what “you” are feeling, aren’t feeling, think, don’t think, are doing, aren’t doing, or what “you” should be doing, feeling, thinking or what “you” must stop doing, feeling, thinking in some general statement. I’m just being so presumptuous. I assume I know all about you! like I’m omniscient. Proverbs 13:10 says “Through presumption comes nothing but strife.” I’ve realized a lot of my “you” statements are direct judgments against “you.” I realize now that judgment separates me from others no matter what my good intentions are…it does not reconcile, build relationships or help others, at all. If I want to ruin relationships and run people off, criticism and judgment are the perfect means.  About a decade ago, as a pastor, I began to wonder why people weren’t drawn to me anymore but instead started distancing themselves from me the more I tried to help them. Why couldn’t they see my good intention? After all, hadn’t I entered the “know all, be all” stage of ministry. They couldn’t take the “cure” of condemnation and shame I tried to correct them with. They desperately needed grace, edification, and encouragement but in my pride and arrogance I thought I knew what was wrong with them and what would fix them, but instead, it only ran them off.

The truth is I don’t know what “you” are feeling, thinking, doing, or believing.  And I certainly don’t know God’s specific will for you. Paul prayed for us that we would come to know Him in truth and “be filled with the knowledge of His will.” I pray that for myself daily because I need to know Him more now than ever in my life and to hear His specific will for me. Thankfully He keeps these things between me and Him. How then can I assume I’ve been made privy to any of His specific insight or will concerning “you?” I overestimate my importance when I assume such.

I also need to change my “we” statements…these are when I want to say “you” but don’t want to offend, so instead I say “we” to sound like I’m including myself in my judgments, as if that will make them more true and acceptable to “you”. But the truth is I’m only minimally including myself, and these are just badly disguised criticisms of “you”. Sometimes I’m actually lying when I use the “we” pronoun, because I don’t think it’s true of me at all. “We” statements are identifying but much of what I say about “we” I don’t actually identify with. There are some Biblical “we” statements that I absolutely want to identify with but if I presume you should identify with them too, I’m again on shaky ground. The media is really into “we” statements. Ever notice that many of the causes emphasize how “we are all affected” by the particular issue? I’m sure there are many people who believe that’s true. I don’t. The marketing tool is used to make everyone feel responsible for the issue and join in to find the cure, or at the least, send money to help someone else cure it. I often don’t identify with these “we are all affected” issues and subconsciously I click the mute button on my mental remote. Do I think I’m the only one with a mute button when I try to get “you” to identify with and take responsibility for my judgmental “we” statements?

“I” confessions are really the only statements I can make in truth. I believe in certain things. I feel this way. I’m doing such and such. I think this or that. I’m solely responsible for these. Let agreement or criticism come as it may. When it does, I must understand that every response is just as true for “you” as my statements are for me. I’m going to stop trespassing “your” mental, emotional, and spiritual boundaries, stop telling “you” what “you” think, feel, or believe, and are responsible for and perhaps this will help me stop committing offences against “you” with my presumptions, judgments and criticisms. I’m going to be more truthful and use “I” in place of “you” and “we.” And if I feel compelled to use “you” instead of “me,” I’m going to search out why and perhaps learn something new about my own character defects. As I begin my effort to change this bad habit, please pray for me because I’ve been really good at pointing my finger at “you” and hiding “me” in the “we”. This will probably cut down on how much I have to say as well! LOL

Working on my hurts, habits and hang ups….

Step 5 “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

Overnight Stay in the Lion’s Den

I’ve been sharing a little about my CR journey so far. In my last post I shared about my hiding in plain sight, withdrawn in my affections and while in the middle of church ministry, quietly hurting. After working through previous steps, I came to Principle six, Step eight: “Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others…We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

From my inventory, I made my list of those I needed to forgive, but I had been here many, many times before. Then, my Lord Jesus confronted me about my inability to forgive all the offenses of the last few decades in such a way I could not resist. With His nail pierced hands stretched out at me, He asked me to really and finally forgive all the dozens of people I had on my list of all their offenses: all the assaults, malice, betrayals, abandonments, thefts, manipulations, lies, wrongs, and failures.  AND wow, what an amazing experience! What a sense of freedom and newness!

Now I’m in the midst of doing amends. Even before I started, I realized the outcome could range anywhere from another “wonderful” experience down to a tragic episode of “My name is Earl,” only not funny. By the way, it has been weird how two out of the past three videos I’ve picked wound up having someone working the twelve steps but was not in the review [Diminished Capacity and Ondine – I do recommend both – they’ll bring a smile to your face].

Oh, that reminds me I should introduce myself: “Hi, my name is Sharon. I’m a pastor’s wife and a serious believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior and my Lord, who is helping me overcome counter-dependency, a relationship killing issue only recently discovered by psychologists which stems from separation anxiety (and “blah, blah, blah”) but an issue the Bible has addressed for many millennia. I’m very thankful for this revelation which came through some psychologists’ book I “happened” right when I started CR. The behaviors list absolutely nailed me. Their behavioral research and insight on the maturing process opened my eyes to answers that had eluded me. Some of the book’s exercises have given me and my husband tools we have sorely needed all our married years. Unfortunately I can’t recommend it, because it excludes Jesus as a Healer of my brokenness. Though they don’t know it, they actually teach redemption and transformation though I admit some of their methods have amused us. They’d make awesome believers so everyone pray for them. God knows their names.

So back to the latest step, I prayed about whom I needed to ask forgiveness. This is really where the rubber meets the road, putting all those prayers of commitment to do His Will into action. If you’ve ever done this, you know how really disturbingly scary it is. After all, I’m going to be pointing out the “800lb gorilla in the room” each of the people I’ve hurt thinks about every time they see me.  Unless of course, they are a member in good standing of the very rare club of people who either choose to never be offended or who have learned the wisdom of completely forgiving someone as soon after being offended as possible. This is the club I’d like to earn membership in this year. But I can’t tell if they’re a member until we’re in the middle of the visit, so I don’t know how someone is going to react. Lord, please give me strength and courage.

I should add this disclaimer here: please forgive me if you haven’t heard from me but feel you should. God is giving me a great deal of mercy on this and knows who I can handle at this point. Most likely if He gave me the whole list of all the people I’ve offended in one sitting, I’d fold!  Please give Him (& me) time and who knows, you may hear from me yet.

There are a few things I must commit to do if I want to actually receive forgiveness. First is to confess the wrong without excuse, blame, or explanation. I sinned against you. That’s it! Second ask for forgiveness. That’s all, nothing else! If you receive forgiveness, be grateful, count yourself blessed, and close the book on it.

Well my first visit went really well. I mean I couldn’t have been met with more grace and forgiveness. I purposed to share all I was convicted of having done and then asked them to share what they wished I’d never done to them or had failed to do. That’s again really scary because for me that’s like dropping all the walls out of the way and asking someone to take a shot. I don’t recommend it unless you really know the other person’s heart and trust them and/or you are desperate to reconcile the chasm between you. Anyway, sure enough I was reminded of a real failure on my part (by the way, to admit I failed at anything is a huge hurdle!) and I realized how it had been very hurtful to them and selfishly protective of me. It was another occurrence of my being so “right” but really being so wrong that had resulted in another’s hurt. I admitted it was wrong, started to make an excuse, but cut it short. I was wrong that was all there was to it. Then, I was forgiven. Yes, just like that, the burden of it all was gone. I will always regret what I did but now I’m forgiven and so grateful, so very grateful. I wasn’t sure what I felt the first hour after our meeting but in the days since I’ve been freer, happier.

In fact, I was on my way to my second amends when suddenly I was struck by the beauty of our Colorado fall. I don’t usually enjoy fall…to me it means soon there’ll be snow, and slush and icy roads. But on that day I was different. Suddenly all the brilliance of the yellows and oranges of the trees and the reds and purples of bushes alongside the evergreens made me think: This is God’s seasonal fireworks “finale”. Since late spring and all through summer, the beauty of colorful flowers and blossoming trees sang to us like a peaceful lullaby, but He’s saved the crescendo, the vivid explosion of all things botanical to bring this year’s “show” to a glorious close. It made me smile at how present He is, in all seasons and in the present difficult times.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at that amends meeting. The person is so very precious to me but our relationship has been bumpy this year. Again I had prayed about what offenses I needed to confess, as well as a list of offensive attitudes. And when I finished giving my list, I again asked if there was anything I had done or had not done that I hadn’t included, knowing there was, and desperately wanting to heal the gap between us. And true to the honest heart I know, out they came, not just offenses but deep hurts. And finally my real sin was spoken: that my actions said I didn’t love. There it was! The secret I’d thought I could keep hidden, was exposed to the light. Why was I like that? I had no excuse. Then I thought: it’s obvious, isn’t it? I’m broken. I do the things I don’t want to do and those things I desire to do, I fail to do. It’s a confession of my condition. I need fixing – it’s why I’m in CR. I had hurt someone I had never intended to hurt.  I so agreed. I deserved to be executed. But I ask forgiveness. Then things got a little rushed and we suddenly had to pack up to go, but before we were out the door, I heard “I forgive you.” I came away different than from the first meeting. Now I also ached because of my sin against another. This was what I had feared, and now I’ll have to wrestle through the night to survive.

Soon that overnight stay in the lion’s den began. “He prowls about seeking whom he may devour” you know. And he loves to have genuine offenses to charge me with, to condemn me, and to tempt and scare me with. First to arrive was the fear of being separated forever from someone I love, then the fear of suffering pain. What choices will I make? Will I trust God to heal us? The flesh wanted to deny I was wrong, to declare self-righteousness, to argue the charges, to cry out, “Who needs them anyway?” The sharpened claws of judgment and criticism threatened while the sharp teeth of blame showed ready to devour. 

I’ve not been abandoned here tonight. He is with me and those nailed scarred hands are shielding me, upholding me. I’ll not return to my old ways – with His grace I’ll continue to admit I’m wrong, I’m broke, I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, I’m not strong or invincible, I’m not entitled to a pity party, not justified in being unloving and unforgiving, angry, resentful and not going to become bitter. I do need help: His and that of other people. Most of all, I need this person, and hers, to be in my life because I do love them!

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed…for you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (I Peter 2:21-25)


 a Isaiah 53:9

To Know, Know, Know Him…

I read a post by one of my FB friends this past week that made me very sad. He was questioning why the Apostles didn’t write more about the Ascension. It wasn’t the topic that bothered me. It was the subtitle of his blog, “I have stepped away from Christianity after three decades of believing. I have been exploring the Bible with critical inquiry for the past three years, searching for the truth.”

Let me first say this: I didn’t get to know my friend as well as I should have. He was the first person I met at a real estate office when I moved my real estate license there back in 2005. I didn’t get to know him well enough to know what he believed at the time. The statement he makes disturbs me for his sake and convicts me of my disengaged state. Please forgive me, my friend, for not taking the time to hear your story.

I’ve been working through Celebrate Recovery this year discovering why I did my “stepping away” without the vanishing act.  Was I out of church during that time…not a day. But I wasn’t there either. I’ll get into that a little later but want to give a little background here to put this whole thing in some context.

I wasn’t raised in a religion. My dearly loved Dad told us kids he wanted us to make our own choice. Bless his heart. That resulted in us not choosing anything. But I understood why he gave us that freedom. He had been raised a Catholic and was “kicked out” for marrying my non-Catholic mother and not baptizing his children in the church. I’m thankful he came to know Jesus as his Lord some years before he moved to heaven. As for me, I attended the nearest Sunday school as a child and heard the gospel of Jesus death and resurrection from the time I was very young but I left off going to church in junior high. Although I now recognize points  in my late teens and early 20’s that He was trying to get my attention, I didn’t come to know Jesus personally until I was on the brink of self destruction at 25. Only His tremendous grace spoke to me at that time, drew me, and gave me the faith to ask Him to take control of my life.

I hadn’t gone to church in years at that point in my life. I didn’t know the Apostles from the Pharisees, or the Ascension from the Transfiguration. All I knew was that I had met Him and He had embraced me. He had enveloped me in His love, a love I had never experienced before. At that momemt He saved me from myself. Knowing Him changed me. Ask anyone who knew me back then, some 35 plus years ago.

The point is I’ve learned lots of things “about Christianity” since then.  [For those who don’t know me personally, a short resume: I’m a Bible teacher, church planter, pastor’s wife and Bible College instructor for many years. I have a BA from Colorado Christian University with a minor in Biblical studies and hours at Denver Seminary in masters courses like Greek, Hermenuetics, the Formation of  the Canon, etc. Really impressive, huh? just kidding (LOL)….I digress.]

However there was really only a couple of important things I needed to know in order to meet Him: that He is the Son of God, that to pay for my sins, He was crucified and rose from the dead.  I didn’t even know that His resurrection meant a new life for me.

All that study and “education” added information and helped me in ministry, but it didn’t change my relationship with Him.

The only thing that has changed my relationship with the Lord is my relationship with other people. There is a mysterious intertwining of Christ and His Church. When I’ve been offended, didn’t forgive, and became bitter, trouble came in my relationship with the Lord and with others. Sometimes I caught it early and by His grace cleared the slate, forgiving and making amends quickly. But a number of years ago I became very disappointed and hurt in ministry. I let it fester into bitterness toward the church in general.  I went through a season of anger and resentment, even becoming bitter with God for awhile. That certainly affected our relationship…not from His side but from mine. His grace truly is amazing and it breaks my heart all over again to think of that awful season. It took me a long time to be healed of the harm I did to my own faith. As I’ve gone through Celebrate Recovery this year, I’ve discovered so much about myself from that season. I’ll be working on what I’ve learned for the rest of my life.  I’m just grateful He never “stepped away” from me during that time.

I hurt when I read the words, “I’ve stepped away from Christianity.” I know Jesus has not stepped away from my FB friend. Jesus is not threatened or moved by our questions about His Word. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to presume what might be the reason in my friend’s case. Everyone’s situation is different. There are legitimate times to step away from a specific church body if the leadership proves themselves immoral, embraces heresy or fails to steward finances correctly. But I’ve seen people step away from church altogether because of unanswered doctrinal questions they have; perepheral teachings they don’t agree with; and sometimes just the pesky “dots and tittles” they can’t reconcile to their belief system. It’s interesting to know that the Greek word for “to know” in the New Testament means  to experience a relationship, not to gain knowledge about. In this Information Age we can’t substitute Google for eHarmony. We can’t let information take center stage in Church when it is not worthy of the place relationship has bought.

And then there are the more unreasonable excuses for stepping away from church: “They sing songs I don’t know?” “There isn’t an altar in the sanctuary,” “Why doesn’t the pastor’s wife play the piano?” “Why are the women wearing makeup and their head’s are uncovered…don’t they know?” and my all time favorite, “Why isn’t the carpet blue…I like blue carpet in a church.”  Of course, today’s most often asked question is, “Can I take my Starbucks cup into the service?” “Yes, of course, just don’t spill it on the blue carpet.”

I don’t think Jesus is moved by any of this. He’d rather see us in church with the Starbucks than sitting at Starbucks on Sunday morning. While we sip our vente size Skinny Caramel Macchiato, He’s not impressed with how much we’ve learned about Christianity or even the Bible. He only asks, “Do you know Me?” 

 (“To know, know, know Him, Is to love, love, love Him..”sung by the Teddy Bears, written by Phil Specter, #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Dec ’58)

Have people offended, disappointed, and betrayed us. With His nail scarred hands reaching toward us, He’s asking , “Will you forgive them?” Not to mention what He’d like us to do to make amends to those that we’ve ignorred, avoided, criticised, offended, disappointed, and betrayed.

Just saying….

Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

Have you gone through one of these seasons?  In one now?

Have you returned? If so, let me know what helped you get it all sorted out and healed?

Many people are unaware that Pat and I have been involved with church planting in our past ministry experiences. Our first church plant, Seedtime and Harvest Church (1984-89) has continued to impact the city of San Diego for the past 25 years with the fruitful ministry and the River of Life Church (1994-2002), now River of Life Foursquare Church located in Lakewood, has been winning souls and getting people filled with the Spirit for the past 15 years. These aren’t mega-churches but they have always been fruitful churches, planted on the solid foundation of the Word and the Spirit and the pastors we turned each of these churches over to have carried out that ministry effectively and faithfully for all these years. 

 No matter what title is pronounced upon someone, true apostolic ministry is evidenced by the ability to be a catalyst of new ministries and new churches. This anointing is evident from early in a person’s ministry.  This kind of ministry start up was nothing new to my husband Pat. He started a Christian coffee house outreach ministry back in 1978, just a couple years after being saved, that reached the Capitol Hill area and often had 15-20 witnessing teams on the streets each Friday and Saturday night bringing in the lost, often seeing a dozen or more new births each weekend. When Pat was hired on staff at Happy Church (now ORCC) as a youth and singles pastor in 1979, this anointing once again proved itself when the Denver Singles was birthed in 1981, one of the largest singles’ ministries in the city, ministering to 400-500 singles through a seven day a week program.  And even a few years ago, after we left our last church plant and spent a brief time at the Smoky Hill Vineyard, Pat raised up a ministry to several hundred people living out on east Colfax that is still being carried out by that church. At his present position, he keeps raising new ministries as the Lord leads.

Because of earlier start ups, we were not surprised when the Lord called us to San Diego in 1984 to plant Seedtime and Harvest Church.  Church planting in our circle was really pretty unheard of at that time. In fact the phrase, “pioneering a church” was often used back then because like the old pioneers, you pretty much launched out on your own to get it done. So that’s what we did. We sold our house and like Abraham left for a land where we didn’t know anyone and no one knew us.  Dr. Ken Stewart’s Grace Church in Tulsa, got behind us to pay for our meeting place for a year for which we will always be grateful. Other than their generosity, it was all by faith. Of course that was very challenging, but in truth, like the old saying, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” or as some pastors said back then about adventures like this, “If it’s God, it’ll happen; if it’s not, it won’t last.” God had to prove He was in it. At the time, we would’ve liked more support but today, we’re glad we didn’t get it because we would have missed the many miracles He worked on our behalf, like the hundred fold return on a $100 offering Pat gave for another pastor’s building program that came the next day in a $10,000 check for our church.  He gets all the glory for both of these churches beginnings and their continuing contribution to His Kingdom. While establishing Seedtime in San Diego, we also had a hand in helping at least three other churches startup and become fruitful ministries to that area.

River of Life was planted the same way. Happy Church generously took an offering for us and we again launched out. We waited and waited for God to send us to another city but He wanted us on the west side of Denver, so we obeyed. We felt He wanted River planted by word of mouth and through small groups so people came to the church only because they knew someone else there. Over 70% of our people were in small groups. Over the eight years we pastored it, this church brought hundreds to the Lord and to the baptism of the Spirit. We had baptisms every couple months and always had a dozen or more to baptize.

 Some people assume because we didn’t stay in San Diego with the Seedtime church, that it must have failed. Or that because we aren’t with River of Life anymore that it must have shut down. That is misunderstanding how church planting takes place. Both of these churches are still thriving and blessing the Kingdom. We just obeyed God when our part of the planting was finished. After all if Paul had stayed at his first church plant, Christianity would’ve only reached Cyprus. Many church planters don’t stay with their church plants. They raise up or search out a pastor to take over and continue the ministry. The birthing of new churches takes place so many different ways, it’s a fascinating study.  We met one man and his wife in San Diego who had planted over a hundred churches in Australia and in the states independently. The longest they stayed at any one was less than a year, sometimes only a few months. While completing my degree, I took church planting courses at Colorado Christian University in the early ‘90’s and subsequently taught those courses at ORCC’s Bible College.  In the late 90’s, we had the privilege of being on a church planting team development group for the Rocky Mountain Foursquare District, at the district’s invitation.  What I noticed is not any of these methods are the same.  CCU’s church planting courses were a synopsis of how many of the Baptist “Community” churches were planted in our area which involved an in depth study of demographics, team member qualification, and strategic planning that often takes a year or more to implement but results in solid churches that remain. See www.churchplantingvillage.net for more on this.  Many of the Evangelical Presbyterian or PCA churches in the Denver Metro area were planted by one church planting team. We met with a member of that team back in 1994 to find out how they went about it with such success. They had a different method but the same basics of team development, community preparation, but instead of starting small groups they held a mass meeting usually at the neighborhood elementary school to launch a new church. There is now a EPCA church planting organization called Acts 29 (www.acts29network.org ) or Evangelical Free at  www.plantingchurches.com. Even the AOG holds church planting boot camps. Just Google “church planters, Denver, CO” and you’ll get a hundred sites on church planting groups.  The Foursquare Church has an extensively developed church planting school that also qualifies would-be church planters to make sure they have the right gifting, experience and solid marriages to plant a church. Since the nineteen thirties, Foursquare has been planting and sustaining churches worldwide (www.reachmore.foursquare.org). As we worked with our district’s church planting group, we heard of some couples who couldn’t qualify, at least at that point in their ministries, and we met a number of successful church planters, but we also witnessed a few starts that failed or never grew past the original group.   

Lastly, there are lots of churches across the US sending out “daughter” churches successfully.  These mother churches have an anointing to raise up and train pastors in ministry, then send them to un-churched areas. Some mother churches have hundreds of “daughters” across the nation. Most have a church planter school that prepares a team over a prolong period of time to know how to deal with the very different mindset and challenges of starting a new church. Startup churches don’t have nurseries, children’s church, or youth groups in place but these are developed as the right people are drawn in to head up these areas. Many people get excited about “going to” a new church start up but don’t realize if they are truly called there, they won’t be “going to” it but will be serving in these areas. We were amazed at the people the Lord brought to us to fill these ministry positions. The other interesting thing was that as the church grew past a certain size, we would see the original “helpers” leave to go to another small church where they would be needed again. Small churches have a completely different mindset than larger churches which is quite a paradigm shift and completely unrealized until it is experienced.

Pastors Marilyn and Wally have been equipping pastors for other churches for years “unofficially.” I’d love to know just how many churches have their ties back to the Hickeys through pastors who have come out from their ministry. They’ve been apostolic all these years – we certainly have always considered ORCC (Happy Church) our mother church and they have always been and will always be our “parents in the faith.”

Post 3 – Rivers of Living Water

Please read John 7:37-39  Jesus prophesied an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would be as rivers of living water.  He did this during the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, when the people would build and live in booths for seven days, they thought, to be reminded of their wilderness journey, and how God’s presence “tabernacled” in their midst. However, God’s intention was to make them thirst for His Presence again.  The Feast of Booths was celebrated in the fall (Sept/Oct) at the beginning of  planting season. At this time, every seventh or Sabbath year and in the year of Jubilee, the word would be read to the people in the square of the Water Gate by the pool of Siloam. You can find this demonstrated in Nehemiah 8. Each morning at day break, the High Priest with a golden pitcher in his hand, would lead a procession from the Temple on Mount Moriah over to Mount Zion in the old City of David, then down to the pool of Siloam, fill the pitcher with water, then proceed back to the Temple where he would pour out the water on the great altar. This procession was accompanied with trumpet blasts and singing and shouts of praise. It was to remind them of 3 distinct things:

1)     Of the Water from the Rock in the wilderness; God’s provision for the children of Israel in the desert

2)     The promise of the forthcoming “latter rain” in the spring which brings the best harvest.

3)     The prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the coming of the Messiah

So get the picture, the people are coming out of their booths where they are remembering and thirsting for the presence of God in their midst. They gather at the Pool of Siloam waiting for the priest to come fill the pitcher so they can celebrate God’s faithful quenching of their thirst, remember the promise of the latter rain, and the prophecy of the coming Messiah and His outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Of course these are types and foreshadows of God’s redemption plan. Now let’s read John 7:37-39 again with this picture in mind:

37Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus (the Rock that poured forth the water in the desert(I Cor. 10:4)) stood (took the posture of a Prophet, the High Priest of God and the Messiah) and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink (Lit., let him keep coming to me and let him keep drinking). He who believes in Me, as the Scripture (Is. 44:3; 55:1; 58:11) said, ‘From his innermost being ( Lit., out of his belly) shall flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Joel 2:28, John 1:33)

 As He prophesied here, Jesus went on to finish the redemption work of the cross and resurrection, then ascended to heaven so He could receive the promise of the Father and as Messiah, POUR OUT THE HOLY SPIRIT. Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promise of the Father, which they did, gathered in the Upper Room.  Guess where that Upper Room was in Jerusalem?  It was on Mount Zion, by the pool of Siloam by the Water Gate.  Could God make the picture of His plan any clearer? We read in Acts 2:1-4, on the day of Pentecost, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon all the 120 there and the rivers of living water began to flow. Peter preached what this meant in Acts 2:10-41 (from Joel 2: 28) and 3000 were added to the church that day.

 Just as The Rock that followed them in the desert was replaced with a springing up well (Num. 21:16-18), the Holy Spirit comes:

  • To live in us as the well of eternal life, the very presence of God remaining tabernacled in our spirit for our salvation, quenching our thirsts for His life.
  • To be rivers of living water upon us flowing out of us for the sake of others.

Revelation 1:15 says Jesus voice is “like the sound of many waters” and later in 19:6 the Church’s voice is as the “sound of many waters.” I know my words are not so completely overtaken by the Holy Spirit today but one day we will not only be as He is but our voices will actually sound like His.

The night I cried out to God and turned control of my life over to Him (“please take control before I completely destroy it ” were my exact words), I was awakened. I found myself sitting straight up in bed, raised there by some unseen hand, my eyes wide open. I glanced at the clock, 3:00PM. A mighty sound approached from the left corner of the room, like a freight train coming through the wall. The sound became a distinct awesome voice moving as in slow motion from the one corner toward me coming so close it had to have touched the end of the bed “Get out! Get out as fast as you can!!” the Voice loudly warned before receding back toward the adjacent corner of the room, exiting just as suddenly as it had come. The air lightened and the stilled room darkened again, becoming ever so quiet. Stunned and unable to move I sat wondering, “What was that?” The Voice had sounded so familiar yet I couldn’t place it. In spite of its awesome power, the manner reminded me of my grandmother’s voice, for it had the same unconditional love in it that had always made me feel safe and secure, especially in my trying teen years. But it couldn’t have been Mamaw, as we had affectionately called her. She had passed on eight years before. No it wasn’t her, but it was someone like her or maybe…someone she was like. Her voice had come so close to sounding like His, that I was able to recognize Him speaking to me that crucial night.

I hope, no I desire above all else, that someday my voice would be so full of the Spirit it would be “as the sound of many waters” to someone thirsting for Him. That His Presence in my spirit and the washing of the word will wash away every trace of the bitterness life can bring and only leave behind sweet quiet waters for others to find rest beside.

ALSO WANT TO REMIND YOU TO CHECK ONE OF THE BEST SERIES I’VE HEARD IN YEARS ON THE HOLY SPIRIT BY PASTOR ROBERT MORRIS, GATEWAY CHURCH  http://www.gatewaypeople.com/index.php?action=res_series_details&sid=170

Continuing with our study on connecting with the Holy Spirit, let’s look in John 4 where Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. In verse ten, He says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” He is speaking of the Holy Spirit who is also the gift of God, the gift of the Father (Matt 7:11; Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45) and of the water that He could give her, a type of the Holy Spirit, the water from a well of eternal life. Like a well, the Holy Spirit quenches the thirst of every human soul with His indwelling presence which gives new life to all who come to believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and was resurrected to give us new life. The Holy Spirit indwells us from the moment we believe and confess Jesus is Lord.

At our recent Women’s Connect, I used a drop of food coloring in the bottom of a glass  set inside a clear glass pitcher. When a little water was poured into the glass, the colored water appeared representing the Holy Spirit’s presence inside our hearts at our new birth.  

John 4:14 “…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” This indwelling satisfies our hunger and thirst; the filling of that God shaped hole in every human heart.

But Jesus didn’t stop there, “…Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He prophesied that this water would “spring up.”  In Num 21:17, God’s people broke out singing: “Spring up O well” Do you remember that old song:

“Spring up, O well, within my soul; spring up, O well, and make me whole.”

Jesus wanted her to know that there is an additional dimension of this “Water” that was available to her. As John the Baptist said of Jesus in John 1:33,He is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” 

 Now there are at least three baptisms for believers in the New Testament.  The following chart tells how each takes place:

Baptism In (subst)   Agent            Uniting Us In His:____

Water (Rom 6:5)         Believers          Death and resurrection

Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13)  Holy Spirit   His Church

Holy Spirit (Jn. 1:33; Acts 1-2) Jesus     His Essence & Power

As you can see the substance, agent, and purpose are different in each one. Focusing on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit we see that Jesus is the agent who performs this baptism. The substance we are baptized into is the Holy Spirit and this baptism unites us to His complete filling, His essence, presence and power.  A look at the original word for baptism helps us get a clearer picture of this:

Baptismo: the process used in pickling or dyeing cloth:

1)     In dyeing cloth, it meant to immerse the cloth until every fiber was permeated/ united with the dye and changed to the color of the dye.

2)     In pickling – another word, Bapto meant to temporarily dip the “cuke” into boiling water, preparing it for change but our word, Baptismo meant to immerse in vinegar until a permanent change took place.

 So to be baptized in the Holy Spirit means to be immersed until every part of our being is permeated and united with the Holy Spirit of Christ and we are overwhelmed with His fullness. The process of change is begun. As we continue to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) transformation will continue throughout our lives until we are thoroughly “pickled” in His Spirit!

2 Cor. 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…this is the ultimate makeover!

Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses…

Acts 2:33 “Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

Remember that glass in the pitcher? If we pour the water into the glass until it not only fills but overflows and even fills up the pitcher. The glass is not just filled but immersed in the water – that is Baptismo – that is what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is supposed to look like: Not just in us, but filling us and upon us.

Putting on the Spirit: He not only indwells us, but springs up from inside and clothes us with His Presence, His Person and His Power, becoming our constant source of Life and a source of life for others.

The Holy Spirit Series

As promised, I am posting the teaching we are doing in Women’s Connect here. Check out the new page “The Holy Spirit Series” above or https://theriverblog.wordpress.com/the-holy-spirit-series/  to start reading these.

I also want to share a link to Pastor Robert Morris series on the Holy Spirit, probably one of the best I’ve heard in years: http://www.gatewaypeople.com/index.php?action=res_series_details&sid=170

Consumer or Disciple

 “Wait and listen, every who is thirsty!  Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing].” (Isaiah 55:1 AMP)

Isn’t this the oddest advertisement?  We know the scriptures were written for all time, even for our society today.  This scripture sounds a bit like the familiar commercial spots we are bombarded with daily only with a new “spin.” At first glance it looks like the kind of ad that sounds too good to be true.   Something for nothing!  We know that cannot be. We must have read it wrong.  Sure enough, on our second reading, we realize what is being offered is not free at all.  Instead, its price is self-surrender. That costs us everything, our very life!  But now, we find we are hooked.  We have read it twice and like all well written ads it has stirred up the hunger and thirst that lies deep within us.  We know we have to have this spiritual wine and milk but are we able to afford it?   Are we able to pay the price for the drink we so desperately  need?  Are we hungry and thirsty enough?

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, “I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore and repent…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelations 3:14-22)

 There is a great renewal taking place throughout the Body of Christ.   Some of it is evident in public meetings but much of it is taking place quietly and deeply in the hearts of believers.   There are hot spots where the Harvest is being reaped, but there is still a vast majority of the American church that  suffers being lukewarm.  That is no secret to most believers.  I heard it said recently that lukewarm comes from the hot being mixed with the cold.  Indeed Jesus said He wished we were one or the other.  We go to our “hot” hopping revivals but return to our cold Christian walks.   Secretly we ask ourselves, “Why is that?  Why can’t I maintain the zeal of those times?”  If our walks are not on fire too, mixing the two only produces lukewarm Christianity. What is the cause of this lukewarmness anyway and how has it come upon us? The American church today is made up of Christians who have been believers for many years and a new generation of believers.   Many of us can remember the church thirty years ago that was on fire winning the lost in multitudes, and making disciples steeled against compromising with the world.  Who would believe that was us two decades ago?  We hardly resemble our early selves. What changed in us over the years?  Could it be we compromised with the world’s system too much?  Could it be we started to compete with the world rather than overcome it? 

 In the account of Jesus cleansing of the temple of those who were selling and exchanging money, the first three gospels record Jesus’ words as “It is written, And My House shall be a House of Prayer but you have made it a robbers’ den (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).” 

 John’s gospel however adds this illumination, “And to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for thy house will consume me.'” 

Has commercialism killed our zeal for the things of God? When the American church last experienced great harvest we were truly consumed by zeal for His house. Back then we dared those to whom we witnessed to sell out to Jesus, to “come and die” and become His disciple.   Today, we peddle the blessings of God in the world’s market place with the latest of its techniques, trying to be relevant.  Back then we were not satisfied until we saw a new convert baptized, trained, practicing the disciplines of a Christian walk and winning others to the Lord.  Today, there is no sign of that kind of zeal.  We just hope those who come to the altar this service will show up again next service so we can catch their ear for a little while longer.  We want them to hear the church’s commercials, birthed out of our well designed marketing plans strategic to producing supporters.  Because we have adopted using the same commercialism that bombards them daily out in the world it is no wonder that most believers in our churches have now been made consumers and not disciples. 

 The consumer and disciple hold vastly different  attitudes.  Consumers come to meet their own need. They come to look over the merchandise.  They come looking for a bargain.  They come to be sold something.  If the sales pitch is good enough, they will buy into it.  If we sell them well enough, they will buy into the announcements.  That is if the price is not too high.  It is the same with the offering.  If we sell the building fund with the right slogan, gimmicks and enthusiasm, they may buy into it.  The sermon, once the vehicle for proclaiming the gospel, is no different, nor the altar call.  If we offer them a deal they cannot refuse, they will likely respond with a commitment. Because we have encouraged this consumer mentality in the people by selling them the kingdom rather than proclaiming its truth, we now have to market ourselves at every turn or the customers will move on to the church down the street.  So we hire professional musicians for the best music.  It does not matter that they may not even be born-again, just as long as they can play.  We build the most appealing buildings on the most commercially desirable plots next to the highways and byways so we can be visible in the market place.  Never mind that this usually takes us out of the neighborhoods and away from the families that really need ministry today.  We’ve spent thousands on media advertisement and promotion but little to do on promoting responsible personal relationships that builds a community of believers.

Of course, we are aware that today’s consumers are prone to buy into someone else’s marketing tomorrow if we do not keep their attention.  So we must have them in as many services as we can each week and be sure there is a letter from us in their mail box when they go home.  Since that often proves to not be enough we also show up on the radio during drive time talking at them and even take out television spots at the precise times we think they might be watching.  We are like obnoxious suitors pursuing their hand. Like the world’s market around us we intrude on their private lives as much as we possibly can, competing for their devotion.  We tell them how they are lacking but we have the what they need.  Why are we surprised when we peer into glazed over eyes. They’ve learned the only way to survive this commercialized world we live in is to tune out as much as possible.  The glazed over faces in Sunday morning’s services are evidence of survival not rejection. They come to church to “tune out” much as we all do in front of the tube.  We have produced “couch-potato” Christians, instead of disciples.

 The average person looking for a church today approaches it like buying a car. They look for the church that has the most to offer.  They are looking for the best children’s ministry, the most creative and entertaining fine arts program, the most supportive programs for men, for women, for parents, and for singles and of course, the finest preaching.   They are consumers.  They are going to spend their time and their tithe, even some offerings on this activity of church attending so they want the most for it.  As consumers, they come in when they want and they leave when they want.  Each service time is approached much like going to the grocery store to pick up some milk or the fast food restaurant for dinner.  They go at their convenience. They arrive around “church time” and leave when they have gotten what they want.  They usually are completely unaware of the needs of those around them, or that they may be walking out during an altar call.  In the long haul, they have no sense of accountability to the establishment, usually withdrawing their patronage without a word unless they have a complaint about the service they did or did not receive.  Many churches are actually conforming to these mindsets, cutting services to an hour, sometimes using satellite branches where the attendees view a video screen for the preaching. Easy in, sing a couple songs, view a video, easy out, then I’m on my way to the mall. I don’t blame the churches or the pastors. They’re just hoping they can get a little of God’s word into someone. Perhaps they’ll act on it.

 Somewhere in the past couple of decades, we stopped making disciples and look what it is costing the church.  Disciples approach the church so differently.  They own not their lives, but acknowledge they are what has been bought with a price, even Christ’s blood.  They come to the body of believers out of obedience to His Spirit.  They see themselves as the Church. They really are not concerned with buildings, musicians, or programs.  They just know if they have been sent there, there must a place in that body for them to share their gifts and give of their ministry.   They have not devalued themselves.  They know they have a supply to share with another that could change a life.  They come as servants ready to serve.   They come in as worshippers not as an audience to be entertained.  They come hungry to be taught.  They know the wisdom of remaining “as a child” and are learners all their lives.   Their zeal perseveres day in and day out.  

 They are disciplined with self-control and respect the other members of the body, their time and their gifts.  They honor others’ unique giftings as valuable by humbling themselves to receive from other members of the Body. They are the ones that are faithfully at the assemblies first and the ones that leave last because they see themselves as having something someone else may need. If you are one of these disciples you, “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).”

 Disciples make themselves available.  They see areas of service as areas of ministry and seek out places they can help, no matter how obscure or menial the service.  They are not consumers but contributors.  They serve out of grace and in the fear of the Lord, not out of obligation and the fear of man. They are humble and able to come along into the pastures in which the Spirit of God is leading their body.   They are a delight to any pastor that is also trying to obey the Chief Shepherd’s calling.  They naturally drink the spiritual milk and wine that the Spirit offers because they live a life of self-surrender.  They are fruitful and multiply themselves.   They daily pay the price of taking up their cross, not out of convenience but of conviction. They are rare like diamonds and more valuable than silver and gold.  Jesus’ Great Commission  calls us to be these disciples and to make more of them.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…,” (Matthew 28:19)

 We have been taken out of this world for the Master’s use so let’s ask Him to take the world out of us.  Let’s buy from Him the gold refined by fire, the white garments of a sincere faith, and eye salve to anoint our eyes that we may see His Kingdom.  Let’s press into Him until we are changed again from consumers in the market place to disciples and disciplers in His Kingdom.

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more about “What this world needs – Casting Crowns“, posted with vodpod

February 2009 – LOVE: The Challenge of the Great Commandment

(or “Oh my gosh, who’s going to help me obey this one?”)

To Begin our study, please read Matt 22:37-40

The scriptures command us to love God and love others as you love yourself. In addition, Jesus emphasized this command by saying  the keeping of the whole Law is summed up in His one new commandment to love one anothe, as the following verses repeat:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

I John 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

Love others as Jesus loves us – WOW – that’s very challenging to me. As we continue looking into it, the real meaning of this commandment is only going to become an even greater challenge to us before it gets better. Stick with me though because I’m also going to give you the key to meeting it.

For many of us to love God is not so hard most of the time, but to love others and love them as we love ourselves, that is not so easy. Many of us struggle with even liking, much less loving, ourselves. We are often hardest on ourselves, demanding and judging ourselves and we end up doing the same to others. We’re miserable with our own condition and can’t stand to be reminded of it when we see it in others. I love the verses in Romans 14:4 says: “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Oh, thank God for His insight into our hearts and this firm word to “lay off” judging ourselves or other believers, all His servants. I’m sure if we would heed this word, the Body of Christ would be a safer place for us all.

Let’s look at this word LOVE: I say, ‘I love my husband, Pat, my kids, my cat, chocolate, the ocean and warm weather.’ Our English word “love” gets used for an affection for almost anyone or anything.

However, the Greeks used several words to distinguish ‘love’ from the many different kinds of affection or desires. Here are the most common four:

  • Eros: lowest form – meaning: to desire, to have/to take possession – sexual/spiritual connotation – in Greek mythology, gods’ intercourse with humans produced heroes from eros. Never used in NT. In English = LUST.
  • Stergos: the natural familial love between parents and children, siblings, relatives, used in Rom 12:10
  • Phileo: friendship affection – brotherly love, mutual affection, conditional reciprocating affection
  • Agapeo: Highest form of love, the Godkind of Love – unconditional, unmerited, based on the perspective and choice of the lover: Agape always chooses to value the recipient worthy of favor regardless of their actions This Godkind of Love counts you and me as precious and valuable, always worthy of His favor.

My grandmother expressed it well when she would tell me, “I don’t always like what you do, but I always love you.”

The scriptures above that we read at the beginning all use the word “agape:”    Jesus command is to agape God, ourselves, and others. (I warned you the challenge was only going to get harder.)

Agape Love: IS NOT an emotion or feeling or reaction to someone else’s actions. Agape loves the unlovely, doesn’t just tolerate them, but lays its life down for them, even for enemies.  Think of the hardest person to get along with or even your worst enemy, someone who let you down when you needed them most, someone who abandoned you, someone who abused you, or an unfaithful one who betrayed you, an ex-friend, ex-lover, an ex-husband.  We hear so much about forgiveness but do we go on to obey the command to love as well. Could you agape any of these?

 Before I was saved, I thought love was some kind of passionate feelings, infatuation, romantic, music & roses, etc. Then I read I Cor. 13:4-8  Let’s look at the characteristics as “is and isn’t.”

I Corinthians 13: 4-8 says LOVE IS:

  • Is patient
  • Is kind
  •  Rejoices with truth
  •  Bears all things,
  •  Believes all things, has faith in others
  •  Hopes all things, expects the best from others
  •  Endures all things, hangs in there
  •  Is not envious or jealous
  •  Is not boastful
  •  Is not arrogant or conceded
  •  Is not unbecoming
  •  Is not self seeking
  •  Is not provoked
  •  Is not bitter
  •  Is not vindictive

 LOVE never fails, is never a waste of time, is never in vain.

NO WONDER I FAILED AT LOVE – I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT IT WAS AT ALL. I NEEDED AN UPGRADE TO THIS KIND OF LOVE.

I John 4:16 says God is love. We could easily put God’s name in front of each of these characteristics. Try reading it that way -This is how God loves you. This is how Jesus loves you. You might be thinking, “Easy for Him – since HE is God.” But I have to remind myself that He would not command us to do something if He didn’t know that we would be able to obey. Considering this in my study, the Holy Spirit directed me to John 21:15-17.

This is the episode of Jesus meeting the disciples after His resurrection on the shores of Gallilee and his conversation with Peter.  This is the way it reads in the Greek: In the first two exchanges, Jesus asks Peter: “Do you agape Me?” Peter answers: “Lord, You know I phileo You.” Did you catch that? Peter downgraded his love to phileo – He knew he lacked what it took to agape. And he knew Jesus knew it too.

But in the third exchange Jesus asked “Do you phileo Me?” Why did Jesus downgrade or lower the bar, His expectation of Peter? Peter needed an UPGRADE to agape. “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you phileo Me?” Have you ever insisted on deminishing yourself to someone who wanted to raise you up and finally had them agree with you? That is such a grievious experience. But Peter was only confessing what Jesus had to have known was the best he believed he could do. Jesus knew what the new birth was going to put into Peter, a living seed that could bear supernatural fruit.

READ Galatians 5:13-25 The fruit of a tree is the evidence of its core: Apple tree or Lemon tree

An apple tree comes from the seed at the core of an apple.  It’s destined to bear apples. When we receive Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit and we are born again. Our DNA is changed to bear the fruit of the Spirit because He is at our core. The fruit of the Spirit is agape love. So if it is already in us, why doesn’t this love come natural? Like a tree, whether we bear fruit or not depends upon on one thing.

In the late 80’s we lived in San Diego, planting a new church. We often drove out into the Borrego desert which during those years was in drought. The desert was dry and desolate with miles of sand but no plants. The year after moving back to Denver,  we visited San Diego and on the way drove through the Borrego. The drought had broken and the rains had come. The desert looked like a forest with desert plants 10-12 feet tall, blossoming and bearing fruit. Where did all this foliage come from? No one had sown seed over these hundreds of miles of desert. The seed was from former foliage that had laid dorment in the sand until the rains came and caused it to spout, grow, and bear fruit.

Peter said, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (I Pet. 1:23) When we are born again, we recieve the Holy Spirit like a seed. He resides in us promising such great potential. When we surrender to the Spirit to fills us, we are baptized into Him, He waters us and causes us to bear fruit. That surrender means we walk after the Spirit, letting Him lead us and be in control of us which results in the Fruit of the Spirit. The first fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. The seed of AGAPE is in us and destined to bear fruit through us.

Peter obviously recieved the upgraded love for he writes in I Peter 1:8 “…though you have not seen Him, you agape love Him…” When did Peter discover this?

The first 2 chapters of Acts tells us when and how it happened.

  • In Acts 1:5, Jesus promised to ‘baptize’ us with the Holy Spirit – He promised to send the Rain the seed of the new birth needed.
  • Acts 1:8, and you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…(the power of walking in the Spirit is one of the most supernatural witnesses a believer can possess)
  • 2:1-4, They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
  • 2:14, Peter was filled with the UPGRADED AGAPE Love and boldly began to proclaim , “It shall be in the last days that I will pour forth My Spirit upon all Mankind, vs. 33 Jesus having received from the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear…vs. 39 for the promise is for you and your children and for all who are many generations off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”

Though we receive the Holy Spirit when we are born-again, we don’t regularly experience His power to do the impossible until we have been baptized in the Spirit and begin to use the prayer language He gives us that enables us to really live in the Spirit, and bear the fruit of  AGAPE! To remind us of this, Jude wrote:

“…Beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the agape love of God…” Jude 20-21

Jesus Wants to give you this same upgraded love so you will have the power to LOVE supernaturally:

  • Those who want this power to walk after the Spirit and live the supernatural love life of a Christian must start by trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord.
  • Give Him control (make Him your Lord) and ask Him to baptize you in His Spirit, letting Him be the source and guide of all your LIFE. In return, He will give you the ability to pray beyond your own understanding in a prayer language only God understands. I Cor. 14:2, 14-15.
  • Many of us have received this upgrade already but haven’t been kept in the love of God because we are not praying in the Spirit like we should. Would you join me in committing to pray in the Spirit more? Even intercede daily, Romans 8:26; Jude 20-21.

Colossians 1:9-14 is one of six prayers in New Testament that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to pray and write into the scriptures for believers. The 13th verse of this prayer says, “…who hath delivered us from the power of darkness; and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”

Sometimes it helpful to see how a verse is translated in other versions to get a better understanding:

NKJ: “conveyed us into the Kingdom”

NIV: “brought us in the Kingdom of His Son”

AMP: “The Father has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

Conybeare: “and transplanted us…”

The other words used, translated, transferred, transplanted, brought in, conveyed tell us we were changed and moved all in one instant. At our new birth, we moved from the old country which was ruled by darkness into the Son’s Kingdom. We are immigrants moved into God’s Kingdom.

For Immigrants to succeed in a new country, they have to learn:  

·        the language of the new country

·        the founding principles and government of the new country

·        the new laws

·        the new privileges & the new benefits

·        Most important, the old ID’s from other country are not good anymore

o   ID’s tell what we look like, our address, who issued it, expiration date, etc.

·        Have to get a new ID – issued by the government of the new nation

·        So we as believers have to get a hold of our new ID from God in the Word

Obviously we weren’t physically moved, or even mentally or emotionally moved.

What was transplanted and changed?

I Thess. 5:23 says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God created humans as three or tri-part beings: a spirit with a soul living in a body. Say this:

‘I am a spirit, I have a soul, and I live in a body.’

If you had an ID card for your spirit before your new birth it would have these facts:

·        Citizen of domain of darkness (Col 1:13)

·        Dead in transgression-spiritually dead or separated from God (Eph 2:5)

·        DNA of the Evil one, sons of disobedience, by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:2). 

That’s the condition we are in before we are “delivered…and translated into His Kingdom.”

One more point: we are legal immigrants, and now first class citizens of His Kingdom which means we have all the rights and privileges of citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Are you living as a second class citizen, an “illegal,” not exercising your rights or receiving the benefits of the privileges, or as a first class citizen in God’s Kingdom? There’s a huge difference.

 

We’ve been teaching in the FFS since the first of September and thought I’d share my notes in parts here on the blog. Hope it is helpful.

COLOSSIANS – OUR IDENTIFICATION IN CHRIST (FFS – Fall 2008)

Colossians 1:2 Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with to the…saints in Christ

This study is on our identification in Christ, one of the most important teachings a believer can get a hold of, third only to our salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

 Paul’s Gospel – Colossians 1:25-28 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”

 Because the Bible is progressive revelation, this mystery of what God would do to reconcile us to Him was hidden in the Old Testament and not revealed until it was given to Paul to proclaim in his mission and write in his letters on the New Testament.

We need the Old Testament as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 10:1-13 for the history of mankind, God’s covenants, Israel and its examples, etc. but we must be New Testament or Covenant believers. I encourage you, if you are already born-again get on past the gospels. And if you are already spirit-filled get past the book of Acts and get into the epistles where the good news for believers is!

Paul’s Gospel reveals the mystery: God has put the Spirit of Christ in us & put us in Christ!

 Mysterion- ancient Greek – secrets, unspoken initiation rites, “secret hand shake” – In the NT this word is always connected with dynamic verbs denoting revelation and proclamation. Paul uses the phrase 20x in his NT writings, 4x in Colossians alone.

This revelation is not found in the OT that is the mystery that God’s plan of redemption thru His own Son would result in:

1. Christ in you, the hope of glory – your identity before the world

2. You in Christ – your identity before God

 

Next part: We are immigrants in a new land!

 

 
 

 

 

 

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Sometimes we just need to laugh! Sometimes we do laugh when there’s nothing funny and sometimes we can’t stop laughing even when we try. But have you ever laughed in your dreams and woke up wondering what was so funny? I had that happen last night! I had fallen asleep from a very busy day that ended with facilitating the DivorceCare for Women group at church. One of the things we talked about there was how in the midst of all the strife, we can’t let others steal our joy from us. I just wanted to encourage the ladies to not let their really tough situation steal everything from them, especially their joy. The Lord has been encouraging me the last few months about keeping my Joy which is such a great evidence of His presence in my life. Well, in the middle of the night, I’m dreaming of who-knows-what and laughing so hard my sides start hurting and I couldn’t catch my breathe. I actually woke up momentarily ridiculously amused but quickly fell back to sleep to find myself laughing uncontrollably all over again. I don’t know about you but I love laughter and don’t get enough of it. I’m married to a man with a great sense of humor and like me, when the going has gotten tough, chooses to “cachinnate” (actual synonym for laugh, which made me giggle reading it) rather than cry or get mad. I’m always glad I’m in the room when he loses it. Our whole family has often spent long moments of side splitting, rolling on the floor, eyes watering laughter together.

But you have to understand I don’t laugh in my dreams all that much. Wish I did more. It’s very fun and I woke up with a smile on my face, refreshed more than usual. There has only been one other time I remember this happening to me. It was back in September of 1993. We had attended a meeting at Calvary Temple where Rodney Howard-Brown and his wife were ministering the unusual revival laughter stuff. Those of you who got in on it at the time know what I mean. We were desperate for God to do something in our lives at that time as it was one of the harder seasons of our life. I was pulled out of the crowd and prayed for and took my “courtesy drop” (🙂) but didn’t feel anything unique at that moment. We went home, went to bed and soon I found myself dreaming that a huge bell-jar was coming down over my head. When its lip reached my shoulders I began to laugh uncontrollably. I was laughing so hard out loud I woke myself up. Afraid I would wake up my husband, I tried to calm down and go back to sleep. As soon as I fell off again, here came the jar and once again I was giggling and heehawing harder than before until it woke me again. The short of it is that laughter went on all night long. I thought I’d be worn out the next day but woke up feeling great. I turned to Pat and said, with a smile on my face, “We’ve got to get back to those meetings today!” We did and we were never the same again… 

 “In Your Presence is fulness of Joy” (Psalm 16:11)

Consumers or Disciples

 “Wait and listen, every who is thirsty!  Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing].” (Isaiah 55:1 AMP)

Isn’t this the oddest advertisement?  We know the scriptures were written for all time, even for our society today.  This scripture sounds a bit like the familiar commercial spots we are bombarded with daily only with a new “spin.” At first glance it looks like the kind of ad that sounds too good to be true.   Something for nothing!  We know that cannot be. We must have read it wrong.  Sure enough, on our second reading, we realize what is being offered is not free at all.  Instead, its price is self-surrender. That costs us everything, our very life!  But now, we find we are hooked.  We have read it twice and like all well written ads it has stirred up the hunger and thirst that lies deep within us.  We know we have to have this spiritual wine and milk but are we able to afford it?   Are we able to pay the price for the drink we so desperately  need?  Are we hungry and thirsty enough?

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, “I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore and repent…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelations 3:14-22)

 There is a great renewal taking place throughout the Body of Christ.   Some of it is evident in public meetings but much of it is taking place quietly and deeply in the hearts of believers.   There are hot spots where the Harvest is being reaped, but there is still a vast majority of the American church that  suffers being lukewarm.  That is no secret to most believers.  I heard it said recently that lukewarm comes from the hot being mixed with the cold.  Indeed Jesus said He wished we were one or the other.  We go to our “hot” hopping revivals but return to our cold Christian walks.   Secretly we ask ourselves, “Why is that?  Why can’t I maintain the zeal of those times?”  If our walks are not on fire too, mixing the two only produces lukewarm Christianity. What is the cause of this lukewarmness anyway and how has it come upon us? The American church today is made up of Christians who have been believers for many years and a new generation of believers.   Many of us can remember the church thirty years ago that was on fire winning the lost in multitudes, and making disciples steeled against compromising with the world.  Who would believe that was us two decades ago?  We hardly resemble our early selves. What changed in us over the years?  Could it be we compromised with the world’s system too much?  Could it be we started to compete with the world rather than overcome it? 

 In the account of Jesus cleansing of the temple of those who were selling and exchanging money, the first three gospels record Jesus’ words as “It is written, And My House shall be a House of Prayer but you have made it a robbers’ den (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).” 

 John’s gospel however adds this illumination, “And to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for thy house will consume me.'” 

Has commercialism killed our zeal for the things of God? When the American church last experienced great harvest we were truly consumed by zeal for His house. Back then we dared those to whom we witnessed to sell out to Jesus, to “come and die” and become His disciple.   Today, we peddle the blessings of God in the world’s market place with the latest of its techniques, trying to be relevant.  Back then we were not satisfied until we saw a new convert baptized, trained, practicing the disciplines of a Christian walk and winning others to the Lord.  Today, there is no sign of that kind of zeal.  We just hope those who come to the altar this service will show up again next service so we can catch their ear for a little while longer.  We want them to hear the church’s commercials, birthed out of our well designed marketing plans strategic to producing supporters.  Because we have adopted using the same commercialism that bombards them daily out in the world it is no wonder that most believers in our churches have now been made consumers and not disciples. 

 The consumer and disciple hold vastly different  attitudes.  Consumers come to meet their own need. They come to look over the merchandise.  They come looking for a bargain.  They come to be sold something.  If the sales pitch is good enough, they will buy into it.  If we sell them well enough, they will buy into the announcements.  That is if the price is not too high.  It is the same with the offering.  If we sell the building fund with the right slogan, gimmicks and enthusiasm, they may buy into it.  The sermon, once the vehicle for proclaiming the gospel, is no different, nor the altar call.  If we offer them a deal they cannot refuse, they will likely respond with a commitment. Because we have encouraged this consumer mentality in the people by selling them the kingdom rather than proclaiming its truth, we now have to market ourselves at every turn or the customers will move on to the church down the street.  So we hire professional musicians for the best music.  It does not matter that they may not even be born-again, just as long as they can play.  We build the most appealing buildings on the most commercially desirable plots next to the highways and byways so we can be visible in the market place.  Never mind that this usually takes us out of the neighborhoods and away from the families that really need ministry today.  We’ve spent thousands on media advertisement and promotion but little to do on promoting responsible personal relationships that builds a community of believers.

Of course, we are aware that today’s consumers are prone to buy into someone else’s marketing tomorrow if we do not keep their attention.  So we must have them in as many services as we can each week and be sure there is a letter from us in their mail box when they go home.  Since that often proves to not be enough we also show up on the radio during drive time talking at them and even take out television spots at the precise times we think they might be watching.  We are like obnoxious suitors pursuing their hand. Like the world’s market around us we intrude on their private lives as much as we possibly can, competing for their devotion.  We tell them how they are lacking but we have the what they need.  Why are we surprised when we peer into glazed over eyes. They’ve learned the only way to survive this commercialized world we live in is to tune out as much as possible.  The glazed over faces in Sunday morning’s services are evidence of survival not rejection. They come to church to “tune out” much as we all do in front of the tube.  We have produced “couch-potato” Christians, instead of disciples.

 The average person looking for a church today approaches it like buying a car. They look for the church that has the most to offer.  They are looking for the best children’s ministry, the most creative and entertaining fine arts program, the most supportive programs for men, for women, for parents, and for singles and of course, the finest preaching.   They are consumers.  They are going to spend their time and their tithe, even some offerings on this activity of church attending so they want the most for it.  As consumers, they come in when they want and they leave when they want.  Each service time is approached much like going to the grocery store to pick up some milk or the fast food restaurant for dinner.  They go at their convenience. They arrive around “church time” and leave when they have gotten what they want.  They usually are completely unaware of the needs of those around them, or that they may be walking out during an altar call.  In the long haul, they have no sense of accountability to the establishment, usually withdrawing their patronage without a word unless they have a complaint about the service they did or did not receive.  Many churches are actually conforming to these mindsets, cutting services to an hour, sometimes using satellite branches where the attendees view a video screen for the preaching. Easy in, sing a couple songs, view a video, easy out, then I’m on my way to the mall. I don’t blame the churches or the pastors. They’re just hoping they can get a little of God’s word into someone. Perhaps they’ll act on it.

 Somewhere in the past couple of decades, we stopped making disciples and look what it is costing the church.  Disciples approach the church so differently.  They own not their lives, but acknowledge they are what has been bought with a price, even Christ’s blood.  They come to the body of believers out of obedience to His Spirit.  They see themselves as the Church. They really are not concerned with buildings, musicians, or programs.  They just know if they have been sent there, there must a place in that body for them to share their gifts and give of their ministry.   They have not devalued themselves.  They know they have a supply to share with another that could change a life.  They come as servants ready to serve.   They come in as worshippers not as an audience to be entertained.  They come hungry to be taught.  They know the wisdom of remaining “as a child” and are learners all their lives.   Their zeal perseveres day in and day out.  

 They are disciplined with self-control and respect the other members of the body, their time and their gifts.  They honor others’ unique giftings as valuable by humbling themselves to receive from other members of the Body. They are the ones that are faithfully at the assemblies first and the ones that leave last because they see themselves as having something someone else may need. If you are one of these disciples you, “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).”

 Disciples make themselves available.  They see areas of service as areas of ministry and seek out places they can help, no matter how obscure or menial the service.  They are not consumers but contributors.  They serve out of grace and in the fear of the Lord, not out of obligation and the fear of man. They are humble and able to come along into the pastures in which the Spirit of God is leading their body.   They are a delight to any pastor that is also trying to obey the Chief Shepherd’s calling.  They naturally drink the spiritual milk and wine that the Spirit offers because they live a life of self-surrender.  They are fruitful and multiply themselves.   They daily pay the price of taking up their cross, not out of convenience but of conviction. They are rare like diamonds and more valuable than silver and gold.  Jesus’ Great Commission  calls us to be these disciples and to make more of them.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…,” (Matthew 28:19)

 We have been taken out of this world for the Master’s use so let’s ask Him to take the world out of us.  Let’s buy from Him the gold refined by fire, the white garments of a sincere faith, and eye salve to anoint our eyes that we may see His Kingdom.  Let’s press into Him until we are changed again from consumers in the market place to disciples and disciplers in His Kingdom.

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