Wednesday, October 17, 2018

CRITICAL THINKING - CRITICAL FOR LEADERSHIP

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

The majority of people who succeed in either the sciences in school; in business; the Creative process in computer science or the medical sciences engage in full logically thinking, deductive reasoning and processing. These are some of the major components of critical thinking, the ability with which to engage, has been given to every human.

Thinking back to the inventors who have created the things we take for granted these days, they have two great qualities which led to the final success of their work.  Thomas Edison’s knowledge from his hard work, combined with his ability to turn constant failure into discovering what went wrong, in order to take corrective action, led to some of the most well-known things we use across the entire world. The light bulb, record-player and moving pictures, were all Edison products.  Another famous inventor – Benjamin Franklin, who is well-known for discovering domestic use for electricity and more. He invented the bi-focal glasses,  the catheter and even swim fins. He created the United States postal service, the public library system and while at it, even found time to help found the United States of America!

You and I will say that there is no way, we could ever do 5% of what these great men did and we could be right. However, it should not stop us studying HOW they did what they did. Inventors, leaders and other so-called geniuses, were not born this way. They learned skills, worked hard and were critical thinkers, plus.

There will always be heroes and heroines. These are the folks who will charge up an embankment like Sgt. York, to single-handedly capture over 100 Germans with machine guns in World War 1. We all remember the legend of the famed US President Teddy Roosevelt leading the charge up San Juan Hill with his rag tag group of rough westerners called the “Rough Riders”, during the Spanish American War.  How about the quiet Christian man from Arkansas Sam Walton, who turned a group of Ben Franklin stores into the biggest retail concern in America and the world – Walmart.

Men like these and countless others, have certain internal disciplines which contribute to leadership qualities.  Each person is born with those attributes. Very few develop them and even fewer rise above them to be a Sgt. York or a Lee Iaccocca, who rescued Chrysler, or a David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby.  

The first internal discipline was the act of Listening. They listen, learned and took note. They saw things that worked, looked for the smallest  opening to drive a Mack truck through and listened to raw facts. The worse thing a critically thinking leader could do, is to go in with pre-conceived notions, then listen to only the angle he/she is looking for and subsequently, take the meat and through the bones out….with meat still on it.

This leads to the next discipline – accountability. The willingness to be honest with the facts, to think of the consequences of doing or not proceeding with certain actions and then to seek advice from experienced and/or trusted peers or seniors, is the stuff of proper leadership. This is of prime importance, while the evaluation process is in the works. Reading and studying feed knowledge of where we wish to take this thing as we consider more and more research. This applies whether the leadership is in a small ministry, a non-profit feed the homeless project, or a medium sized start-up in the city, which just sort of took off successfully. Methodical research as to demographics, location and other obvious qualities exhibit the thoughtfulness behind the project, thereby determining its result.

The third attribute or discipline is honesty. Those who shade the truth and people who lie always get found out. In all human history, fakes, lies and inaccuracies litter the roadway to success along with their practitioners.  Honesty and truth still make the best ingredients to a successful life. It takes a lot less thinking and conniving to twist the truth than to just be straightforward and make informed decisions, based on the facts.

As the leader of an all-volunteer ministry for many years, and one which has served a growing segment of the community for over 15 years, integrity, honesty and seeking advice were key in longevity. Critical Thinking for leaders, in positions like this, involves accurate information, knowing the limitation, knowing when to both say yes and no.  Mission Statements must be adhered to as well as serious codes of conduct.

A ministry leader’s thought process should be on point at all times, covering every actual and potential weak spot imaginable, as it is the minutest or overlooked item which can bring something down crashing, when people from all walks of life are involved.  The tendency of too many professing Christian men and women to ask “forgiveness instead of permission” is actually sin and very corrosive to the integrity of a group, which is designed to only represent God the Creator on earth. The ability to discern consequences of people going off on their own and doing things to represent similar shortcomings, which can lead to disaster.

To wrap this up,  in order to have even the most minimal impact, which the vast majority of us will ever come close to, Critical Thinking has to be deployed. To wit, the following should be taken into account, right from the start of any project, initiative or proposal:
-  Is there really a need for this item, project or event
-  Cost/benefit analysis (re: promotion; free social media; materials; fees)
-  If it is a discipleship/mentoring project, and is the curriculum thought out towards a goal. Has this or any other project been prayed over.
-  If the project is doable, what is the intended result
-  Are there unexpected consequences and could they be harmful, in the long run.
-  When the event or project is in session, do you have spotters throughout who can be the leaders and bring research back, so decisions can be made.
-  Is a debriefing session on tap, for post- event evaluation for corrective, or repeatable actions.

These are just some of the obvious processes involved in planning and executing, while thinking ahead to the next big thing on the horizon.  Critical Thinking is as natural to leaders as water is to a duck. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

CRITICAL THINKING FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Christianity is the Thinking Person’s religion where the Author of our Faith beckons all to “come let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). This is crucial because the Creator of all things – Almighty God – is inviting His sinful creation to come and speak with Him, test, understand and then come to an independent decision.

To arrive at a decision, when God makes an offer, requires not just thinking but Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking is the process, in which every aspect of our minds, emotions and logic is fully engaged, in order to accurately evaluate ideas and situations. This process determines the accuracy, validity or even the error of such matters.

How a wayward son of God came to Faith in Christ and was born again, is actually the result of Critical Thinking. In July 1988, after an extended time from where I walked away from the Lord to enjoy the pleasures of this world, the Lord had knocked me flat on my back. I was suffering from extreme fatigue, stress, lack of rest and just run down from burning the candle at four ends. When the Lord called me unto Himself, it was not an imposed decision made for me and I had to accept.

Unlike certain faith systems and religions of the world, God is not a dictator Who says “accept me or else”. At the same time, I don’t need a case of Bibles to fall on my head to know that this life is the in-transit room before boarding the one-way flight to Eternity. While no one was witnessing to me, giving me tracts, nor was I listening, I can attest to the truth that eternity is written on the hearts of all mankind.

The reasoning the Lord spoke of in Isaiah 1:18 came into focus. Without much debate, I knew, from days of lying in a sick bed, that I had two choices. It was as clear as day – go down the road I had been going of enjoying the fleeting things of this world, or choose God, and thus Heaven.  Sometimes, we do not need flow charts, a degree in Macro Economics or a computer program to get the correct result. I chose the pathway of God and Heaven, for one reason. The reason was the logic of one destination of unending fire and brimstone, the other was the Way of God. What triggered Critical Thinking in this decision, was a childhood and teenage background of family church activity, combined with the supernatural Law of God written on heart of EVERY human who has ever lived. Instinctively, I knew there were only two eternal destinations. I knew there was no such thing as reincarnation or purgatory. There was and always will be one truth - "it is appointed to man to die once and then the Judgment" 

Each human being ever born has this ability to discern, discuss, decide and deliver after thinking of all alternatives. All facets of our humanity, buttressed by information, must be engaged in this process. Critical Thinking involves more than just this, the most important decision we will ever make in this life. The great author/pastor and famous apologist for the Christian Faith – Lee Strobel – is one of the most prominent examples of how Critical Thinking can change a life forever.

Strobel was a most vehement atheist and the legal correspondent for the Chicago Tribune for 14 years. A  law graduate of Yale University, this atheist’s life was thrown for a loop when his wife was saved and joined the growing Willow Creek Church in Barrington, Il. With his home in turmoil, Strobel set out on a journey to investigate the biblical claims about Christ, from the legal and scientific angle, in order to disprove them, in part. He became a disciple and follower in Jesus Christ on November 8, 1981.  Apart from the Holy Spirit opening his mind to the Truth, Lee had to do all the work of reading, research and traveling all over America speaking to people of Faith with scientific and other background. Just like others who had to follow similar, but parallel tracks (like J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist Los Angeles Homicide Detective). Strobel evaluated all the documentary, scientific and traditional evidence…..and then surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. His life story can be viewed here on YouTube.

“Examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
This is an important directive from the Lord for believers and the principle of Critical Thinking MUST kick in here.

  1. We are to examine, test, research and trust but verify EVERYTHING we hear or see against the Plumb Line of Truth of the Bible. The thing to note here is the word “examine” is first, derived from a word which gives us the English word “document”. This is explicit in us putting every new idea, teaching or movement to the test…then setting it aside before approving it. All of this is wrapped up in the original word used in the New Testament “Dokimazo”. The Bereans of the Book of Acts are still the standard for this. We read in Acts 17:11 that those from the region of Berea“…were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so”.
  2. Next, the examining relates to EVERYTHING….and it must be done CAREFULLY. Does everything mean well, all things? Yes. This means the kindle books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch and the next 30 Days of this or 21 Days of that which comes along the pike.  If Jesus is calling, He is calling from the Bible; His Words are true and we need to not only believe them completely, but handle the proclamation, interpretation and dissemination of them with absolute care. The Christian who thinks critically begins from this following point of reference: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
  3. The Holy Spirit, Who lives alongside the spirit of every born-again believer, confirms that the Word of God is both true and a living, breathing document.  It should then lead the Christian to immediately pronounce that he/she is "not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the Power of God unto Salvation" (Romans 1:16). Thoughtful examination of the Attributes of God; the veracity of His Promises and Prophecies as well as the historical evidence provide information which influence our decision to stand firm in the Faith. The phrase HOLD FAST is not as powerful a translation from the original intent of the original word used ("katechó"). What the Critical Thinker needs to do is not just "hold fast"....but to lay a hold of and own, or take possession of the Truth of Scripture in order to both get it orderly and embedded in our own minds, but then use our intimate knowledge of God, buttressed by increasing archaeological evidence, to become a great proponent of the Christian Faith to both younger Christians and those who do not believe.
  4. THAT WHICH IS GOOD is an exhortation for the Thinking woman or man of God. The Goodness spoken of here, is not just for sharing the Faith but for the edification and spiritual growth of the faithful critical thinkers among us. The Bible says it best here: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16).  

Monday, October 1, 2018

THE FRUIT OF LIVING BY THE SPIRIT

Putting aside misconceptions of what being “spirit-filled” means, living a Spirit-filled life is what all truly converted, born-again Christians actually do. The Spirit spoken of is the Holy Spirit. At the point of conversion from darkness to light, when a person accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, thereby being born-again, the Lord immediately embeds His Holy Spirit in that person.  God gives all or nothing. So the truly saved receives 100% of the Holy Spirit at the point of Salvation. Case closed.

Now, we are to live as though the Spirit of God lives in us. The Bible tells us that before this life altering event, we were once doing the horrible deeds of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 enumerates this list of horrors. All of us used to belong to one or more of these categories before God saved us.  We were partakers in immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery (for example: witchcraft/New Age/Eastern Mysticism), enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21b).

The Holy Spirit immediately begins turning us away from those things, which unfortunately begin increasing their temptations and presence right up close and personal, in our faces.  Here is where staying close to the Lord, through reading and studying His Word, prayer and going to some form of assembly (home or formal church)  are the pillars.  No truly saved Christian will reject the Word of God. Truly saved Christians have to be taught the value and the mechanics of prayer so they will know how to communicate with our Heavenly Father.  This process can only work if the saved start attended good bible-believing and bible-preaching churches, that believe in Discipleship.

There is a school of thought that a person does not have to go to church to be “spiritual”. Not only is this unbiblical (“do not neglect the assembly of the saints”) but unwise for the person engaged in this spiritual neglect.  It is one thing for doctors, nurses, gas station attendants and others who work on Sundays to not be able to go to service. Many larger churches have Saturday night services to accommodate those who are unable to be in church on Sundays.  So, it is another thing to willfully disobey the Lord and stay away from the fellowship of fellow believers, as well as unwise as to accountability,  true spiritual maturity and service to the Lord.

The Bible basically instructs us to “walk by the Spirit and we will not carry out the desire of the Flesh”. This is absolutely 100% correct. DL Moody says “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible". Modern life is full of enough sin, temptation and distraction. The only way to beat this is to methodically, effectively and clearly walk away from falling into disastrous sin, is to walk almost 24/7/365 with the Lord, so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  The word “almost” is key here as nobody will be perfect, until we are completely with the Lord after leaving this life.

The depth of depravity and degradation from which we emerged at the point of Salvation gives way to a whole new world of permanent inner peace and a joy, which are both indescribable. The newly saved Christian is supposed to be able not just “hold those great thoughts and experiences” but use this newfound passion for the Lord to grow in Him. This growth is supposed to then lead, to Spiritual Fruit, which will then be a blessing to as many others as possible, and the Kingdom of God in general.

We get a perfect illustration of how we should live from the Lord Himself in Ephesians 5:15-21, which says:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

A lifestyle, powered by Christ, such as this (among many other similar characteristics) brings a combination of solid permanent blessings, that embed themselves in our souls. Just like Moses when he came off the mountain and his face shone so brightly, that he had to use a veil so as not to scare the disobedient, our lives then become a reflection of the Holy Spirit working in us.

Calling them the “Fruit of the Spirit”,  the maturing authentic Christian exhibits the following attributes:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

DEBRIEFED: - THE HOLY SPIRIT'S ROLE IN BIBLE HISTORY

A whole lot of Christians are very confused by the knowledge, Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit. This serious misunderstanding stands from such an unconscionable lack of teaching on the Person and Role of the Holy Spirit that Christians populate both ends of an untenable see-saw, in big majorities.

One on end, we have those who completely ignore the Holy Spirit and therefore, go about their church and personal spiritual lives in slow-motion with almost no fruit to show for their self-proclaimed love for the Lord. On the other end, we have a charismatic fringe who misuse the Name of the Holy Ghost (using King James language) to such an extremist degree, that it comes close to blasphemy. 

We will not discuss those things here. What we should do, is live in the Biblical middle of Scripture and prayer, in order to comprehend just Who this Third member of the Holy Trinity, really is.  Here are some major past critically outstanding events which the Holy Spirit of Christ was actively involved in – DIRECTLY from the pages of the Word of God:

THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS INVOLVED IN CREATION:
Genesis 1:2  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters".

THE HOLY SPIRIT WROTE ABOUT THE BEGINNINGS OF MANKIND THROUGH MOSES:
2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness".
There is no way Moses could have known in the natural how God created the Heavens and earth in six days, almost 6000 years ago. Moses could not have known of the Promise God made to Abraham or Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) or all the details of the Exodus. Moses could not have written down the intricate details of the Tabernacle of God (the moving Temple in the desert) which is an exact replica of the one in Heaven.  The Spirit of God filled in all the details from Creation to the Flood and the Post-Babylonian exiled – to the Gospel Writers and the Apostle Paul.

THE HOLY SPIRIT INSPIRED AND BREATHED THE PSALMS INTO KING DAVID
When King David repented from his vile sins of adultery, murder and more by having an affair with Bathsheba and having her husband killed, he repented. He prayer of Repentance – Psalm 51 – is the standard for all sinners of all times who wish to make thing right with God. David confirms that he is one of the extremely few in the Old Testament, to whom God gave His Holy Spirit. David prays to God in Psalm 51:11b “Do not cast me from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me”. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee that we are saved and Jesus is our own personal Savior.

THE HOLY SPIRIT PLACED JESUS IN MARY’S WOMB
Luke 1:35 "The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God".
Everything created on the Earth came from an act of God. From the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the unformed earth in Genesis 1:2 to the fish in the sea, the birds of the air…and the baby in the womb. The most famous Baby ever conceived was the Lord Jesus Christ. His appearance on the earth was to a pure innocent young lady named Mary. Mary, a woman chosen by God, experienced a supernatural conception so that no sinful mortal man was involved. Jesus Christ remained sinless, pure and the One True God for the brief 33 years He lived as God Who became man.

THE HOLY SPIRIT DESCENDED ON JESUS THE GODMAN AT HIS BAPTISM
Matthew 3:16-17 "16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
God did not have to show this living and outward appearance of His Spirit visibly descending from Heaven to land on the broad Shoulders of King Jesus, at His baptism by John the Immerser (Baptist). Jesus did not even need to be baptized as He told John (click here). The first ever visible appearance of the Spirit was for the Father to confirm, once and for all, that His Only One of a Kind Son (only begotten) was indeed the Anointed One, the Prophesied One and the Promised Savior.

THE HOLY SPIRIT RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD
Romans 8:11 "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you".
The great song by Contemporary Christian singer Jeremy Camp says it all in his extremely powerful song. As good as this song is, those words actually came from the Truth of the Word of God. The enormity of this is too incredible for words. Let this sink in....really sink in. Let it be permanently engraved in your mind, heart and soul that the same Holy Spirit Who is alive in you and I who trust and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, was in that Tomb, on the Third Day after the Crucifixion. He rose Jesus from His one time mortal human body, back into the Life Giving Spirit that He always was. Is there anything better than this? A million times- NO!

THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME TO LIVE IN THE FIRST BELIEVERS AND ALL SINCE
John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you".
Jesus told His disciples that it is better that He goes away, so that the Helper would come. This Helper is our guaranteed Advocate before all else. The word used in the bible is "parakletos" which means One Who stands up in the Courts of Heaven among other meanings in the Bible! Wow! Other meanings of this word are well-known. Advocate, Helper, Paraclete and others complete the definition of this word.  On Pentecost day, the second visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit was seen in the Upper Room, where the disciples were sitting around praying and listening. This event circles this most significant period in the life of a church, and the true believer. This one time event, marked the next and final phase in life - all from the pages of the Bible.
Acts 2:2-4a "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit".

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

PERSPECTIVE: BE A RIVER OF LIFE

Most people’s point of reference begins from the day they were born and then become aware of their immediate surroundings.  For the majority of mankind, who are not even aware of historical events and key milestones, all that matters is the here and now. Sadly very few even consider their future, on earth and beyond.

So is it with matters of the soul.  One thing the world’s systems have succeeded in is not just removing the Bible and moral teaching from daily life, but they have removed critical thinking from the last three generations of young people, and counting.  However it is more than the inability to think of anything at all, it is the corruption which culture and poor-on-purpose education has wrought on entire people groups, over the last 55 plus years.

Those who are wise, already know that the leaders of entertainment hate the one true God, substitute Him with ungodly idolatry and have slowly boiled the frog to convince the majority of youth to believe either in nothing or a combination of nothing. This combined with a horrible liberal education system, which indoctrinates rather than educates or grows minds to fruitful, happy thinkers, has given us an increasing number of people called "nones". Nones are the fastest growing demographic in America, in that, they represent a rapid growth of people who believe in absolutely nothing at all. Faith brings hope. Lack of hope therefore, results in the opposite.

If you are looking for the root cause of the rampant hopelessness among the majority of the population under the age of fifty, these are the main ingredients: culture and indoctrination rather than STEM education (STEM being: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). But church leaders are not guiltless in any of this. Almost every western church – from Europe to North America and Australia – has failed the Great Commission. The first part of this Final Instruction from the Risen Lord as He ascended back to Heaven was “Go make Disciples”. (A disciple is defined as a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher).

There is no shortage of study, facts and evidence of what has gone wrong.  One thing is apparent, however, and it is that the vast majority of the lost (the wider population) and even weak professing Christians, do not know God, His Word or His Ways.

It is so wonderful to watch the eyes of a baby, toddler or child under the age of 10, who discovers the wonders of Creation all around them. Whether it is a caterpillar changing to a butterfly; or a loving pet snuggling up to a four year old playing with building blocks; or an 11 year old catching his first fish at the lake, Life is new exciting, and full of so much potential. It truly is beautiful thing. Here is where Life begins and all the child and young person can see, is what they have right before them.

It is incumbent upon those of us who are charged with shepharding the young, and those who will come after us,  to pass on the Knowledge of the Ages, which we were taught growing up.  God expects parents and those of us who know better, to share the Truth about Him- Truthfully. This includes the Truth about the meaning, purpose and ways of God, as much as we are capable.

The Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri
One thing which a child could notice, who has been properly educated at both home, school and/or home-school are the wonders of rivers. Ecclesiastes 1:7  tells us that “all the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, they flow again”. This is a perfect observation. For example, when the snow melts at the top of the Mississippi River in the great winter wonderland of northern Minnesota, and flows into the 1.7 square mile Lake Itasca, most people never connect it to being the very start of the Great and Fabled Mississippi River.

This River then picks up steam, width, depth and more and gets bigger as it
The Biblical Rivers Tigris & Euphrates still exist
begins its 2320 mile journey down to the Gulf of Mexico. Then, all that water, pours into the Gulf. Yet, it never overflows. It is the same with every other river, worldwide. The Tigris and Euphrates are the two Rivers from Creation and the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2:10-14). They bob and weave, even now, all over the land of the Bible, growing in massive water volume, yet when they empty into the Persian Gulf as one – the Euphrates – that Gulf never overflows. 


Or how about the winds? Where do they originate and to where are they going? Even the best meteorologists are unable to answer these questions.  These items plus the futility of trying to change things we have absolutely no control over. This includes so-called “climate change”, which is a prideful heresy, against the Power and Control of the Lord.

The complete and unquestionable Sovereignty of God remains in place, in this timeless, seamless story where only the personnel changes. Human beings during the time of King Solomon, who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes over 2900 years ago, are the same as those being born in 2018.  Environment conditions and circumstances are obviously different, but the Plans and Ways of the Lord remain constant.

What was always will be. The entire book of Ecclesiastes describes the human condition from birth to death and all the turns, times and turbulence of life. However one thing remains true, and it is that God sees all. He will bring all to justice one day. Each generation will stand in the bright lights with our peers of our generation to account for our time here on earth.

While there is still time, we should be diligent to be aware of our Creator and His Law planted in the hearts of all who have ever lived.  The time to learn from History is now. The time to observe His ways in His creation is now. The time for our redemption is also now. Do not waver, hesitate or procrastinate. Tomorrow is never promised. In the meantime, roll on like the Mighty Mississippi and let your life be a testimony flowing into the Gulf of humanity, in all our immediate communities. Finally, may our lives be a River, through which the very life of Jesus Christ flows through us, to bless and improve the lives of others in our own families and communities.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

FAVOR BESTOWED THROUGH PRAYER

There is a very intriguing phrase which underscores a fantastic Bible verse, which is more than just poetic in meter and rhyme. Somehow, these words were just so outstanding, beautiful AND meaningful : “….favor bestowed on us, through the prayers of many”.

In the fullness of the text, the verse flowing from 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 reads like this: ….He on Whom we have set our Hope and yet He will deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many”.

Two key words pop out and up here which should, well, give us encouragement. The words “Hope and “Favor”. These two nouns carry huge significance as they are both predicated on two fantastic verbs: “deliver” and “bestow”.

The official Oxford English dictionary describes Hope as a matter of ‘trust“.  The hope which comes from the Word of God though is more than just a feeling.  The second part of this Oxford dictionary definition gives us a clue which runs right into confirmation from Hebrews 11:1. Here we learn with Faith is, and what is not. First, it is NOT a pipe dream, such as “I hope my team wins the World Series”….or “I hope I get this promotion at work next month”. Hebrews 11:1 explains that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen”.

There is a catch. Faith is EVIDENCE….but only to the person who is rescued from eternal punishment, by faith in Jesus Christ.  This fleshes out the portion of 2 Corinthians 1:10 which says “we have set our Hope, yet He will deliver us”. The English Language does not do this portion of the Bible accurate justice. In essence what the Lord said through Paul is the following:  Jesus delivered us from the extreme penalty of, well, hell and we have the complete confirmation that He will, on that Judgment Day itself, we will see and experience that Divine Deliverance – from Jesus Himself.

This is the main event. Unless we have that hope which is built on nothing else, but Jesus’ Blood and righteousness, First comes the boarding ticket to that flight that is leaving soon, next comes the wonderful first class seat He has for us. God’s Favor is actually a “gift”. While this gift will enrich our lives and grow us in spiritual maturity, it is a gift which is actually meant to benefit others, individually and in the wider church – the Body of Christ!

The very fact God has “bestowed favor” by giving of the Gifts of the Spirit – is an honor which should humble us, instead of making us full of human pride. At the same time, it should then inspire us to encourage, bless and lead others to a stronger relationship with Christ.

The verses in this portion of Chapter 2 point us to the common denominator – Prayer. Twice in these two verses, the Apostle Paul, writes down the words “your prayers". In Verse 10, he says, in part “…..joining in helping us THROUGH YOUR PRAYERS” and then in the very next verse (11), he emphasizes that favor was “bestowed on us by the PRAYERS OF MANY”.

Here are some noteworthy applicable items, we should glean from this incredible statement by the Apostle Paul:
  • Every perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights, Who is Almighty God. However, every gift is not given to enrich or make us fat and happy. Every gift is for sharing the Love of God with those around us, and for the furthering of the Kingdom of God
  • Salvation is a free gift. We are to pray for the deliverance of others to be rescued from the fires of hell, as much as we can, while there is still breath in our bodies. Most people got saved because someone was praying FOR them, before they themselves prayed for forgiveness and accepting Jesus as Lord.
  • Nothing moves without Prayer. Prayer is both the oil and the gasoline, in the internal combustion super-turbo engine called Christianity. Our Lord welcomes and even expects the prayers of His saints, because this is the only way that we, as humans, can communicate with our Father. Prayer, in the service of the ministry, for such a one who was as dynamic, powerful, bold and thoughtful as the Lord, as the Apostle Paul, is sure to bring more and more grace and favor upon him and his team. This works for your local pastor as well. Or how about your fellow church member who has a real burden for the local homeless mission or for collecting and sending used bibles to Love Packages, so that the latter can forward them to folks who currently have one bible per village or none. Pray for them. Pray for God’s favor on them. I have seen prayer and the Grace of God build some ministries like Love Packages, a local orphan ministry which went worldwide within 10 years and a local crisis pregnancy center, which was so broke for the first few years, they could hardly afford for their director to make a minimum wage. Now they have mobile unit, a paid-off center and more, in order to reach young women and men in crisis. These are all local examples of how the favor of God, can be bestowed....by the prayers of many.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

GODLY DIRECTIVES - COMFORT AND JOY

We are a people under duress these days, in some degree or fashion. It is just the nature of life. Some are in more distress and some even feel as if they are adrift in the ocean, surrounded by sharks. Some just barely have their eyes above water and others walk around in a daze. Some are doing the bare minimum to survive, but are not sure why they do, what they do.

I have encountered two varying degrees of this hopelessness in just the period of thirty minutes while visiting a college campus.  One particular young man, who looked like a freshman, was very unsure of himself, obviously troubled with no father-figure. I wish I could have spent more time speaking hope and encouragement to him.  I was able to give him a copy of the bible and show him how to read the Psalms for comfort and encouragement. Then, a beautiful coed asked if I could pray for her as she sadly swilled down gut-churning Red Bull to stay awake in class. Both young people needed comfort and hope which only God can supply.

The Lord Himself told us in His Word that He is always there available for us. Look at how many times the word “COMFORT” is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7 (NASB).  Nine (9) times in four (4) verses, comfort is mentioned. The true Biblical meaning of comfort here is even more incredible. The original word, used by the Holy Spirit (the true Author of Scripture) for COMFORT here…is from the root word of….THE HOLY SPIRIT! Each of the nine times comfort is used, the root of the original – PARAKLETOS (Holy Spirit) – is evidenced.

The Holy Spirit IS God. He is the third member of the Trinity or Triune God. He lives ONLY in truly born-again.  One of the titles, or stated divine attributes of the Holy Spirit is Advocate.  He is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ and takes our prayers up the the Throne. 
2 Corinthians 1:4-7
4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 
6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

He (Holy Spirit) is the Counselor and guides us into the path of all Truth, as found in the Bible. If it is not in the Bible, it ain’t Truth.  Being the Counselor, He also interprets the Oracles of God, found in the Word of God, so that the people of God (us) can comprehend the Power, Majesties and Mercies of God. The Holy Spirit is also the Comforter. He is the Only One Who can bring comfort, peace, joy and the mercies of the Father to His people (us).  This is the comfort of which our Bible passage is speaks.

Therefore, because of these verses, we note the following:
  • There is comfort in our afflictions (physical and mental pain), even if it appears to be the opposite at times. The Lord is still moving in His many ways.
  • We can comfort others because God has dealt mercifully with us. Then, we can go even beyond what was given us, as the Grace has been multiplied to, so will be empowered to shower love, compassion and more on the lost and hurting.
  • The comfort we share freely only has power because of the Sufferings and Price Jesus Christ paid with His life on the Cross, where we lay our burdens down and accepted Him as Lord, to begin with. The Main Comforter – the Holy Spirit – has authorized us to be the Hands and Feet of Christ, by His mere presence in our lives
  • Now, comfort may even sound generic, unless we grasp the full measure of the Love of God through the Spirit’s intervention in our lives, to effect this truth. “Comfort” is not sitting on a luxurious couch from Ashley Furniture, watching a 75 inch TV with a pizza. It is a literal Heavenly salve to soothe our souls. It is even physical in its manifestation. This Heavenly Comfort spoken of in 2 Corinthians 1:6 is what we need to persevere in times of sickness, trouble, financial difficulty, relationship problems and more….even religious persecution.

What the Lord is actually teaching us here is that He has already made provision for us to make it through, basically, Life.  The Christian is the only one equipped to persevere, if he or she reads and comprehends the Word of God and His Ways. The reason is we have the Same Power within us Who raised Jesus from the dead, on the Third Day after He was crucified.  This fact carries great weight because, when activated properly, the strong believer in Christ is perfectly positioned to both receive mercy; strength; consolation; refreshing; encouragement and good cheer. All of these are wrapped up in the Biblical meaning of Godly comfort.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

THE 100 YEAR PRAYER MEETING (August 1727-1827) REVISITED

America and western civilization were both founded on Christian principles. This is undisputed no matter what the history revisionists and secular humanists say.  One of these principles has always been prayer.  

Prayer has been with us from Creation and will carry us through the end. (My book on the Prayers of the Bible – ACTIVATE – looks in fast moving detail, into the Origins of Prayer.) It was Prayer, in the 100 Year Prayer Meeting, in particular, which basically spurred the still-vibrant prayer movement, still alive and well in the United States. While church leaders and others can cite good data to dispute that Christians even pray at all, this does not negate the fact that more and more organized prayer movements are now being revealed everywhere across the fruited plain.

It was on August 27, 1727 in the community led by Count Zinzendorf, the once wealthy  launched a prayer meeting. They made a covenant on that day, with twenty-four men and twenty-four women committing to spend one hour each day in scheduled prayer. This happened in Hernnhut, Germany and not only lasted 100 years, but heavily influenced the spiritual direction of America. The Moravians, who were the backbones of the 100 Year Prayer meeting, operated on the Principle of what Pastor, Author and Ministry Leader Chip Ingram calls B.I.O

B.I.O. is not short for biography, but is an acronym for the following:
B  (Before God, as in coming before God is prayer and gratitude each morning  of a new day)
I (In community, as being an on-fire for God “carrier” of God’s truth and love so as to impact lives)
O (On mission…as in always being ready to tell someone else about the Hope of Christ that is in us).

Having this concept in mind, simple as it is, should then inspire us to prayer, as much as possible as close to the Moravians and their 100 Year Prayer meeting. Just as ALL Scripture has been written for our instruction and direction in daily life, the proven impact of 100  years of prayer is out there for the world to see. The Moravians spent 100 years BEFORE God, in submission and prayer and lives were changed. 

They not only managed to send over 300 missionaries to all points of the known world of the early 1700’s but the most famous of them – Leonard Duber and David Nitschmann actually went to the West Indies from Saxony (Germany) and sold themselves into slavery on the Islands, in order to minister to the slaves there, live among them and serve with gladness. Only a heart transformed by Christ would so such a thing.

Just as significant is the influence of the Moravians on the spread of the Gospel and Revival in America. In 1736, John Wesley, then a Church of England minister, was heading towards and soon to be revealed ill-fated mission to Georgian when the ship hit rough waters. The storm was so strong, that the British passengers were screaming for fear of dying. Then, all of a sudden, John Wesley noticed another group of missionaries on the other side of the ship who seemed oblivious to the danger therein! These people were singing hymns of praise and in fervent prayer. They were Moravians.

This scene unnerved John Wesley, who was troubled for over two years when he had returned to Britain. He was troubled by the nagging feeling that things were not right between him and God, even if he was a high church official. After some friends convinced him to go to a Moravian Society meeting in London, Wesley ultimately said he was born-again on that day and the direction of Christianity changed in England, then later on in the United States. 

Wesley’s wonderful evangelism and habit of preaching in open fields, the countryside and unorthodox places outside of the formally sanctioned Church of England cathedrals laid the groundwork for the huge revival and tent meetings in America’s First Great Awakening. Wesley is also the founder of Methodism, which quickly became the largest Protestant movement in America until the 20th Century. The great Evangelist George Whitfield preached the Gospel up and down the US Colonies, aided by Benjamin Franklin and established Biblical Truth as the foundation of the United States.

All of this came out of the influence of prayer. The Moravians spent 100 years straight, 24/7/365 before God, in their community and literally gave their lives and freedom to help a community of the less fortunate who had no hope – slaves. Prayer led them to be ON MISSION.

This is one of the amazing legacies of this 100 Year Prayer Meeting. How about us? Are we this committed to the Cause of Christ to come before Him daily, seeking Him in all truth and surrender so that we can have Kingdom impact? We too, can be on mission from God. This is something worth praying about.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

FIVE WAYS TO SHARPEN OUR FAITH AX - GOD'S WAY

The decline in the percentage of people who call themselves Christians but never read the Bible is increasing at a more rapid pace than even ten years ago, as the number of Biblical illiterates grows by leaps and bounds. As the quantity of the spiritual unwise, unredeemed and face it – spiritually dead in their iniquity- climb, the wisdom of the wise is now being called foolishness, some even inside the assembly.

But what does mean for the Faithful? How does the Remnant respond when we are now in the shrinking minority of those who walk boldly in the Word, all day, each day? This illustration from the hills of Tennessee should give us some sort of direction.

There was once a wood-chopping contest in the Smoky Mountains, similar to the rail-splitting competitions in Central Illinois town of Lincoln, Illinois.  President Abraham Lincoln was the rugged outdoorsman who split huge blocks of wooden rails with his ax, long before he became the great 16th President of the United States. Back to this wood-chopping contest in the Smokies: two men decided to compete against each other in this contest.

One man chopped wood all day long. The other man chopped, then took a break, then chopped some more. The first man who chopped without stopping began to get frustrated as he saw the other guy, apparently taking multiple breaks yet his pile of wood was getting bigger and bigger. Finally, at the end of the day, this frustrated man lost to the other gentleman who has taking many breaks and seemingly not working as hard. 


Exhausted and full of exasperation, he went to his winning competitor and asked him, how in the world he was able to cut so much more wood when he took so many breaks. The reply was "what you did not see was, that when I took all those breaks, I was sharpening my ax!"


This is so illustrative of what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 10:10 when Solomon writes " If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength, But wisdom brings success". The wisdom spoken of here can only be learned over a period of time. 


Jesus Himself illustrates the ultimate in sharpening your spiritual ax, while in the act of not becoming like the rest of Christianity or the secular world. In Luke 10, verses 38-42 we see Mary and Martha, who were Jesus' closest friends. Mary was seated at the Feet of Good News - Jesus - and soaking in every single word He said. Martha was busy preparing the meal and serving etc. Both were doing a great thing. Both were like the two men chopping wood, but only one will end up with more fruit and rewarding blessings. Here is what Jesus said to Martha after she asked of the Lord for Him to request her sister get off the floor and come to help her with the food prep. Apparently, Mary was ignoring her.

Luke 10:40b-42 "Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;  but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”"

Jesus Himself says that the necessary and important part of this life, is not WHAT we do and how busy we stay doing "good things", but where we place our identity and priority. Martha is given to us as one who knew where her real food came from - hearing Divine Revelation at the Feet of the Master, period.

So many times, we think we have to do this and that for God and then run, hither, thither and yon. We should do all of this only AFTER we have been in the Presence of Jesus, in the appropriate place with Jesus and listening to the Word of Jesus. In other words, contrary to popular thinking in both the lost world and cultural "Christianity" (which are strangely one and the same, it seems), it is all about Jesus!

Therefore, this is the message and the key to keeping our Faith ax sharp - Jesus. We must not just be "people of the Book (the Bible)" but have a mindset like the great ancient Father of the Faith- Athanasius. Athanasius went "Contra Mundum" - against the World and stood for the one true faith - Biblical Christianity when heresy was abounding all over the place.

These are some practical steps which have worked for many of us, who are completely in the Camp of the Messiah:
Be intentional about reading Scripture daily. After giving thanks for another day, read the Bible first before praying. It will focus mind, body, and soul on the Lord so our thoughts do not get sidetracked as soon as we get praying. Anyone who has prayed for many years knows what this means. The world, the flesh and the devil know how to interject a thought, off through the side door, while we are praising Yahweh and praying to His Holy Name. Even reading a short Psalm or five verses in context, will focus us on His Word, His Person, and His Power. This practice, day after day, builds our love not just for Jesus but the Bible! We can't put it down! We want it in our car, our desk at work, our locker at school, next to our bed, on the shelf.....everywhere!

- Be honest with yourself so you can be transparent with God. You and I cannot fool God. Why? His Spirit lives in the believer and He knows what we think, feel and do and when we are about to do something really stupid. We already know what lies to the Holy Spirit did to Ananias and Sapphira when the Church was first formed in the Book of Acts.

- Become friends with the Holy Spirit.  Being full of biblical knowledge and how to apply it will be ineffective if not backed up by a full measure of integrity. When in doubt about ANYTHING, ask the Holy Spirit. He is sent by the Father for a reason - to be our counselor and guide. You would be amazed if this specific discipline is developed. As you grow in complete dependence on speaking to the Holy Spirit, a spirit of divine discernment and revelation will grow in us. We even start seeing with the Eyes of Christ as we develop the Mind of Christ, through Reliance on His Spirit. There is no doubt this equation works.

- Be patient and wait on the Lord. The longer we walk with the Lord and see through His Eyes, because of our permanent Home in the Word and Spirit, we become more disciplined in patience. The more we comprehend that God's Timing is well, God's Timing and not ours, the less stressed out and tense we will be. This does not mean we do not have some measure of anxiety and even fear, but Faith and Hope always conquer fear....which is, as the song says, is a liar. Here is the reward of "waiting on the Lord", even when He appears to have gone silent for long periods of time. Remember - He is still God and has our best interest at heart. Isaiah 40:31 "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary".

- Be an Evangelist. In other words - tell somebody what Jesus has done for you. Any true Christian has a story. Our story is His story. It is our history with the Lord which, if done according to Biblical principles become our family legacy. Any true Christian has a testimony which must be developed into a lifestyle. We cannot become like cultural Christians who cut corners in business and/or morality. We cannot do things close to the edge of ungodliness and say "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission". This is misusing Grace, which the New Testament specifically warns against. Let us be known not just for our testimony of conversion and a life of Faith, but for a consistent daily life of honor, generosity, service, love, and gratitude. May we be the first line of defense and a refuge where a troubled family member, friend or co-worker would seek solace and prayer, because by our faith and lifestyle, they know we are the real deal. 

These five disciplines are easily accomplished. They can sharpen our Faith. They can cut through the noise. They can show the Love of God in Christ, to a lost and dying world.