February 24, 2013 at 3:57pm
Oakhills Church 2/24/13
Lately I have been thinking about intimacy. My questions have had to do with how to be a better husband and friend. Intimacy is about being closer to others in good and healthy ways.
I offer this reflection to this morning’s praise and worship team Oakhills Church, not because it is based on anything connected directly to music ministry, but because the need for intimacy in relationships is important to our lives at a deeper and even more fundamental level than what we do musically. I guess the only link I can make with music is the idea that if we are better people and more alive in general having the ability to make better relationships, then we will have more creativity and joy in music. Obviously this doesn’t address the “He or she done me wrong songs.” Those obviously come from another place entirely.
But going in the direction of intimacy has a price, so even though I think I want it, at the same time I know there is risk involved. In fact the intimacy I sometimes think I want is something I have likely not experienced with another human being since the time I was cradled in my mother’s arms and totally loved for just being who I was. And even then it wasn’t mutual intimacy. I did not have the capacity as a baby to love my parents the way they loved me.
I used to think that the deepest intimacy between two adults would be able to experience would be sexual in nature. I do still agree that this is very intimate, but upon further reflection, I have changed my mind. Not that sex can’t be very intimate, but still I think it is just a foretaste of an even deeper level of knowing and being known by someone else. When I told my wife my thoughts about this she stated that this isn’t what most women think the deepest level of intimacy involves. She thinks most women see intimacy as the pursuit of their hearts in good and safe ways by either girlfriends or lover/husbands. Either way, both men and women, in the pursuit of something they think is intimacy, can actually be behaving quite selfishly, and I’m fairly certain selfishness is the opposite of intimacy.
Then I remembered this verse in James.
James 5:16 New International Version
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 Amplified Bible
Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].
If I want intimacy, I have to be willing to confess my sins to the other person. In other words, I am willing to share the work I am engaged with God where he is impacting my life and changing me. My reputation is of no importance. What others think of me is no longer sitting in the middle of all my thoughts and directing my behavior. I am broken before the eyes of the other and yet alive, joyful, peaceful and powerful. Yes, it’s an odd place to be and really not possible in my own power.
But if only one is willing to go deep then this still is not descriptive of most profound intimacy two people can share. In fact this is the risk. One will open his or her heart and discover the other doesn’t reciprocate. And what is worse, the other may actually use our self-disclosure against us.
So intimacy can only be truly achieved when both people are safe. This means they are both individually mature emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. They desire intimacy, but they don’t need intimacy with another person to be truly alive, healthy and happy. Intimacy is a blessing from God, not a requirement for life. This is because the deepest intimacy should always be with God alone, and he is ultimately enough.
But here is what may happen when the other finds me safe. He or she may then become willing take their own journey with God, a journey into their deepest pains and longing, and in time will be willing to come out and share more openly about themselves.
So the first step to deepest intimacy seems to require me unilaterally opening my own heart without forcing open the hearts of anyone else. Intimacy with another human being is a fruit or blessing that comes from a deeper intimacy with God. The more intimate I am with God, the more intimate I can be with anyone else. When I have a source of comfort, truth and power flowing into me that is not connected to other humans I am able to receive a level of intimacy that will be available to put into my relationships with them. My security is no longer dependent on anyone else’s actions, which lowers my risk of harm (that I worried earlier) when I become more transparent before others. Because I understand the depth of God’s forgiveness of me I have a greater capacity to easily forgive others. I learn to not quickly take offense and because I am actively processing my own issues, failings, questions, disappointments with my Heavenly Father, I am safe with others. I learn not to cling, complain, nag, whine, and the rest that causes others to try and keep a safe and healthy distance from me.
In communion with God and reflecting on his goodness he teaches me about love and intimacy. I discover that intimacy involves complete honesty about myself before God. It means telling the truth to the others as best we know it about what I am struggling with. However, this has nothing to do with telling the truth as I best know it about anyone else – especially those I am closest to and know the best. If I ever want to shut down intimacy, that’s an excellent way to do it. I am to confess my sins not anyone else’s sins.
Intimacy requires a high level of trustworthiness. This doesn’t happen overnight because trust isn’t about what I say, but about what I do that is in line with what I say. It is a slow intentional walk. This means that intimacy doesn’t require an emotional event to pop me into a deeper level. I don’t suddenly just discover or come to feel that I are more intimate. This emotional burst may be an illusion, and pain may follow when I discover it just ain’t so.
There are no strings involved with intimacy, no ways to bargain to agreements. In other words I can’t force going to this level on someone else. We can only go as far into a deeper friendship as both of us are willing to go individually. This means that whoever wants intimacy the least will get what he or she wants. The one who wants intimacy the most, must accept this reality and can only pray that it may change in time. No pressure can be applied.
Following this self-disclosure part, it is important not to miss the next step in James 5:16.
The two pray together. They don’t discuss. They don’t try and fix the other, They don’t pile on. They don’t dismiss too lightly. They hold each other up before God and pray blessings on each other.
And, according to this verse, what does God do? He heals them. Sometimes physically, sometimes relationally, always ultimately – meaning their lives will be a blessing to others because they chose to walk in intimacy with their Heavenly Father and with each other. That’s what righteousness looks like.
Of course this has marital implications but it also opens up the opportunity for a level of intimacy with others that most marriages today don’t even enjoy. We need each other, even though at times it hurts, because this is what God wants for us and the way he has chosen to heal us and make us healthy and useful in his Kingdom.
Extra Thoughts to Ponder:
Those individuals I have known who are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually mature (note I didn’t say perfect or without problems of their own) tend to have more intimate relationships in general compared with the rest of humanity. This is an important thought to ponder, but a little off the point here.
Relationships are always unbalanced. It is impossible for two people to be at the same place at the same time. This might explain why we need each other. Sometimes someone is ahead of the other and sometimes behind. Sometimes no one is ahead or behind, but they are facing different ways and seeing different things. We need others to help us understand a bigger picture we cannot receive directly from God – by his design.
Wounds come in the best relationships. Sometimes the pain we feel is amplified beyond the triggering circumstance that brought the wound back up. Sometimes we are not aware of where this wound originated and what happened in the time between then and now. Did we try to protect ourselves by making vows that no one would ever hurt us like that again? Did we make agreements that we deserved the punishment because we are not good or loveable even to God? These agreements and vows move us away first and foremost from the intimacy we should feel with God. Whenever God feels distant or angry, understand that this is not the heart of God. We see the heart of God in his actions in Jesus while on earth and that he willingly went to a cross to separate us from our sins as well as our wounds. We need to remember that he said he came to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. (Luke 4:18)
Whenever we are stuck, it’s time to seek help. This may only be sharing a need and asking for prayer. We may need more help than this, but asking for prayer and direction is always a good first step because God can then lead us into anything and everything else we need to become what he made us to be in him.
Because I want greater intimacy, I want something God also wants for me. This is good.
Because I want something that is good for me and others does not make me a good person. It does not justify me trying to push people even in “good” directions. Only God is good.
I can choose good, I can stand for good, I can walk in good ways before God and I can pray for God to act to bring about good in others. What I cannot do is become Junior-Holy Spirit for others. This, in my mind, is one of the greatest relational errors in Christendom – people pushing others to “shape up” rather than praying, encouraging and living before them as good examples of what safe people look like.
February 10, 2013 at 9:04pm
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
paraphrased for musicians.
1 If I [sing] with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of [musical taste and selection], and know all [harmonic variations] and all [music theory]; and if I have all [the performance skills], so as to [move] mountains [of fans], but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I give all my [royalties and sell all my instruments] to feed the poor, and if I surrender my [celebrity status] to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Competition in the Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:31 (NASB)
But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way.
Competition is found in music.
Awards, first chairs and coveted solos help define pecking orders and ascribe how valuable many people are to themselves more than anything else. Whatever talent we discover or is affirmed in us by others we will work to develop because we all want to be good at something, to stand out and to make our parents proud, whether we are kids or adults with parents long gone.
If I was talking to beauty contestants, the outer beauty, along with something called “poise,” would consume us. We would place great weight on what judges would have to say about how our looks compared with others. Our beauty would define us and we would see that if we have what people want, doors would open.
Music is no different. It can open doors too.
If we were a sports team we would be fighting for first string and in professional sports the best contract and MVP status.
We are taught and to some level form agreements early in life with the idea that fulfillment and happiness are attached to our gifts. This is how we grow and define ourselves in the world. Sometimes compared with others we determine that we have little or nothing of value. When we form this agreement, the enemy of our souls remembers it with pleasure and will happily exploit it in us sometimes for the rest of our lives.
Now let’s talk about church.
To many musicians who grew up outside a church, and I count myself among them, playing for a church service can be simply another gig because we frame it in the only context we know. Show me where to stand, what you want me to do and I will conform, after all, performance is my job. Your doctrines are not my concern. I’m used to smiling when I don’t feel like it and understand the show must go on.
When musicians become Christians, miraculously, Jesus does for them what he does for everyone else. When given permission Jesus forms a bond with the new believer. This does not mean that instantaneously our thinking and behaviors change completely. The most obvious stuff may go quickly - our speech may get cleaner for example and we may become more honest in some dealings as God convicts us, but the deepest agreements, the elements that we have always believed to define us in even good ways are often left unchanged for years, and possibly our whole lives, because we refuse to let them go. When we have won in a particular arena of life we tend to defend its importance. We attribute the development of our talents to being under driven people and defend and justify the way it was done to us as the way it aught to be done. We didn’t know or really take the following pretty familiar verse to heart.
Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.
If this is true, then the source of power has changed for the believer. I now play through Christ. I now sing through Christ. He supplies my strength. I acknowledge for the first time the true giver of my gifts. It wasn’t in me because I was clever or deserved it. God gave it to me just as he gave me life in the first place.
As members of the body of Christ we enter into a new manner of performance, one where competition is replaced by cooperation; where our abilities are no longer our identities and where we are able to rejoice in the talents and abilities of others, even when they appear for a moment to eclipse our own. We can only do this because we now know our redeemer personally and trust he always has our very best in mind. He knows exactly what he is doing, even in our weaknesses, illnesses and disappointments. Singing, playing and leading worship in such a choir or band changes from performance to witness. Community is formed based on, as this morning’s verse said, “a still more excellent way.”
The quality of music in a God -fearing and honoring team, as we are witnesses to here at Oakhills, not only improves with time but also internal conflicts are managed in love and do not poison the group. When we come to God for healing it then enables us to enjoy his gifts here on earth for a long long time AND we can, with open and peaceful hearts, enjoy the gifts of others and love them without envy or jealousy. This is part of that more excellent way.
2/3/13 Oakhills Church, Crownridge Campus
Prayer, Praise, and Invisible Connections
Presented to the Praise and Worship Team at Crownridge Campus of Oakhills Church.
1 Corinthians 12:26
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Note the verse says with “it,” not “him” or “her.” We are still in the analogy of the body made of members.
Example: If the heart suffers the rest of the body is in trouble as well.
This gets to John Donne’s poem where he says “No man is an island… Therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Part of life in Jesus is to begin to care more about others than we do ourselves. When they suffer it is not just their problem it is ours as well.
Personally of late I have come to understand how disease is fundamentally an attack against God through his creation.
Some have exploited this fact and put God to the test by healing services before the world where the primary motivation is not restoring suffering people but exploiting the sick or debilitated for personal gain. Because this is such a blatant hypocrisy it turns off, not only nonbelievers, but believers as well. Because we legitimately do not want to be lumped with charlatans and exploiters we inadvertently reject the truth that true healing always comes through prayer.
When prayer is activated and the body begins to lift a member up, much more happens than just the restoration of health to a single individual. The faith of many grows toward God and because healing may not come instantly there comes a season where persistent prayer is needed and exercised. This focus reveals in those who engage in it a series of transformative revelations that convict of sin and strengthen walks within the members. In addition, collateral fruit begins to bud around the faithful and others come into healing as a side blessing with the greatest of all healing being salvation.
So prayer is not to be a last resort in medicine but first applied. We have lost this because we as a society have trusted too much on pills and procedures. This is not to discount their use but don’t you think before you as a physician prescribe something or as a patient take something we should all first humble ourselves before Almighty God and ask for guidance and healing?
Now to the second part of the verse - rejoicing with the member that is honored.
Selfishness is a disease of the soul that blocks the transmission of blessing through the body. This results in isolation of the member. Parts of the body cut off from others whither and die. Rejoicing and praising God for the work and blessings he performs through his body that seem disconnected from us are actually very connected.
Rejoicing when others are honored creates a shield of praise that preserves the sweetness of the blessing. Jealousy and backbiting do just the opposite. They rob joy and can make moments of achievement feel instead like cursing and humiliation. When someone is complemented and we remain “neutral” not wanting them to get a big head, we are working for the enemy. Praising and rejoicing God acknowledging another’s gifts is an important activity within the body. Churches that believe they best serve God by diminishing or ignoring the sacrifices and efforts of brothers and sisters in Christ actually are not fulfilling Jesus’ great commandment to love one another.
I wrote to this point yesterday and then sent it off to some of my prayer partners. I did it to hopefully bless them, but also so they could reflect, pray and give me feedback. This resulted in a dialogue which caused me to write the rest of this devotion.
First they wanted to know how I had come to my thoughts. Here was my answer.
My earlier writing came from reflecting on the Scripture verse and thinking about how I have not understood the centrality of prayer to healing.
It helps heal us as we celebrate and love others which is opposite what the world teaches. The world teaches us to seek credit and glory from others and take the praise into ourselves. Here’s the problem. When we seek glory, which is an attribute of God, not man, it damages us. It warps our minds and we begin to live more in illusion than reality. This affects the way we make decisions and treat ourselves, God and others. When we appreciate the gifts of others, we can and should outwardly applaud, congratulate and thank them for blessing us as instruments in God’s hands, but always in so doing, we are actually glorifying our Father in Heaven.
Jesus said this in his Sermon on the Mount.
16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
As musicians it is important to attribute God for the gifts and talents we have been given, not to mention the opportunities to use them. It is not necessary that words are said. It’s the way we shine our lights. It’s our focus and heart in the performance, which should lead back to the times of preparation and practice. Let us always be sure to dedicate our music and performance back to God every time we pick up an instrument or step up to a microphone. It is also important that we understand that our relationship with other musicians is critical to our spiritual health as well as the spiritual health of the team and church. We need to be careful not to hurt others by words coming out of the same mouth that gives God praise.
Remember what James said about the tongue.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
So, now. Share if any of this is new for you and how it might change the way you contribute to the Praise and Worship Ministry in your church.
December 23, 2012 at 11:09pm
Christmas is the Gift
The deepest reason we give gifts is because we are made in God’s image.
You see, our God is a gift giver. If we understand this about our Heavenly Father’s nature, then the fact that salvation is a free gift makes a lot more sense.
The most memorable and lasting gift God ever gave us came wrapped in rags.
He did it this way to make sure we got His point that this gift is not intended exclusively for just a few special ones.
Notice how Papa God didn’t give this gift in secret. First, he placed baby Jesus in a manger - so exposed and available that poor shepherds could simply walk down from the nearby hills to take a look. And their invitation came by angels who opened a portal between heaven and earth in the dark of night exposing myriads of the heavenly host bathed in glorious light, loudly singing their joyful declaration,”To you a child is born.”
Most people however stayed indoors. It seemed the wiser and safer thing to do.
But the shepherds weren’t the only visitors. Wise men from other countries also came following a new star that suddenly appeared for this special occasion.
Think of the logistics involved in that one.
And, what did the wise men bring? Gifts of course. As I said, we are made in God’s image. It feels natural to give gifts.
In contrast to the wise men, however, there were a privileged few who saw God’s gift as a hostile threat. They didn’t want a gift. They wanted to simply keep, and if possible grow, what they had - which to them seemed like power, wealth and control, but were actually from heaven’s perspective just filthy rags.
So what over this last two millennia has changed? Of what I have described here, really nothing.
Isn’t it interesting that the gift wrapped in rags still comes every year, still waiting in a manger, available to be opened? And aren’t there among us those represented by shepherds, wise men, arrogant kings and the sleeping masses?
And isn’t it interesting that accepting God’s gift is no more complicated than opening a present on Christmas Day?
And as cool as all this is, what is even more remarkable is what happens to anyone who accepts God’s gift - they become gifts wrapped in rags themselves, on the outside appearing no differently than what they have always seemed - same faces, flaws, circumstances and apparent limitations.
But behind all this something is different. It might be just a glimmer in the eyes at first but those of us who have experienced it before them know exactly what it is.
On this day in the city of San Antonio a child is born and you will find him wrapped in rags lying in the manger of a new child’s heart.
For right now in the life of the new believer the baby is in the stable right next to the the animals - a gaggle of fears, a herd of complaints.
In time the baby will grow, and when He does we will see the Child of God’s outward rags change into robes of righteousness.
The Counter-cultural Nature of God
Choir Communion at Crownridge, Oakhills Church 12/9/2012
When God came to this world to live in a body, he chose to come and live in obscurity and at a time of incredible inconvenience within a war torn nation under the rule of a foreign occupier. If he had wanted to be known in conventional ways, this was not the best move. Yet the plan of God is not haphazard. God always has a purpose, always has a point.
Going further in the plan of God, Jesus selected people who did not fit the world’s criteria for successful followers or eventually leaders in the organization he was creating. Their resumes, for the most part, were disasters, and those who might have been hired showing any promise at all had huge character flaws.
Finally his message was unattractive – calling people to deny themselves, take up crosses of shame and death in order to be worthy of following him. And it wasn’t that he didn’t lead by example, this he certainly did, being crucified a criminal on a Roman cross.
This message is still going strong, but it is still terribly misunderstood even by those who think they will join his cause. It counters most of what we hear every day, all day long, our entire lives and for this reason, it often becomes background noise – a few idealistic thoughts, things we ought to live by but know we never can, never will. Perhaps, if he turns out to be right, for you see each one of us has our doubts at times – and that’s why he tells us we must live by faith – it will all be made right in the next life.
Which brings me to this observation. For the believer in Christ, there is no next life. Those who have accepted Jesus as their savior have been born again into the next life already. It’s just that the noise of this world so often drowns the truth of this critical fact out. And therefore, what we have been taught to think about life and death, even within many Christian circles, are wrong.
There is a death that appears to be life and there is a life that appears to be death. We think at times we are living life when we are living death and at other times when we think are walking into death, when the door opens and we see clearly, it is actually life for us instead. That’s why so many say, “I would have never asked for (fill in the blank on some horrible event) but it turned out to be such a blessing.”
We run after death thinking it is life when we do not have eyes to see or ears to hear. We seek for life in accumulation of pleasures and the worship of idols, most of which, we know from the outset, are false gods.
We run after life only by first dying to the temptation to control our own lives. As Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25) This is a battle that still rages within each of us. The flesh and the devil still pester even the greatest saints among us. We don’t see or understand this at first, because at first we do not have eyes to see and ears to hear. In time, after conversion, these senses tend to clear.
When we give our lives as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, he then inhabits, takes over and leads. From then on every time we try to re-assert control of our lives – he let’s us to a point, but we discover each time that our first-love joy vanishes. What we thought we would become or what – apart from God – would complete us, makes us more empty and miserable, until we give up once again and let go. This is the slow growth cycle. There are faster ways to grow, and they are all found under the heading of obedience.
All of us have gone astray and often continue to do so, each time promising that this is the last time we will ever do anything that stupid again, only to find ourselves sucked back in.
We wander away like lost sheep.
We are lost, discarded and wounded like missing coins.
And in fits of selfishness we rebel, either taking our inheritance and squandering it in a far country, or staying right where we are to decompose, decay, and stink in our resentments, bitterness and jealousies, blaming our loving heavenly father for doing for others, who to us seem much less deserving, things he never seems to do for us. Somehow all that we have sacrificed in his name is not good enough and so we are stuck live miserable martyr lives, secretly thinking that those who don’t know God have it much better.
Oh wretched people that we are, who can save us and redeem us even when we continually screw up – missing the mark by a mile or by a hair?
I have been a Christian one year shy of forty and my journey with God seems to always have had these two components to it.
He has never left me nor forsaken me. This has not meant the journey has been easy or that I have always felt him close. But there is a bedrock foundation that has supported me in the midst of terrible storms. He always welcomes me home, no matter what. He always forgives me when I ask.
My life was rebuilt on Jesus as my foundation when I accepted him as my Lord and Savior – even though, compared with what I know now, I didn’t have much of a clue. It didn’t matter to God because he was the one who entered into a unilateral covenant with me, once I gave him permission to do so, to never leave or forsake me. Having said this, my building materials have been of different qualities and I did not always select the best – reason being, I think looking back, because I didn’t always ask what would be best and then follow his still small voice. So I can attest to some real crash and burns – but as unfortunate as they were, they were not unusable to God, it’s just that I’m sure he would have preferred to save me from so much self-inflicted pain.
What has held the test of time has been those truths I have learned that are consistent with God’s word.
My spiritual growth has come from God through many avenues.
161 Princes persecute me without cause,But my heart stands in awe of Your words.
162 I rejoice at Your word,As one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and despise falsehood,But I love Your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise You,Because of Your righteous ordinances.
165 Those who love Your law have great peace,And nothing causes them to stumble.
166 I hope for Your salvation, O Lord,And do Your commandments.
167 My soul keeps Your testimonies,And I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,For all my ways are before You.
2. Others – living and dead, teachers, role models, those who need me, those I don’t know, and angels. No one is excluded in being an avenue for God to communicate with me. He is behind the scenes working it all together for my good.
3. The Holy Spirit. God talks and he says his sheep hear his voice. He works through all of us and is behind numbers 1 and 2.
Finally some thoughts about where our stories are heading:
When we say that the Bible is a finished document and should not be added to by men it is a true statement. However as the story of this world and our lives unfold God continues to add to his story, not for now but for later; not in this life but the next. That story will explain in more detail in ways we will not need prophets and theologians how wonderful this God who created us and redeemed us truly is. As we come to see more and more through the reviewing and retelling of this story, we will worship because joyful worship is the natural response when we understand how much we have been given we did not deserve.
And this won’t be a story of hearsay. When it comes our time, each of us will step up and give an account. But not to worry, we will have total recall. Through this process Jesus will dry every eye and the universe of untold numbers of heavenly hosts will celebrate our incredible adventure and encounter with what no longer inhabits the universe - sin.
As we read the Bible now and encounter mysterious passages and the names of people and places we have little knowledge of in this present time it is helpful to remember that there will come a time when we will be amazed even at these sections. God is not boring, and if reading the Bible is, while breathing the air of this broken world, keep in mind that it was meant for more than simply us today. It will all fall into place later. This should also keep us from attempting to speculate when something may or may not be fulfilled. God has not given men the ability just yet to understand it all. We will never remotely know what God does or be able to do what he does. Even now he works through us to do his will. But we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and what we eventually do become is beyond our wildest dreams.
November 24, 2012 at 3:09pm
To OakHills Crownridge Praise and Worship Team - 11/18/12
1 Corinthians 12:10b
and to another the distinguishing of spirits…
The spiritual world is real and most Christians acknowledge this theoretically. We draw lines however when it comes to demons, demon possession, or the idea that we are part spirit ourselves. Without this understanding we do what Thomas Jefferson did by cutting out or ignoring those aspects of the Bible that involve these subjects. Instead we focus on simply being “inspired” (an ironic word to describe this activity) to go out and do a better job in our own power.
When it comes to spirits there are three sources
You have a spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
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.
Note we have a spirit. This is not modern man’s position in western culture since the Age of Enlightenment. Might the reason we struggle with understanding the triune nature of God be do at least in part because we don’t understand our own triune nature?
Do you understand just how diabolical this is? This is an example of a lie of omission. It is accomplished, not by telling a lie but by neglecting the truth - so much so that there are schisms within Christendom over the nature and work of the Holy Spirit and the life and nature of our own spirits.
What about our spirits and new birth?
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. ’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Our spirit is what comes alive at conversion.
There is a spirit of evil
This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
And there is the Spirit of God
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.
All I have accomplished here and the purpose of this piece is to identify the spirits which I think we have accomplished. Now for a moment let’s turn the corner and ask how we can distinguish one from another. How can we know a spirit is from God, the devil or man?
Quite simply we will know them by their fruits. Also as this chapter teaches the Holy Spirit gives people discerning spiritual gifts along with wisdom. But how can we understand the spirit that is within us? Read this great passage in Ezekiel to gain a perspective.
And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord God.
And here is a passage from the New Testament.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “ Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Finally let me leave you with an example of someone I believe had the gift of discerning spirits. He first appears in Acts 4.
Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement),
One of his greatest acts for the development of the early church comes in Acts 9.
When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
The early church needed Barnabas for them to accept Paul. Today’s church needs people still with this very important gift because very often the majority opinion is wrong.
November 13, 2012 at 6:53am
Miracles and Prophecy Today
OakHills Church 11/11/12
1 Corinthians 12:10a
and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy
The Effecting of Miracles
Miracles do not happen without prayer. That’s a discussion in itself. For this morning just remember “You have not because you ask not.” James 4:2
The purpose of a miracle is more than the miracle itself. It is also to demonstrate who God is to his children and in so doing strengthen their faith to endure, regardless whether or not there are outward demonstrations of miracles for them specifically ever again.
The gift of a miracle should also result in a deepening of praise and worship that opens the believer’s eyes to the reality that we are sustained and empowered by the continual miraculous work of God.
To reinforce my point that miracles are really for the hearts of God’s children and not the world in general let’s look at Mark 4:10-12. The subject here has to do with parables, not miracles, but I think it gives some insight on how God interacts with believers and unbelievers.
10 As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”
This seems an odd statement by Jesus at first. Why wouldn’t he want people to turn from their wicked ways and be forgiven?
Sounds like the book of Jonah
Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. 6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. 7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
Jesus is about more than forgiveness, he is about salvation through transformation - something so radical that the hardened manipulative heart will miss it even in the presence of miracles. And as Pharaoh in the book of Exodus demonstrates, sometimes miracles actually harden hearts rather than soften them and fill them with gratitude.
Had Jesus been clear to the masses including the leaders of the time instead of speaking in parables, it might have resulted in a different outcome for his life - and he was going to the cross. That was his purpose. We grow up wondering what we will do in life. Jesus was about what he would do in death for those who love and put their faith in him.
It’s important then that we who trust Jesus for salvation understand the purpose of miracles is not for our manipulative evangelistic schemes. The greatest demonstrable miracle to unbelievers is the way we treat one another. This is especially true today when so much is made about division of people into special interest groups.
This is Christianity’s unique distinctive when it is operating under the Spirit of God.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
People are confronted by the reality of Jesus in this world not by miracles but because we love each other inspite of all the reasons why we shouldn’t - why this should be impossible. In other words the greatest confounding piece of evidence the world has to deal with is an unexplainable - yes, miraculous - form of love called Agape.
Don’t worry that someone might miss the miraculous power of God. Ultimately the entire world will know this based on God’s prophetic word in passages like Revelation 1:7
Behold, HE is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
Prophecy is foretelling God’s plans for the future. This is not limited to dreams and visions. It is possible you have a prophetic word by what we have been discussing even now. Prophecy isn’t over.
From Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost he quoted from Joel.
‘ And it shall be in the last days, ’ God says,
‘ That I will pour forth of MY Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on MY bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of MY Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
Part of spiritual growth and maturity is actually accepting with child-like faith that God says what he means and means what he says. Because we fear the supernatural aspects of God we concoct logical explanations in order to allegorize away miracles and prophecy. In fact historically this was the dominant thrust of the Age of Enlightenment that followed after the Reformation. Both of these eras influenced the founding of our country and are still quite normative in the American psyche today.
Following communion we entered into a great conversation. People wanted to talk about why we come out of churches whose teaching often diminishes the power of the Holy Spirit to include speaking in tongues, prophecy and miracles. More on this another time. Let me know your thoughts.
November 4, 2012 at 11:51am
The Gifts of Faith and Healing
Oakhills Church 11/4/2012
To the Praise and Worship Team
The reason for our time together this morning is to step away from music and ministry for just a few moments in order to reflect at a deeper level why we do what we do and why it is important.
This is because performance ministry is a target and the biggest bullseye painted on the hearts of each one of us is that it’s not important. In the big scheme of things it really makes no difference. This afternoon or evening in a quiet moment the following questions might pass through our minds.
Was it important?
Did it matter?
Was I really needed?
Did my mistakes or limited talent harm the music or ministry?
To add to these questions (which are actually whispered accusations) come a pile of supporting evidence. We feel helpless to justify why exactly we thought we were good musicians or spiritual enough to be in the Praise and Worship Ministry. If only people could see who I really am.
And the voice continues.
Look around. See the mixture of fabulous talents and gifts. Now look at your own. What makes you think God loves you or you have anything special to offer?
Ironically if we could listen in to other hearts we would discover they are dealing with similar messages - may I say lies?
What is not immediately obvious when we are discouraged is that the accusations we are feeling point beyond us to the one who made us.
Whenever we agree with the feeling of inferiority we are making an agreement with the enemy that God is either not good or not almighty?
But there’s more. It’s easy to attempt to rectify this error in our own power. We are susceptible for falling for the world’s solution to inferiority and discouragement.
The world’s solution is to throw a pep rally. Somehow we have to talk ourselves into believing things we know ain’t so. We come to think that if we can believe something unbelievable long enough things will get better. It’s an attractive thought. It actually sounds spiritual.
I’ve tried it many times and unfortunately the results are disappointing. This is not to say it sometimes doesn’t work to get us a little success here and there, now and then, but it also has unexpected side effects like arrogance, stubbornness and selfishness.
According to the Bible, including the verse we are looking at today as part of our walk through 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Holy Spirit through his gifting to the church can address problems like inferiority and discouragement in ways quite different to the world’s solutions.
Today’s passage is 1 Corinthians 12:9, which is
part of a longer sentence. Here’s the verse:
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
And here is the broader context:
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.
Faith and healing are loaded subjects and everyone has an opinion, but let me make a few observations I hope will help musicians and also tie it in to the issue of discouragement.
1. Faith is a gift. This means you can’t work for it.
2. Faith is often a gift that comes to us from others.
They have faith in us.
They speak faith in us.
They sing faith around us. When you stand up and sing you are exercising faith.
You are celebrating God the giver of faith.
Your words matter. Speak God’s words into someone else and know they have power.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
Do you think this is important?
3. When you speak faith the enemy hears and can’t stand it.
Shorten any pity party you find yourself in with words of gratitude.
Thanksgiving is the same as expressing faith in God.
1. Healing is a gift just as life is a gift.
2. Healing is more than physical recovery. In fact if we heal the body and neglect the spirit and soul we are simply prolonging misery.
Take a close look at this story about how Jesus healed the paralytic. What was his first gift of healing to the young man?
2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “ Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.”
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
5 Which is easier, to say, ‘ Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?
6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
To have our sins forgiven is to be healed from the death grip of guilt and failure.
Discouragement is a condition ripe for healing. And just like all aspects of healing ministry it is a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Body - the church - and comes through the touch and words of others with the Body of Christ.
I’m happy to report that our church is growing in its understanding of how to bless and heal members of the body through prayer.
To learn more go to www.RaphaGodMinistries.com.
October 28, 2012 at 12:14pm
Every Spiritual Gift
1 Cor 12:7
7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Every spiritual gift is a manifestation, a revealing, a demonstration of the Holy Spirit for the common good.
What we love and desire to do, the impulses that attract us to singing, playing a musical instrument, working a sound system or lighting a stage all have a link to two things - what others need we find we can do and to a spiritual lesson about the nature of God. He actually has a very personal lesson about his love he wants us to learn through the gift in music he has given us.
We have a need to be useful and appreciated so we look for ways we can connect our talents with other’s needs. This is mostly subconscious and starts in early childhood.
For some the search never ends and the path is long hard lonely and mostly dark.
We are trying to figure out who we are by how we affect others. The loop closes with positive feedback when and however this comes. We are told we have a wonderful voice or would make a dangerous member of the gang.
Somebody encourages us.
Words are that significant in our lives and the lives of others. One of the greatest lies ever spoken is “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Obviously the formation of our personalities is amazingly important and complex especially without a personal relationship with God.
Whenever our significance is determined by other people and how they respond to us, we are susceptible to becoming less and possibly worse than we could be.
We do need honest coaching and experiences even when they are difficult events for us, but to do any of this apart from God is deeply wounding. Once God is real in our lives, to me, it is a given that our pasts need healing.
As we seek significance God seeks to be the biggest most significant person and passion in our lives - not because he has a bigger ego than we do, but because he is love. He is not seeking our adoration in order to feel better, he is completely self-sufficient so we cannot add to his happiness. Rather he wants to add to ours. He wants to give us what we most need even when we have no idea what it is for a very long time.
Although each of our spiritual journeys are unique they have a lot in common as well.
Each of us and all of us together are a part of a bigger story, but this doesn’t mean we can’t get a glimpse of what it is about.
It has to do with redemption, with turning tasteless water to wonderful wine. It has to do with a power we do not possess but is freely given by a loving and compassionate friend who happens to be God.
From a discussion that followed the first part of what i have written here I learned from a few of the musicians involved in this Sunday morning’s music here at Oakhills how they actually took the negative words of others to move them toward their goals, that they saw their negativity as a challenge to overcome. This is so like God. Still wounds unhealed create a form of spiritual blindness and by definition we neither see or believe this problem even exists - until it is revealed. My tip to all of us is to not be surprised when revelations come and pain bubbles up. Deal with it. Don’t push it back down