Posted in Hosea, Isaiah, Revelation

Falling Off the Wall

“The prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.” Hosea 9:7-8

Even though God sets people on the wall (Isaiah 62:6-7) to align with His purposes and to pray for His will to be done on earth, it’s easy to fall off the wall. Here are five reasons why people who are genuinely called to watch over the church in prayer, fall from the ministry God set them in:

  1. Self-doubt. Watchmen have prophetic experiences to inspire them to pray, but because everyone doesn’t experience the same things they do, they are called “maniacs;” or in our day, made out to be “weird.” It’s easy to question whether God really did speak and to question why He would tell you and not everyone. “Who do I think I am?” is often an accusing thought. 
  2. Rejection. “Hostility in the house of God” means everyone doesn’t appreciate your intensity. Sometimes church leaders feel threatened by people’s “revelations” and seek to shut watchmen down. 
  3. Suspicion. Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan is “the accuser of the brethren.” He will mimic prophetic experiences (He disguises himself as an angel of light) to watchmen that sow suspicions in their hearts about leaders and churches. He uses things that have actually happened and were actually said to make the case that God is against His own church because of their many sins. 
  4. Discouragement. In a pragmatic world that supremely values action, it can seem like prayer is a waste of time. When Mary poured precious perfume on Jesus, the church leadership said, “Why this waste?” (Matthew 26:8) Needs will always exist and there will always be time to do practical things after prayer, but please know that the highest calling is to “waste” time worshiping Jesus. 
  5. Depression. In a place of intercession God shares some of His burden with us. We see clearly how wide the gap is between how things are and how they should be. Our burden must be prayed back to God because the government is on Jesus’ shoulders, not ours. (Isaiah 9:6) The enemy would have us be self-proclaimed martyrs who are carrying everyone’s burdens for them.
Posted in Isaiah, Matthew, Psalms

Set on the Wall

“I have set watchmen on your walls, oh Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” Isaiah 62:6-7

Why does God set people on the wall to ask Him to do what He already said He wants to do? He wants His church to agree on earth with His purposes as free moral agents, so that we share with Him in every victory that is won. We cannot bring His kingdom without Him, and He won’t bring His kingdom without us wanting it, and asking for it.

In this heaven and hell are alike: both seek agreement on earth from human beings so they can bring their purposes to pass on the earth. “I thought God was sovereign,” you may argue. He absolutely is. The only reason it is like this is because He planned it to be this way. “Our God is in heaven, He does whatever pleases Him.” (Psalm 115:3) This necessary agreement by earth is what pleases Him.

If hell can get people to live in fear, anger, pride, greed, and lust then this darkness will be increased by demons who will dwell in these strongholds. The Father allows it because He has chosen to not force Himself, or His ways on us.

But listen to the promise heaven gives: “I tell you that if two of you agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in My Name, there I am.” (Matthew 18:19-20) When we agree together for the beauty and purposes of heaven to be manifested and ask the Father for this, Jesus Himself will come and establish on earth what we have agreed on.

Our text makes it clear we must persist in our asking and expect a progressive answer as we “give Him no rest” until He has done all He has promised. Some of the greatest heroes of the church are the prayer warriors. Their primary labor is not horizontal but vertical, where God has set them on the wall for this purpose. Without prayer, what we do horizontally as a church will have little lasting effect.

Posted in Job

Trying to Put God on a Leash

“Can you make a pet of him like a bird or put him on a leash for your girls?…Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering. No one is fierce enough to rouse him. Who then is able to stand against Me? Who has a claim against Me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to Me.” Job 41:5; 9-11

God is describing to Job an animal called Leviathan in the text above. It’s a wild animal that has now gone extinct, but there are many other animals God created to be wild.

Job’s friends tried to put God on a leash. “Here’s how God works,” they argued (my paraphrase). “God blesses the righteous with temporal blessings and punishes the wicked with temporal hardships. Therefore, Job, you clearly have done something wicked because you are suffering.”

Job responded to them with equally long arguments that can be summed up by something like this: “You guys have it all wrong. There are many examples where wicked people don’t get what’s coming to them in this life, and where the righteous suffer – I am example one of this! I have been righteous but am suffering horribly. Your formula for God is wrong.”

When God revealed Himself at the end of the book, He said that Job’s friends had spoken what was wrong about Him and that Job had said what was right. (Job 42:7) But Job still needed to repent when God confronted him. He felt God somehow owed him something for the righteous life he had led and for the righteous acts he had performed. What was happening to him was “not fair,” so he had longed for a face to face encounter with God to tell him so.

God eventually gave Job that encounter and in the text above is rebuking him for trying to put Him on a leash. God will not be told what to do and does not owe mankind anything. Job then apologized: “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

Have you tried to put God on a leash? Have you questioned His ways because you feel entitled to a better life? Why not repent now and lay every sense of entitlement down at the foot of the cross. May the mystery of who He is lead us to worship more than ever.

Posted in 1Samuel, 2Timothy, Acts

The Samuel Generation

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17

A few years ago the pastors of our region decided together to have teens and young adults lead some of our monthly worship gatherings.  Why young people?  I believe we will never have the fullness of God’s presence without the generations coming together. God blesses everything as much as He can and we praise Him for all He’s currently doing, but there is a longing in many of our hearts for more.

I am convinced young people need to honor the older generation and value their covering, but am equally convinced that the older generation needs to release their sons and daughters to prophecy. What if they say something that’s wrong?  What if they become filled with pride? Then we are here to guide them and teach them, but God wants them to speak now, and not just when they’re “mature.”

In January of 2014 I had the privilege of speaking to our youth group. I told them the church is stuck without them. They are not the “church of tomorrow;” today’s church needs them to rise up and grab ahold of God.

In Eli’s day there were two types of young people: Hophni and Phineas were one; Samuel the other. So it is today. Hophni and Phineas represent those who are “ungrateful, disobedient to parents,… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” (2Timothy 3:1-4) while Samuel represents a whole generation of young people who love the presence of God (1Samuel 3:3), begin to hear His voice (1 Samuel 3:10), and speak to their culture with great authority. (1Samuel 3:19-20)

We must encourage our young people to become all God desires them to be to have His full blessing in the days to come.

Posted in Isaiah, Psalms

Standing Firm in Your Faith

“If you don’t stand firm in your faith, you won’t stand at all.” Isaiah 7:9

The words of the text above came to my mind unbidden in June of 2012. Weeks earlier I had received a letter from a lawyer threatening a lawsuit against our church because of some changes we made at our school. I did everything I could to get them to drop it, including begging God to intervene on our behalf, but it was all to no avail. The lawsuit was filed anyway and fear gripped my heart.

As I considered the possible devastation a lawsuit could have on our church, the sentence above came to me. Was this a Scripture? I went to my concordance and found it. The context was a warning to King Ahaz who had two armies mounted against him which had caused his heart to be “shaken as trees of the field are shaken by the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2) The same Holy Spirit who was warning him many years ago was now warning me.

It was game time. I talked about trusting God all the time, I’m a preacher after all, but now it was time to actually believe like a Christian should. God didn’t tell me how the lawsuit would end, He just warned me that if I gave into the fear speaking to me, it would not go well.

A believer’s main job is to believe. Are you facing something right now that is filling you with fear? This is not the time to abandon your faith; it’s time to practice it. Tell God you trust Him, speak to the mountain you’re facing, and live in the freedom Christ paid for even while the circumstances are unchanged.

That’s what I did. Months later I received an email that said the lawsuit was dropped, but the greater miracle was that it wasn’t even that big of a relief. I had found rest in God and knew it would be okay, whatever happened.

Why not give God your fears today and claim Psalm 34:4 for your life, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Posted in Hebrews, Leviticus, Romans

The Sacrifice Answered by Fire

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

At one convention I went to the theme was, “Altared,” with a verse from Leviticus 6:12 on never letting the fire go out on the altar. Each speaker brought up the theme and gave reflections on what it looked like to have the fire of God’s presence burning in the altar of our hearts.

One speaker asked us to consider what comes into our minds when we hear the word “worship.” Then he suggested some possible answers: a too short or too long time of singing before a sermon, hymns or choruses, singing that is too fast or too slow, a key too high or low to sing in, or maybe even the graphics that are now behind the words of songs because of modern technology.

Then he talked about the Bible’s version of worship which he said was more PG 13. Worship in the Bible always involved something dying. From Abel’s sacrifice to animals required for sacrifice in the tabernacle and the temple; Jews knew that there must be a death to satisfy the holiness of God who said the wages of sin was death. After the sacrifice God required was given, God Himself would answer by fire. The priests didn’t need matches.

Elijah said the God who answers by fire, He is God. When the Holy Spirit came after the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, there was a tongue of fire that rested on each head. Truly our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and wants to baptize us in His purifying fire so we can easily live for Him.

So here’s the problem. The only offering that is answered by fire is death. If we try to give God a partial offering instead of making ourselves living sacrifices, we won’t have His fire in our hearts. We will end up with a powerless version of Christianity that looks and acts just like the world. It sounds kind of like the American church today, doesn’t it?

In view of His mercy, let’s give Him what He died for by offering ourselves as living sacrifices for His glory and our good.

Posted in Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs

Hidden Shame

“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

A man once described his walk with God as being on a treadmill. He felt he could never make progress because eventually he would stumble again in the area of lust. Every other area, he found, he could set his will and be victorious, but he was utterly defeated in this area and it was robbing him of confidence with God.

How do we overcome immorality and the shame it brings?

  1. Wage war against it. Jesus died on the cross so we could be forgiven and have a new beginning. Many today have stopped fighting and changed the gospel to a license to keep sinning in this area. They say something like this to themselves: “God understands how weak I am and why I’ve stopped even trying to be sexually pure.” No, He doesn’t. He didn’t stop when it was difficult for Him, He shed His blood, He took the shame and pain of the cross and drank the cup of the wrath of God for us. How can we stop fighting to be pure because it’s too hard?
  2. Wage the right war. After we’ve set our heart to be pure it is easy to get into wrong thinking, so here is a warning: If we try to wage war against our own sexuality we will become angry with God. God made us sexual beings. The fact that you’re attracted to the opposite sex is not sin, it just means all the equipment is working. Jesus said lust in the heart is like adultery, not a thought in the mind. When a lustful thought comes into your mind, you are being tempted, you haven’t yet sinned. Don’t let the thought have a place; press delete instead of downloading it. It’s not a sin to be tempted!
  3. Get into the word of God. “Your word have I treasured (hidden) in my heart, so I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11) God wants our fantasy life, and all hidden thoughts to be transformed by the word of God.   
  4. Delight in God’s love for you. We are dark but lovely to God. (Song of Songs 1:5) I honestly don’t think anyone can win the lust battle without experiencing the higher pleasure of God’s love for them. It can be hard for men to connect emotionally with God, but it is really important. In Christ, we are the favored, beloved, children of God. His plan is for our success, not our failure!
Posted in Luke, Mark, Psalms

Redemptive Abandonment

“Now as for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I will never be moved.’ O Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong. You hid Your face, I was dismayed. To You O Lord, I called… ‘Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.’ You have turned for me my mourning into dancing…O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 130:6-8, 10-12

Whenever God favors us we can come to the wrong conclusion that we have life, and God figured out. When things are going well, we can easily assume we are strong, immovable, and in control, but all this is a dangerous deception. Because God loves us so much, He breaks the power of presumption in our lives through something a speaker I heard recently call, “redemptive abandonment.” God hides His face during seasons of our lives, not because He doesn’t care, but because He cares so much.

Peter declares, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not… Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” (Mark 14:29; 31) Peter has been favored as the top apostle and has come to the wrong conclusion. He believes he is strong, a veritable mountain of faith, immovable from his devotion. We can hear in his words, “all may fall away, yet I will not,” disdain for others who aren’t as strong as he presumes he is. His future leadership would be very limited if he continues with the false impression that he is somehow better than those he is leading, so Jesus explains to him the reality of prophetic abandonment.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) Before he falls, Peter despises the weakness of those around him because he presumes he has it all together. After he falls and is picked up again by God, he will see clearly that the plan is about Divine grace, not human strength. Peter will now be able to lead weak people with gentleness and understanding as a humble servant instead of as a know it all.

Because David (the author of the passage above) and Peter experienced the reality of how weak they were apart from God (abandonment), they were in a position to experience the favor of God (redemption) without becoming proud. Mourning can become dancing when the burden of presumption is broken off our lives.

Posted in Esther, Numbers

Faith or Fear?

“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it (the land), for we will surely overcome it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’ So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out…” Numbers 13:30-33

Every day, in every problem and situation – we have a choice: will we view them through faith or through fear? Caleb and the other spies had gone into the exact same land and were facing the exact same difficulty, yet they saw through two different lenses. God is not just calling us to be saved by faith, but to live by faith. How do we accomplish this in the midst of fears?

  1. Faith remembers what God has done in the past. God had already supernaturally delivered the Israelites from Egypt; He parted the Red Sea; He gave them manna out of heaven. Caleb isn’t naïve about the size of the giants in the land, it’s just that God has proven that there is no difficulty He can’t overcome.
  2. Faith focuses on the promises and the character of God. It’s not that Caleb didn’t see the giants that the others saw; he just didn’t focus on them. He was focusing on the promise of God who had told Moses that He was planning to bring them into “a spacious land, flowing with milk (needs) and honey (above and beyond).” 
  3. Faith is not afraid to die. What if disaster happens and we die? The answer is we don’t know for sure what the end will look like, so we need to surrender outcomes to God and be willing to do what we think He wants us to by faith. Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.” That conviction gave her strength to do what was right even though she couldn’t control the outcome.

What are you facing right now? I pray you’ll face it with God through the lens of faith, and not through the darkness and isolation of fear.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Isaiah

Glowing in the Dark

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:18

My little brother, Jimmy, and I (8 and 10 at the time) were so excited about the Glo-Balls someone gave us that we immediately scampered into our downstairs closet after freeing them from the package. What a horrible disappointment! These balls didn’t glow – alright, maybe a little – but certainly not what was promised on the box.

Apparently our disappointment was obvious because we were quickly informed that we had missed a step in the process. First, you have to hold balls near a light source because the balls weren’t lights themselves; they only had the capacity to absorb light. We kind of resented an additional step, but I remember holding that ball close to a light bulb willing it to absorb. The second time in the closet was thrilling! Now the balls were brilliant and really did appear like lights in the darkness.

We are not the source of light, but we can absorb light and then carry Him every day into this dark world. Isaiah 60:1-3 describes this beautifully: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Every time we look up and behold God’s presence we glow a little more. Just like those balls we eventually fade if we don’t continue to expose ourselves to His presence. But when we do behold Him, even if dimly as in a mirror (their mirrors were made of brass), we go from glory to glory, and many will be drawn to the Lord and His ways through us. Being His witness is simply glowing in the dark.