Monthly Archives: December 2015

When he ascended on high……

In Ephesians 4, Paul makes reference to the equipping ministries sometimes also called gift ministries:

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men………11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:8,11-12)

The purpose of these individuals are directly involved in 1. perfecting (maturing) of the saints, 2. work of the ministry (serving), 3. for building up the body of Christ .

So what is the maturing of saints? Maturation involves growing up and coming into full functioning capacity. Spiritually in the day and time we live, it means grow up in Christ. As human beings, maturation means to grow to a place of functioning as adult physically, mentally. and spiritually It means taking on the responsibility for life, making decisions, and discriminating between good and bad, or in other words, functioning on ones own.

As we grow up spiritually believing more and more in our spiritual nature, we become mature and learn to lean more on God less on men. We have been given the holy spirit as a ‘paraclete’ (help that walks alongside). As we mature we are then are in a position to help others grow up in Christ.  We can help others grow up and lean on God themselves.

The word ‘pastor’ as it is used today conjures up a different picture than was intended biblically. Often we see the function of a pastor as a big encourager, soother and generally, a kind influence. One of the chief functions of a shepherd is to keep the wolves out of the pen. Shepherds have to be tough and have no fear or hesitancy in recognizing evil. A shepherd cannot be an ‘enabler’ of evil. The spiritual tool absolutely necessary for a pastor-type is differentiating between what is good and what is not good.

A prophet functions in a different capacity. He continues to love, re-love and love some more, by speaking what God wants spoken. In many situations nobody listens. He continues to love with justness and truth by encouraging people with the word of God. God is love, His word is love and a prophets chief responsibility is to call people back to God’s truth. The prophet has to be tuned in to knowledge and wisdom revelation. When one reads through the Old Testament prophets this can be seen quite clearly.

Purpose #2, work of the ministry, needs to be understood as service. ‘Ministry’ in today’s culture projects an organizational structure. In the Bible, it refers to the actions of people to carry out God’s purposes. God’s purpose are God’s purposes not man’s.

Purpose #3, building up the body of Christ, is beautiful.  Jesus Christ is the head of that body and he works to build up that body through the spirit. I am amazed at how this is all carried out! As I get older, this concept intrigues me more and more. The smallest details of life often blossom into bigger ramifications than we could ever imagine. Sometimes we don’t immediately see it but over the course of time God often makes sure we see it.  Why wouldn’t he?

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:13-15

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Focusing Forward and Real Leadership

Caleb is mentioned in several places as being someone who wholly followed God.

(Numbers 14:24, Deuteronomy 1:36 and others) He was one of the 12 spies that were sent to scope out the land God promised them. Along with Joshua, Caleb was one of the only two spies that came back with glowing words. They were ready to take it on.  The other 10 spies did not feel the same way. They were full of fear.

Fear is a corrosive negative quality. It corrodes relationships with people as well as God. We don’t ever need to be scared of God. God is love and only wants the best for our lives. Our relationship with God cannot be based on fear. Unfortunately, certain religious circles utilize fear to try and motivate people towards their particular theology. We’ve all been exposed to this kind of thinking in some form or another. Wherever fear is, it permeates everything. This doesn’t do much for people to people relationships as well. It causes lots of problems.

We all know and recognize difficult relationships. Sooner or later it gets back to some basic fear that is involved that eventually shows itself. Perfect love displaces fear and replaces it with power, love and sound thinking. Caleb must have been a great person to be around. He had great trust in God and it showed in his peace and determination.

Caleb did not fear.  He stayed focus on God and prepared himself to eventually receive the promises of God. It s true when they didn’t listen to his spy report, Caleb had to do the wilderness walk with the others for 40 years! At 85 years old, he got his opportunity and he had kept himself strong so that he could with God’s help obtain his piece of the land for his family. He knew it would come. Actually the name ‘Caleb’ means ‘full-hearted’.  He had no place for fear in his life, not one little cubbyhole! He was successful! He had no fear to move onward when the time came to do so.

Joshua and Caleb are true leaders. They didn’t have to read books or go to conferences on leadership, they moved forward and were out in front naturally because of where their focus was. They were leading from the front and did not turn back to look at who was following them. Full-hearted people don’t lead from behind.

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God is Faithful 100%

In Deuteronomy 1, Moses reflects on the journey through the wilderness. The context of Deuteronomy is Exodus and Numbers in which the history of the travel out of Egypt to the edge of the promised land is recorded. Leviticus belongs with this group also. The chapters devoted to Israel’s history in Leviticus is written in chapters 8-10. The rest of Leviticus is about a just God wanting to live among His people.

The main purpose of Deuteronomy is to explain their relationship with God. Both Numbers and Deuteronomy refer to the 40 years in wanderings thru the desert and preparation for entering into the promise land of the younger generation.

26 Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of theLord your God: 27 And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the Lord hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. 28 Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.

29 Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;

31 And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. 

32 Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, 33 Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. Deuteronomy 1:26-33

God took care of them through all of the 40 years. Yes, they had trouble that emanated from their own minds and actions, but God stayed with them through all the complaining. Moses wrote that ‘the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son’.  That is beautiful. The comparison helps people relate to God. There is no greater father than God.

The problem of the older generation eventually caught up with them as they continued to rebel and do things that God could not help them with. God shows them how arrogant they were when they went after the Amorites at a their own choosing. It hurt them because they walked themselves (1:44) into the bee’s nest and they ended up suffering for it.

God is absolutely faithful, He desires the best for His people, but sometimes people put themselves in a bad situation and still don’t humbly ask God for help.

God wants a relationship with His people. In the New Testament, every individual can have a relationship with God.  Jesus Christ showed us the way. We can’t just sit back in a pew and take it all in, we need to go for the full right of having access to God. It starts by trusting, asking, listening and then carrying out God’s word.

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Deuteronomy

The name ‘Deuteronomy’ means second law. The people of God had reached the edge of the promised land after spending way too much time trekking around the wilderness both physically and spiritually.

1 These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.) 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them; Deuteronomy 1:1-3

It took them 40 years! They sure did mess around and take their own ‘sour’ time. Fear and doubt were the beacons of their darkness, so they became subject to an abundance of failure and frustration. There is nothing new under the sun, this same chaos is going on all around us. Humans will trip on their own two feet when they rely on their own balancing act.

Before Moses died, he spoke to the younger generation among the sojourners about what God was all about and he gave then some detailed guidelines about their relationships to God and to each other. Deuteronomy is not a scary book like some say, it is a book of love. The first four chapters of deuteronomy recap what God had done for them in the journey. In chapters 4-26, Moses further explains the law with greater details and examples. Chapters 27-30 delve into the God’s covenant with man. The book ends with the final words from Moses.

People often view God from their own perspective and fail to see God’s perspective. God is the designer of the universe. He knows how it works. He sees the full picture. Above all of those accomplishments, He loves and that love is woven through all that He made.

Another perspective that many people don’t consider is the opposition’s perspective. Some people don’t even think there is an opposition. It is in this misunderstanding that people attribute evil to God.

God led His people through the wilderness with a pillar of fire and a cloud and yet when it came to going into the promised land, they needed to send people in to figure out the best way in. H-m-m.

Despite man’s pride and mistakes in not listening to God, God continues to love man. After seeing in Leviticus the basic desire of God to be among His people, to the frustrations of wilderness living in Numbers, there are rich principles in Deuteronomy to mine to help people understand how to live the kind of life God desires for people.

 

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Active Expectation

We always want an instant fix. Human nature is generally impatient regarding God’s abundant grace and peace. It is like sitting down to dinner without shopping, cooking or setting the table. Spiritual success is absolutely available, but it takes some effort.  I’m not talking about ‘works’ or ‘earning it’. It is about acknowledgement and active expectation. It is important to note that the responsibility for the effort is individual.

In Ephesians 6:17,  there is wonderful allegory on tapping the power of God :

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking (analambano-receive by seizing) the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take (dechomai- welcome, receive) the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; Ephesians 6:14-18

It all starts with the ‘truth’. Truth is necessary to protect ones thinking, confidence and rest. ‘Truth’ offers protection, soundness, and provides the necessary tools to ward off evil. Truth is light. In this allegory the belt girds up the tunic to keep from tripping. It has a sheaf for the sword to have it readily available.  The belt holds the breastplate in place so as not to flop around. Who needs ones righteousness flipping and flopping around?

The main effect of evil is to darken the light. It is easier to recognize light and dark when the switch is suddenly pushed, but sometimes Christians have dimmer switches and are hardly aware of what is happening around them. The key is to focus on the light.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended (katalambano-seized) it not. John 1:5

When I go to bed and turn off the light, initially I can’t see a thing. It is pitch dark.  If I keep my eyes open for a while, the pupils adjust by opening to whatever light actually exists. It takes time but no matter how little light is around, it helps us move through the darkness.

 

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