Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do Nothing

“Oh Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray to the LORD day and night for the fulfillment of his promises.  Take no rest, all you who pray.” Isaiah 62:6

Stepping into the purposeful place of prayer is never easy.  Listening for the still, quiet voice of the Spirit seems impossible.  Obeying in a radical way makes you look like a fanatic.  So why be still, sit quietly, wait on the Lord, and do ….nothing? 

Because when we step forward in the journey of waiting prayer…that is when the mountains begin to move.  And it’s much, much more than nothing…

God isn’t asking us to give him our everything this second.  He knows that would fail.  He’s asking us to trust him as he begins the process of bringing us to a place of total surrender.  I don’t expect that we will have a clear path today.  What I do trust, is a God who answers the consistent, faithful, persistent call of his bride who is beginning to desire him.  Listen to how I read sections of Isaiah this morning as a conversation with the Lord.

God “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good and leads you along the paths you should follow.  Oh, that you had listened to my commands!  Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling like waves.”   Isaiah 48:17-18

Isaiah – “But my work all seem so useless!  I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose at all.  Yet, I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”  Isaiah 49:4

God “At just the right time, I will respond to you.  On the day of salvation, I will help you.”  Isaiah: 49:8

People“The LORD has deserted us; the LORD has forgotten us.”  Isaiah 49:14

God“Never!  Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for a child she has borne?  But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!  See, I have written your name on my hand…”  Isaiah 49:15-16b

God “Those who wait for me will never be put to shame.”  Isaiah 49: 23b

Isaiah“The sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones.  Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.  The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened.”  Isaiah 50:4-5a

Isaiah“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed.  Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will.  And I know that I will triumph.”  Isaiah 50:7

Notice how the determination and confidence settled onto Isaiah after he waited, listened, and obeyed.   God assured the people of his love and that he had a plan and a purpose for them.  All they had to do was wait and listen.

That’s why we wait.  Make this a time of deep, quiet affection between you and God.  Open your hands and your heart to the possibility that he has a purpose for you and your church, and it might be different than you think.

We’ll never know if we’re not listening.
- Doug Bishop

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Least of These

Have you ever had a passage from the Bible stick in your head and stir in your heart? I’m not talking about in a comforting and restful way. I’m talking about the way the Holy Spirit prods and pokes relentlessly to align you with His will. Take a moment to read Matthew 25:31-46.

This is a passage that haunts me. This is a passage that burns in the background of my thoughts.
Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. (Matthew 25.34-36, The Voice)

In the whole passage it’s not only the command that is strong and clear… it is the repercussions of a life that is not centered on these things in some way.  Jesus is taking this whole thing pretty seriously. You could say that these are the distinctions of His people, and those that don't do these things are not His people.

All throughout the Gospels (the stories of Jesus in the Bible) we see over and over again that Jesus had compassion on people and their circumstances. Jesus wept with people. He entered into their situations and brought healing, peace, and wholeness. He was demonstrating (as he says in this passage) what His Kingdom is like. Its a kingdom where Christ is bringing wholeness to brokenness. And in this passage its not just spiritual brokenness but physical brokenness. Jesus never separated the two as he did ministry.

So how are we doing with these sorts of people and situations? How are we bringing wholeness? How are we treating “the least of these”? I hope that the words of Christ stir in your souls like this passage has challenged me.

- Matt Stowell

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lifting Holy Hands

In Exodus the story is told of when Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battle with his hands lifted up, and when his hands were lifted the Israelites were winning the battle against the Amalekites, but when his hands were lowered the Amalekites were winning.  (Exodus 17: 8-16)

God allowed his people to suffer casualties when Moses’ hands were lowered. 

As the day wore on and he grew weary, he had others by his side, supporting him, joining together to lift Moses’ hands.  With the help of the men surrounding him, his hands remained steady until sunset, and the Amalekites were defeated.

Moses’ built an altar to remember what God had done, saying “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.”

God was teaching his people that he chooses to act in response to prayer.  He will not move without it.  It seems that if he was allowing people to die on a battlefield because hands were not lifted, that this is an extremely important matter He is teaching us.

Paul states in I Timothy 2:8 “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer…”

God has designed a unique relationship between our prayers and his responding to our prayers.  A beautiful mystery that is vital for us to learn to do.

And he is not calling us to do this alone. 

Moses didn’t stand on that hill alone.  He had others there right by his side, supporting him.  We need others in our life to be able to keep our hands lifted up.  We need to join together, united, to pray for the battles we see before us; the battles that are in my life, in yours, and those around us.  We need each other to join together lifting our holy hands to the throne of the Lord.

In your life, what battle do you face?  Who do you see around you that is suffering? Are you lifting up your hands in prayer for them?  And are you joining together with others in the body of Christ standing side by side supporting each other as you lift up holy hands in prayer to the throne of our Lord?

-Sue Parrott

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Restoring Life in Rags or Riches

As I read my Bible, there is a one particular story that catches my attention and my heart every time. This story is found in the Gospel of Mark, chapter five. Jesus, who had just healed a demon possessed man on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, comes back across the sea and is met with a crowd. Among the crowd is a man names Jairus, who is described as a “ruler of the synagogue” or a “synagogue official.” He falls on his knees before Jesus and begs him to come and save his dying daughter. As Jesus is on his way to Jairus’ house, a woman who had a hemorrhage for 12 years touches the edge of Jesus cloak and is instantly healed of her affliction. By the time Jesus makes it to Jairus’ house, the young man’s daughter had died. Jesus enters the house and with a few words, restores life to the little girl.

I know what you might be thinking; “It’s amazing that Jesus healed that woman, and brought a young girl back to life!” Yes, it is amazing, but that’s not why this story gets me. The story gets me because of the life situations at play. In Jesus’ time, the rulers of a synagogue, or the synagogue officials were persons of power and usually wealth. They were known to be well versed in the Jewish law and generally live very comfortable lives. As Jewish believers, they were also not terribly big fans of Jesus. That’s what makes this story so incredible. Jairus’ plea goes beyond religious tradition and beyond his comfortable lifestyle. We don’t see a wealthy official, we see a worried and desperate father. Wow! A father doing whatever he can to save his daughter… falling at the feet of Jesus, the healer.

What is even more amazing about this story is Jesus’ interaction with the hemorrhaging woman. In that time, if you had any sort of bleeding or affliction, you were basically kicked out of the community. You couldn’t offer sacrifices at the temple; you couldn’t practice your faith in the synagogue…you were basically left on the outside of everything until you were better. In fact you were supposed to yell, “unclean” as you travelled the streets so that nobody would come in contact with you. Anyone who did touch you would be considered unclean as well. So for the woman, touching Jesus’ robe was risky business. She risked making Jesus unclean by doing so, but knew that he was the only one who could make her well. After she is healed, Jesus stops and acknowledges that someone had touched him, and the woman confesses what she had done. He blesses her and sends her away clean, healed, and restored to life in the community. Wow…another desperate situation cleansed at the feet of Jesus.
You might be thinking, “That’s awesome, but Jesus healed a lot of people,” and you’re exactly right. But what blows my mind about this story is not the healings themselves, but rather the situations of those being healed. It didn’t matter that one was a wealthy young father and the other was a poor, out-casted woman. It didn’t matter that one had stature and title, and the other had desperation and humiliation. Jesus restored life to both, whether in rags or riches. For one it was the life of a daughter, for the other, it was being restored to the community and getting her life back. Healing was found at the feet of Jesus. That’s what we, as believers, need to remember. Regardless of our stature, social standing, titles, or wealth, healing can be found at the feet of Jesus Christ, who pays no attention to such things. All he cares about is that we believe in him, and he can restore life in rags or riches.

-Jake Houf

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Exchanging Arrogance for Truth

Holding onto my own ideas about God is arrogance, to exchange them for God's truth is life!  A few years ago, I experienced this trade in a very real way and it forever changed my relationship with God.

You see, I love flowers and I once had a beautiful little flower garden.  Naturally, I frequented our neighborhood greenhouse, where I first laid eyes on…a Siberian Iris!  I was stunned by its deep amethyst color and intricate petal detail. At once, I wanted these flowers for my garden, but knowing I couldn't afford them, I walked away and consoled myself by saying aloud, "If the God of the Universe wanted me to have Siberian Irises, He'd get them for me…right?" 

 A few days later, my neighbor stood in my yard with a box in her arms. She said, "I can't possibly use all these plants -- would you like them?  They're called Siberian Irises."

This was more of a coincidence than I could explain away and I had to ask myself, "Did the God of the Universe just send me flowers?" If so, that meant I was dealing with a God far more intimate than I ever imagined.  This, however, didn't fit within my ideas about God, so I dismissed the thought.  But God persisted.  

Slowly, the Holy Spirit began to bring verses to my mind that reminded me of what the Bible says abut God's character…

…as a giver: "Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

…as a father who's goodness far surpasses any earthly parent: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11
…as a God who is intimately involved in the events of this world: "…not one [sparrow] will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care." Matthew 10:29

I wrestled all this until I finally surrendered my own thinking and accepted the truth that it was not outside of God's character to send me flowers.  But why would God indulge me?  Because He wanted get my attention -- to speak to my heart and teach me things about His character that I didn't understand.  As I began to pray about it and search scripture for God's truth, I began to relate to God, not as distant being, but as a God who knows me, cares deeply for me and desires to be in close relationship with me. It's this intense relationship to which I bring my struggles, my fears, my sin, indecision and joys -- and my life is forever changed by His love, truth and grace.   

I've moved on from my gardening days but I've kept my Siberian Irises -- a visual of God's deeply personal character.  I still think they're beautiful …but I find the intimate, loving nature of their Creator breathtaking  
 -Carol Ganzevoort