Friday, March 30, 2012

Discerning False Prophets


“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,  and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.  But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.  Deuteronomy 13:1-5

How do you judge if a person is a prophet from the Lord or a false prophet?  Our verses today give a great gauge for discerning truth and making sure we are not led astray by anyone who is speaking against the will of the Lord.  I think with all of the crazy things happening in the world around us we have seen a resurgence in the interest in prophets and because of that I have felt compelled to share some thoughts and insights on how to clearly know when hearing these people how to discern who is speaking truth and who is speaking lies.

First of all I must state that I believe God does still speak through prophets.  Nowhere in the bible does it clearly state that prophetic voices will be completely eliminated because the Holy Spirit is now at work in all who believe in Jesus – as some in the church seem to have found a basis in.  And also, in the New Testament there are many scriptures not only warning of false prophets and how to discern them from true prophets but also there are scriptures which talk about the spiritual gift of prophesy.  From this biblical understanding and from the experience I have had personally with prophetic words, I address this subject with great reverence and poignancy.

In the past when I have been asked to review a particular prophet and his/her advice, the first thing I look to discern from is the main premise of that person’s message.  The main question I ask myself is this:  “Is this person desiring to bring people back into the will of God, and not only that but also within the law of the original prophets of God and within the teaching of Jesus in the gospel?   Or, is this person leading people away from those basic foundations?”  

We must remember God does not change in how He deals with His people.  He has been consistent from the beginning – reestablishing a love relationship with His people and drawing them back to Him and His basic covenant with them.  That covenant in the Old Testament had to do with God’s commitment to the people of Israel and the promise He made with Abraham to create from him a great nation that would be set apart for Him.  And, in the New Testament God’s commitment had to do the covenant which was sealed with the blood of Jesus for all who believe in Him and the work done on the cross.  

As stated in the first two verses above, if a prophet tells you to “…go after other gods…and serve them…” then stay away from what they are saying.   In essence, what these false prophets are trying to do is to change the foundation of the message of the Lord, one is which they do not stand on themselves and one in which they would also not like to see you standing on either.  Stick to following God and seeking His ways and I promise you will never be led astray by anyone who desires to pull you away from God with the lies they speak.

I am going to be away from my computer for the next few days for a much needed break.   I pray to God that you stay consistent in seeking the Him and I look forward to sitting down to write again on Monday whatever He lays on my heart.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fast and Pray


“And it happened when all of the enemies had heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes, for they perceived that this work was done by our God.”  Nehemiah 6:16

The story of Nehemiah starts with a simple man who is seized by a God-sized burden, a burden to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.   So what was Nehemiah’s first step in setting out to accomplish this gigantic task?  You would think his first plan of action would have been to sit down and write a leave of absence request from his current position in the king’s court.  Or, at least that he would have secured an architect to make some preliminary drawings for the wall’s reconstruction and a couple of contacts who would be helpful in bringing in some construction materials for the project.    

But instead of doing any of the things I mentioned above, Nehemiah knew the task ahead of him was God-sized and therefore the only way to begin moving toward accomplishing his goal was to search for where God was already at work in the reconstruction of the wall and then make a move to adjust his life to join God in that place – not start a completely new plan of his own.  That is why Nehemiah chose first to fast, pray, and seek out God.  To figure out first why God had given him this burden and what God desired out of him for this project.


 Recently I have had a God-sized burden placed on my heart.  I have had many convincing arguments with God over the past few months as to why I do not see His calling as sensible, yet every time I place these argument in front of Him, He brings me to a new revelation that has cut me to the heart and shown me He already has a plan in place – one which requires me to step out in faith and heed His call.  In reading this scripture today I am all the more convinced that the only way I can find the peace I am looking for and the wisdom to proceed in this manner is by seeking God regarding this situation through fasting and prayer until I have a discovered a clear path in which to follow Him into the battle He has set before me.



The example of Nehemiah to fast, pray, and seek the Lord is one we too often forget in a world that asks for physical results and tangible proof.  But when we work towards and end that is only within our sight we fail to act out our faith in our God who is the Unseen.  And above that, we also fail to allow God the opportunity to work through us in great and mighty ways which in turn allows a watching world to see His mighty hand of provision and providence of which He alone could be praised and feared for the work that has been done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bearing Fruit With Patience


But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.  Luke 8:15

This morning as I was reading the above verse, a word that I seemed to have passed over all these years just jumped out at me.   I guess in my rush to read through this passage, one I have become so familiar with, I was just content in knowing that if I made sure the word of God took root in my life and I provided deep nutrient rich soil that was free of rocks and weeds all would be well for fruit to begin growing in my life.  But then there is that final word in the verse, patience, that caught me by surprise this morning and which I though I would share a few things God laid on my heart as I pondered this new discovery.

I guess living in the fast-paced, easy answer world we live in makes us eager to get results almost immediately after our work of planting is done.  But as a gardener I know that there are many lessons of patience in helping a seed get to the point of full fruit production.  Take for instance the peppers I put into pots almost a month ago.  After planting these seeds it took two complete weeks for me to even start seeing the first hint of anything growing in the soil – it looked as if I was just watering and providing heat to a bunch of pots filled with dirt.  But with the knowledge of a gardener I knew I needed to be patient in waiting on these plants because unlike the flowers my daughter planted, which started to sprout their third day, the peppers seeds were made differently to produce a different fruit and therefore the delay was just part of their natural growing process.

What has been your experience lately in growing and producing spiritual fruit?  Have you been waiting on something God has given you a desire to pray for and move towards, yet nothing seems to be happening?  Does it seem like other people around you are seeing quicker growth in their lives than you are?  Have you ever considered that perhaps the seed which God has planted in your life needs a bit more time to be nurtured and nourished because the fruit He desires to grow in you needs more time than the seeds which are growing in other believers lives around you? 

It is easy to just walk away and give up when you do not see the product of your spiritual gardening efforts, but patience is needed to be willing to make the choice to endure the process of waiting on the Lord and the fruit He desires to grow in your life through the seed He has given you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Humbled Heart for Learning


“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”  Proverbs 12:1

Learning requires submission to instruction.  If I go into a situation thinking I have nothing to learn, more than likely I will leave without having learned a thing.  It takes a humble spirit to admit life holds many lessons yet to be learned.  For those who look at life from this humble state, knowledge abounds from every experience and every interaction encountered.  Life becomes a wonderful hunt for knowledge which is not constrained by a self-fortified resistance to discovering something beyond ones current scope of understanding.  But for those who think they have life all figured out, they choose to live in a constant battle against their inability gain complete understanding of the situations around them.

A story I often share with others in regards to this humble heart mentality was one an up-and-coming Christian comedian shared about what happen the day she met Billy Graham.  This woman was all prepared for meeting this man she so admired and she was very excited about all of the questions she wanted to ask him when they finally met.  Yet, one of the first things Mr. Graham did when he had the ability to take control of the conversation was he handed her his bible and said, “Teach me what God has been teaching you.”  Here was a man known internationally for his ability to teach from the scripture, and yet he understood the importance of a humble heart.  Through just this one request he showed the substance behind the power God had bestowed upon him, the ability to keep a humble heart not only before God but also before his fellow man.

Today as God gives you the ability to be in His Word and interact with other believers, check yourself to see if you are approaching those learning opportunities with a humble heart.  Only in being humble will you gain the lessons you need so that “…[God] may exalt you in due time…” (1 Peter 5:6) and you will have a clear mind and be completely equipped for those things you are called to do to impart that knowledge to the world.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Growth


About a month ago, my daughter and I started growing seeds in the growing room we have in our basement so they would be ready for spring planting.  We have been doing this for three years now (since we moved into our farm house) and each gardening season I have ceased to be amazed at how from such little seeds so many wonderful and diverse plants grow and produce the food we eat.

Yesterday as we were watering our seedlings, my daughter was pointing out the different heights and shapes of the plants that were emerging from our peat pots.  During our conversation I recalled the following scripture verse I had just read:  “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”  (1 Corinthians 3:7-8) 

The reality of being a gardener is not that I have some magical power to bring forth from a seed all that makes it into the plant it will become.  Rather I provide the water, the soil, the heat, and the light and the seed produces the plant under the conditions I provide.  The resultant plant from my labors is not of my design but instead the design already placed into the seed by its designer.

I think there is a beautiful lesson contained in this analogy.   Likewise we have been given everything we need to make the seed of hope within us grow, flourish, and produce much fruit.  Not all of our seeds are the same and neither are the materials we have been given as spiritual gardeners to nourish our seeds.   But nevertheless, the gardener is still needed to plant the seed and provide for all of its needs from what she has access to in order to help the growth process.

How is your hope plant doing?  A good gauge for a plant’s health can be to look at its leaves and roots – the parts of the plant that take in the nutrients.  For each of us our spiritual health can also be judged by our leaves (what we absorb from God working around us in our day to day lives) and our roots (what we absorb when we dig down deep into our relationship with God).  I pray you find healthy growth, but if you don’t it is not the end of the plant.  If your plant is in need of some help make sure to give it some extra loving care by praying for God to give you the time and energy to grow new leaves and new roots – you will be glad you did!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beautiful Aroma


“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”  2 Corinthians 2:14-16



Yesterday I was cleaning up some things in my herb garden in preparation for the planting season ahead.  Not only did I find great joy in the task before me because of the anticipation of new life each plant held and the flavors they would give to enhance my creations in the kitchen, but the aromas around me were consuming.  The drudgery of pulling weeds was transformed into a delightful experience because of the beautiful smells that surrounded me.

Today on this Sabbath we also have the chance to put ourselves into a place where beautiful fragrances can transform the tasks of our sometimes mundane lives, a place where the fragrance of Christ can fill our spiritual senses and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.  That place is in a community of believers who by their witness, if our hearts are set on the Lord, will give off an “aroma of life leading to life”. 

Take time today to enjoy those aromas God allows you to smell and be encouraged by.  And also enjoy sharing the fragrance He has given you to share within the bouquet.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Duck Evangelism, Conclusion


“…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  submitting to one another in the fear of God.”  Ephesians 5:19-21

Today is our last day on this lesson.  It has been such a joy going through these verses for me and I hope you had the same experience.  I think the greatest implication we can take away from these lessons is that evangelism is not something we need to strive to accomplish – rather it is something that will happen naturally if we keep our lives in line with the basic principals we have studied these past 9 days.

If your life has come to a point where you are weary in doing good and you feel like a failure in the godly pursuits of your life, then allow yourself the time to step back and re-evaluate your approach to living for your Lord Jesus.  As the verses above state, living as a duck in the pond (a disciple filled with the Holy Spirit who makes her permanent residence in the will of God and enjoys the friendship of Jesus) creates a duck who cannot contain the joy that flows from her presence.  This type of joy fills our hearts with songs of praise and thanksgiving, makes our relationships become avenues by which we see the power of God at work, and keeps our minds protected from the evil and wayward ways of the world.

Being an influencer and a true evangelist for our Lord is not about anything we can do to change others.  Rather it is what God can do through us to shine His light into a dark world.  For each of us we are called differently to interact with different ducks.  God chooses to use us in ways that do not waste the lessons He has taught us in the pond and from which the puddles we have been saved.

No two people have the exact same influence, so we are all called to share our stories with different people for different purposes.  Yet all of us, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the witness we live because of Him, make those on the outside desire to know more about the pond we live in and the Big Daddy duck (God) who makes our pond living possible.

Ultimately, that way of living is the most impactful way to be a shining light in this darkened world!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Duck Evangelism, Part 8


And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,”  Ephesians 5:18

I do not know what your view is regarding whether or not a Christian should drink alcohol, but as I was talking about this very thing with a friend last night I ended my part of the conversation by saying that the most important thing we need to remember in contemplating any act we are to take part in is whether or not the Holy Spirit voices approval or disapproval.  Furthermore, I added, as an obedient servant we are to obey the direction those instructions take us and not compare what we have heard to what others have heard. 

As I see it, there are many commands in the bible that are clear as to what is evil and what is good, yet the use of alcohol in general is not dealt with on this level.  Rather, the bible gives us some clear guidelines for its use and some clear warnings about its misuse.  Today’s verse addresses the misuse of alcohol but in context there is an even greater contrasting element being addressed that I am excited to share with you. 

Again, I have taken the liberty to expand out the underlined parts of the verse above and here how they can be described:
  • “drunk with wine” is an example of being in a drunk state which was brought about by drinking too much wine.  The state of being drunk in general is one in which a person’s judgment is clearly impaired.  Alcohol is not the only substance which can put a person in the state of drunkenness though.  In reality, anything that is not of God and is taken to an unhealthy level can cause our spirit to be drunk and self-satisfied.  That in turn brings this drunk person to a state of “dissipation”.  And, “dissipation” in direct translation, is the state of being unsaved.  Salvation is for those who trust in the Lord, but how can a life filled with something not of God belong to God?
  • filled with the Spirit” is a wonderful short phrase that means so much more when looked at from its original Greek connotation.  The words used here mean to “be crammed to the top” with no more room to shove anything else into the container.  The picture you get when thinking about this phrase is a cup filled so full that if you tried to put any more liquid in, the contents would spill over the sides and onto the floor and everything around it.  Likewise, if you are the container which is so filled with the Spirit, then He takes up so much of you that there is no more room for you/your will in your life.

A.W. Tozer writes about the conflict many Christian have in this area of allowing the Holy Spirit to fill their lives until they are crammed to the top with Him.  He states:  “…are you sure you want to be possessed by a spirit other than your own?  Even though that spirit be the pure Spirit of God?  Even though He be the very gentle essence of the gentle Jesus?  Even though He be sane and pure and free?  Even though He be wisdom personified, wisdom Himself, even though He have a healing, precious ointment to distill?  Even though He be loving as the heart of God?  That Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your Life!”

Whether the lack of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer has to do with fear (as expressed by Tozer) or just failure to understand the need for Him, the human need to be filled with something will drive an individual to pursue other avenues to find that content and filled existence, whether that be in the form of alcohol, drugs, work, status, power, ministry, etc.  The list goes on and on.  In the end though, true peace, real contentment, and an effective life comes only from being filled by One thing and that is the Spirit of God.

Our duck in the pond allows me to share a very compelling illustration with you in regards to this truth.  Think about the Holy Spirit as the water in the pond.  By nature, water is a wonderful conductor of electricity.  And, just like a light bulb needs to have electricity in it to shine so does our duck need to be connected to the Big Daddy duck (by staying in the pond) so she can shine and be an inspiration to other ducks who have yet to experience the pond.  In other words, when our duck who choose to get out of the pond and on her own tried to be a witness in the puddles, but utterly failed.  She was completely ineffective in influencing the puddle ducks and came off as some crazy, wildly flapping duck because she was trying to manufacture her own light apart from the source that gave her the light within her while she was in the pond. 

This type of thinking is completely contrary to the worldly notion that if you just go and do something you can make things happen.  Instead what God wants us to understand is that we are only effective when the Holy Spirit, our direct connection to God, is at work in us.  Also, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of the people we speak to need in order to prepare them for the work He desires to do around them through us.

The other day I was having a refreshing conversation with a woman who started coming to our church just a few months ago.  I was so delighted to hear a believer driven to proclaim the works of the Lord in complete understanding of the phrase “trust in the Lord”.  In conveying her story to me about how God moved her from inner city Chicago to our little town in Minnesota she shared with me many stories about God’s miraculous provision for her.  One of her stories she shared had to do with her need for a bed.  She stated that one morning she woke up and realized the air mattress she had been sleeping on had sprung a leak and it was not going to hold her one more night.  So she said, “I prayed to Jesus to send me a bed.”  Within a few short hours her nephew told her there was a knock at the door.  The woman standing outside the door promptly asked her if she was in need of a bed.  She told me that she could not contain her worship for the Lord’s provision and burst out saying, “Praise You Jesus!”  She quickly said to the woman at the door, “Don’t mind me I am just so grateful to the Lord for providing for my needs I just need to praise Him.”

This woman is the exact picture of what Paul was getting at when he states that a believer should be “crammed full” of the Spirit.  Living in that sort of manner is so encouraging and so inspiring to others who see your life that they can’t ignore it.  That’s what being an influencer who shines the light of God looks like.  It is living in a state where we can speak, pray, sing, and give thanks not because of our surrounding conditions, but rather because of the God who is orchestrating the purposes behind those conditions. 

May God show you today how you can shine for Him and be filled by Him so that those around you are drawn to Him and His eternal light of life.