IS COMPLAINING LEGAL?

 

Seems that way. Wasn’t my fault I got the flat tire, my children got sick, I lost the job. It didn’t take long for the children of Israel, freshly redeemed from Egypt, to gripe. Maybe they expected to live on miracles. They had seen plenty when God put the pressure on the Egyptians–and they went free every time. Perhaps they felt so special that they figured it would always go that way.

 

Not this time: “Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sa, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter…And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet” (Exodus 15:22-25).

 

The obstacle became the opportunity. Too bad they didn’t see it that way from the get-go. Too bad they didn’t say, “If God could deliver us from the strongest army in the world, I’ll bet He has a solution to this water problem.” Then the test would become a testimony. Instead it became an example of how easily people complain when situations turn on them. It’s not about our circumstances–it’s about ourselves. Can we trust God when things turn south or must we register our displeasure?

 

The verse before this paragraph reads, “And Miriam sang to them, ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his ride he has thrown into the sea’” (21). Too bad they couldn’t just keep worshiping instead of whining. Worship proves that our center of gravity is the character of God rather than the situation at hand.

 

Did they expect to get a smooth ride? Do we? Do Christians miss their plane, have car trouble, cranky neighbors, work issues, financial pressures? Life is full of tests, trials, tension, the very thing that give us character–IF we keep our focus on the Lord who has triumphed gloriously. Otherwise, we simply prove that we are members of a human fallen race by grumbling.

 

Some prefer to keep worshiping–like Paul in the prison cell after being unjustly beaten, or Daniel after his life was threatened if he prayed to any god besides the king, or the apostles who praised God after they left a rugged meeting with the religious leaders because they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name.
God is God, and that is what He expects us to do. And if we do, we learn to ride higher than our trials, and they turn to triumphs. You probably know people like that. They have come into a rhythm of life that their focus is so much on beholding the Lord that they appear not even to taste the bitter water. They live on a higher plane. That’s where I want to be. How about you? Their answer came from a tree. Ours does too! Would it have helped if they had known that their next stop was Elim–with twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees? (27).

WHAT MIGHT THE COMING REVIVAL LOOK LIKE?

 

More and more leaders are saying that revival is imminent. I agree. Revival is God’s business. We don’t serve it up; we respond to a God who causes the wind to blow. Yet we take part in the dance. God engineers revival–we steward it. And we pray it in with passion. Here’s an outlook I recommend we consider:

 

We will respect the past, but we don’t live there. Knowing the history of revival tells us that it includes some important ingredients, like prayer, but the shape it takes depends upon how and where the wind blows. 2017 looks different from 1905, and even the Jesus revival of the 1970s. Computers had not come into their own a few decades ago. The internet could be used to great advantage in a viral culture. If a child is healed of Down syndrome and a million people witness it instead of a hundred, we will thank God for the internet!

 

What if…

  • As many people came to faith in Starbuck’s as at the altar? We have seen a transformation of the marketplace into a ministry center the last two decades. In the ‘70s, we were still stuck at church. If we don’t have options, we will lose those who would rather meet us on their turf than ours. Hey, that’s what the word “go” means.
  • What if no-names in every healthy church replaced the singular famous revival preacher? We have enough churches ripe for revival that will spring into action. Having no-names share in leading puts the right image before people—the face of Jesus.
  • What if the revival was embraced by many churches and revival turned into vival? Visitation becomes habitation, and God decides to stick around. Long-term impact beats short-term explosion.  
  • What if we were unable to pinpoint where it started? Then we would conclude it started in heaven. If it breaks out in many places simultaneously, we don’t have people flocking to a place but a church flocking to the people.
  • What if folks keep their hands off it, don’t try to own it but steward it as a move of God?.
  • What if local churches had their own spin on the revival, each of them responding according to their own needs?
  • What if revival meetings included training sessions to take it to them? More out there than in here.

 

Important ingredients:

  • 24-hour prayer. Thank you, Mike Bickle, for vision. We have houses of prayer in every major city and many in not-so-major. Down through history, prayer has been the single most important catalyst for revival.
  • Multi-generations. Malachi 4:5,6 waits to be fulfilled. An un-fathered generation stands under a curse. This revival will include a Father blessing from heaven and physical fathers renewed to put children above career or golf handicap. It will also feature spiritual fathers reaching out to a younger generation, discipling them, and help them to develop a rhythm that will serve them for the long haul. This will be powerful–and new! This means…
  • Five-fold ministry. The apostolic could come into its own. Mature oversight will help give the revival continuity. A team of leaders could also take preemptive action if parts of the revival headed for crazy town.
  • Wider participation, including Catholics and orthodox.

 

How do we pray?

Pray for selflessness. Pray for fire and for humility. God exalts the humble.

Pray for discernment. How will Satan come against us? Division. Sectarianism. We’re right.

Pray for unity between young radicals who have often led revivals and fathers who mentor.

Pray for multitudes to be swept into the kingdom.

 

THE VALUE OF SUFFERING

 

Which letter of Paul’s is most joyful? Philippians. How did the church at Philippi begin? Injustice, a brutal beating, and a night locked with stocks in a prison cell. It led to the conversion of the jailor and his family, then many others. Paul suffered well, and his test became a testimony. That happens when people choose to live above the circumstances. Our biggest obstacles are not our circumstances but ourselves. What do we learn about suffering from a letter full of joy?

 

SUFFERING IS A GIFT.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in his name but also to suffer for his sake” (1:29). We normally think of suffering as a burden. How could Paul call it a gift? Because suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3,4), good fruit and great joy.

 

SUFFERING CAN THROW US FOR A GAIN.

Paul spoke about chains four times in the first chapter. His imprisonment allowed him access to the palace guard. Imagine being chained to the apostle Paul for four hours. Sooner or later you are going to hear the good news. Paul wrote that “it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ” (1:10). God is a purposeful God. We don’t go through hardship meaninglessly. If you are facing difficulty, look for a miracle masquerading behind the misery.  Hey, he’s writing his letter from a Roman prison. And we’re reading it two thousand years later. That’s a long time on the market!

 

SUFFERING CHANGES THE GAME PLAN.

It is not live or die but obey or not obey. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). We learn not to fear death but disobedience.

 

CHRIST EMBRACED SUFFERING SO WE COULD AS WELL.

“…he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (2:9). Suffering was written into His journey to earth. He told the men on the way to Emmaus, “Did not the Christ have to suffer and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:46). If suffering was a part of His job description, won’t that also be true for ours? Then it means that fellowship with Him would include suffering with Him. Paul wanted “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering” (3:10).

 

SUFFERING MEANS JOY IN DIFFICULTY.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (4:12). Happiness is situational for most people. If things go well, then I am, too. If things go wrong, I’m down. Paul embraced a mindset that allowed him to live on top of situations. Rather than riding the roller coaster of circumstantial happiness, he found meaning in suffering and gave thanks in all seasons. A really wise way to do life.

BE AN EXCEPTION

 

When one of my kids said, “Everybody’s doing it,” I said, “Wrong. You aren’t.” Sometimes children don’t want to be an exception.

 

Noah was. “The Lord saw…that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6: 5,8). Every inclination–but Noah’s. He was an exception. That made him exceptional.

 

Parents, teach your kids to be an exception, even when it hurts. If it doesn’t hurt, maybe it doesn’t help. The flow of humanity was toward evil. Noah stemmed the tide, and God used him to start all over. Talk about influence!

 

Imagine the derision when he spent one hundred years building a massive boat–in the desert. They had never heard of rain; mist came up from the earth. They laughed and scorned. They were not laughing when Noah finally went inside and it started to pour. They found out they were on the wrong side.

 

Dad and Mom, don’t cave in. They will thank you later.  Some parents want to be the friend of their children. They want influence, so they step down from being an authority to being a friend. Big mistake. You are their guidance counselor, their teacher, their mentor for life. You know what is right; they are going to learn it from you. Then, hopefully, they won’t chuck it as teens when the pressure mounts, when sex looks too inviting to pass up, when they become an exception.

 

I was respected as an athlete, but I didn’t show at the after-game parties. They never asked me why. They knew. My parents had raised me to be different, and I accepted it. I never wished that I could join them. Credit gentle parents with living the life and making it more attractive. Everyone “important” went to the parties. I didn’t.

 

When it had rained for thirty days without stopping, I wonder if Noah’s three sons thanked their dad for not giving in under the overwhelming pressure of deriding neighbors. Non-stop mocking. It could have caused Ham, Shem and Japheth to change sides. But they made it on the boat. And they were still dry after forty days of a torrential downpour. Thank Papa Noah for not throwing in the towel.

 

Kids need to fit in. My sisters and I fit in with our parents. That was enough. We didn’t have to fit in with the crowd. We knew that we were different, and it didn’t matter. To find favor in the eyes of the Lord is worth whatever derision we might receive.
How about being an exception at work or at school? Never complain about the bosses or teachers. Choose gratitude rather than filling the air with the smog of resentment. Live a godly lifestyle rather than a compromising one. Be an exception. Go ahead–win the favor of heaven.

HOW TO OVERCOME PRESUMPTION, PART 2

 

WHY ARE WE OFTEN GUILTY OF PRESUMPTION?

We listen to people more than the Lord.  There is a price to pay for listening to God, as Jesus knew.  He didn’t dance to the tune of the religious leaders, and He paid for it.  But He wanted the favor of God more than the favor of man.

 

We want to be popular rather than prophetic.  When we “go with the flow,” we will find ourselves in the wrong river.  

 

We think we know enough to travel on our own.  Maybe we needed God more when we started teaching, but we have developed our skills.  

 

We don’t like submitting to anyone.   We hate giving up control, even to God. That is why it takes a real breaking to submit to God’s authority.  

 

HOW CAN WE OVERCOME THE SIN OF PRESUMPTION?

Start by realizing the danger. Presumptuous sin can dominate our thinking, block true vision, and squeeze out revelation.   

 

Confess presumption.  Perhaps this prayer could get you started:  “Dear Father. I confess that I have too often assumed Your will without paying the price to find it.  I have wanted to know You without seeking You.  I acknowledge that Your thoughts are not my thoughts, and Your ways are not my ways, but I have easily assumed that they are.  I have been guilty of consulting people more than You.  Please give me Your plans and Your ideas instead, so that by Your grace I can succeed in the places where I have failed and that I may be faithful in the places where I have been unfaithful. Through your perfect Son Christ Jesus. Amen.”

 

Practice the art of listening.  When Mother Teresa was asked how she prayed, she answered, “I listen.”  “Then what does God do?” asked the inquirer.  “Oh, He listens too.”  It wasn’t easy for me to learn this, and sometimes I presumed to know His will when I didn’t, but I also found out that by simply listening, I could grow in recognizing His voice.

 

Be cautious in areas of strength. Presumption happens most where we think we know the most. It’s one thing to cry out to God in the face of defeat or in the midst of temptation. It’s another thing to call out when we are riding the wave of blessing.

 

If you live by reason, you will live by presumption.  You can’t help it; you’re relying on your finite mind for answers.  You can’t see far enough out.  You can’t probe the human heart.  So you must trust in your reason, which amounts to guess-work.  The alternative–live by revelation.  To do this we don’t assume that we know.  We acknowledge that we know precious little, and we surrender to the One who knows all.  

 

So, unlike the Pharisees, we don’t assume that Matthew’s core problem is that he’s a thief.  We don’t assume that we know his situation well enough to stand in judgment.  Those who judge must know all the pertinent facts to render a decision.  How presumptuous can you get. Jesus did not focus on Matthew’s yesterday but on his tomorrow.  He called him out of his sinful, painful past into a rich destiny.  True dreamers and dream releasers learn to overcome presumption and live in dependence upon God.

HOW TO OVERCOME PRESUMPTION, PART 1

 

Pre.sume (pri-zoom) v. 1.  To take for granted; assume to be true in the absence of proof to the contrary.  Latin: praesumere (prae—before + sumere—take).

 

Sounds innocent compared with pride, greed or lust, certainly not one of the seven deadly sins. Yet David prayed, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Ps.19:13).  Presumption can dominate our lives.  Why?  Because it leaves the Spirit out of the equation.  It assumes that we naturally think like God.  In fact, it is independence of the vilest nature.  Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Not even close.

 

David was a warrior from the time he was a teenager.  He knew how to fight—against bears or bullies.  Yet when the Philistines challenged his kingship, he asked the Lord if he should fight them. God responded affirmatively.

 

The Philistines tried again; they were down but not out.  David could have assumed that God’s word would echo the last one, but the man who was not afraid to take on a lion asked God what to do. He lived in dependence upon the real Warrior.

 

How easy to presume in areas of strength.  We all need God, sure enough, but not as much in places where we can function sufficiently, or so we think.  But Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing!”  Round that off to zero.  God doesn’t look for creativity—He wants conformity.  That is why Jesus gave Him so much pleasure—He only wanted to do His Father’s will.

 

HOW ARE WE GUILTY?

Listen to these comments: “The Stewardship Drive worked well last year.  Let’s do it again.”

“I think we should have a sermon series on the family.  Other churches are doing it.” “He served well on the Council.  We should ask him again.”

 

These statements may reflect a portion or all of the truth.  Or they may represent earthbound thinking that leaves no room for heaven’s input.  Presumption overlooks the fact that God has opinions.  It assumes that good old common sense is sanctified enough to discoverer the will of God without seeking it.  Common sense serves as a helpful tool, but it fails to keep us walking in the Spirit.  It too easily assumes that a good idea is a God idea.  Just because something worked before does not mean it will work again, and it sometimes means it won’t.

 

The God who says, “Behold I do a new thing,” is not obligated to the past.  Yesterday does not determine tomorrow.  But we who fall into routines can make them into ruts—and miss the Spirit.  How foolish to think that God will automatically bless our plans because we have creative ideas.  Good ideas often prove a hindrance to the kingdom of heaven coming into our midst.  David didn’t need a good idea to defeat the Philistines.  He did something far better than to check with his generals—he wisely consulted God. We need to do the same.

 

Part 2 will show why we are often guilty of presumption and how we can overcome it.

 

I KISSED MARRIAGE GOODBYE

 

They don’t say it. Their actions show it. Too many young men are not hotly pursuing marriage. Why not?

 

AN ABSENT FATHER.

Too many young adults are on their own. Father, call your son into his destiny. Teach him to work hard so he goes to bed tired. Teach him to honor women by honoring his mother and respecting his sister. Teach him not to grab the remote control when he gets home. Exhort him to get married. Tell him he wouldn’t exist if you did what he is doing.

 

Young men need courage. A father can speak that into him. He wonders if he has what it takes. Dad, tell him he does-or put it in him. Don’t stop meeting with him. Speak to his identity in God. Your responsibility is to see that he marries well. Show concern if he dates someone who would not make a good wife. Is it your business? Absolutely! If he is thinking about moving in with his girlfriend after sleeping with her, tell him that is wrong. He does that AFTER he gets married.

 

THE CHICKEN SPIRIT.
Hey, it’s not easy.  Some aren’t willing to go for it. The Bible says, “He that finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Finding means looking. It means asking, even if you are scared. I don’t know of any other way it happens. Plenty of godly women out there. Not enough men with courage to ask and keep asking. Someone is going to say yes. Agree with God that you will be married by the end of 2017! Girls can help by giving clues if they are interested and letting a guy know through a friend if they are not.

 

MINISTRY.

Some guys value ministry above marriage. I did. I was in la-la land until I was 31, content to preach and counsel–until my mentor stopped me in my tracks by saying, “Time to get married.” Really thankful. Hey, she said “yes.” It not only beats ministry–it IS ministry!

 

WHO CAN HELP?

MARRIED FRIENDS.

Talk to them about your marriage. Include the hard stuff. Urge them not to put it off. The longer they wait, the less likely that they will get married. Don’t only hang with couples.

 

DAD AND MOM.

Start early. Show them a good marriage so they want what you’ve got. Encourage them not to wait long. If they are balking, find out why. Let them know that you are there to help, but they need to go from paralysis to pursuit.

 

PASTORS AND MENTORS.

Fear has them stifled. Help them break through to success. I got in the face of six young leaders sitting in my living room. I said to them one at a time, “Get married.” Five of six did.

 

CONFIDENT SINGLES.

Do a double date. Help out shy friends. Show them to fish in the right pond, to stay in their league. I have been able to help a few reluctant ones, and they are VERY thankful!
I feel for all the quality single women who will make great partners. Not fair for them to wait so long. Help speed up the process with your prayers, counsel, and exhortations. Give this blog to a reluctant guy. He will thank you when he gets married! Dear young adult man: Marriage is God’s good idea! He can help get you there. Trust Him!

HOW TO MAKE RESOLUTIONS WORK

 

“I am starting a new hobby–procrastination. Or maybe later.”

“I am going to start believing in something. I believe in cheesecake.”

“I resolve to spend more time with underprivileged kids: my own.”

 

Most of us feel a need for some changes. New Year’s seems like a good time. We chucked the old calendar. Can we toss out old habits as easily? Not a bad way to think, and there’s biblical precedent for doing it on New Year’s and on other times, like…

 

Daily. The day started for the Hebrew the night before: “There was evening and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5).  Here are questions to review the day: “Did I live for others today? Did I miss any God-appointed opportunities?” Start the day right—when you hit the sack!

 

Weekly. Each Sabbath brought a new opportunity for a Hebrew. A day of rest meant time for reflection. Worshipping Christians find an opportunity in taking Communion: “Let a man examine himself…” (I Cor. 11:28).

 

Monthly. Hebrews built their calendar around the moon. The new moon brought a fresh month. The thin crescent visible at sunset set the day apart as holy. Time slowed down and work ceased, bringing a chance for rest and review. Some friends take a day a month for reflection.

 

Yearly.  The Hebrew agrarian society harmonized with nature. Key seasons came at springtime and harvest. Feasts were holy days, marked by worship and reflection. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in the fall. It gave them (and still does) a time of serious introspection, confession, and resolve.

 

The God who says, “Behold! I make all things new,” gives us the desire to make some changes as well. Businesses take inventories. We can do the same. However…

 

We cannot change. Resolutions fail if founded upon our ability. Paul acknowledged that willpower did not get the job done (Romans 7:15,18). Resolutions should start with the confession: “I can’t.”

 

God changes us through the Holy Spirit.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, not good advice. Jesus came because we couldn’t change. If we could, no need for the cross. God works from the inside out–by the Holy Spirit. Think about stating your resolutions as an invitation. Instead of, “I am going to exercise more,” try saying, “I am trusting You to work in me self-control.”

 

If we catch the rhythm of change throughout the year, we don’t have to put all our marbles in the New Year’s basket. Otherwise we cave in by Valentine’s Day. The calendar provides us with a rhythm for resolution.

 

One final word: who we are determines what we do. Conduct follows creed. Those who only focus on the imperative, “I must change my eating habits,” don’t get the results they want. The indicative leads to the imperative. The Christian life is more about receiving than doing. If we know we are princes and princesses, how we live follows from that identity. When we get the indicative down (who we are), the imperative (how we’re commanded to be) comes more as an invitation than as a standard. Identity drives behavior.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017

HEAR’S WHAT LAST YEAR LOOKED LIKE:

PAUL: 5 married, all within 20 minutes. Fall family retreat with 23 of us, a blast–four-wheelers on North Shore.Three-month sabbatical ended Dec.1. Next one–2023. Knee replacement surgery went well. Traveling & speaking much in 2017. We believe revival is coming!

KAREN: love being Grandma, as many days filled with joy overflowing. Lead Japanese Women’s Bible study. Hosted Christmas party for 57 pre-Christian Japanese students. Will host Japanese-Am. marriage group in February.

NAOMI: Traveling or home helping Mom with grandkids. Enjoy friends. Like to read missionary books. Fun in San Pedro with my special friend Ian & CA family. Returning in June for cousin Kristina’s wedding. Grandpa & Grandma strong at 92.

ANDREW: 6 mo. ago Elliot Clarence added to family but multiplied the blessings–much laughter and crawling. Annika Zion (2 1/2) loves big sister role, including her dollies & animals. Britta remains the life of the family. Helps me navigate leading a new school (ActsCommunityTraining.org) while continuing to work for an airline.

GABRIEL: Avin 6 loves 1st grade, Mari 5 enjoys kindergarten. Renna likes being 2, staying home with Mom. Boden turned 1 in Oct., tolerates 3 sisters. Heather enjoys being home with kids, managing rental properties. Gabriel works at Blue Cross, helps Heather juggle life. Highlight: CA. family reunion last summer & Karis’s wedding,

ERIKKA: Welcomed #4 Athalia Jubilee April. Erikka is teaching childbirth classes & is a birth doula. Boys thriving in school. Loved CA (Disney). Nora a great big sister, turned 4, so feels I ought to turn over some authority. Shepp grandparents moved to Cities (Yay!) & Substance launched downtown MPLS campus which Drew pastors (& preaches more).

ISRAEL: with Johanna hiked Zion Natl. Park w/ Shepherd in tow. Israel starts Nursing School Jan. 2017, as he continues to work at the Fire Departmt/Health East. Johanna is happy to have brother Kosta join Anderson clan. Shepherd at 16 mo. is full of joy and energy!

KARIS: engaged in March to Kosta Alex, Mrs. on July 30, Nutritional Therapist practitioner in November. St. Paul dwelling. Kosta commutes to Mpls as account manager for Impark. When not working, can be found making a Greek salad, road tripping up North, or taking nature photos. Karis is probably whipping up new recipes, working out(side), or decorating her house.

‘Tis the season to be–thankful! God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. He gave His life so we could give ours. No better way to live than to give your life away. Blessed CHRISTmas!