We just started our monthly 3-day fast together as a community, and more and more I am discovering God’s wisdom in the “seeming weakness” of prayer. Telling God what He told us to tell Him, skipping a few meals, and spending time reading and praying through the Bible seems like a foolish waste of time to the natural mind. Yet I’m finding that it is truly the pathway to a vibrant heart full of life, peace, and joy.
Today I was reading through Luke’s gospel when I flipped ahead a few pages to Luke 21 and something caught my eye. Jesus said that many would be going through life as normal when the events of the end of the age come and trap them. But the major “antidote” that Jesus gave to us to counteract a dull heart weighed down by life is prayer. He says:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.””
(Luke 21:34-36 NKJV)
A friend the other day asked me an interesting question – “Do you think you have the right eschatology to be saved?” It’s a genuine and very real question to ask because of Jesus’ own words about deception coming at the end of the age. But I responded:
“My eschatology is definitely wrong in areas, but the way to be saved is not by having the perfect understanding of all of the end-time events.”
In pondering and searching out my answer a bit more, I came across Luke 13:22-30 where Jesus answers a pretty loaded question from someone He meets in His journeys through the cities and villages on His way to Jerusalem. The follower asks boldly “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
I’m certain every one of the people following Jesus on that day had many assumptions about Jesus’ answer, but the way Jesus responds totally blindsides them all. The Jews in Jesus’ day held to the vast collection of Old Testament prophecies that Messiah would come, restore all things, destroy Israel’s enemies, and bring her back to a place of prominence among the nations once again. They believed their ticket or entrance into Messiah’s kingdom was based on their ethnicity as children of Abraham and their adherence to Moses’ law.
Yesterday I relaunched my web design website. Check it out:
My heart is to use the funds I raise by building websites to financially support prayer and intercession both locally here in Kansas City and across the nation.
It's been over a year since I redesigned my personal website, and I think it will be due for a facelift soon. In the meantime, enjoy the facelift to my design website :)
So often the intellectual smart guy walks around, knowingly or unknowingly, with an orb of unapproachability surrounding them. You know the type. Anyone who would challenge their thinking or even ask a simple question is surely going to walk away feeling intimidated, their brain having been run through a wringer. But what was it about Jesus – the smartest Man that has ever lived – that made Him so approachable?
The height of God’s beauty is found in His meekness. There is nothing more attractive than meekness. Jesus perfectly displayed the riches of God’s meekness. How can One so strong, so wise, and so mighty stoop so low in such tenderness? It truly humbles us to look upon the great mystery of God’s meekness.
Not only is it humbling to look upon His meekness, but it is inspiring to our hearts to walk in it ourselves. Our greatest glory, freedom, and pleasure is found in being like God in our character.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
(Ephesians 5:1 NKJV)
There is an inherent dilemma in “being first” in privilege and prominence in this age because it creates social and time pressures that may distract us from developing meekness. But we’ve been invited to be set free from the bonds of pride as we walk in meekness. In our weakness, we can receive the impartation of the Holy Spirit to truly walk like Jesus did. Ask Him for it!
I’m continuing my series on the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, focusing on the letter to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. I’ve decided to split up these posts a bit, just because there’s so much I want to say about each church. So there may be a couple of entries for each church as I progress along. Be sure to read this post and this post as an introduction to the series if you have not already.
Ephesus was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Asia Minor with a population of approximately 250,000 people and a public theatre seating 24,000. It was a center of commerce and finance, but also was known for immorality and idol worship. The major shrine in the city was the great temple of Diana, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world being 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, 60 feet high and held up by 127 marble pillars. The worship of Diana (or Artemis in Greek) promoted sexual immorality throughout the city. The silversmith trade was prosperous because of the demand for gold, silver and bronze idols of Diana to be used as one’s household deity (Acts 19:25).
The church in Ephesus, shining like a lamp in the midst of darkness, was a revival center for Asia Minor (Acts 19:26) being the third most prominent church in the Book of Acts after Jerusalem and Antioch. Paul first came to Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem from Corinth at the end his second missionary trip in AD 52 (Acts 18:19-21). He initially preached in the synagogue for several months and then left. His friends Priscilla and Aquila stayed to train Apollos and the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 18:24-28).
Paul returned to establish a church on his third missionary journey (Acts 19-20) which he used as his ministry base for three years (Acts 20:31). During his visit, the people responded so fervently to the gospel that the market for purchasing the silversmiths’ little Diana trinkets virtually disappeared. The revival resulted in many coming to Jesus with such extreme devotion that the silversmiths troubled Paul and caused many involved in idolatry to burn their magic books worth 50,000 drachmas (Acts 19:13-20). A drachma was an average day's wage ($100/day would have been $5,000,000 worth of magic books).
I spent my final moments of 2008 back here:
with these people:
If you think that's a little strange, let me explain. I was a part of the stage crew at this year's onething conference in Bartle Hall downtown KC, where we always ring in the new year with worship and prayer. This year, we invited the young people into a "sacred charge" before the Lord to commit to specific things like praying at least two hours per day, fasting two days per week, reading the book of Revelation, leading a weekly bible study, and boldly proclaiming the message of Jesus' return. Many of the young people responded wholeheartedly. It was unbelievable...
I'll give more updates on onething as the days progress. It was a lot of work for all of us, but I'm certain that the attendees were unbelievably blessed.
If you have a testimony about onething either as an attendee or as someone who watched it through the webcast, let me know by leaving a comment - I'd love to hear it!
It's Christmas time again, which means, at least for an IHOP guy like me, the onething conference is right around the corner, the prayer room slims down to the people who actually live in Kansas City (since many students and interns leave for the holidays), and many of the prayer room sets and songs are sung around passages relating to the birth of Christ.
I seriously wish we could take an entire month out of each year and corporately meditate on the incarnation. Of all of the things that we should center our lives around, few, if anything at all actually, should outweigh the nativity scene we view perhaps hundreds of times each December. For the eternal infinite God to fully become a finite human being is arguably the most shocking, the most outrageous, and the most scandalous thing that has happened in the history of the created order. Dana Candler in her book Entirety writes:
Jesus, the Living Word, was God from eternity, begotten before time, dwelling in the unapproachable light with the Father, inhabiting the everlasting ages before the world was made in all glory and majesty (John 1:1-2). Perpetually worshipped by angels, He possessed all things from all eternity, and to any onlooker of the adoring heavenly hosts, there was no apparent reason for this to change.
Yet in the heart of God, from this love of the Holy Three, there was a plan of scandalous proportions rooted in outrageous love, and the crux of that plan involved the unthinkable departing of the Begotten Son from the shrouds of unapproachable light and the unimaginable emptying of Himself in the assumption of a human frame. It meant the unthinkable mystery that God the Creator would enter the world through the womb of a young maiden whom He Himself created, and ultimately, the shocking culmination of God hanging on a cross—the eternal statement of His endless hatred of sin and everlasting love of mankind.
The Baby that we find in the manger was the same One who was eternally the Possessor of All, the Author of Life, the uncreated One who was with God from everlasting (Micah 5:2). He did not consider His eternal exaltation as something to be grasped and used for His own gain, but rather He chose in transcendent love to empty Himself of so great an exaltation, making Himself of no reputation and taking on the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:6-7).
Out of the erupting love and desire of the Godhead, the Son left the covering of unapproachable light and the vastness of His heavenly riches, wrapping Himself in the profound obscurity of poor humanity and becoming to the natural eye nothing more than a newborn Jewish boy, and later a typical young man, son of a carpenter, from Nazareth. In these obscure, ordinary beginnings, the extraordinary occurred: God took on the plight of humanity, the weakness and frailty of our dilemma and forever assumed His identity as our Brother, making us bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh forever.
Without question, the influence of secular music on musicians that profess the name of Jesus is strong. Church musicians and Christian artists will name many secular bands as their main musical influences. Before you think I am about to give the blanket statement that is heard so often - “secular music is bad” - I’ll say that various musical genres in and of themselves are not “bad”, and by no means am I advocating that all modern worship songs should be in a specific, common “style”. Taking such a stand is to, I believe, remove the multi-faceted nature of music as it expresses God’s heart and personality. But the issue I do want to speak into though is the influence of musicians that confess Jesus looking to secular music for that “new edge” on their worship music. I don’t want to point fingers or accuse in any way – I want to call us as musicians and songwriters to a higher standard as we write, play, and sing today at the end of the age.
As I’ve outlined in many previous posts on my blog in my prophetic music category, there are two worship movements being raised up today. Both will use music in a massive way to influence men’s decisions and attitudes. Both will gather multitudes in stadiums. Both will even have signs, wonders, and power connected to them. But one will lead many into giving themselves to Jesus in meekness and humility, bringing them to eternal life and peace - and the other will deceive many into worshipping Satan and his demonic cohorts, sending them to the lake of fire forever.
The last thing we want to do as musicians writing, playing, and leading for the true movement is to give ourselves, even in little ways, to the entanglements and snares of the false movement.
Okay, so I got a divine idea this afternoon while talking to my roommates. We know that Jesus defined "love" for Him as something more than a sentiment, an emotion, or a feeling - He defined it as one firm, clear word that is frightening to our selfish, prideful, fallen human nature. In John 14:15, John 14:21, and John 14:23, Jesus said:
““If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
(John 14:15-23 NKJV)
Love is obedience.
I want to start out this series with a pretty intense statement that hopefully will ring true with your heart by the end of the series: The letters to the seven churches are perhaps some of the most “forgotten” passages in the entire book of Revelation.
In a day when even unbelievers are becoming more and more interested in what the Bible has to say about the future, discussion between various camps in studying the book of Revelation always tends to revolve around passages like Revelation 20 (the 1000-year reign of Jesus), Revelation 4:1 (“come up here”), Revelation 6:1 (the first seal), or Revelation 12 (the symbolism of the woman and the dragon). These passages and others are rightfully discussed and debated more than these letters to the seven churches, simply because of the various systems of eschatological thought that have developed in the last 2000 years since the book’s writing in 96AD.
In the limelight of these passages lies Revelation 2-3. Despite their lack of emphasis across the body of Christ today, there is much in the New Testament surrounding the issues Jesus raised in Revelation 2 and 3 – from fervency and wholeheartedness, reigning with Christ, and the first commandment to the toleration of immorality and a dull spirit.