I will never forget the first time I heard it. I was sitting with my son, listening to Banning Liebsher (of Jesus Culture) talk. He began remarking on the kindness of God. He seemed to be awestruck by how kind our Father is. Not good, not loving, not His faithfulness, or how he was amazed by God's works of healing, just His kindness. It seemed so odd! There I was, with my nearly grown kid, listening to another kid, (yes, Banning is a kid to me), and I was trying to remember if there was ever a time I thought of God as kind.
The question stuck. Is God kind? And if He is, why did I hold Him at such a distance that I remarked on His greatness, yet overlooked His kindness?
Perhaps I had always treated God's grace as a legal transaction. One of those if-and-then propositions. "If we confess our sins, then he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (ESV) If I confessed, then He owed me forgiveness, like putting money into a Coke machine. If I put the money in, it owed me a Coke in return. Could I have really been that callused?
After all, I was the one lost in sin. I was the guilty one. He owed me nothing. I was the one who owed a debt that I could never repay. I was broken. Lost. Marred by the same dirt that gets on all of us. Just as guilty the the man serving time on death row for murder. I deserved death.
But the He found me. In His kindness He found me.
"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7 (NIV)
Did you see that? He not only provides us with forgiveness, and new life, but we become heirs! True sons and daughters of God!
Maybe I received Christ at such a young age that I never fully comprehended the measure to which He went to win me back from death. The older I get, the more I realize that I am not entitled to any of His kindness. From the best of the best, to the worst of the worst, we all deserve death.
"So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)
The attribute of kindness is not just something Jesus displayed on the cross, it has always been a part of His nature, and will always be a part of His nature. One of God's names is Elohim Chaseddi; the God of kindness. It was the love of the Father that sent Christ to the cross. It is the love of the Father that continually, faithfully, consistently draws us unto Him.
"Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" Romans 2:4 (NLT)
Even now, as we strive to emulate the love of the Father, it is not the crooked finger of condemnation that draws people into repentance. It is the open arms of kindness that draw people unto Him. It is His kindness openly displayed on the cross, and continually displayed through God's people demonstrating kindness and compassion, (not sugar coating the sin), but loving people out of their lostness, out of their shame, and into the loving light of Jesus. Kindness that does not give up on people when they fail. The kindness of a gentle reminder that they are loved, even though.
I am on journey to know God better, so I hope this helps you a little bit as you too, strive to know Him. God is love. Love is kind. It's really not that complicated.
How has He shown you kindness lately?
Are you on the brink of revival? Whether you are a leader and believing for corporate revival or you are a Christian who longs to return to your first love experience, to have your love for God rekindled, or you have loved ones that need Jesus, revival is at the forefront of your mind.
When I think revival, it isn't a tent meeting that I picture. It's not a church with a big banner and newspaper ads announcing a special evangelist with revival meeting dates posted. When I think revival, it's never about a place, it's always about a people. I think sold out, radical followers of Jesus, the kind of believers who think that with God all things are possible, right here, right now. The kind of people who shine a light so attractive, that those who are lost and hurting can't look away. The kind of people who have such a relationship with God that they know His heart, they know Him, they have talked with Him as though face-to-face. They captivate onlookers' attention because of the love of Jesus emanating from them.
These people. The ones who allow Jesus to be the boss, not just in their hearts, but also in their home. Those who succeed at work because they elevate everyone they come into contact with. These people who pray so effectively, that their city begins to be transformed right before their eyes.
I've been on the brink of revival awhile now. I've read lots of stories of past monumental, nation sweeping revivals, but stepping into my own has been a process.
I think all human beings have that thing in us that clings to a bit of control. The more sophisticated we get, the more control we think we have. But revival can't work like that. We can't control the environment of miracles, because miracles don't happen within the realm of human control. To fully step into revival we must learn what children know, LET IT GO. (cue Disney song...)
To allow God full control, either personally or corporately, means that we relinquish our need to control to Him. That is hard enough, but here's what no one tells you. All hell will break out against you when you are on the brink of revival. People who need control will push back. Those who seek to stop revival will make noise. They will interrupt. They may even prophesy against the move of God you are seeking. It looks like chaos. When that Familiar feeling of fear rises up, we are tempted to take back control. After all, we think, "God doesn't work in chaos'.
Oh, but doesn't he?
In the greatest act of creation ever known, God created something wonderful out of chaos. Hebrews 11:3 says, "By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible." (Amp.) The old testament prophets displayed the raw power of God best amidst great chaos. (Read about Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.) Even Jesus, when He showed his disciples how to calm the storms and walk on water, it was out of chaos. (Matthew 8:27 "The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (NIV)
Our natural knee-jerk reaction is to grasp for the safety of control. But really, God can be trusted with the control, can't He? While it's true that God is not the God of confusion, as we read in 1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (NKJV) He is the God of peace - even in the midst of chaos!
Isaiah 26:3 reminds us, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (NLT) Peace. The shalom of heaven that calls chaos back into order. The shalom of heaven that declares Christ's ultimate authority over every situation. Peace is a beautiful thing, and in the changing tide of life, as we step past the brink, into the unknown of revival, as we make the handoff of control from ourselves to God, we must learn to stay in that place of peace.
With revival, there really are no rules. Only relationship.
And maybe that's the real point anyway.
God has always sought a relationship with us and it's only in our surrender of control that He has our full attention. As we build our relationship with Abba Father, we find that He is utterly trustworthy. And no matter how much chaos is happening in the transition, we can know the heart of God and His immense love for us. We can rest in the knowledge that our sins are forgiven and that Jesus is advocating on our behalf, even now. Perhaps the icing on the cake is that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. (Which implies it's okay to not know it all, we have a lot to learn from Him and He likes it that way.)
Is the brink of revival in your view? Take it from me, don't mind the chaos, let go of control, rest in the shalom of heaven, and do what He says. That has been my lesson today.
As our worship team was waiting on God, asking Him what He wanted to do in our midst on Sunday, my friend Kimberley said, "I heard the word, backdraft". You may wonder, how would a backdraft effect a church service? I know I did, so I did some research.
In a poorly ventilated space, a fire can burn until the atmosphere becomes depleted of oxygen. When the available oxygen has been consumed by the fire the concentrations of hot gases and aerosolized fuels become very high, because there isn't enough oxygen to burn, and not enough ventilation to escape. the gasses and fuel just become stuck.
According to iaaifireinvestigator, "Although there may not be any visible fire anymore, this condition is very dangerous because all the reaction needs is more oxygen and it will start again." If oxygen is introduced into this kind of environment, it can suddenly ignite. How interesting.
This caused me to speculate a bit. To the naked eye, a spiritual environment that once knew revival can appear quite dead. Stagnant. Stuck even. Maybe a lot of time has passed since that place had seen the fire of revival. In the physical, it looks as if the fire has completely gone out. Could it be that this is the time that the environment becomes the most dangerous? One gust of wind from the Holy Spirit and suddenly, the place is engulfed in flames!
The Holy Spirit is often described throughout the Bible as wind. In the book of Acts, it was the wind of the Holy Spirit that changed everything! It brought empowerment. It brought signs and wonders. It cause hearts to turn to the Father. It brought redemption for the masses.
"Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting." Acts 2:2 (NIV)
The word wind in this passage is translated pneó, which means to blow or breath. The wind of the Holy Spirit, unseen, yet the effects are totally transformative and undeniable. It is the breath of the Holy Spirit that brings revival fires back to life, personally and corporately.
There are statistics about the city I live in, that less than 5% of the population attend any kind of church. My state, Nevada is one of the least churched states in America. By all accounts, it looks spiritually dead to the natural eye. Yet I have read accounts a revival in my city from a hundred years ago.
A preacher named Earnest E. Yokum, fresh from Azusa Street, rode into town and began preaching the gospel. There were many reports of people being miraculously healed, in every echelon of society. People came under such conviction of the Holy Spirit that they emptied their homes of alcohol and tobacco products and a pile was beginning to form on a Carson City street. A local liquor and tobacco store owner emptied out his entire store and added it to the now gigantic pile. More was added to the pile in the form of pornography. They were delivered and wanted to be free of all their vices. The preacher gathered the townsfolk around the pile as he doused it with gasoline. Then with great dramatic flair, he lit a match and tossed it onto the pile. A literal revival fire was burning on a downtown city street.
Historians will tell you that Nevada was built by greed, structured around pleasure. But I know that I serve a redeeming God. He longs to restore and rebuild all things into alignment with His purposes. It helps me to know that the spiritual history of my city is rich and although spiritual fervor appears to be completely depleted, my faith must go beyond what my eyes can see. I believe that God's purpose for my state is not for greed, but to establish economic freedom and abundance for it's people and to be an example to the nation.
With one breath of God upon my city and upon my church, we could experience a backdraft that would be uncontrollable! Like an explosion, the whole place could suddenly ignite and nothing in it's environment would be untouched.
Instead of agonizing over every problem I see in my city, I can shift my attention to what is unseen and pray for a mighty breath of God to blow on the embers of people's hearts. Instead of praying for a spark, I am now praying for a backdraft!
What God did before, He can do again. No matter what you see going on in your city, the unseen Spirit of God is able to breathe fresh power into your situation. I pray that today, our God, who is an all consuming fire, will send forth His Spirit to blow upon the fires of your heart and upon your city!
My husband and I are privileged to pastor C5 Church. It is a church that is hungry for revival. Not just hungry, but chasing after it. We get to see cancer healed, tumors disappear, brokenness made whole, relationships restored, and families reconciled by the love and power of God on a weekly basis, yet we know there MUST be MORE! Have you been feeling that way too? For some time now, I have felt a building frustration and dissatisfaction, knowing that the revival stories of old are wonderful, but we need our own stories of unprecedented Holy Spirit power, widespread repentance and city transformation and we need it now!
Awakening the Sleeping Giant
This morning I had my alarm clock set, but I awoke long before the alarm sounded. It was still dark outside, but I knew the dawn was not far off. A sense of excitement filled me as I knew God was speaking. He said, “The sleeping giant is awakening!”
Who is the sleeping giant, Lord?
Immediately He showed me a picture of Gulliver. He was tethered to the ground with many onlookers and spectators. Some were peeking in pockets, examining the strength of this giant. Many were afraid, trying to control and restrain this unknown power that he contained.
God said, “That’s my church. It has seemed to be tied down, and many have not understood it. Some have sought to silence it. Others have tried to use it’s power for their own glory and good, but the true power of the church is about to be unleashed in America.”
In Gulliver’s Travels, the author, Jonathan Swift describes Gulliver’s condition, “I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground;” (Book 1, Chapter 1, Page 55)
Wow! I thought. The unrestrained raw power of the glory of God released through the unified church will change the landscape of our nation. When, Lord?
He said, “the alarm clock is set, but many are already awake and preparing for what is about to come.”
“I’m ready, God, so ready,
ready from head to toe,
Ready to sing, ready to raise a tune:
“Wake up, soul!
Wake up, harp! wake up, lute!
Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!”
Psalm 57:8 (The Message)
Maybe you are one of those who is already awake and praying, making preparations?
The Bride is Making Herself Ready
I have a dear friend who pastors with her husband in a neighboring town. Last week we were discussing the coming move of God. She said it felt like the whole earth is trembling in expectation. “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” Romans 8:19 (NLT) She was describing how a spiritual expectation breaks into the natural realm. Have you been feeling it?
As I told her about Lou Engle’s vision to bring together 120,000 people in Los Angeles, California on April 9, 2016 for a day of fasting and prayer to seek God for the greatest outpouring of the Spirit of God to sweep across our nation that has ever been seen. I saw fire in her eyes! We talked about the vision that we would experience a double portion of Azusa Street outbreak exactly 110 years to the day that the Azusa Street Revival broke out. The ushering in of the billion soul harvest so often prophesied by Bob Jones. Stadium Christianity as seen in 100 visions by Bobby Conner.
She said, “We have to go!” Sadly a few days later she messaged me that they had a wedding scheduled in their church that she and her husband were performing and they wouldn’t be able to go. She was devastated. I told her I would pray for miracles.
This week I received a message from my friend. She said she shared the vision with the bride and the bride changed the date of the wedding!
I could not shake the feeling that this was a prophetic sign that the Bride is making herself ready. She (the Church) is positioning herself to be prepared for what the Bridegroom wants to do! “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7 (NIV)
I believe the alarm clock has been set. In this year of Jubilee, April 9, 2016. The Call is going forth and we, the collective Church will arise and shine. (Read Isaiah 60.)
As we gather at The Call, Azusa Now, we expect to experience the fire of God! We expect to see the revival fires of thousands rekindled. We expect to see sign and wonders and salvations in the street. We have long been expecting to see these things in our city, through the triumphant church! I believe it is time.
It is time for your prodigal to come home. It is time for addiction to be broken in your family. It is time for your neighbors to experience the power of Jesus. It is time for your co-workers to live for the cause of the Kingdom. It is time for you to live joyfully free. It is time!
When the unified Church, the sleeping giant in America awakens and breaks loose of the things that have kept her bound, we will see this land return to God. We will see restoration of Godly values to our cities. When the sleeping giant arises, the glory of God will break out and spread across our world like we have only imagined our dreams. It is time.
Have you ever felt that ecstatic feeling of breakthrough?
You just know, that you know, that you know, that God has given you the victory in a long awaited, and hard fought battle. It's a beautiful feeling. You get to go to bed at night with a feeling of SATISFACTION!
The only problem is, you wake up the next day. Old habits that you thought would have disappeared, lurk. Dysfunctional relationships lure, and you find yourself asking, "Wait a minute, what happened to my breakthrough?"
The first thing I have to say about that is, you are not alone. I think we all have felt this same puzzling, frustrating, disappointing feeling.
In Joshua chapter 3, the Bible tells the amazing story of when the children of Israel finally got to step into the promised land. After 40 years of frustrating wandering and the agonizing realization that they had "missed it", they finally walked across the Jordan River on dry ground. Joshua built a memorial of stones so they would always remember the spot.
(Have you done that? Maybe not with stones, but maybe you wrote it in your journal, or circled the date on your calendar while you did your happy dance.)
But then God went a step further and told Joshua to re-circumcise all the men. Oh my gosh! Talk about never forgetting the moment! OUCH!
I am very sure that day became a painful memory that forever marked the breakthrough in their minds and their bodies. They knew beyond any doubt, that they belonged to God.
But here's the thing. That wasn't the end of the story.
The battle of Jericho was just ahead.
So here's what I make of this story and one way it might relate to us. We pray and pray, for what can be years, and we long for breakthrough. Then, the great day arrives and breakthrough comes!!!! Victory!!!! Finally.
We can do everything right. We can build a monument to mark the moment. Out of gratitude and devotion we can surrender everything, even our bodies to God, and it may even be painful. Even though we do everything right, that does not mean it's over. It does not mean life will get easy. It means it will be different.
Different territory, different battles, different instructions.
With the promise of new victories, breathtaking experiences, amazing miracles.
In Luke 19, just before Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, He told the disciples a parable. In it, He told them to "Occupy until I come."
It's really not enough to take the land, we have to occupy it. To occupy means to stay busy. In the business of life, keep walking. God knew we would be really busy keeping the territory we have gained. Every victory is for the Kingdom. The territory we take is for our King. It is worth occupying!
So, my friends, don't be discouraged when you win the battle but still have to fight. There is always more territory to take! It is not unusual to have to continue on. It is NORMAL! So fight on, valiant warrior! The territory is eternal and it is worth it!
Perhaps the Message Version states it best, when after many battles Joshua looks at his men and asks them this pointed question: "Joshua addressed the People of Israel: “How long are you going to sit around on your hands, putting off taking possession of the land that God, the God of your ancestors, has given you?.." Joshua 18:3 (Message)
Maybe you have crossed over. Maybe you have marked the moment. Maybe you have tasted victory. Good!!! God has qualified you to take more ground. Put your armor back on and GO! It is time to OCCUPY! Possess your land today. You are not visiting, you live there! So stay put, enjoy the new view and make yourself at home. The breakthrough really is yours.
The kids at our church are really learning to pray with power and such beautiful faith. Sunday, before I was to lead worship at C5 Church, some of the C5 Kids gathered with me to pray. I felt little hands around one of my ankles, then I heard these words, "God, bless Pastor Connie, and the steps that she takes, back and forth and forward and back, let them bring joy and glory to you." I looked up, and it was a little 6 year old boy named Liam. Wow! Did he even know that I have a habit of walking back and forth, forward and back when I lead worship? I doubt it. The kids are in another building during worship at our church. I was blown away by his insight and simple request to God.
That little prayer of faith was precious to me, because Liam knew the truth. He understood that the Lord takes delight in our steps. Psalm 37:23 tells us, "The steps of the God-pursuing ones follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord. And God delights in every step they take to follow Him." (Passion Translation)
In Rome there is a place called the Scala Santa, the Holy Stairs or Sacred Steps. These steps were brought to Rome from Jerusalem by Helen, Emperor Constantine's mother, 300 years after Jesus' death. These stairs are said to have been the steps in Pontius Pilate's mansion, where Jesus came the night he was tried. These are the steps Jesus took when He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. It is on these stairs that He walked in step with the will of the Father to lay down His life for mankind.
I visited these steps a short time ago and joined together with thousands of pilgrims who came before me, who climbed each step on their knees. With each step, I was keenly aware of the weight of the decision Jesus made. With each step He could've said, "NO". With each step, He chose me. He chose you. He willingly walked those steps to pay the price for our sin.
There was a sacred silence in that place, yet emotions ran the gamut. Many cried, they whispered long silent prayers, some kissed each step, others tucked written prayers into the crevices of the stairs, as if they were tucking hidden love notes in a secret place, a place He would know to look.
He knows. He is familiar with our suffering, and acquainted with our grief. He is aware of every step we take. And yet, as we follow in His footsteps, we need to understand the big picture!
"We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne." Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)
He endured, for the joy set before Him. The joy was us! He chose me and He chose you. He had us in mind and He looked forward to the joy He would have in delighting in each step we take toward Him. The joy He would have when we would say yes to following Him. The joy He would have in spending eternity with us.
Each step you take is holy unto the Lord. He delights in each one, because He takes great joy in you! You were worth it! Your eternal destiny was worth it! For the joy set before Him!
I don't think we have any concept of what eternal joy will be like. We think, worry free, pain free, sorrow free, sickness free, we think of the things that WON'T be there. What I can't wait to see is what WILL be there! For all the things I don't know and can't comprehend, this I do know. He is my joy, He is my delight, and through sunshine or shadow, I will follow Him.
What holy steps are you taking to follow Him today?
When we rounded the corner and I captured my first view of the holy city I felt as though I had the wind knocked out of me. It was more grand than I had imagined. Every column encircling the square was topped with majestic sculptures of disciples, martyrs turned saints. All the major players of scripture were there. Larger than life. The closer we got to the square, my mind was flooded with music. One particular song, actually. It was so loud, so clear. The sound of it mingled with the sounds of the fountain and the church bells and the pilgrims.
"All the saints and angels,
Bow before your throne.
All the elders cast their crowns
before the lamb of God and sing.
You are worthy of it all.
You are worthy of it all.
From you are all things and to you are all things,
You deserve the glory!"
This magnificent place, built to make man feel small, to cause him to constantly look up and behold the glory and magnificence of God. His awe and splendor are on full display in every corner and crevice. When I looked at this glorious place, my troubles seemed insignificant. I felt as though, God is real, and my "stuff" is not so big.
We walked through the holy door, into the jubilee of mercy without even realizing it. You see, the holy door is opened only during times of jubilee. 2016 is a jubilee year, and the door has been opened.
God has prepared for us a jubilee year. Every promise he has whispered in the dark times of the past, He has orchestrated for us to walk into in 2016. The door is open, whether we are aware of it or not. His mercy has been given to us and we are walking in it, even when we are oblivious to HIs goodness.
The enemy does not want us to be fully aware of the glory of God. He will throw roadblocks our way, he will try to frustrate our efforts, to discourage us and to skew our perspective. Now is the time for us to fix our gaze on the reality of His glory. His magnificence. His kindness to humanity. His continued desire for relationship with us. His plans to prosper us. His plans to give us HOPE and a future.
When all is said and done, and this jubilee year is passed, I believe we will be amazed at all He has done. All the praise and honor we ascribe to Him at the end, He is worthy of NOW. Because in reality, it is already DONE.
"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." 1 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)
I will praise Him. No matter what my circumstances appear, He is worthy of it all. I will worship Him. When trials and tests and discouragement come, He is still worthy of all my adoration. I will bow before Him. When things begin to turn and I don't "feel the need" for Him as much, I will cling to my Jesus, He is worthy of it all. When victory is had, I will cast my crown before His feet, because He is worthy of it all.
How are you approaching this year of jubilee? Are you looking up?
"Worthy of It All", words by David Brymer, music by David Brymer and Ryan Hall.
Who is God? Have you ever wondered?
I have been a good church going Christian all my life. I have learned, un-learned and re-learned so many great Bible stories through the years. I have attempted to imagine all of Jesus' miracles, to acknowledge what He accomplished for me on the cross, to grasp the great mercy He poured out upon my life, and to live in the amazing victory He gained for my life through His resurrection. I have prayed to Jesus, after all there is only one name by which we can be saved.
I love Jesus like a friend. Sometimes He is my rescuer. At other times He is my healer. Many times He is my comforter and the voice of wisdom that speaks in the midst of my noisy world.
But who is God? In my quest to answer this question, I often pictured God sitting on a great white throne in heaven, not unlike Abraham Lincoln on his perch in Washington DC's famous monument. But somehow I knew He was not really that cold, hard, immovable Diety that I imagined.
In my search, I came across this beautiful verse, written by the Apostle Paul that attempts to describe this great big God that we worship. "He (Jesus) is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation." Colossians 1:15 (Amp.)
So if I wanted to know who God is, I have to look again at who Jesus is. Tender, full of compassion, willing to go after the one, righteous, kind, powerful, just, over the top provider of my salvation, Jesus. So this also is God!
The Passion Translation says, "He is the divine portrait, the true likeness of the invisible God,..."
God is not austere or hard, or far away! He is with us! God is with me!
Paul knew who God was. when he penned this scripture to the church in Colossae, he was in prison in Rome.
I recently returned from a trip to Rome, while there, I had the opportunity to visit this place where Paul was on held before trial. He lived here for 2 years, before being tried and executed.
I snapped a photo of this ancient column standing in the cell where he was held. Legend has it that Paul etched words into this stone pillar with His own hand. (See the letters DEI in the photo.) Scholars theorize that this etching comes from Imago Dei, meaning Image of God. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein "God created man in his own image. . ."
Wait, what? I can see His image in my own mirror?
God tells us and shows us who He is all through scripture. From the beginning to the end, where John gives an eye witness description of His awesome appearance in Revelation.
"The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance." Revelation 1:14-16 (NIV)
Who is God to you? In my quest to know Him, I have discovered the immeasurable greatness of this God who created all that there is, holds the universe in the palm of His hand, yet knows my name! The more I know, the more I want to know! God loves to play this game of hide and seek with us, because He wants time with us! He seeks relationship! The unknowable God wants to be known!
So you tell me. Who is God?
If you are like me, when you think about slavery, you think of the movies like Roots and Twelve Years a Slave. You remember all the terrible things our country has been through to abolish slavery, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement to the race riots which still flare up today. To the American mentality, slavery would never be something we would want to experience.
However, in the Old Testament, the purchased slave stood in a much closer relationship to his lord than the hired servant, who was free to come and goes he might wish. A hired hand was treated like a stranger really, he could not eat the passover or participate in the holy ceremonies, whereas, a slave was treated like member of the family, he was held very close and sat at the table with the master. He ate the passover meal, experienced the wonders of the holiness of God, all because he belonged to his master.
The name God allowed the children of Israel to call Him was Adonai. The name Adonai makes a claim upon our obedience and our service. His name as Lord signifies ownership or mastership and indicates the truth that God is the owner each member of the human race and that He claims the unrestricted obedience of all.
Through Adonai’s eyes, the slave belonged to the master but the slave also had the right of the Master’s protection and help and direction. In fact, in the absence of an heir, the slave could become the heir! The slave was treated as a member of the family.
David writes about this relationship in Psalms 123:1-2.
I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy. (NIV)
Throughout the Old Testament God spoke to prophets of old as Adonai. When they felt weak, unable, or incapable, He came and reassured them.
Have you ever felt weak, unable, or incapable? What about disqualified, or too young, too old, or you've missed too many opportunities? He comes to us, as He came to the prophets of old, saying,
"I am Adonai and I will empower you. As your master, it is my responsibility to put you to work where I see fit! Do not fear. You are under the shadow of my wings, safe, cared for, protected, I’ve got you, now go.”
That kind of slavery came with all the benefits of inheritance, provision, freedom from worry, and protection.
Who can forget Paul, using this same slavery analogy in the New Testament, “This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News." Romans 1:1 (NLT)
Paul understood that he was bought with a price, and he completely and totally belonged to his Master and as such, he was determined to obey God's every word, knowing that it was God who did the choosing, not himself. If God chose Him, then God would be responsible for the outcome!
The enemy's goal is always the same; to steal kill and destroy. It is the enemy who would want us to live in fear of every outcome of every risk we take for God, to feel lowly and ashamed for being a slave to Christ. It is his chief aim to separate us from the Master who loves us like His own children. If he can get us off course from our destiny that God, Himself chose for us, then he wins.
The truth is, to be slave is to be invested with heaven’s dignity, nobility, liberty, and joy. Look at the life of Jesus. He was full of confidence, strength, and purpose because He knew God had sent Him on the mission and He was therefore empowered to fulfill it. It is to the slave that God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Again, it is Paul who clarifies our position for us, "And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world." 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 (NLT)
To be the slave of Christ is to be the most free because He gives us complete liberty of obedience without fear of failure. He is responsible for the outcome of our obedience. He is faithful to His servants, His family, the ones He loves. That’s us!
We no longer have to be slaves to addictions, sin, shame, or to the pull of the world when we walk in complete obedience to our Master. Every provision will be ours, and our success is guaranteed because it is He would called us, He who empowers us, and He who will reward us.
Maybe today you need to bind yourself to the Master anew? Talk to Him. Submit to His authority, and commit to obedience whenever He speaks. Sit next to Him at the banqueting table of His word, partake of the holiness of God as you worship. He has made you His heir. You have become His child!
"He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great."
Psalm 18:34-35 (NIV)
Yesterday while sitting in church I had the strongest realization that we, the global worldwide church, are at war. There is a clash of kingdoms, you know. Good vs. evil. The kingdom of light is at war with the kingdom of darkness. Until Christ returns for His church, we have a job to do. We are to advance, advance, and never retreat!!!
How will we advance our part of the kingdom if we are not a well armed force? I wondered.
I've heard stories of America during WW2 that as men went out to fight, the women went to work to arm them for battle. My own grandmother moved her family from Ohio to Detroit to work as a Rosie the Riveter while her husband, my grandfather, went off to war. It was an "all for one and one for all" mentality until America celebrated in VICTORY.
The church is not only the saving vessel for mankind, it also stands of the front lines of battle for every neighborhood, city and nation. Not all within the church are called to fight, but we are all responsible to be ready, fit, and able to lift one another up, to provide solace for the fighters, to train, and to supply arms.
To provide arms, weapons and tools for the hands of fellow warriors is something we do when we decide to give. Whether through our obedience to tithe, or when we step out in faith and give beyond, through offerings and gifts, we are saying, "I will not leave you empty handed. I will not leave you exposed. I will not only fight beside you, I will advance the fight, and I will help make you a better equipped warrior."
Our giving is an act of war because our funds provide training, education, books, and tools to equip people for battle.
Our funds allow the church to have a quick community response in times of emergency, which breaks the back of our enemy who depends of fear, lack and poverty to keep a stranglehold over our cities. Our giving allows us to be ready for every what-if contingency.
If the enemy can keep the church broke, poor, and powerless he gains further access to people who need the light and love of God to be expressed through the church so desperately.
We hold the hope of the world within us. Hope itself is a powerful weapon, and when the church is well funded, that voice of hope can be broadcast across the nations and the Kingdom of God expands. Warriors can be supplied and sent out.
"But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”" Romans 10:14-15 (NLT)
Yes, we give as an act of obedience, but in reality, it is so much more. When we give, we arm the church for battle and we advance the kingdom. God chooses to use the structure and apparatus He put in place to save the world, and that is His church. The church triumphant. The church victorious. That is why your giving becomes your act of war.