Take the Faith Step…

Have you ever noticed in your life of faith, that God will call you to ‘step out in faith’ before He comes through?

That really is be design.

After all, as Hebrews 1:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for anyone who comes to Him must first believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” 

The belief and the seeking must come first…then the blessing of the ‘reward’–in this case, a close relationship with Him–comes later.

Proverbs 3:9-10 says: “Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the first-fruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

Giving to the Lord first–before anything else–is the kind of worshipful faith that God will then bless.

 

In Elijah’s day, he was sent to a widow. The drought that Elijah had pronounced, because of the evil of king Ahab and the worship of false gods in Israel was already severe, and this widow was gathering some sticks to make a fire so that she could make a small loaf of bread with the little she had left, and she and her child could eat it as their last meal and die.

Pretty bleak times, indeed!

Yet, what did Elijah say?

1 Kings 17: 13-14:

“Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”.

He told her to step out in faith…to give him (the Prophet) bread first, and that the Lord would supply her needs!

What did she do?

vv. 15-16: “She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.”

God wants us to live, by faith! He often demands that we demonstrate faith–in His love, His Word, His character and His promises–before He comes through.

Live by faith today–first and foremost, faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross…but more than that, live by faith, trusting in God to come through, according to His promises.

It’s the most ‘excellent adventure’ that there is!

Dream: Flirting With Demons

Flirting with Demons     3/18/19

I’ve told you before that I have VERY vivid and detailed dreams. Oftentimes they seem to be trivial and interesting, but inconsequential. Not last night!

I dreamed that two friends and I (I don’t recognize their faces, but knew they were friends) and I were hanging out in a part of a city that was a ‘hip’ area…sort of ‘bohemian’ with old houses, trendy restaurants, etc. This was THE place to hang if you were a young, engaged person. (Why was I there, at 56? I don’t know…but I was!) I was seeing this all in the first-person–as if I was literally looking through my own eyes (not in an ‘observational’ mode, as often happens in dreams).

As we were hanging out in that part of town, we noticed several people going into a big, old house—sort of like Kalamazoo’s ‘Stuart Neighborhood’, or even the ‘Student Ghetto’. We decided to go in.

While in that house, a man came and said ‘follow me’ and we did. We went into a large room with a big window to the outdoors. White walls, glass chandelier, and instantly one of my friends started speaking as though he was feeling something going on within himself. The other friend started to back away from him in fear. As I watched, my friend started to command certain things to happen—like the lights going low, then back up, a chair lifted off the ground, etc. He then turned to me, and looked at me and I started to feel some oppression…some pressure almost lifting me off the ground.

I felt angry—at myself, for being in this place, and at my ‘friend’ for subjecting me to this power. I was not ‘scared’, but knew this was not acceptable. I told him, “You better not come after me. In the name of Jesus I command you to cease. In Jesus’ name, leave!” I felt the pressure subside and my friend ‘woke up’ from what seemed to him to be like a trance.

We left the house immediately and I woke up from my dream.

 

As soon as I awoke, I felt an impression that I believe was from the Lord…it was for me, personally, and for Christians, in general.

It was this message: We are flirting too much with the world, and that means we’re flirting with the enemy of our souls.

We have found too much of our identity in ‘going along’ with our culture, rather than standing against it and redeeming it. We have quietly bought in to the pleasures of this world as being our hope, and we’ve bought into the mindset of our culture as ‘the direction’ of where we should go. We take the ‘wisdom’ of this world as though it’s real—settling for political and material victories when it is a Spiritual Battle that is raging all around. We tend to think that, if we simply ‘don’t get too dirty’ with the world, then we’re living for God. The truth is, we’ve become worldly and reflect superficial things more than eternal things.

We’ve even taken on the standards of ‘victory’ from our cultural, worldly standards, and have forgotten that we are Children of God—eternal beings that are to be living for eternity, by faith in Jesus, and taking as many people there as possible, through the Gospel of Jesus! Instead, we are increasingly content to fight worldly battles in the power of the flesh—trading insult for insult, sarcastic jab for sarcastic jab.

It’s as though we’ve completely forgotten our True Identity!

One of the enemy’s best, most effective weapons is the soft blanket of worldliness to help us stay asleep. The Lord says, WAKE UP! NOW is the time to worship the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind! TODAY is the day of salvation! RIGHT NOW is the time of serious spiritual battle…

Am I awake? Are you?

Are you in the fight, by the power of God, or are you asleep?

Even worse, are you so deceived by the enemy of our souls that you don’t even know there’s a battle going on?

Pray for mercy from the Lord—that He would help us to see our ‘flirtation with demons’ and how our ‘worldliness’ plays into that.

Let us repent of that, and truly worship the Lord, in Spirit and in Truth!

Ephesians 6:10-12:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

 

Revelation 3:1-3:

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:

“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

 

Psalm 95:6-7:

“Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today!”

 

Philippians 3:18-20:

“For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven.And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

 

Dream #2: Judge Not?

Judge Not…3/14/19

As I stated yesterday, I have VIVID, detailed dreams. The night before last I had 2…I described one in this post: https://pastordajo.com/2019/03/14/two-dreams-1-sparrow-and-spider/.

Here’s my second one:

In my dream I was at church, talking with a group of people after the service in the lobby. One of the young men—a high schooler—began to walk away from the group, toward the office. As he did so, he pulled out a bottle—a fifth of Southern Comfort! He announced that he “I need me some southern comfort” as he began to drink it.

I walked toward him, and asked him to stop. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked.

“Drinking my whiskey.” He said.

“You’re under age, and this is CHURCH!” I said.

“Who are you to judge?” he replied.

You should know that, in my dreams, I often get a ‘backstory’—as though it was a movie and I know a lot about each character’s background. I knew this young man was sleeping with his girlfriend and had been busted and suspended for marijuana possession and smoking it at school. He reeked of it even now.

I knew that none of his family came to church, and he didn’t really hang out with anyone here…I was glad he came, but I wondered about his motivation and understanding. “Why do you come here?” I asked.

‘Hey, who are you to judge?’ he answered. “I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I’m born again and going to heaven…I’m just going to enjoy myself on the way there!”

“No, you’re missing the point”, I said. “Jesus is not just a ‘get out of jail free’ card. He is God. He deserves our worship. He is Savior and Lord. That means that, if I’m following Him, I’m getting closer and closer…He’s changing me.”

“I do what I want”. He said. “Judge not”…and he walked away.

I realized two things at that moment—as I stood there in my dream:

1) People—even church-going ones—can ‘miss it’. We can misunderstand what God did by sending His son. It wasn’t only about heaven or hell (although it was that), but about ‘authority’. Who is ‘in authority’ in our lives—us (our appetites, our cravings, our desires), or God? Clearly this young man (and others like him) are not acknowledging Jesus for who He is—God in the flesh, Lord over all, Savior of all who call on Him in faith.

2) The word ‘Judge’ is misunderstood and misused. Calling someone out and challenging them to live a consistent lifestyle is not ‘judging’. This is simply holding accountable, seeking integrity and rooting out hypocrisy. It takes ‘discernment’, but that is not judging. When it comes to ‘declaring who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘not’, that is not my call…Judgment in that sense is, and always will be, only God’s role—not mine.

However, the tendency we have in our culture to ‘live and let live’, and to embrace the ‘you do you’ concept should not apply to those who claim to be followers of Jesus. We need to encourage, pray for, lovingly confront, and walk with each other as we follow Him.

“Jesus said,  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[c] when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5).

Certainly that was calling for humility, authenticity, character and a spirit of repentance before God. I need to let Him do His work within myself, first and foremost—and I, for one, know there’s still a lot to do! However, that doesn’t mean that we are never to confront, encourage, and hold accountable other believers in the family of God. After all, Paul wrote, “you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer[j]yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1st Corinthians 5:11-13).

Clearly, there is a certain degree of accountability we have to one another, within the family of God. While it does not mean that we should go around being the ‘religious police’ for each other, we should ‘call each other to consistency’ and encourage accountability within our relationships within the family of God.

The young man in my dream was under a delusion: that Jesus is willing to be our SAVIOR with no attention to Him as our LORD. In truth, of course, He is both…and as I follow Him, He effects—for the better—all areas of my life!

This is part of what He meant when He said “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they might have life, to the full!” (John 10:10)

That young man thought he was ‘living the life’, but in reality he continued to be deceived and buying into the lie that ‘sin=freedom’. Sin—including all of the things he was doing and many, many more—is enslavement, NOT ‘freedom’. True Freedom comes when we learn to walk with Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and be changed to the point where we’re able to see and experience the ‘Full Life’ that God wants for us!

It’s not about ‘judgment’…it’s about Vision!

Now What?

When I was a kid, the ‘day after Christmas’ was just about the worst day of the year.

All the months of anticipation…the looking through catalogs, making my ‘wish lists’, presenting it to Santa and my Parents, then waiting…and anticipating that Christmas morning celebration…now was over.

All that was left to do was to clean up the wrapping paper, find places to put my new toys, put away the decorations…and get ready for a long winter (after all, New Year Celebrations were not that big a deal for little kids).

This made it a pretty bad day.

I must confess…as an adult…that the day after Christmas can be a bit of a letdown also. All of the fun of family, gifts, Christmas movies and songs is over, and I’m always amazed, for example, how quickly ‘Christmas music’ seems odd and out of place after the holiday.

So…what are we to do about this?

Are we left with figuring out ‘the next holiday’ to look forward to…then the next….then the next…and just ‘getting through’?

It seems to me that the key is this: What is Christmas about?

IF it’s about gifts…music…cookies and even family and friends and parties, then it’s understandable that we’re bummed and all that’s left is to put the stuff away and get ready for next Christmas.

However, IF it’s about something more–even more than ‘relationships’ with family and friends (as important as those are), then maybe that will help.

I was playing a Christmas Trivia game yesterday with my family when a question came up about December 6, the ‘Feast of Saint Nicholas’. When we discovered that the Pope essentially downgraded this day several decades ago, one of the players remarked, “Well, he’s still celebrated on Christmas–the 25th”, to which I replied “Well, all due respect to Nick, Christmas is about JESUS!” We all laughed at the obvious irony in the conversation.

But seriously…IF Christmas is about Jesus, then it really does not change at all.

Sure, we put away our decorations and clean up our wrapping paper, but Jesus does not change, and the eternal importance of our faith doesn’t change, and the mission in life that He gives us doesn’t change! We are still called to live for the glory of God, sharing the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit to reflect Him more and more in our living. We are called to live our lives driven toward the kingdom of Heaven!

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”–John 17:3

This Does Not Change!

The Light of the World is still here!

So, this Christmas, as you pack up your decor and put away your movies, let me encourage you to prayerfully consider whether your life is living for for a series of holidays and events, or whether your life is geared toward the eternal glory of God.

Talk to your kids about what it means to have Jesus with you ‘the rest of the year’.

Happy Day-After-Christmas!

I Wonder…

I wonder what will happen tomorrow…or the day after tomorrow.

Will the ’causes’ that I agreed with have passed? Will those I disagreed with have failed?

Will the candidates I voted for have won, or been defeated?

Obviously, I don’t know that, and no one does-despite what all the conspiracy theorists out there say!

One thing is true: No matter what happens, it will still be UP TO ME to choose how I treat my fellow humans.

If my opinions prevail, and every vote I cast is part of the winning majority, I will still be responsible to love, respect, have compassion for, and pray for, everyone–even those who vehemently opposed me.

If my opinions fail, and every vote I cast is part of the losing minority, I will still be responsible to love, respect, have compassion for, and pray for, everyone–even those who vehemently opposed me.

This truth is something we simply must grasp–all of us! Each of us!

After all, the only way we can hope to get out of the cultural quagmire and the animosity so prevalent in our culture is if each one of us take responsibility for our own actions. Not the Government–not the President or his cabinet, the the US Congress, not the State Congress, not the courts…and so on.

YOU and I simply MUST commit to civility, discussion, respect and yes, love for one another.

From my perspective, as a Christian, the most loving thing I can do–no matter what political events transpire around us–is to point people to Jesus the Christ. He is “The Way, The Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except by Him. (John 14:6). He is the “Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His Sheep.” (John 10:11). While our enemy comes to ‘steal, kill, and destroy”, Jesus has come “that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but will have everlasting life! For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so the world could be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

None of those things are changed by our temporary (and yes–important) politics.

All of those things are true for everyone in the world–not only in America.

Keep that in mind tomorrow…and the day after, and the day after, and the day after….

We are here…for Him!

 

Pots and Kettles

If you are…ahem…at least ‘middle aged’, like I am, you have heard the phrase, ‘That’s like the Pot calling the Kettle black’.

It’s an idiom for hypocrisy–when person #1 accuses person #2 of doing the very thing that that person #1 is actually guilty of.

I always wondered: Where do phrases like that come from? According to my ‘extensive research’ (Urbandictionary.com and Wikipedia.com), it arose from centuries ago when people cooked over an open fire. They would use lead pots and copper kettles. Afterward they would clean and polish the kettles…but leave the pots untouched. This resulted in the pot becoming increasing sooty and black. It the pot were to look at the kettle and accuse it of being dirty, all it would actually be seeing is its own reflection.

 

Today in this world (especially in America) there is a whole lot of ‘Pots’ calling a great number of ‘Kettles’ black.

…and before you assume that you’re the shiny one, there’s a good bet that you’ve got some ‘soot’ on you.

So do I.

We all have a worldview–a point of view from which we interpret events in this world. That’s normal and fine. However, we have an increasing tendency to assume the worst in those who see things differently than us…and we tell them so, in Tweets, Facebook posts, or Blogs.

While it may be a good thing that we’re expressing our opinions, it doesn’t take a social scientist’s study to see that the net effect in our culture has been a coarsening of discourse. What used to be an occasional debate and disagreement has become a 24-hour-a=day, 7 day-a-week Twitter war, where each person tries to get a better ‘mic drop comeback’ to their opponent. Mic DropAll the while, relationships, families, and even our society is being ripped apart.

The result? We find ourselves increasingly marginalized and separated into smaller and smaller groups, where we share our ‘offenses’ that we’ve taken from others.

The thing that unites us is…division!

The ‘Left’ accuses the ‘Right’ of being ‘hatemongers who are power-hungry’, and the ‘Right’ accuses the ‘Left’ of being ‘anarchists who morally divisive’. One claims that the ‘other’ started it, and the other replies ‘did not–you did’!

Sort of sounds like a child’s playground argument, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Proverbs 26:20-21:

“Without wood a fire goes out;
    without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.”

 

Now, we have increasing animosity in the news. Terrorism in the mailboxes…violence against a synagogue…riots in Seattle–and that’s only in America over the past week!

Soon, we have an election.

I (along with many) are so tired of the commercials. It’s almost comical to stick through one commercial break in a news program. In just one commercial break–one commercial accuses the Republican, and the next commercial accuses the Democrat–of the same thing!

Question: Where will this end?

Truthful answer: We don’t know. It depends…on us! You and Me!

It is very possible that we’ll have increasingly violent attacks on Politicians, Religious institutions, and the very fabric of our nation.

…or, we can repent of our sinful pride, and seek to be peacemakers instead.

Will we–You and I–continue to throw logs on the fire?

Will we resort to childish ‘you started it’ arguments, or will we challenge ourselves to Rise Above, and seek respectful discourse, assuming the best about the other person along the way?

Some of you reading this right now have already answered ‘yeah, but…’.

STOP! Just STOP!

The enemy of our souls is fomenting an increase in selfishness and hostility, and it’s not going to end well!

That’s why it is CRUCIAL for those who are children of God, by faith in Jesus, that we stand up and love others…as we should. It is crucial that we Christians live out the things we say we believe and show the love that we’ve graciously been given. It is imperative that we remember that we are NOT ‘of this world’ and that our #1 priority is living for the glory of God–and pointing others to our eternal future, inviting them to come along.

1 Peter 2:9-17: 

“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

“Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
    now you have received God’s mercy.”

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.”

THIS is what we were called to–not mud slinging…and not accusing others of the very sins that we, ourselves are committing.

They’ll know we are Christians by our love!

As for me, I am trying to raise the level of discourse with those who don’t see things the way I do.

I invite you all–Christian or not–to join me!

 

Foolish or Wise? Which Will It Be?

There are no shortage of ‘opinions’ today.

People seem to grow more ‘opinionated’ every day…and show it–with gusto!

Social Media has ushered in a ‘coarsening’ of those opinions (in my opinion). 🙂

Having an ‘opinion’ is not necessarily good…nor is it necessarily bad!

One thing we can all agree on, however, is that ‘just because I think it, doesn’t mean it’s right–or certainly smart, wise, or ‘right’.

There are many people who are ‘spouting off’ their opinions–from the most powerful to those with a very small circle of influence.

Influence, however, does not make one ‘wise’. Because you may have ‘Followers’, that doesn’t mean that you have ‘wisdom’.

How can I know?

The Scriptures provide the answer. The book of Proverbs, by itself, is a great guide.

Even one chapter–Proverbs 18–provides much to learn from.

“A fool find no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinion.” (verse 2) 

“He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.”(v. 13)

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (v.15)

Other chapters of Proverbs speak to this too:

“The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” (15:2)

“A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” (15:14)

The point is that simply ‘going off’ and ‘venting’ is not ‘Wisdom’. Any ‘fool’ can do that. Any fool can “feed on trash”…and we all know that there’s LOTS of ‘trash’ to choose from!

So, how can I know? How do I know true ‘wisdom’? How do I know if I have it, or if those I listen to have it?

Again, the Scriptures provide the answer.

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”–Proverbs 1:7

If you are trying to be ‘smart’ or ‘wise’, but do not fear (revere, worship, stand in awe) of God, you may be many things. You may be learned, you may be experienced, you may be well-schooled, but you are not “wise”.

True ‘Wisdom’ must…simply must…come from God, who is the only truly ‘Wise’ One there is!

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:13-18)

Don’t settle for the ‘wisdom’ of this world–that is a dead-end street.

Instead, go to the Lord for true Wisdom.

He will guide you, keep you on track, and help you know who’s ‘opinions’ are worth listening to…and who’s aren’t!