For anyone interested – I’d love to share this book with you. If you like it, please leave a good review. And maybe recommend to a friend!
God Hates Suffering: His Compassion is Our Commission
Please click here to find it.
For anyone interested – I’d love to share this book with you. If you like it, please leave a good review. And maybe recommend to a friend!
God Hates Suffering: His Compassion is Our Commission
Please click here to find it.
“Come ,Holy Spirit!”
What does this mean?
When I pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” I offer no erroneous assertion. I recognize He is already present – I could never go somewhere where He isn’t. Nor am I capable of summoning the Sovereign of the Cosmos.
For me to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to ask that He manifest His presence and influence in my life – in my person and circumstances. There is little question that there is a difference between the acquiescent (omnipresent) presence of the Spirit and the dynamic, manifest presence. Even if that difference is often (or mostly) only realized by faith (and not necessarily the senses), it is in fact faith that I exercise with the words, “come, Holy Spirit.” By faith I embrace and make myself aware of His presence. Often this results in some form of sensory awareness, ranging from a mild, personal, subjective sensation to a shared, powerful experience with others.
For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an expression of my own submission to Him. I consciously yield my cognitions, my affections and my actions to His immediate influence and infilling. With gratitude I patiently reflect on my circumstances, surroundings, and concerns and visualize all things surrendered to Him.
For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to honor Him, to reverence Him, and to welcome Him. I am expressing a sacred awareness of the Presence of the Holy One in my heart and life. I am deeply humbled and pristinely happy to host His Presence.
For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to value Him above the pressing matters and urgent concerns of the moment. It is to give my attention to Him first and most. It is to magnify Him in my perspective so that He eclipses all other things. Only in this light do I see clearly.
So I quite often, throughout the day, quiet myself and focus with joy uttering the phrase, “Come, Holy Spirit.” And to my immense awe and wonder, He always does; He always “is.”
Blessed Holy Spirit, Come!
*Come, O Creator Spirit, blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest;
Come, with Thy grace and heavenly aid, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Great Paraclete, to Thee we cry: O highest gift of God Most High; O Fount of life! O Fire of love!
The sweet Anointing from above!
The sacred sevenfold grace is Thine, Dread Finger of the hand Divine: The promise of the Father Thou, Who dost the tongue with power endow.
Our senses touch with light and fire; our hearts with charity inspire; And with endurance from on high the weakness of our flesh supply.
Far back our enemy repel, and let Thy peace within us dwell; so may we, having Thee for Guide, Turn from each hurtful thing aside.
O may Thy grace on us bestow The Father and the Son to know, and ever more to hold confessed Thyself of each the Spirit blest.
*The Hymnal: Published by the authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1895
We decided the old church building needed a paint job. For whatever reason, I can’t remember, I found myself up on a ladder “helping” the veteran painters tackle the street-facing portion of the church. It was, of course, where the cross hung pristinely in view for passers-by. It was my duty-by-default to repaint the cross.
Up on the ladder I climbed, bucket and brush in hand(s), and began to give a fresh look to an old cross (fascinating, ironic, meditative… but not the point of this article). Not an experienced painter, not even a painter, I dipped the brush in the bucket and sought to impress my more-experienced-observers with my focus, skill and stewardship of the paint. I brushed further and further, spreading the paint as well and as far as I could (clearly it was more economical to spread it out, really get all the paint out of the brush, good stewardship, maximize potential… look how much territory I was covering!) When I noticed there was nearly no paint left on the brush, I (begrudgingly) went back for more paint. And then started painting… somewhere where I’d left off… not exactly sure where… but started covering more territory.
The patient painter behind me could bear no more. He quietly said to me, “you have to keep a wet edge. Don’t dry your brush out or you’ll just have to repaint it.” He went on to explain how and why what I was doing was wrong. But I gently said, “Stop. You just said something that probably I should never forget. Keep a wet edge.” I am not sure how long I continued painting, I’d like to think I finished re-presenting the cross… I’d like to think that one day I will truly finish re-presenting the cross. But for today, what I need to remember is this: Keep a wet edge.
Leaders need to keep a wet edge. Parents do. Pastors do. Anyone whose hope or duty it is to spread the influence of good, of grace, of wisdom, of counsel, of kindness upon the canvas of this world – needs to keep a wet edge.
Never let your brush run dry. Don’t deceive yourself into believing that you are just working harder or maximizing your potential. You’re just painting like a novice. You may be covering more ground, but your impact will be thin and influence short.
Never let your brush run dry. Stay close to the Source. Immerse yourself often. Stay conscious of “why” you are doing and “Who” are you doing it for. Don’t get too far away from the bucket. Read the bible for pleasure and reflection. Often. Take a moment of private devotion and worship and gratitude – without it being part of a formality or corporate responsibility. Pray in the Spirit. Spend a little extra time with people who make you laugh and who encourage you. Spend a little more time alone. It may look a little different for you than for me, but neither of us can afford too much time away from the bucket. Keep a wet edge.
The alternative is, without exception, that you will find yourself leaning over a ladder, arms stretched as far as possible, with maximum exertion, but spreading the least amount of paint. Then you, or someone else, will just have to paint again. Dry brushes make for wasted energy. Stay close to the bucket. Never let your brush run dry. Keep a wet edge.
Lightening is powerful. It cannot be predicted, but can be anticipated. Lightning is a meteorological phenomenon that essentially (really over simplified summary coming) is a result of the conditions above meeting appropriate, coordinating conditions below (equal electric charges of opposite polarity). When that happens, the result is a powerful flash of lightning. Other than the heat, light and energy released – lighting also oxidizes nitrogen in the air into nitrates which are deposited by rain and can fertilize plant growth. So lightning, a result of coordinating conditions above and below, is powerful AND contributes to conditions for growth. Interesting.
Revival is similar to lightning. Revival is a result of coordinating, conducive conditions above and beneath. But there is a significant, encouraging, and I believe challenging difference. To an almost total extent, the conditions “above” are always right. By that I mean that God is never not in the mood for powerful expressions, manifestations of His Spirit’s person and work that lead to greater conditions for growth. The contingency is with the conditions below.
Heaven is poised and longs to influence earth. From the beginning of the Gospel the message has been that the Kingdom is here – and to respond correctly by repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). And the concurrent imperative has been to pray for and proclaim the interests and influence of heaven on earth (Matt. 6:10, 16:19, 18:18). God has already declared and demonstrated His intent and activity: “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” (Acts 2:17ff). Heaven is open and committed. The Spirit has been paid for and poured out (John 14:16-18).
The conditions below must change. Jesus implied as much with the statement, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The implication being that the variable is not on the side of heaven, but earth. Jesus is looking for faith on earth. The conditions above are looking for coordinating, conducive conditions below.
The Holy Spirit can initiate activity without asking anyone’s permission – He is God. But it must be acknowledged that God has always operated through the faith and obedience of someone. He has rarely “shown up” or “moved in” without partnering with a person. In the most influential revivals of history – and their contemporary counterparts – even when it has seemed or been said that “this is a sovereign move of God” – the truth is closer to a divine partnership between heaven and earth.: somewhere, someone prayed and obeyed. Every time. The reformation. The great awakenings. Azusa. Brownsville. Topeka. Lakeland. Toronto. Redding. Every strike of lightning has resulted from coordinating, conducive conditions.
The excitement, enthusiasm and hunger that result from initial “strikes” usually foster even greater conditions for more. Testimony increased faith and hunger and expectation. Expectation creates enthusiasm. Enthusiasm generates more interest and more crowds with more of all the above. Since the days of Jesus, people have moved in mass to where the lighting of heaven is striking.
Often the question is asked as to why certain “moves of God” lift or cease. I do not believe that Heaven lost interest. I sincerely believe that earth loses hunger, anticipation, expectation… that real, humble, yielded faith wanes… and the conditions below are no longer conducive the conditions above. Lightning cannot be faked or forced. The conditions below must change.
I recognize that heaven responds to the prayers and petitions of the church. In some measure, though God’s preference never eases or ebbs, His apparent willingness to act is directly affected by the actions of His church. The idea of “waiting on the Lord” is not so much waiting for God to stir Himself from slumber, or to pay attention. Waiting on the Lord has much greater impact on me – it readies me for what God is already ready for. I also recognize there appears to matters of timing and design from heaven. He does know the plans He has for us (they are good). But sovereignty is His arena, not mine. I am responsible for what I know, and I know that for the most part, I am not waiting on God as much He is waiting on me. If He’s looking for faith, I want Him to find it in me.
This brings me to why I am both encouraged and challenged.
I am encouraged because I know that Heaven is more ready than I am for revival. I don’t put very much stock into predictions about “what God is about to do” as if He’s been holding back and waiting for the right calendar year to line up metaphorically with an ancient timeline. Nor do I believe He overly concerned with current events or politicians. Not in a way that would make more or less persuaded to be manifestly present in power and life. No one thing, not a person or event or the passing of time or the appearance of the moon can leverage Heaven’s interests on earth more than the shed blood of Jesus and His glorious ascension. Jesus has been exalted and has poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:32-33). Nothing greater than this can ever occur. No greater reason could ever exist for the manifest presence of the Outpoured Spirit. I do posit that the Spirit perceives when someone has started affecting the conditions below, and will let folks know that He’s “found a spot.” As such, I think the Holy Spirit forecasts manifestations of His work – not based on His own whim, but because the Son of Man has found faith on the earth.
Therefore, revival is always a possibility. If Heaven is ready now – then any delay or diminishing is not on Heaven’s side but ours. If the Son of Man is looking for faith, I want to be found with it. I want to be the conducive, coordinating “spot” below where lightning of God may strike again and again. And, by faith, I can hear the peals of thunder in the distance even now.
The words to the carol begin, “God rest you merry, gentlemen.” The comma goes after merry. The word “rest” is a verb and in the oldest use it means “make.” It is saying, “God make you merry, gentlemen (the general audience). God make you joyful, and let nothing you dismay – let nothing frighten or trouble you.
And then the narrator explains how God has had provided for their merriment and quieted their anxious souls. Remember, says the caroler, that Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power while we were gone astray. So, Christ has saved us from a fierce enemy, and from the fruit of our own folly. The oldest versions then say, “this brings” or “which brings tidings of comfort of Joy.” Remembering what Christ has done for us brings news of comfort and joy.
The actual origins of this song are not known, and I can’t find anywhere that says if the writer developed it from scripture. But the main refrain of the song is extracted directly from Jeremiah 31:13, “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Young women (same word in Hebrew as virgins) will dance and be glad. Why this? It is a symbol of hope – it’s why the “young” dance – because they represent anticipation of the future – anticipation dances when there is hope. Why hope? Because of what the Lord has done and promises to do. God says, “I will turn their mourning into gladness.” I will turn their sad song into a happy song. HOW? I will give them comfort and joy.
The first thing he gives is comfort. This is not just a hug and a “there, there.” The word carries the connotations of deep empathy – it sounds like the low-toned sigh of a caring adult quieting a troubled child. God says, “I will comfort you.” How? Immanuel. God with us. God saving us. Earlier, in v. 11, the prophet says the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. God will comfort us by being bigger and truer and stronger than the things that trouble us, even and especially the things that are stronger than we are. He will be present: bringing down the noise, quieting the alarms, the voices, the pressures, the threats, the fears, anxieties, and un-ending expectations. He comforts us by confronting these things. Christ comforts us by His own victory over them.
The term Christus Victor refers to a Christian understanding of the atonement which views Christ’s death as the means by which the powers of evil, which held humankind under their dominion, were defeated. The idea is this: Christ is victor. Christ in his death and resurrection overcame the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, those powers variously understood as the devil, sin, the law and its condemnation, and fear and anxiety and even death.”
Christus Victor is rooted in the Incarnation and how Christ entered into human misery and wickedness and thus redeemed it. The Christus Victor view of the Atonement is a drama, a passion story of God triumphing over the powers of darkness and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin. He redeems us from everything that was stronger than we were. He comforts us by His victory over all our fears.
His comfort precedes and produces joy. Comfort comes first because it is the voice of truth. It displaces lie and shadow and threat. Comfort settles the soul. It prepares the way for joy. Joy cannot long abide in the troubled soul. Without comfort, joy is temporary, elusive – crowded out. So, He comforts us – that He may cause us to have joy.
He would comfort your soul – that he may cause your joy. Where are you troubled? “Benign” things: Life? Work, family, finances? Or does fear, unrest, regret, or pain trouble your soul? Christ has overcome. He is truth. He is love. He is power and grace. He is stronger. He Is Immanuel. God rest you merry, dear friend. Let nothing you dismay. He wants you to dance again. Tidings of comfort and joy indeed.
Thanks for reading; Merry Christmas,
Change can be a lot of things: exciting, curious, uncomfortable, comforting, and a little scary. More often than not, change is hard. So then, why change? In our case, as Heritage Church, why should we change from meeting in our current facility and embark on the journey toward a new facility?
There are a handful of pretty good reasons to stay put. Plenty of people have been meeting together in this location for many years. The Lord has done some really wonderful things in and through the lives of folks that have gathered here. The building isn’t broken, and we’ve remodeled it 5 times in 7 years. It’s paid for. Those are all good reasons to consider NOT changing. So, why should we?
If our shared passion were to preserve the present – then we might be able to accomplish that goal by staying where we are. It’s possible that we could maintain our current attendance and ministry programs. It’s almost certain that we would continue to enjoy God’s presence and power (all He’s looking for is our continued faith and yieldedness). We could continue to work to make our presence known and convince folks to find us on Hazel Dell Avenue. We could consider investing serious money in renovating and improving the facility. All this is possible. If, that is, we fixed our focus on preserving the present.
However, if we lift our eyes and allow faith to fuel a fresh dream for Heritage; if we asked the Holy Spirit to help us paint a fresh picture of a preferred future for Heritage – would it look like what “is”? Is “this” all there is, or all there should be? Or, is there more?
Right now, in two services, we are able to accommodate a couple hundred adults at a time. I am thankful for each person in each padded seat. But what if we could accommodate even two or three times as many? What could we accomplish? While it is not difficult to maintain a minimum budget in a small, paid-off building, it also isn’t possible to accomplish much of anything else.
Sure, moving will cost us. We’ll have a mortgage. We’ll spend money on renovations and improvements. But let us not be like the 10 spies who looked at the challenges beyond the Jordan and retreated in fear. Let us be like those of faith. We are well-able. We don’t have a huge slush-fund or giant surplus currently. But we do have solid, consistent income. And we can adjust spending to accommodate increased expenses as we need to, if we need to. I believe that where God guides, He provides. I am willing to believe that the same God who calls us to dream big will supply all we need for those dreams.
A larger capacity, with more people working, serving, praying, and giving together would allow us to accomplish so much more locally and around the world. We would be able to provide family-raising-wages for our staff. We would be able to fund larger missions and relief projects. Further, we could host regional conferences and events – inviting more people and impacting a great deal more people. The benefits of increasing our capacity are many.
What if we had the kind of building and location that could facilitate better, weekly ministry to young families? What if we had indoor recreation and outdoor play areas for kids? What if we could run a Faith-Filled, Christ-Honoring, Family-Affirming Preschool? What if we had a place, during the week, where mommies with little ones could come and connect over coffee while their kiddos had a fun and safe place to play?
What if we had the kind of building and location that could better facilitate teaching, training and development? What if we had different sizes of meeting spaces that allowed us to host smaller seminars and workshops? What if we had space and location to develop and offer a Certificate in Bible / Ministry Leadership program?
What if we had meeting space that allowed for more growth in elementary, middle-school, and high-school ministry? What if we had the space to host regular, week-day morning devotional services for our more “seasoned saints” who enjoy potlucks and hymn-sings?
What if we had a facility that made better use of contemporary technology in order to serve and communicate with congregants and the community?
What if we grow large and strong enough to begin to see past just filling up and using one church building, and instead set our sights on planting many churches? What if we had the resources, personnel and plan (I have the last part already) to plant a new church every two years?
In the end, a facility is not just about current or future capacity, but about current and future calling. What are we called to be and do in our city? In our region? In our world? As Heritage Church, what legacy will we leave?
As we stand and banks of the Jordan and consider the cost of crossing over, I invite you to remember why. We move forward because we have concluded, after years of prayer and preparation, that there is more for us to be, and more for us to do. We must keep our eyes on the picture of our preferred future and say, “that is why.”
Yours for “more,”
This fall is landscaped with some terrific opportunities to travel to different states and nations to serve and encourage others.
The first weekend of October I travel to Indiana to spend a weekend with a fantastic church that has been aggressively pursuing and experiencing revival for several years. While I sincerely hope to encourage them, I know that I will receive much from my time with them.
A week later I travel with a friend that I respect and love to Cuba for a week of Ministry Schools and Crusades.
The first weekend in November I return to my friends in Bozeman, Montana for a conference on the Holy Spirit where I will serve alongside another ministry colleague.
The last week in November I travel back to the Philippines to be part of Philippines 4 Jesus – and do a week of meetings in Ozamiz.
Whenever I travel, I remember Paul’s words in Romans 1, that he was eager to visit the church there in order to impart to them a Spiritual gift – that is that he and they would be mutually encouraged. This is my prayer once again. PLEASE pray that I may bring to those I serve a gift from the Holy Spirit to build, encourage, strengthen and bless them. Please also pray that in each place I go, I learn, grow, and increase in the sweetness and strength of His anointing.
Thank you for praying with and supporting me as I travel under the covering of Ten Talents International Conferences and Crusades.
God bless you much,
Sounds like the start of an infomercial. But it’s not an idea birthed by late-night marketing professionals. It’s an ancient query, posed by David in Psalm 34:12-14. He offers this rhetorical question, “Hey! Do you want to live life, loving your days and see good?” The question presupposes an affirmative response, “uhm, yes please.” He offers a succinct solution to what you seek. The answer isn’t found in super-secret-strategies or narcissistic navel gazing. It’s about living by grace.
Keep your tongue from evil and lips from lies.
Interesting. The first thing David tells his audience is to watch how they talk. David apparently knew that how we talk – to and about others in particular – has a direct impact on our lives. Does he mean that our words have some sort of karma-like effect on our lives? Or is he pointing out that our words can most often be the first source of trouble and pain in life? I think it is mostly the latter. If we speak unclean and unkind words to or about others, or if our speech is littered with guile, we partner with everything ugly and invite the same in our lives. Where you find sour speech, you will not find happy hearts. There is a symbiotic relationship between destructive words and decaying lives.
Turn from evil and do good.
It follows that next David urges a change in our behavior (but remember he first insists we change the way we talk). Turn away from evil – by turning toward good. The Psalmist posits that the way we abandon evil is to embrace good. Doing good is turning from evil. You pretty much can’t do both at once. Don’t bother making a list of things to “stop doing” and then try real hard to not do them. Change what you focus on altogether. Most of us don’t have to turn away from great violence or other horrid vices. This is more about the small stuff. In any given day we are presented with a thousand opportunities to make a better choice, to choose a kinder course. To encourage. To give. To serve. To do good. Take advantage of every opportunity. Make doing good an adventure. What good thing can you do for even one person today? I wager that you’ll discover your life is richer. Doing good is the good life.
Seek peace and work to maintain it.
Nothing ruins life more than strife. And few things shorten life as fast. The one who would prize a prosperous life should pursue and protect peace. It may cost you your pride, but pride is worthless anyway. Seek to bring peace where there isn’t any, and protect peace by precluding the poisons of envy, accusation, and quick-offense. Peace doesn’t mean everyone agrees and has had their expectations satisfied. Peace means we honor one another enough to adjust our expectations. Peace means we stop feeling the need to control others. Peace means we treat others the way we’d really like to be treated. Peace means we look for opportunities to forgive. Peace means we assume the best instead of suspect the worst. Peace has to be protected; don’t we always protect our valuables?
Apparently David recognized that a long and prosperous life has more to do with our words, our actions, and our relationships than almost anything else. May the grace of Jesus Christ fill and flow through what you say and what you as it governs and guides your relationships.
Live long and prosper.
Cruise control is for cars, not life.
Sure, life is a marathon and not a sprint, and patience proves a powerful ally. And yes, a great deal of life is getting up, showing up, doing what’s right, and then doing it again. But consistency is no excuse for apathy.
I am stirred by the encounter that Solomon has with the Lord in 2 Chronicles 1:7. At a very early point in Solomon’s reign, shortly after sacred inaugural events (including 1000 burnt offerings), one night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
God essentially dares Solomon to dream. God commands Solomon to ask from Him – with a powerful inference that He expected Solomon to ask big. I cannot imagine a better way to begin a career as king – or anything else for that matter.
Think of it, Israel had already experienced significant success, wealth, and power under the reign of David. David essentially did all the heavy lifting. Solomon could – could – have eased into cruise control and just enjoyed the echoes of David’s reign.
But on this night God appears to him and says, “ASK!” Now, I have for years read this passage and attributed the wonder of this opportunity to God responding to something Solomon had done right – as if Solomon had picked the winning numbers in a lottery and “boom” God rewards Solomon with the greatest question ever.
But perhaps not. Perhaps this question reveals something about God, rather than something about Solomon. Perhaps we see a God who invites us to ask – and ask big. No, I don’t mean a God who invites us to selfishness or greed or discontent or gluttony – not at all. I mean a God who is glorified by great expectations.
Too often I fear that I tolerate atrophied expectations. I begin a day or start a task using the same measuring stick I used before, almost as if the goal was just to finish something instead of achieve something.
But what if I heard the voice of God each morning, inviting me to “ASK!” What if each week’s goals, every day’s appointments were predicated on elevated expectations – based on a big ask?
I am challenged to keep a big ask. I don’t want to set the cruise-control and just go through the motions, being satisfied with getting things over. I want to hear the voice of a Great-Big-Good-God who invites me to approach life, daily, with elevated expectations.
Ask! Dream! Imagine! Risk! Dare! Expect!
“Lord, help me to inhale hope and ask big today. And then to do the same thing tomorrow. Help me to keep a big ask.”
I am grateful and deeply honored to have the opportunity to travel at home and overseas to encourage leaders and churches, and to help equip believers to powerfully, compassionately confront suffering. I am deeply grateful for the Holy Spirit’s comforting, life-giving, empowering presence. He is all our confidence!
Update from Ghana: In Ghana I had the opportunity to serve Manna Mission, an organization that runs a hospital, school, church and bible college on a 32 acre compound just outside of the capital city of Accra . I look forward to the returning there.
This fall several ministry opportunities have become available, including overseas schools of ministry and crusades in Cuba and the Philippines and state-side conferences in Indiana and Montana.
I appreciate your faith and prayer support on these next endeavors.
The Lord bless you much.