Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Ministry as Moses leading the Israrelites through the Wilderness



Audio Message: 


You’re in the woods, in the depths of night. You’re searching for something. Your life has been an aimless journey of twists and turns that seemed to be leading nowhere. You’ve done evil, you’ve struggled... You’ve never known what you’re supposed to do with your life.

The stars are shining down… and darkness surrounds, and as you turn in the cold night, you hear coyotes howling. Something within leads you up along an ancient path up a steep slope, and around the corner you see something burning. A fire is roaring, and it doesn’t go out, it seems to beckon you forward. You feel something present in this place: It’s God. And you fall to your knees in revelation of His glory.

Just like God called Moses to the burning bush, and toward his great calling for his life, each of us have been called out of the dead end ways of the world. God has given our lives purpose, when we used to be aimless wanderers.

God said to Moses from the consuming fire, “The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Moses’ response is probably similar to ours: “Who am I to go?”

That is a question we often ask ourselves. I’m nobody special, how can I go? But God is calling us. There are people out there counting on you to fulfill your calling. We must go! Or someone else may steal our blessing. This calling is ours. As William Booth said:

“Who is to go? You! You who read this; who else is there to go?... You are saved. You say your sins are forgiven, and that you belong to the family of God. You say the promises apply to you; why not the commands? Have one and shirk the other? Never, never, never! They are united. Do not say you are a child and not a servant. You must go yourself. This is a personal call which comes down through the centuries to you! You cannot evade it and remain true to yourself and your God.”

So we must go, no matter how high the cost. I’m not speaking this to scare you, but it’s true that many people leave the work in the Salvation Army. Difficulties will come in officership. Hold fast to your mission. And what is our mission? We do many things in the Salvation Army, but there is one primary mission.

Your primary mission is not giving out food. Your primary mission is not social services. Your primary mission is not budgets and finances. Your primary mission is not political social justice action. Your mission is to make the winning of souls the first purpose of your life. It’s easy to get caught up, in good things, that we ought to do, but lose touch with the most important thing: The gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hold fast to your calling. Don’t ever give up. Even when you’ve worked to exhaustion. Even when you’re sick, bed ridden, burnt out and overwhelmed. Even when your DHQ treats you poorly. Even if your wife or husband leaves you. Even when no one seems to care.

Hold on, for the good times… When someone new joins the church and gets saved. When a baby is born and you get to do the dedication. When you lead an elderly woman from this life and into the next. When you stop what you’re doing for a moment, at the corps, and you smile to yourself and realize, I absolutely love what I do here.

God will deliver people through your ministry, from bondage in Egypt, to freedom in the promised land. God brings people out of bondage to sin, entirely of Himself, just as the Israelites crossed over dry ground. God himself parts the waters, through Moses’ lifting his staff. And when you lift up your voice, and speak the gospel, souls will be saved by Christ.

But the journey doesn’t end there. After the Israelites crossed over the dry land, they began their journey to the promised land. In the same way, as we lead corps in the future, we will be like Moses, journeying with the Israelites in the wilderness.

We don’t believe in “once saved always saved” in the Salvation Army. We don’t just cross on dry ground and then stand there at the other side. This Christian life, is a lifelong journey of obedient faith in Christ. As the 9th doctrine says “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.”

So we will walk with our people, our corps families as we journey together through the wilderness, and toward the promised land. We’ll be there to help our people overcome sorrows, challenge them to defeat sin in their lives in the Spirit, we’ll be there to guide our people toward acts of service, and missional lifestyle. We’ll be there, to face the strongholds of Jericho, the dry deserts of affliction, the idolatry of golden calves, and the bitter waters of dark nights of the soul, alongside our people.

So I hope your excited for this journey. Right now we’re all being prepared for this bright future. And I want to tell you something: You will do great things in Christ. God did not make a mistake when he chose you. You may feel weak, you may feel empty, you may feel overwhelmed, but let me tell you a secret: So did Moses. So did Gideon. So did Peter. So did Paul. And so did Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. But if we cling to Christ, we have nothing to fear.

As Jesus said to his disciples on that fateful night: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” –John 15:5-6

Jesus Christ loves you. So remain in his love. If we depart the faith and walk off into sin, we will inherit an eternity of darkness. So be diligent in this faith walk, and you will persevere. Jesus doesn’t just call us servants; he calls us friends. He helps us to obey his commands and remain in his love.

In conclusion, two applications from the scriptures of Exodus 3 and John 15. First of all, while you’re here on campus: Build your prayer and personal study life. Everyday. Not just a quick prayer, or 10 minutes a day. But spend real time with God. Moses spent real time with God. He climbed mount Sinai, searching tirelessly for the Creator.

Full disclosure: If we neglect the life of prayer, we’ll be useless as officers. There will be no power in us.

Secondly, get real about sin in your life. Fight those battles now, today. Once you’re in the field, it will be harder. While you’re here, put to death the sins that are in your flesh. And come to love the doctrine of Wesleyan holiness. Dare to believe that Christ will fully deliver you from every sin you struggle with.

Jesus says, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” Jesus called us into the Salvation Army. And he has appointed us to go, and bear good fruit, by saving souls and making disciples. So seek God in the dry mountains of pain and darkness, and the consuming fire of God’s presence will find you. Remain in the love of Christ on this journey, through unconditional obedience, as we lead our people home to paradise. If you do these things, you will be a truly great officer of the Salvation Army.



Sunday, October 14, 2018

How God Communicates through Dreams



"For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword." -Job 33:14-18 ESV 

God has spoken to many through dreams, while they were asleep. Some examples include Abimelech, Daniel, Solomon, and Joseph among others. And we can even dare to believe that in these times God will speak to us through dreams (Acts 2:17). 

I remember I had this dream, and I can't stop thinking about it. I was sitting in a chair in this giant church. And all the seats were filled, and I was surrounded by children, and there were other adults, but lots of children. And we were all waiting for Jesus to enter. I knew he was coming soon. And there were no sides to this church, to the left and right it extended beyond my view. The anticipation was amazing. And then I looked up. I saw the most beautiful star filled sky. And I knew the stars were a reflection of what was around me, all the people. I realized that the body of Christ, the billions of people part of the church, were all a massive fulfillment of the promise God gave to Abraham when he said,"Count the stars if you can." And "I will make you a blessing to all nations." It was all connected. Then I woke up. One of the most beautiful dreams I've ever had...

I often have these intoxicating dreams where I'm running joyfully along beautiful golden trails, through the woods, along gorgeous sunny mountain paths.  I see lakes, and rivers, and fluffy golden fields, and patches of trees, and deep luminous forests.  Often I'm jogging along filled with the most inexpressible joy.  And other times it's night time, but I'm not afraid, in fact I'm enchanted by the wonders of the night.  I climb through dense forests, swinging from branch to branch, I climb from house to house, and walk into houses, exploring their rooms and then I walk back into the night.  

I used to do something I called "night walking" in the past.  I'd walk for hours, usually between 11pm and 6 am, walking across the city, through the woods, thinking, listening to music, exploring scenarios in my mind.  It was amazing.  To understand how God communes with us in dreams, is to understand something very special about how God communicates with us.

God meets us where we are.  That's something quite clear about how God communes in our dreams.  God meets me on those journeys through the woods. He speaks to me in ways I can understand.  

Yet God transforms how I see the world.  And God interrupts my own ideas, delusions, and confusions about life, and leads me to the ask the right questions.  Often times we get off course.  Often God will simply come to us and guide us back into the right direction.

It's important to remember in all this that God will never contradict His word.  The word of God is how we know God, understand God, and the primary way we hear from God.  In Christ, we have all things.  God shares Christ with us through His own word, and other ways he speaks to us, like dreams, should be considered secondary, and beneath the scriptures in authority. 

So, if you want to interact with God in this way, then I'd encourage you to pray and ask God to speak to you through dreams and visions. It doesn't necessarily mean that God will do this, but it is good to ask.  Ask, and we open ourselves to receive from God.

Now, perhaps God simply delights to commune with certain people in this way, like Joseph, Daniel, Job, and so on.  And perhaps he does not often commune this way with most, I don't know for certain.  But what I can tell you is, spiritual dreams over my years have not been exceedingly often.  I have many of the normal, bizarre, inexplicable dreams that we all have.  But occasionally, maybe every few months or so, I'll have a dream and I wake up knowing that it was a dream from God. 

Let's look at some various kinds of dreams, and what they can mean:

A Reflection of the Present - People also calls these "stress dreams" but I think there's quite a bit more to it than that.  It's a dream that reflects our thoughts, emotions, and our current position in life.

Things of the Past - I dream regularly of three places from my very early life... from about ages 5-10.  I dream of my grandma's house, my aunt's house, and my parents house.  Many, many dreams will bring up things from our past, and reflect them back to us. I'm not sure why, honestly.  Perhaps nostalgia, or a sincere love for those times that draws us back there.  I had a great childhood. 

Expression of your larger journey - I've noticed at times I will have dreams that reflect my larger journey through life.  I see myself on forest trails (I grew up in the woods) and I see myself walking along roads in the wilderness, or walking along water, and often these dreams are reflecting aspects of my life's progression.

Expression of Faith - A dream that expresses faith will often take place in ornate church buildings.  These dreams tend to express our spiritual explorations. 

Nightmare - Can nightmares come from God?  Hard to say.  They are certainly disturbing though. 

Night terror - A night terror is when you can't be woken up. Often it means that you'll be screaming, while your asleep.  And people can't wake you, like family and friends.  This is a scary experience for the family, but for the dreamer, they won't remember what they were dreaming. 

Demonic dreams - It's important to discern between a nightmare and a spiritually influenced dream.  I can tell the difference between a simple nightmare and a demonic dream from discerning the emotion of the dream.  If I'm seeing decidedly dark imagery that feels excessive, and it feels "evil" then I know I'm in a demonic dream.  The best thing to do is realize that your dreaming, and drop to your knees in the dream, close your eyes, and start praying, using the name of Jesus, to wake up. 

If that sounds spooky to you, I don't care. I've had dreams like this many, many times, and I've always found refuge in Christ during those times.  

Premonition (God given prophecy) - God will give you this sort of dream if He chooses to. We can ask for these gifts from God, but ultimately it is up to Him.  God delights in us, and we ought to delight in Him as well. I've experienced this phenomenon in my life, before and after becoming a Christian.  It's always a powerful experience.  Usually it's quite easy to tell that it was a special dream.  But one way to discern it further, is to pray, and to talk about it with a fellow Christian.  If they have the gift of discernment, they'll be able to tell you about it, or give you an interpretation.  

Quickly, here are four things you should do to grow in this area of communications with God in the realm of dreams...

Write down your dreams - That is very important.  You'll want to write them down, and then reflect on them.  Usually right when you wake up, you'll want to write it down, so keep a notebook or journal by your bed, and simply write down your dreams. Pray as you write, and ask the Lord for clarity about the dream's meaning.

Learn to distinguish symbolism - Let's take an example from my dreams... I dreamt I was walking down a dark road, and I came to a bridge that was broken down. I knew I had to get across. But the water was deep, and there were broken power lines dipping into the water.  What are the symbols to distinguish?  

The road could represent the progression of my life.  The water could represent a perceived danger. The fallen bridge could symbolize what had seemed to be a clear path, now being more treacherous after a serious problem.  Unfortunately much of dream interpretation is guess work.  But when uncertain, request help from God.  

Breaching into the real world - Something rather interesting will happen as you examine your dreams more and more.  First of all, you'll begin to remember more of your dreams.  Second, you'll begin to see dream imagery in the real world.  You'll see something, and realize you've seen it prior in a dream.  Most experience this as deja' vu.  

Meditate on your dreams - I often think about my dreams.  They're often beautiful, mysterious, and emotionally mysterious.  I enjoy reflecting on them, and trying to understand them.  Often I will go for walks and simply think about things I've dreamed about.  The more you reflect on your dreams, the more you'll understand them. 

In conclusion, dreams are just another part of the beautiful universe God has created. Enjoy them, and explore them. And maybe someday soon you'll experience the power and glory of prophetic dreams.  God is good. Amen. 





Related Posts:

  1. Wisdom from Above: Living in Light of the Victory of Jesus Christ
  2. The Mindset of Christ: Teach Me How to Live, Lord
  3. A Rational Inquiry of the Bible: Is it reliable? Is it the word of God?
  4. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  5. Love Others: The Second Great Command
  6. What is the Gospel?
  7. Does man need God in Western Civilization: Young People are Hungry for the Truth
  8. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  9. The Stairway to Heaven
  10. Salvation of the Soul: Is it Conditionally Secure or Eternally Secure?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Mighty Faith Community: Committing Subversive Acts of Love and Holiness



Audio Message:

The story is told of a religious man who was shipwrecked on a deserted island. He found ways to survive, for seven years, and finally he was rescued by a ship passing by. When the ship crew came upon his encampment they saw his shelter. But they were surprised to see another building, and then another building next to that one. So two additional buildings. And the captain asked the man, “What is this building here?” And the man replied, “That’s my church. Where I worship God.” The Captain smiled and said, “What about the second building?” And the man replied, “Oh that’s the church I used to go to.”

Many today church shop, for the church that is the most engaging, that has the best preacher, the best music, or the best morning coffee? It’s funny to think that even on a deserted island a man might switch churches. But it’s endemic of our culture. We go most places to be served, to receive care and service. And sometimes we bring that attitude of entitlement, and I want what I want to church, instead of thinking of church as a place where I serve.

Church membership… what does that bring to mind for you? I think of a dusty church building, with an old binder, that hasn’t been looked at in years, full of a list of names who no longer go to the church.

Church membership, as a knee jerk reaction makes me think of something passe’, something I don’t care about, something institutional, denominational, something that is part of a bygone era. And if I’m seeing “church membership” in this way, then I’m not seeing it correctly.

Let me tell you who you really are: you are part of a holy insurgency, a great Jesus movement that began 2,000 years ago at the resurrection of Christ. And we as that body of Christ, this army on Earth, have been fighting, tooth and nail, day and night, to pull souls from the depths of hell and darkness, ever since Christ left us with His Holy Spirit and returned to heaven. You are part of a legacy of victory over death that spans human history. You are a holy resistance movement against the kingdoms of darkness of this world.

You’re currently under orders from Christ our commander, to commit subversive acts of love and holiness that shock people out of their apathy, toward realization of ultimate reality. You are bursts of light and color in a shadowed world of bland grays, cubicles, contracts, bills, and dull monotonous consumerism.

You bring a clear, meaningful message to a confused world: God does exist. Sin is a disease on humanity. And Jesus Christ is the cure. Heaven is real, hell is real. And everything hangs in the balance, today.

Catherine Booth said, “To better the future, we must disturb the present.”

Be a disturbance to your friends, neighbors, and people you see at gas stations, department stores, and grocery markets. Disturb their misery with just a few words: I’m praying for you. Jesus loves you. Can I give you a Bible? Or even, “Let’s pray right now.” Make the other people in line wait a little longer.

You’ve been chosen by God for this task. You’ve been chosen by the creator of space, time, the universe, and humanity to be part of his own personal family. This is a great gift. But also a great responsibility: People out there are counting on you to fulfill the calling God has placed on you. And we’re all called to serve.

Each of us… chosen by God. That’s crazy to me. Because I never get chosen for anything. I’ve never won a prize drawing in my life. I was never cool in high school; I’m still not cool today. But I’m chosen by God. He chooses outcasts, the most unlikely people. And let me add this: He has chosen you for just such a time as this.

Christianity was once the predominant view of what life really is on this Earth. But we’ve seen in the past 100 years, a decline in the influence of Christianity in public life. Today, sometimes we treat it as if it’s a nice thing, a nice social activity that isn’t really true though. Or maybe we believe in God but practically we live like an atheist. To me, there’s far too much at stake to live as if there is no God.

As C.S. Lewis said: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Once I got saved, I saw what was happening to my own generation. So many young people are estranged from the church, lost in sin, cut off from the God that loves them. I get on the L train, and I sit down, and I watch people. I’m an introvert I like to watch people, what they do. And my heart aches as I look at their faces. They need Jesus. And if only someone just a little braver than me was there to speak up and say something, do something. But it’s just me. But sometimes, every once in a while, I do say something. Hope.

Honestly, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I’ve lived that. You go to school, work the job, play videogames, drink on weekends, watch football, go to concerts, go to the dentist, visit grandma, and… they just don’t know about Jesus. There is a massive stream of people, millions and millions out there who are oblivious to the reality of Christ.

Jesus is coming back, and he is making all things new. So there is a great urgency to our church mission. And you and I are chosen by God, to be part of the body of Christ, what we call, the church. We are church members.

So, I will cherish church membership as a gift. It is a gift. It’s a sacred gift, better than any gift I’ve ever received in my life, or will receive. Better than millions of dollars, better than the perfect house and the white picket fence, better than true love, marriage and children, better than retirement, better than anything, is my love relationship with the eternal God.

That said, I have to ask the question: Is something out of order in your life? My membership in the body of Christ is ultimate, #1. Do we treat it like that? Or do we show up once a month, or less? Do we treat our faith relationship with God as some sort of caboose, an end attachment that doesn’t really matter?

Are you cherishing something above God? Anything above God is an idol. And anything we put above God we will lose. Do you love your wife or husband or children more than God? Do you love your car, your house, and your big bank account more than God? Here’s a good one, do you love your own selfish pleasures and desires more than God?

We have so much in our society: All the science, all the technology, the free market system, the internet, insurance policies, and every luxury… it’s a house of cards. The only reason we have any of these blessings is because God gave us those things.

The entire world is held together by the one God-man, Jesus. The Jesus who went to the cross. So I want to transition to Jesus. Because everything in the Bible, in the world, and in our lives as church members is ultimately about Jesus.

And if you’ve never heard the gospel, or maybe you’ve forgotten it, the gospel is this: Jesus Christ, lived perfection, as God with us, on a secret mission, to free us from the shackles of sin. Jesus was nailed to a cross, and slaughtered as a substitution for you and me. They call this the great exchange. Every sin I committed, every time I lied, stole something, hurt someone, got drunk, used a girl, manipulated someone.. all of that was put upon Jesus, on the cross. Jesus said, put your sins on me, I’ll take the punishment you deserve. And in exchange, Christ gives us his righteousness, his life, is put inside us… and we are reborn. And just as Jesus Christ came to life, after 3 days of death, so we also, though we die one day, we will be raised just as Christ himself was raised.

Through the long sleepless night of his suffering, and the long morning of his death, Jesus carried our death and sorrow, and pain, away from us, and onto himself.

I’ll direct your attention to John 17:13-23, when Jesus spoke with his disciples at the last supper. And after they had fellowship together, Jesus prayed. Jesus prayed to the Father saying: John 17:13-23 (MSG)

“Now I’m returning to you. I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing, So my people can experience My joy completed in them. I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn’t join the world’s ways, Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world But that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I’m consecrating myself for their sake. So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.”

Several of those words stand out to me. We are not defined by the world. We are consecrated “set apart” separate from the world. We are made holy by his word. And we have a mission, in which to live differently. Defined By God, not the world. Consecrated, how, by the word, biblical truth. Holy, set apart from the world for… Mission, our mission in the world, as the church, to move people toward Christ.

I like how the Message translates Jesus’ words as my people are “truth-consecrated” in their mission. Which is why we consider so carefully the reality of church membership, as an expression of ultimate reality. To be “truth-consecrated” I think means for us, to see our eternal future and to see the infinite value of what we do for God.

Because of this consecration the glory of Christ reflects off us, and is a stark evidence to the gray world out there, that there is a God over creation. Thus the lost are invited to partake through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, into a unified fellowship, as we ascend on the road to heaven. God’s future kingdom is coming; indeed, it is coming very soon.

Let’s look at three ways we can put this into practice:

1. Live missionally on a personal level – Be a self-driven evangelist, on an individual level. Just you and God, taking action throughout the week: Pray for your friends. Talk to your friends about Jesus. Invite your neighbors to become part of the church family. Post about Jesus on social media. Hand out Bibles at a homeless shelter. Go for a weekly prayer walk. Make a personal plan.

2. Serve on a church level – Serve in this corps. Help out with one of the programs. Get to know someone here that is different than you are. Start an evangelism group, and go door to door around this neighborhood. Tithe regularly, tithing isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command of God.

3. Become an adherent or a soldier- Is God calling you to step up and become a soldier of the Salvation Army? If you aren’t ready to be a full on soldier, you could become an adherent. And maybe, just maybe, God is calling you to become an officer. If God is tapping you on the shoulder right now, start praying about it.

In conclusion, our church membership is a gift from God. So please do cherish it as a gift. Because it’s not a binder in a church basement, it’s your life, your future, and your only check against the ways of the world, that are ever present, trying to dissuade you from following Jesus. Thankfully we are not alone. Jesus guides us along this journey, walking beside us every day. And as such, you are a subversive, set apart, revolutionary movement to spread Jesus to lost humanity. We’re traveling home together, to our ultimate home in the new city of God, a perfect, timeless reality. And it’s not simply a nice idea, but a concrete, real future.