Monday, October 29, 2012

THE MODERN MANNA CHALLENGE


There are many instances in Scripture and modern life where we see God daring people to trust for things that have no way to succeed without divine involvement.

Israel was led by Moses away from Egypt and into the wilderness, where they began to face the fear of starvation. Where are we going to find food today? God heard their fear and complaints to Moses and did something to show that He was with them and invite their trust. He supplied a mysterious food that appeared like frost on the ground each morning. They had no idea what it was, but it nourished them every day for forty years.

In Jesus’ time and in ours, God still wants to challenge us to look to Him for daily bread beyond our own ability to get it.

For instance, how could thousands of people be fed with a small amount of food? With our great capacity for planning and measurement, we can confidently conclude that one sandwich would not feed everyone gathered in our church service. But what if God wants to do something impossible that opens our vision to another reality greater than ours? At this point, I fully expect that some will check out of participation in this thought. Why even talk about things that we know cannot happen?


John 6:
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him; “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”


If God were to propose a similar challenge to you, how would you respond? There are still situations that have no possible human answer. God asks us at times to trust when it looks like fantasy and foolishness to do so.

What we fail to realize is that God knows what He is going to do and sometimes invites us like children to respond with trust.

In the response of Jesus’ two disciples we see ourselves.

Philip hears the modern manna challenge and is incredulous. He does a calculation of the crowd size and figures out that it would take more than six months wage to pay for one meal. And where would they find that volume of food on short notice? Philip responds to Jesus’ challenge with a reasonable response. Here’s why it cannot be done!

Andrew hears the modern manna challenge and gives it a starting point. This boy has a lunch, but how far will that go? Andrew also sees that it is an impossible challenge, but looks for the first step—a little boy’s lunch.

I think Edmund Hillary was more like Andrew than Philip. He was willing to look at a starting point. He was willing to be captured by a challenging idea, even though the majority would quickly give reasons for it being a foolish idea.

Andrew has just a hint of faith, perhaps as small as a mustard seed. The question is what to do with a hint of faith. If God gives you an impossible challenge, are you willing to obey when it does not make sense otherwise?

Friday, October 26, 2012

DAREDEVILS & THE DARE GOD


Are you up to a challenge?

The mere question can send some into hiding while others bristle with excitement. A challenge calls us to be tested and face the risk of failure, loss or worse.

Not many people would train to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls, even with a safety harness. Most would be immobilized by their fear and weakness and need to be rescued.

A few of you might love the idea of risking life and limb for the thrill of a lifetime. Are there any bungee jumpers in our midst today?

Sir Edmund Hillary died in 2008 after a lifetime of challenges and accomplishments. On May 29th, 1953 he and his guide were the first climbers confirmed to have reached the peak of Mount Everest.

Edmund Hillary said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” [i]

Before we face a daunting challenge, we must first conquer ourselves. We must be willing to believe that we can do it.

Years ago new engineers in the Lamp Division of General Electric were assigned, as a joke, the impossible task of frosting bulbs on the inside. Eventually, however, an undaunted newcomer named Marvin Pipkin not only found a way to frost bulbs on the inside; he developed an etching acid that gave minutely rounded pits instead of sharp depressions. This materially strengthened each bulb. Fortunately, no one had told him it couldn't be done, so he did it.[ii]

If we are to have faith, we must allow our fears to be conquered. Are you afraid of failure? Does the fear of embarrassment hold you back? Does the fear of death cause you to freeze on the high wire?

There is a difference between knowing your limits and just being afraid. Edmund Hillary counted the cost and addressed his fears by taking calculated steps with appropriate equipment. He did not set out one sunny day in May wearing Khaki shorts, a light shirt and a canteen of water. He planned and prepared and calculated for a long time before embarking upon the challenge. Once committed, he pursued the challenge realizing the incredible risk involved.

God calls us to incredible challenges that require us to extend faith in Him to see us through. God is like a skydiver who invites us to jump with Him strapped to His chest. He knows that He is in control and secure. Though we are insecure He invites us to a life of faith that will challenge our greatest fears.

A 'Dare-devil' is a person who takes on extreme and absurd challenges to impress others and show your power to beat death. The 'Dare God' invites you to face challenges in order that you might see His power to conquer death and truly live.

His love is the antidote to every earthly fear.




[ii] Bits & Pieces, December 1989, p. 20-21.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SPIRITUAL HEARING AID #3 - RELIABLE TRANSLATORS


At some of the conferences I attend there will be sign language translators that serve the deaf present. Instead of excluding the deaf from a meeting, a translator will be provided.

I am sure you can appreciate how important it is for the translator to have excellent listening skills. They are tasked with hearing the message and passing it along in another language to the observers.

When it comes to God speaking, He prefers to speak directly to you. If you are inaccessible or deaf to the voice, God will sometimes leave a message with someone else. He will speak to a translator who can relay the message that you are not hearing.

Is your translator reliable? Who do have in your life that hears from God and can speak your language? A reliable translator is first a good listener and understands most of what they are hearing.

In the teachers and guiding relationships of your life, listen to people that you know can be trusted with communicating the Master’s voice.

Jesus says that his followers recognize His voice. Have you heard his voice? He wants to be your guide.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SPIRITUAL HEARING AID #2 - GOD'S GHOST VOICE


While the first disciples had the advantage of hearing Jesus in human form, we have the advantage of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would to the earth to bring comfort and guidance to Jesus’ followers.

We are listeners to God's Ghost voice.

This same Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is your reading light and your hearing aid. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

SPIRITUAL HEARING AID #1 - SUB-TITLES


When you watch a movie with foreign accents or languages, it helps to have sub-titles on the screen. The sub-titles take the guesswork away.

God records everything that happens in your life. If we are to observe what’s happening to us, there is often a sub-text of what God is trying to say to us. The Scriptures give us sub-titles for the reality show of our life.

As you learn to reference God’s Word the message of your life becomes clear. Your life is actually a scene in God’s epic story. Looking for God’s message in our life helps us to understand the bigger story that God is telling.

While we are accustomed to hearing what comes out of someone’s mouth, the Scriptures reveal the thought bubbles of God. The Word of God needs to be a constant reference at the bottom of your life screen.

If you are not hearing the voice of Jesus leading you in your life, it’s not because Jesus is silent.  You need to learn to listen in some way everyday.  This is how we put the sub-titles on our life and hear the message that God has for us.

Then when Sunday comes along you can hear Jesus whether the preacher did or not. You can read the Bible passages being studied and have your own steak dinner just in case the preacher is serving up hot dogs.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

SPIRITUAL HEARING IMPAIRMENT #3 - ECHOES OF THE PAST

When a present circumstance triggers bad feelings, there is often an echo of past trauma. Bad experiences programmed you to think about yourself or others in certain ways. The message you perceived in the past still echoes today so that you hear it again.

Sometimes we cannot hear clearly because there are too many echoes from the past source. Only when we allow for silence can we begin to hear new things.

Everyone has had the experience of being lied to, misled or getting things mixed up. Often our perception is more powerful than the truth. Because we perceive it to be thus and so, we accept the lie over the truth. We need to have a fresh experience of hearing what is true. Jesus said we could know the truth and it would set us free.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

SPIRITUAL HEARING IMPAIRMENT #2 - THE STRANGER'S VOICE


Out of voice recognition, a sheep will not follow a stranger. Sheep depend on the shepherd to lead them to safety, feeding grounds, water and away from danger.

There are deceivers who want to take advantage of your sheep-like nature. Jesus said that wolves might disguise themselves as sheep to creep in and get what they want.

If you ever followed a wolf’s voice or were led astray by a corrupted leader it happened because you thought they were close to God and spoke truthfully. Instead of trusting in your own capacity to hear God, you let their voice be your exclusive source.

Sometimes the ‘sheep disguise’ takes the form of persuasive teaching or exceptional personality. The false leader may in fact provide a proxy relationship for God. The leader gives you all the direction, so why do you need God’s voice? ‘They hear from God so you do not need to.’

Monday, October 8, 2012

SPIRITUAL HEARING IMPAIRMENT #1 - DELUSIONAL VOICES

When you cannot hear clearly it is easier to guess than to verify what has been said. In this way we end up hearing things that were not actually said. We can imagine and truly believe things we thought we heard.

Sometimes a person can be so desperate for direction that they will baptize their own imagination and call it God.

The true followers of Jesus have learned to distinguish His voice. The voice of Jesus is trusted and gives guidance. A sheep that listens to its own imagination will wander off and get in trouble.

Just because someone claims God told them does not mean God actually did. If you are not sure about what you heard, you can cross reference with the Scriptures, other followers that recognize God’s voice and by asking God to repeat and clarify what you think He said. 

Poor listeners get into all kinds of problems guessing at what God might be saying.

Friday, October 5, 2012

DEAR DEAF JIMMY


People who have been part of New Song Church for a few years may remember a special character named Jimmy Kaschor (Shirley’s dad). Jimmy lived across the street from our Ford City Campus parking lot. Jimmy was advanced in years and had returned to his love of accordion playing. He could play all the old songs, even though he was nearly stone deaf. Jimmy has passed away but we still have many fond memories of him.

My name is Kevin Rogers and I was Jimmy’s pastor. Because his hearing was poor, it was difficult to communicate accurately with him. Instead of calling me Pastor Kevin, I was ‘Pat’ or ‘Patta Ken’.

Sometimes he would repeat things he thought he had heard with confusing results. There are times he would get angry by what he thought he had heard from someone. Other times he was happy because he had heard something incorrectly and believed it to be true.

The ability to hear with your ears is of vital importance. Still, there other ways that we hear with our ears and miss the point.

Big Ed goes to the revival and listens to the preacher. After a while the preacher asks anyone with needs to come forward to be prayed over. Big Ed gets in line. When it's his turn, the preacher says, "Big Ed, what do you want me to pray about?"
Big Ed says, "Preacher, I need you to pray for my hearing."
So the preacher puts one finger in Big Ed's ear and the other hand on top of his head and shouts, hollers, and prays a while.
After a few minutes, he removes his hands and says, "Big Ed, how's your hearing now?"
Big Ed says, "I don't know preacher, it's not until next Wednesday at the County Courthouse." [i]

The preacher heard the words spoken but did not understand what Big Ed really meant.

After Jesus would tell a story or teach ideas about God’s Kingdom, He would often add the phrase, “For him who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He realized that there is an understanding that can only happen if you are willing to listen. Those who have pre-judged will hear what they want to hear.

Throughout history, we read and hear of countless times that people claim that God has spoken to them. The Scriptures indicate that God gives instruction and actually desires that we would be attentive and listen to Him.

How is your spiritual hearing? Have you heard God speak? Jesus spoke about the ability of sheep to recognize a shepherd and respond to his voice.


John 10:
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.


Even in this simple teaching, John notes that the Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was telling them. They did not have the ears to hear.

Before you can get help with your hearing, you need to admit that you have a listening problem. Let’s consider some of the common hearing problems related to hearing God’s voice.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GROWTH HORMONE #4 - LIVE IN A BIGGER PLACE



Like the 6-inch shark in an aquarium, some Christians stay small and immature because they prefer the protective smallness to the challenge of the ocean outside the door.


But we were not created to stay flake-fed and dependent in the cozy walls of a church.  We were made to swim and hunt in the ocean of God’s world.  Jesus was clear about us developing an outward-bound lifestyle.  We are supposed to be going into the entire world as teachers of the gospel, making disciples and representing our Lord. 


This was not directed just to pastors, missionaries and evangelists.  You can expect that they should have that concern.  Jesus’ words were directed to the whole church.  You are his ministers and teachers in the world. 

Jesus is returning and you should be learning your trade. What will be your job?  Get outside and find out.  You won’t know how big you can grow in God if you won’t go into the world that needs your Jesus. The Kingdom of God is not going away. It is multiplying and the world is groaning with expectation waiting for that to happen.


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