Putting Hunger in Your Prayer

I once heard a story that highlighted, even in somewhat of an extreme way, the hunger-for-god
importance of desire in prayer.

A young man walked along the beach every morning on his way to school, he would pass a old man standing on the beach, arms stretched out in prayer and intercession.  Every afternoon as he headed home, the old man would still be standing there.  Intrigued by this man’s dedication and passion for prayer, he stopped one day and asked him, “sir, will you teach me to pray like you?” The old man proceeded to grab the young man by his shirt, drag him into the ocean and push his head under water.  He held the young man’s head under the water and then pulled his head up.  The boy gasped and filled his lungs with air just as the old man pushed his head back under the water for another minute.  The old man pulled the boy’s head back up again and allowed the boy to desperately grab a lung full of air.  Shocked, the young man asked him, “Why did you do that? All I did was ask you how to pray!” The old man looked at the boy and said, “son,  until  you want God as badly as you just wanted air, I cannot teach you to pray.

Desire, which the Bible expresses using terms of hunger, thirst, seeking, and zeal is an essential element in prayer. 

  • Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • Proverbs 16:26  A laborer’s appetite works to his advantage, because his hunger drives him on.
  • Psalms 107:8-9  You should praise the LORD for His love…  (9)  To everyone who is thirsty, he gives something to drink; to everyone who is hungry, he gives good things to eat.
  • Psalms 42:1-2 As a deer gets thirsty for streams of water, I truly am thirsty for you, my God.  (2)  In my heart, I am thirsty for you, the living God. When will I see your face?

While we need discipline to have a consistent prayer life (1 Tim 4:7), it can become a dead religious habit.  When prayer becomes a duty with no delight we have fallen into dead religion.  Yet God desires seeking Him to be a delight not just a duty.  Psalms 37:4  Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.


EM Bounds said, “DESIRE is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment. , that desire is an absolute essential of prayer. Desire precedes prayer, accompanies it, is followed by it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it, created and intensified. Prayer is the oral expression of desire.”

7 Ways You Can Stir Up Desire and Hunger For God

  • Miss it.  One of the worst states to be in is to be in famine without hunger and dryness without thirst.
  • Pray for hunger.  I often seek God for hunger to be hungry.
  • Exercise the power of remembrance. It isn’t a bad thing to remember times when you were moving in zeal and desire for God. Those are great seasons.  Remembering when hunger was there is part of realizing when it isn’t.  Jesus told the Ephesian church, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen and turn back” (Rev 2:4-5). 
  • Get around hungry people. God has designed us in such a way that the people we are consistently around affect us.    Much is written about this phenomenon.  Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals” 1 Cor 15:33 (Prov 13:20).  The best thing you can do when hunger and zeal are low is to get around hungry people. Listen to their conversations.  Read their writings and posts.  Listen to their music.  God’s Life is contagious.  One thing about dead people in the cemetery is hardly any of them notice that they are all dead.  Get around people that have God’s life moving in them. 
  • Hunger has a sound. Listen to music that has a hunger for God in it.  Live praise and worship music often has a sound of hunger.  Listen to messages that have hunger for God in them.  Go to gatherings of God’s people who express huger to hear, speak with, and speak from God (1 Corinthians 14:1-39   Beyond the words is a sound of desire for God.  Just like your stomach growls when you are hungry, hunger has a sound that affects you. 
  • Take steps to desire Him.  As you do you step into something greater than your own desire, the desire God has for you.  This has a way of catching you up in God’s orbit of desire. It is like the gravitational pull of the earth.  You can get outside of it but when you get a little closer it’s gravitation pull begins to suck you back towards it.  The same is true when we come around the pull of God’s desire for you.  You realize afresh His desire for you, and it correspondingly causes you to desire Him more, and it catches you up in His orbit. 

    A.W. Tozer  “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”

  • Getting even a taste of God makes you want more.  The Bible reveals that the many attributes of God are “sweeter than the honeycomb” (Ps 19:10). When you eat something good you instinctively want more of it.  God is like that so we must do everything we can to approach Him to “taste Him.”    Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good.   A.W. Tozer said, “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”  
  • Fasting.  Fasting natural food has a way intensifying our prayer life with hunger.

Song of Solomon 7:10  “I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me.

1 John 4:19  We love, because He first loved us

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Coming Before Him in Personal Prayer

personal-prayerMatthew 6:1-9  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven…(6)  “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  (7)  “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words….  (9)  “Pray, then, in this way.

Prayer is to our soul is like breathing to our body.  We must breathe to live. In His famous teaching in the sermon of the mount Jesus speaks of our personal prayer life with God, when you pray go into your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”  While our walk with God isn’t private it is personal.  We must have both a personal and corporate life with Him.

While our walk with God isn’t private it is personal.  We must have both a personal and corporate life with Him.

God always wants to bring us to the place of reality in our relationship with Him. Dead religion is often the public facade of a connection with God while the reality behind it is lacking. While our corporate life and gatherings are essential, we must be careful that they aren’t a substitute for our personal walk with Jesus. It is impossible to have one without the other. What we are before God when it is just Him and us is a good indication of the depth of our relationship with Him is.

Charismatics are good at learning how to touch God in corporate meetings. Their corporate time together is usually less boring than what is found in dry institutional church life, but there is an inherent danger in a church with dynamic corporate gatherings. While we may be experiencing a “move of God” corporately if we don’t experience Him privately them something vital is lacking.


Charismatics can be just as religious as non-charismatics

If a move of God doesn’t affect our personal prayer life then we have taken the charismatic and made it religious.  This is a profound truth. When we think of being religious we think of “high church” or “traditional church” situations in which there is a lot of outward formality with little heart. Charismatics can be just as religious if all we have is a corporate experience without a daily personal experience with Him in prayer.  

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Real Spiritual foundations are not just a result of a corporate move of God, but are laid in the secret place before Him.  I think the following quotes are appropriate when it comes to personal prayer.

Leonard Ravenhill, “No man is greater than his prayer life. A godly man is a praying man.”

Robert Murray McCheyne, “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.. A man is no bigger than his prayer life.

Authentic Christianity is maintained in the secret place before the Father. If God doesn’t affect our personal prayer life then we will live a double life. We will show a desire and walk with Him in corporate settings but it will be absent in private.

John 15:4-5  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

In John 15 Jesus talks about the fact that real Christianity is an abiding relationship with Him. The word abide is important to understand. Abide means “to continue, to be present, to be held or kept, to remain as one not to become another.”

The more self- confidence you have, the less you pray. The less self-confidence you have, the more you have to pray. When we side step the prayer closet we are really showing a lack of faith in believing that apart from Him we can do nothing.

This idea of “remaining as one not to become another” has much to do with our personal prayer life.  If we say we are wanting to abide in Him yet bypass our personal prayer we are in danger of “becoming another.” In becoming another we live in a way that goes against what we profess. 

We need to make sure we fully embrace the move of God both in corporate meetings as well as in our personal prayer lives. We must not allow anything to cause us to avoid the secret place with God in prayer.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:29  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him.
  • Psalms 95:2  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
  • Psalms 100:2  Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.

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Help For Everyday Prayer

pray-without-ceasingEverything in our Christian life begins, and is sustained through prayer.  Prayer is really all about communication with God. Prayer for our soul is like breathing to our body.  We must have Spiritual oxygen to live and we breathe it through prayer.  This is one reason Paul says to “never stop praying” 1 Thes 5:17.  Prayer need be a regular part of our life.

Our everyday prayer life is an accurate reflection of our belief in the reality of two of God’s truths. 

When we think of being religious we think of “high church” or “traditional church” situations in which there is a lot of outward formality with little heart. Charismatics can be just as religious if all we have is a corporate experience without any ongoing “real” walk with Jesus.

Joh 15:1-7 for apart from Me you can do nothing

Php 4:12-13  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Many Christians would admit that they struggle with consistency in their everyday personal prayer life.  It is something that everyone knows they need to do, but often struggle with consistency.  Why is it so hard and is there anything that can be done to help?

We must understand that we have an enemy within us (flesh), and outside of us (the demonic) that works to keep us from prayer. If we are consistently with God in prayer we will tend to overcome both enemies and advance the Kingdom of God.   

I remember how difficult it seemed in my early years of serving Jesus to gain a consistent prayer life.  I remember a book by Andrew Murray called “The Prayer Life” as well as other books on prayer that really helped me reach the tipping point in going from an inconsistent to a consistent prayer life.   You can read Murray’s book “prayer life” free online at http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/murray/praylife/indexpray.htm.

Prayer is a spiritual experience and the first thing we need is spiritual discipline.  In prayerjames-stewart
we are forcing our mind to focus on things outside of the five sensory realms.  Our mind operates based on stimulation from the five senses.  The more we pray in a disciplined fashion the more prayer will become spiritually natural and consistent.  Here are some essential tips if we are going to be more effective in prayer.

Tips for the prayer closet

  • Thanksgiving praise and worship are essential to entering God’s presence and staying alert there.  These things work to draw us to God and keep us alert in His presence. 
  • Find a private place where you can be alone and undistracted with God.  This is what Jesus met by the “inner room.”  As He said it is the “secret place” before the Father who “sees in secret” (Mt 6:4-18).  
  • Real language, not religious eloquence, is the language of prayer.  Prayer is above all communication with God.  Jesus always seemed to frown on religious language but wanted real communication from our heart.
  • It needs to be regular and consistent (a date with the Divine).  As with anything else it is better to set a consistent time every day and get into the habit.  In doing so we fit our day around prayer rather than trying to fit prayer into our day.  Trying to fit prayer into our day will rarely work.  Other things will always come up to sidetrack it.  The Bible puts a premium on morning prayer.  It is a first-fruit time in which we are the clearest before the day begins.  If you can’t do morning prayer make sure you set another time (that works in your schedule) that is a priority that you attend to every day. 
  • Psa 100:4  Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
  • Col 4:2  Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
  • Shouting is a good way to create alertness and focus.  Shouting is by far the most common expression of praise and interacting with God in the Scripture.  It is used 265 times.  Shouting brings our foggy mind to a sense of focus and alertness.
  • Psalms 95:1-2  us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  (2)  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  
  • Psa 77:1  My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
  • Psa 142:1 I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
  • It is good to alternate praying in the Spirit (praying in tongues) with praying in your understanding.  This helps cultivate a Spiritual atmosphere and engages us with the Spirit of God.  1 Corinthians 14:15  What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
  • Use Scriptural Prayers as a pattern and example.  I have all the prayers of the Bible recorded on my computer and I regularly pull them up and pray them.  It is part of Jesus’ instruction about His word abiding in us as we pray in John 15.  I would be glad to send them to anyone who emails me to ask. 
  • The biggest thing is to just do it.  Prayer is not just a good intention or a good concept.  It is a practice.  The only way to develop a consistent prayer life is to consistently pray. The only way to develop a consistent prayer life is to consistently pray. Click To Tweet

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A Historic Jewel That Can Help Us With Prayer

practice-the-presencePrayer is our soul’s traffic way to heaven where God communicates to us and we to Him.  Prayer is as important to our spiritual life as breathing is to our natural life.  Prayer is like spiritual breathing.  This is why the Bible says to “pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 no matter what; pray all the time (never be finished with prayer). 

Probably one the best books every written about living in an ongoing daily awareness of God’s presence through prayer was a book titled “The Practice of the Presence of God” which was written in the 1600s by Brother Lawrence.

Brother Lawrence started out life as Nicholas Herman of Lorraine. He lived in France from 1610 to 1691.   He worked as a soldier and footman.  Later he decided he wanted to walk in a closer relationship with God and joined a monastic order called the Carmelites as a lay brother among them.  He was not a priest but just an ordinary man who wanted to walk closer to God.  This should be the testimony of every authentic Christian, “an ordinary man/woman who wanted to walk closer to God.”

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Lawrence worked in the kitchen as a cook for 15 years.  It wasn’t something that he necessarily wanted to do.  As a matter of fact he had an aversion to kitchen work.  But he decided to do it to the glory of God and cultivate a sense of God’s presence as he did.

The book is largely a compilation of letters.  It can be read, or listened to for free online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence/practice.

Arthur Wallis,  A movement of God will last as long as the Spirit of prayer that inspired it. Any claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit but our prayer life is unaffected is suspect.  The Holy Spirit is an intercessor.  His work in our life will be seen resulting in prayer.

Breath Prayers

One of the features of the book is his cultivation of a continual sense of God’s presence. Not only would Brother Lawrence anticipate his regular extended times of prayer in the mornings but he would also cultivate a habit of praying to God continually throughout the day.  He used the idea of “breath prayers” throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries.

Breath prayers are traced to ancient Eastern Christianity.  They were ways to help move towards ceaseless prayer (1 Thes 5:17). The breath prayer is a short, simple prayer you can speak in one breath .  Gregory of Sinai said, “One’s love of God should go before breathing.” The idea is to address God with the inhale, as though you were breathing God in. Then the petition you make is said on the exhale.  You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated in one breath.  In doing so over the course of time you cultivated a sense of God’s presence throughout the day.

Lawrence describes this practice and how it cultivated a close relationship with God.  Thus by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherin it would be a difficult for me not to think of God, as it was at first to accustom myself to it…As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise.

Listen to some of his approaches to developing the habit of continual prayer.  It’s possible to accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with God, speaking to Him freely and in simplicity. We need only to recognize God intimately present with us and to address ourselves to Him every moment… God requires no great matters of us; a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you and still gives you in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can…. It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church; we may make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, some less: He knows what we can do. Let us begin then; perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on our part.

He also addresses the issue of feeling God’s presence.  We pray continually not to feel God’s presence, but to cultivate a sense of focus upon Him.  The awareness of feeling God’s presence often follows but it shouldn’t be our aim.  We should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence, by continually conversing with Him…. In order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficult.

One key God has shown us to a fruitful life full of His purpose is taking root downward in His presence through prayer.

Isaiah 37:31 (1 Kings 19:31)  “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.

John 15:4  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

The Practice of the Presence of God is a short book that I would encourage everyone to read or listen to.

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Upside down or Right side up

jesus-therapyLk 9:23-37 MSG…“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?… (Lk 14:26-27,33; Mt 10:24-40; Mt 16:24-25;  Mk 8:34-35).

Christians often attempt to twist the wondrous God of salvation history into the role of a divine therapist who aids the individual Christian in his or her personal quest for spiritual fulfillment and self-discovery.

Christians often attempt to twist the wondrous God of salvation history into the role of a divine therapist who aids the individual Christian in his or her personal quest for spiritual fulfillment and self-discovery. In doing so we have reduced the sweeping biblical narrative of “God redeeming for himself a people” (God’s family Tit 2:14-15) through whom He demonstrates His glory as they walk together (Eph 1:22-23, 3:10-11), to little more than “receiving Jesus into my heart as a personal savior.” Little wonder that we so casually take our personal savior from relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage, and church to church, desperately hoping that we can somehow improve our quality of life by escaping the immediate pain which often clouds the very redemptive relationships that God has placed us in.

We often want a just my size God, fluffy and approachable who doesn’t care about His own commandments.  Surely these were mere suggestions that served some other purpose for some other day.  After all, He understands our weaknesses and only wants us to be happy. Those commandments and our obligation to them are surely eclipsed by His unconditional love for us and His desire for our self fulfillment.  Sounds logical and therapeutic but that doesn’t mean these ideas are right.  We must keep in mind that while God “made us into His image” (Gen 1:26-28) we should not attempt to make Him into ours.

I grew up in the 60s and finished High School and College in the 80s.  Near the end of it I gave my life to Christ but before that I lived with the current philosophies of the day. Because I had a lot of training in Psychology I was very familiar with the thoughts behind many of them.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of needsOne of the philosophies that had taken hold of culture (and continues to do so) was put forth by Abraham Maslow called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”  He began to develop it in the late 50’s and by the time of his death in 1970 it had become a cornerstone of the anti establishment 60s and self-help culture of the 70-80s. It continues to fuel the narcissistic culture of today. Unfortunately, like many cultural philosophies, it was and is often embraced by Christians.

His theory was attractive.  Instead of the determinism (do your duty based on what life brings your way) of the previous centuries that fought 2 world wars and suffered a worldwide depression, it offered a new sense of freedom.  The previous generation’s life was in many ways “determined” by intense sacrifices and fulfilling duty and responsibility.

Maslow’s theories offered freedom from that bondage of duty and responsibility.  You could grow past those motivations to what he called “Self-actualization.”  Self-actualization is achieved when you are able step into fulfilling the highest expression of you (expressing your individual talents, gifts, and desires that give you a sense of harmony with the universe).  In other words you fulfill you “self-destiny.”  I think it is ironic that it is very similar to what many eastern religions call “nirvana” which is an “ultimate experience of some pleasurable emotion of harmony and joy in your life.

I remember working in a University book store in the early 80s and the growing self-help section of books were filled with different angles of Maslow’s basic premises.  They offered all kinds of advice, help, and techniques to help achieve personal fulfillment.  Now 38 years later we see fruit of many of those ideas that have lead to the breakdown of important areas of life and culture.

Famous feminist Gloria Steinem released a book about her life journey called “Mygloria-steinem-book-dedication life on the road.” While I probably won’t read it I did read the opening dedication to Dr. John Sharp of London who helped her end the life of her child through abortion.

 “Dr. John Sharp of London, who in 1957, a decade before positions in England could legally perform an abortion for any reason other than the health of the woman, took the considerable risk of referring for an abortion a 22-year-old American on her way to India. Knowing only that she had broken and engagement at home to seek and unknown fate, he said, “you must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.” Dear Dr. Sharp, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death: I’ve done the best I could with my life. This book is for you.

 “You will do what you want to do with your life.”  Sounds pretty Maslowish.  As I read it I wondered how many children were prevented  from coming in the earth due to this idea?  How many children grew up with absent or nonexistent parents due to this idea?  How many men and women have undergone the pain and abandonment by a spouse or “partner” due to this idea?  How many children have grown up in foster care, like a dear friend who lives with us now, because one or both parents pursued this idea?

I am not just thinking about unbelievers here.  How many Christians have embraced this idea to the detriment of their own families or the family of God?  I remember a relative of a young disciple years ago who gave her advice at her at her graduation, “you just have to do what’s right for you.”  Unfortunately in following this advice she has struggled through a series of bad relationships that has cost her and now her child is paying the price.  A narcissistic pursuit of self fulfillment will always end up working to destroy the most valuable/eternal things in life, relationship with God and people He places in our life.   

Jesus’ Design turns Maslow’s upside down and right side up

Christian MaslowIf we are followers of Christ we need to heed His call.  His destiny isn’t rooted in some sort of Maslowian crapshoot leading to personal fulfillment.  It is about following Him and letting Him lead.  It is about valuing what He values and giving our lives to that end.  Contrary to avoiding sacrifice and responsibility that would seem to limit freedom, it is through those things He guides our lives and works His will in us.  As we follow His design we end up finding the fulfillment and freedom we all wanted in the first place.  After all, He is the Creator and like any creator He knows how what He created works the best.  




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No Other Plan…so walk in it!

ErasmusThere was a story allegedly told by Erasmus, the famous Renaissance scholar and early church leader from Rotterdam, about the importance of God’s plan.  It was designed to emphasize how important it is that we take up the torch of Christ’s ministry with great commitment to love Jesus and His people, the church.  In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after his time on earth. The angels gather around him to learn all that happened during his days on earth. Jesus tells them of the miracles, his teachings, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. When He finished, the archangel Michael asked, ‘But Lord, what happens now?’ Jesus answered, ‘I have left behind eleven faithful men who will declare my message and express my love. These faithful men will establish and build my church. And that church will take my message, my life, to the world.’ ‘But,’ responded Michael, ‘What if they fail? What then?’ Jesus answered, ‘I have no other plan.”

Paul reveals the central feature of God’s plan in Ephesians

Eph 1:18-23  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling….22-23 MSG  He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  (23)  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

When God’s people walk together with Him and each other according to His design they become a manifestation of His life and Kingdom on earth.  We are “Christ body, in which He speaks, and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.” The church becomes the signpost to a watching world of Who and what the gospel of Jesus is.

When God’s people understand His calling it changes their whole approach to their life together.  They end up doing what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25,  Then Jesus said to his followers, “If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me.  (25)  Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for My cause will find true life.   

What was His cause, what is His will, He had already said it verse 18,  upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stop it.   

God does not give us the choice of commitment to loving Jesus and His church.   Even when church programs are static, personalities are irritating, and hypocrisy is among them, the Bible doesn’t give us the choice of loving Jesus and not wanting anything to do with His bride. 1Jn 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Don’t fall for the devil’s primitive way of dealing with problems

Civil war amputeesNot long ago my wife and I went to a display on the medical advances that happened as a result of the civil war at the Lincoln Historical site in Springfield IL.  What is often shocking when you look at medical care during the civil war was one of the main treatments for injury or infection.   They simply amputated the injured or infected limbs.

That was a large part of the display we witnessed.  It was shocking to see the photographs of all the people under care that had limbs cut off.  It showed doctors with their primitive saws out cutting off limbs.  This display also showed the later shots of military veterans at various celebrations who were missing limbs.  Their whole lives and their families were obviously affected by their relative having lost their limbs.civil war amputees 1

Over the 39 years I have been serving the Lord and participating with Him as He builds His church, I realized that our enemy influences God’s people to deal the same primitive way with injury or infection.


I have seen quite a bit of the primitive approach of amputation in the two institutions God created and ordained to carry His image, marriage and His church.


Ephesians 5:28-32  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  (29)  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  (30)  because we are members of His body.  (31)  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.  (32)  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

With little vision worth sacrificing for, and God’s people being motivated by a consumer brand of Christianity, people treat injury and infection in the same primitive ways they did in the civil war.  Just remove the limbs from the body both in marriage and the church.

Some would say the immediate relief from the pain associated with the injury or infection was worth it, but there are long term consequences, especially if it was not directed by Jesus.  There is long term effects on their legacy.  How much better it would be if the people involved in marriage and church were committed enough to laying down their life for Jesus’ sake to work with Him (the Great Physician Lk 4:23) through the pain and infection.

Ephesians 4:1-3  Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,  (2)  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,  (3)  being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


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Spiritual Theater or a Spiritual Gym

Iwarfare.1up.qxdJohn 6:26-28 MSG Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. (27) “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” (28) To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”(29) Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”

Eventhough Jesus cared for people, healed them, and fed them He was never big on leaving them in some sort of consumer relationship.  The kind of authentic Christian life Jesus sacrificed to bring into existence is not living as a finicky spiritual consumer picking and choosing the best God deal at the lowest cost. It really is living a life consumed by Him (a people for His own possession).  Titus 2:13-14  looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,  (14)  who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Not long ago the wife of popular leader stood in front of their large congregation on a Sunday morning and sent shock waves of controversy with a statement she made about serving God.

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?” (The congregation applauds.)

It triggered quite a bit of debate about this mentality that critics referred to as a propagation of cheap me centered Christianity. Even at the time the story was breaking it was hard to rectify God’s main goal of “God wants you to be happy because when you are happy that what makes God happy” with other headlines about Christians being martyred in Iraq and Syria.  Those losing their lives obviously didn’t get the message from the leader’s wife about God’s goal of happiness.   

Is church to be like a movie theater or a gym?

These types of issues bring up the whole idea of consumer Christianity versus the call to gym“make disciples (those who lay down their lives for His sake in order to follow Him) who obey everything Jesus commanded” (Mt 28:18-19).  When the goal of the Gospel and the church is about making us happy then “going to church” becomes more like going to the movies rather than going to the gym.  Why do we go to the movies?  Primarily to be entertained.  They even have movies that offer more entertainment and comfort with reclining chairs and bottomless appetizers.  You go there to watch with the goal of being entertained and happy.

We were never called to be watching stones but living stones actively working to see His house become what He intends her to be       1 Peter 2:1-4.

The gym on the other hand has different goals.  Ultimately happiness is part of those goals but it is a happiness that comes from becoming healthy.  You go there to be active, not to watch.  You sacrifice, sweat, and become uncomfortable, but those sacrifices ultimately cause health which in the end truly satisfies.

The most important issue for disciples is that they become like Jesus which leads to eternal happiness beginning now.  There is an exercising of faith that is part of the process.  In becoming like Jesus there is often a denial of selfish interest for a greater purpose, being with Him, and becoming like Him.  Paul says that was a main aim in Jesus’ death.   

2 Corinthians 5:14-17   For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;  (15)  and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf…(17)  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

When churches appeal to consumer instincts in the way they practice church it sends mixed messages.  The highest good is being happy.  Following anything that would make us happy is never to be questioned. They can say God wants us to be like Jesus but the subtle message is only if you feel like it, it makes you happy, and it requires no self denial. This can present a relationship with Jesus that is really more of a no-obligation relationship.  You can have a relationship with Jesus as long as you feel like it … and if not, that’s totally okay. Come and go as you wish.

I remember a marketing campaign for multiple services that a church put forth in advertising it’s services, “Because Christians should have choices.”  I have seen other churches over the years launch marketing campaigns for their openings with letters, phone calls, and post cards appealing to this same consumerist nature. These things can be good in getting the word out about a new church.  The problem comes with the subtle but often clear message, we will give you what you want.  One church offered, “energetic music with fresh hot Starbucks coffee waiting for you at the front door!”

God’s purpose through Christ isn’t about Christians as consumers getting what they want.  It is about God’s design and getting what we need that should reign supreme.

Consumerism turns the God of mercy into a god at our mercy who lives to satisfy our wants and desires.

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Trendy or Transcendent?

Christianity liteWe are called to advance God’s Kingdom.  We must identify the spirits of the age lest we become immersed in the culture and end up advance its agenda in the name of Christianity.   We are called to impact the culture not be impacted by it.  If we don’t see this distinction we will offer a form of “Christianity lite” in which we promote culture with a watered down version of Jesus.  If we are simply reflecting culture what is the point of our mission?

We are not called to offer a Christian version of culture to entertain people and get them to consume a cultural Christ.

We have already been discipled by culture as we grow up.  How about discipling the culture by the Kingdom and power of God? 

Salt and Light is Transcendent 

Mat 5:13-16 MKJV You are the salt of the earth,…(14) You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden… (16) Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.

God’s call upon His people revealed throughout the Bible can be summed up with the phrase, “God’s family of Spirit filled disciples together on God’s mission.”  A central feature of this call is being salt and light.  The idea of salt and light has to do with our contact and influence on the world. In Biblical times salt made an impact by being directly applied on something, like meat, in order to slow down the deterioration process. Salt had a way of impacting and preserving.

The idea of light, as a city set on a hill, spoke of the distinct culture that gave testimony of a different way of living (God’s way). In our case it is the culture of heaven (as revealed through God’s word) demonstrated through the church. In that day cities were places of distinct culture and life. In our day as individuals walk among God’s community there is encouragement and reinforcement of His ways.  This helps all of us stay on track with God and provides a collective witness of Heaven’s culture lived out on earth.

Trendiness without Transcendence

In an effort to be both salt (able to be rubbed on unbelieving humanity) and light the ideacool Jesus of trendiness comes up. A while back I read of a church in England that unveiled a bronze statue dubbed “Jesus in jeans” depicting Christ as a man of the 21st century. One of the local leaders was quoted as saying, “You are always looking for new ways to enrich people in the experience of Christianity and it is good people can be open-minded to appreciate it.” The good side of this argument is portraying Jesus and Christianity as relevant to the 21st century. Obviously if Jesus walked the earth in physical form today He would probably wear blue jeans at some point. This is part of the idea of incarnation which is God coming in the form of common man.

One thing we must be careful of however,  is that we chase the idea of being trendy while neglecting the real impact of Jesus and the power of God which leads to transcendence. Many churches and Christians seem to always look for the newest, coolest, most trendy approach that comes out. This is great and important as long as we do not lose sight of the real foundation of Christ and Christianity that affects culture summed up with the idea of transcendence.

The salt and light are in the alternative life that is only in Jesus.  The transcendence is the powerful changes Jesus makes in the lives of people that have no earthy explanation.

It is the alternative way of living that originates and is sustained by the power of God. It is the change Jesus makes in every area of our lives. This has both the quality of salt and light in it.

Example of Transcendence in the Early Church

We can be trendy but not transcendent. All through the history of the church the thing that made impact was the transcendent lives that real Christians lived. Unbelievers noticed the changes, not by their cool clothes or trendy style, but by their changed lives.   There was an early letter written sometime around the year 100-150 AD called the letter to Diognetus who was a well respected pagan. It extolled the virtues of Christianity over paganism. In it you see that the thing that caused Christians to make great impact was their transcendent lives. Here is the letter.

If there is no transcendence among God’s people that demonstrates an alternative way of living by the power of God then we are just offering dead religion in contemporary clothes.

 “Christians are indistinguishable (cannot be distinguished) from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries (invented by the ingenuity or speculation of men) inspired by the curiosity of men.

Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine (nor do they advocate mere book learning). With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is  Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them (practice infanticide). They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated.

 A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As  the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures.

Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments. Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the

Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”

You can see that the world wasn’t impressed by Christian’s trendiness or contemporary “coolness.” It was the alternative way of live they lived out before an unbelieving world. Obviously this is why they were so persecuted in the first three centuries and also why they made such an impact as salt and light.

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Worth the Fight #3: Narcissistic or Kingdom Advancing Relationships

Everything exists for me

Everything exists for me

Author Rodney Clapp wrote, A noted western Philosopher introduced to the world in 1926 was one day sitting on a log when he heard a buzzing sound.  He was puzzled and fell to pondering.  As his leading chronicler remembers the event he reasoned along the following lines.  “If there is a buzzing noise somebody is making a buzzing noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you’re a bee says the Poo.  Then he thought another long time and said, “And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.  And then he got up and said, “And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.” 

Unfortunately Winnie the Poo’s attitude reflects how mankind often approaches their lives. Like Pooh they see “the only reason” things exist is for our personal likes, desires, and consumption.  It is a reflection of a narcissistic approach to life that is all too common today.

Narcissism is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, the proud young man who saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with it.  Narcissus was unable to break away from his own gaze, and eventually died by the side of the pool.  The psychological definition of Narcissism is an egotistical preoccupation with self, personal preferences, aspirations, needs, success, and how he/she is perceived by others.   

This is what the Bible calls “pride” which is the opposite of humility. C. S. Lewis aptly described humility as, “not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Pride and narcissism are bad in any arena but especially among the people of God. It will result in taking precious truths of the design of God and making them about our glory instead of His.  We can do this with something as important to our lives as relationships with God and others.  This is why Jesus was so clear in His calls to follow Him in which He clearly puts “self” in a secondary/denied place.  

Luk 9:23-24  And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  (24)  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it (MSG Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self).

Mark 8:34-35  “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it (See also: Matthew 10:39,  Luke 17:32-33, Matthew 16:24-25, Mar 10:21, Luk 18:22, Luk 14:33).   

In the church world “relationships” or “fellowship” conjures up images such as sitting around a living room, eating refreshments, talking about life, enjoying each other’s company, and doing fun things together.   Being around people who are interested in our life is a very appealing.   A good relational church can be imagined as a nice sheep pen in which the sheep are cozy with one another and the shepherds are constantly attending to their needs.  Even Biblical ideas such as “accountability” can be viewed narcissistically.

Accountability can be twisted to simply cause us to be a little more open and honest.  We may share more about our struggles and challenges if we know others have imperfections like we do but where does it lead us?  Instead of motivation to change it becomes almost therapeutically comforting to know we are all imperfect, and God loves us just they way we are.  What about growth, change and progress in pleasing Jesus? 

This type of relational life seems very safe, sanitized, tame, but also self serving. It can seem like a “nice” effort designed to produce “nice” people that feel better about themselves.  While these things have their place, if this is the extent of fellowship then we are missing something very important.  God joins people together for His purpose, not ours.  The church is not to be a narcissistic body consumed with itself.  It is a body designed for a purpose beyond itself. 

Eph 1:22-23  Msg…The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

God isn’t about simply filling the confines of the church with cozy groups of fellowship.  He wants to fill the whole earth with people expressing His life.

Kingdom Relationships Should Stimulate Zeal for God

An important element that is often missing in “church relationships” is seen in Hebrews. Heb 10:23-25  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  (24)  and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,  (25)  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

The word “stimulate” one another is a very interesting word.  It is far from the safe and sanitized form of relationships.  The word “stimulate” means “incitement, provoke unto, contention.”  It means such things as “to call into action; to arouse; to excite; to provoke anger or wrath; to provoke war; to excite or challenge; to stir up or arouse.”  It means to incite to action with a zeal for God.

This isn’t a tame word!  There is an element of danger and forward action in it.  As the church goes forward and “fills everything with His presence,” darkness is destroyed.   It is the idea Jesus declared when He said in Matthew 16 “I will build my church and the gates of hell can’t stop its forward advance.”   When our relationships stimulate us to go forward, the fire of God moves through us to destroy the works of the enemy in every square inch of our lives and God’s earth.

The prophet Zechariah spoke of these types of relationships among God’s people.  Zec 12:5-6 “Then the clans (social units) of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’  6  “In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. 

Like Samson, Jesus gathers His people around His fire

Like Samson, Jesus gathers His people around His fire

A great Old Testament story that depicts these types of relationships comes from Samson.  Their enemy, the Philistines, had planted crops on God’s land.  Samson, who was a judge God raised up to deliver His people and advance His purpose, did something very interesting.  He caught 300 foxes, put a torch between every pair of them, and tied their tails to that torch.  He then set the torch on fire and sent each pair throughout the enemy’s crops.  This resulted in the crops that the enemy had planted to be burnt down.

Jdg 15:4-5 NASB  Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails.  5  When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.

What a story to show us what this type of Biblical fellowship is like!  God’s sets His fire (Holy Spirit) among us, and ties us together with Him and each other.  If we are on fire for God as we move out, “two by two,” we end up spreading a fire that destroys the work of the enemy.  This is what Peter and John did when they went together to pray in the temple.  They encountered a beggar and out of the Spirit filled fire among them they prayed for him and he was healed.

Our relationships should “stimulate” us to action and Kingdom advancement.  They should work to light the torch of the Spirit among us.  They should produce a zeal for God and change in us. These type of relationships destroy the enemies crops in our lives and in the lives of others.   This is far from sitting around a living room having coffee and therapeutically focusing on ourselves.    Let us seek the type of relationships that “stimulate one another” by the fire of God to overcome the work of the enemy.   

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Worth the Fight #2: Myth of the Self-Made Man

Self-Made-ManOne of the most celebrated American holidays is Independence Day.  One of America’s most revered documents is the Declaration of Independence.  Independence in these examples was set in the context of a corporate nation yet as a culture we have morphed the idea more towards personal independence rather than corporate.  Unfortunately the church has often followed in culture’s wake rather than God’s design.

Independence can be a problem when people begin to follow Jesus.   The very nature of Jesus and the Godhead is that they live and move together as One.  They are Three perfectly in sync with each other.  They are part of each other’s lives.  Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5, 8, 15:15).  At the same time Father and Holy Spirit were moving to glorify Jesus (John 8:54, 16:14, 17:5).  

In Jesus’ last prayer on earth He prayed 3 times that His people would have the same type of relational oneness with each other that He has with the Godhead (Jn 17:11, 21, 22).  We also know that when people take up the call to follow Jesus He immediately puts them in connection with others who follow Him.   It isn’t based on their personal preference but His.

1 Corinthians 12:13-18  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit….18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

Rom 12:1-11…4  MSG In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. (Amp mutually dependent on one another).

Ephesians 4:25  And so, putting away false words, let everyone say what is true to his neighbour: for we are parts one of another.

 His call is not based on our personal preference but His design and destiny.

Jesus didn’t allow His first disciples to make the choice on who they would follow Him with.   He placed them as Paul said, “in the body, just as He desired.”  He placed the 12 with others that they would not have liked very well outside of following Him. He put tax-gatherers and zealots, rich and poor, and physicians and fishermen together.  Tax-gatherers and zealots were people from two groups in Palestine who would have hated each other and wished them dead.

As we follow Jesus with those He joins us to they become part of our life and destiny. Click To Tweet

Myth of the “Self-Made Man

Read any biography of a successful entrepreneur, CEO, or media personality and self-made manit will have the familiar ring of the “self-made man.” It usually goes something like this; from humble beginnings, or a disadvantaged situation, _______ refused to give in to the odds stacked against him or her. They didn’t give up but they got up and made something great of themselves.

This isn’t completely true in anyone’s life! Consider someone’s relational biography. Do your own. A relational biography describes people God has used to get others where they are today. If it is done in an objective manner we will be amazed how the influence of other people over the years has been essential to us getting where we are.

Think of your life. You owe your life to a lot to people. People are the main source of supply God used in your life (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19). Think about your natural family or others who helped raise you. Someone had to provide things for you that you couldn’t on your own. Someone provided food for you and changed your diapers when you couldn’t do it yourself. While those same people may have hurt you or let you down in various ways they did provided something for you that you couldn’t do yourself.

You didn’t educate yourself.  You had teachers and schools. There were people in your life who warned you to stay away from harmful things which probably spared you a lot of mistakes and grief. Others protected you at times when you didn’t even know it. Even in the choosing of your career someone probably influenced you with an example of a field of work that was appealing. Someone probably told you about the job your currently have or at least was involved in getting your application to someone who hired you.

If you are a Christian, someone, or several someone’s, helped you get to the place you are in God. They brought the message of Christ to you, helped you develop a walk with Christ, and provided instruction and example of how to live for Him. It reminds me of a quote from the angel Clarence to George Bailey from my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

Destiny Carriers

My walk with Jesus continues to be shaped, influenced, and aided by the people God has joined me to. There has been so much revelation, example, and even correction from His people in my life. They have also opened doors for me to move in His destiny. This highlights an important Biblical concept that we all have ‘Destiny Carriers’ that help us come into the place He has for us.

All through the Scripture we see examples of people coming into their destiny through relationships. There are potentials in each person and the relationships He joins them to that hold a key to help unlock them.

Joshua had Moses, Ruth had Naomi, David had Jonathan, Elisha had Elijah, Jesus had Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist, Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, as well as others, and they had Paul.  The list goes on and on.

Most good things of God flow through relationships (His body). That is how He designed it. We were made in His image and as it says in the Genesis account of creation it was the image of the Trinity “let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26). The Trinity are mutually dependent on each other for their continued place of existence.

This is why the people who prosper in God tend to be planted among relationships. This is why it is so sad when Christians fail to commit over the long haul to walk with people God joins them to.  

Psa 92:12-14 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,…(13) Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. (14) They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,

The proper response of any true disciple of Jesus is a similar posture the prodigal son had when returning to his father, “make me” (Lk 15:19).  He is the Potter and we are the clay (Jer 18 etc.). God uses people that we walk together with as tools that shape/make us as we follow Him. 

I am not the same man I was before I was joined with my wife.  In the context of walking together we both have become something different, better, and more than what we would have been on our own.  The same is true as we walk together with those He joins us to in the church.  There are no “self-made men/women” in the Kingdom of God.   We should thank God for those He uses to shape our life in Him through both the good times and the bad and the easy as well as the challenging.  

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