Month: March 2015

Tuesday Devotional: Joel 2

Read Joel 2:12-17. bible

So much of religion can be accomplished by the head and the hands.  Religion is a matter of do’s and don’ts; we learn to follow these simply by mental and physical focus.  However, while religion may be achievable through the will power and of man, will power does very little to further the kingdom of God.  In order to receive the blessings and promises of spiritual renewal and transformation found in Scripture, the heart must supersede our mind or our strength.  When we operate out of our own will, we realize not only our strengths but also our limits. The strength of God,on the other hand, becomes unavoidably apparent when our hearts are opened, and we are willing to follow and not lead.  We are hesitant to share our hearts, and this is no different with God.  We view our hearts as our own private space where only we are allowed entry.  But the only way to truly know God is to be one with him, and the only way to be one with him is to give him access to that which is most dear to us: the heart.  By allowing him to restructure and reveal our heart to us, God not only shows us the dangers of our darkest desires but the beauty of his unlimited love.  Once this bond has been shared, the obstacles that once existed in our lives are taken down, and we are free to run with a God that intends to take us places where only he exists and only love of a renewed heart reigns.

 

Candles, Cakes, and Prayers: Spoken but not Answered

This is the latest installment in our ‘Candles, Cakes, and Prayers’ reflection series. For previous entries, go here.

 

As we talked about a few weeks ago, the reason many people have so little faith in prayer is the absence of results.  We may read in the scriptures that God hears our prayers and is fully aware of our needs, however, with every need that we see go unaddressed or unanswered we lose hope in the process, simply because we have yet to see results.  While our first post concerned the doubt that anyone was at the receiving end of our prayers, this final point of doubt emanates from the perception that the figure at the receiving end exists, but doesn’t care or love.

As answers to our requests fail to appear, resentment toward this “God of Love” grows. When we don’t get answers we feel un-Loved, even foolish. As we see or hear of others receiving answers to their prayers, externally no different than the ones we offered, we may develop a suspicion of “favoritism” in regards to God and his “answers.”  The, “why not me?” question brings everything we once believed about God into question.

This is where we start to see the world in terms of “favorite children,” whose wishes are granted, versus “the other children,” who get nothing back. We begin to judge God, and eventually to absent ourselves from the dialogue of prayer altogether.  Due to the absence of results and the absence of “answers,” we can feel completely suspicious and bitter toward the act of prayer in general.  In the place of peace and clarity that prayer is supposed to provide are doubt, suspicion and anger.  Prayers made from this perspective become nothing more than birthday wishes, without the appeal of delicious cake to follow.

Tuesday Devotional: Hosea 1

bibleRead Hosea 1 here. 

There are very few things that we value more than our relationships.  Relationships require us to trust beyond comfort and to make ourselves emotionally vulnerable beyond security.  When a relationship is given a firm foundation of trust, and security to flourish, we will treasure the result more than most things.  These relationships become the closest to home that we will ever find, anchoring us when all other things show signs of weakness.  However, nothing quite compares to the pain when these relationships strain, weaken and eventually break.  The pain of broken trust and safety is something that many people never recover from.  The two things that most often fracture these relationships are indifference and unfaithfulness.  The experience of one’s trust and love not being reciprocated has the power to completely break a once unstoppable heart.  The experience of trust and love being set aside for the pursuit of another love can empty a heart once so abundantly full of endless love ready to be given.  Yet the love of the creator God has extended far beyond our love for one another.  The love of the Creator has broken the bonds of time that so constrict our human relationships.  The creator God has experienced an ongoing cycle of broken “ideal relationships,” yet has continued to pursue the ones he loves.  His love, for all intents and purposes, is “crazy” and “illogical,” beyond our ability to comprehend or duplicate.  But this is the gift: love we all seek, but only God can provide.

Mobile Word’s Next Step

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It is exciting to share with all of you the next chapter that lies in store for my wife and me.  After living 5 years in South Korea, my wife Colleen and I have felt called by God to return to the United States!  More specifically, we’ve felt called to plant a church in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Currently we are waiting on the Lord to reveal his plan for specifically where and with whom we should look to plant a church. However, we are confident that the work God has done in our lives in South Korea was in preparation for this gigantic next step.  We could not be more excited to take our experience with God in South Korea to California and continue to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all people.

As South Korea was an unexpected  call for both Colleen and me, so is the call to San Francisco.  Thus, we have few connections in the area and are still unsure where we will work and live, but we know that God will provide as he did overwhelmingly in South Korea.  With that in mind, we would love to hear from any and all of you readers of this site concerning our next step.  We know how necessary it is for us to learn from others and we are excited to learn from those of you that know the area, are currently connected to that area in some way, have planted a church or feel called to share your thoughts or support for this upcoming move.

Over the next several months we will be revealing more information as we receive it regarding our church plant vision, beliefs and progress.  Stay tuned!

Also, if you would like to support our next chapter in San Francisco through financial tithes or offerings, we’ve added a “Support” page on the website where you can support our mission via PayPal.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support and God bless all of you.

-Nathan

 

ASK: Jeremiah 33

 phonesource

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

READ JEREMIAH 33

God pleads with us to call on Him. But do we? God promises to provide us with answers to our deepest questions and concerns, but do we listen? Our understanding of God is revealed in how we call on Him and how we listen. Why do we call on Him? If we call on Him with an expectation that he will remove the most present obstacle in our life, then we have reduced His promises to be as temporal as the world we live in. If we measure His power in how effectively He removes the particular trouble in our lives, then we fail to grasp the depth of His promise and are left abandoned by a rescue He never actually vowed to make.

Emptiness does not necessarily mean godlessness. Emptiness in this world is a result of the fallen nature of this world. However, God’s promises are real and they are ever-present. They are now. They are working. The wickedness and destruction of this world should not cause us to need God less. On the contrary, it should reveal in us a greater need for Him. The suffering in this world does not prove the absence of God. Suffering reveals our need for a savior to rescue us from the suffering in and to which we all actively participate and contribute. We need His heart and we need His words.

In the end, the answer to our call does not manifest itself in rescue now. Rather, it rescues us spiritually in the present in the promise of Jesus Christ to rescue us completely in the future. Jesus Christ is God’s answer to our plea for help. Jesus Christ IS hope. He provides us the hope that all is not lost and what we have lost is not the end. Jesus does not help us get to the end. Jesus IS the end. To find Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to find the answer we sought from the beginning. We are lost in this world in one way or another; Jesus Christ comes to find us. We have been hurt or are presently hurting; Jesus Christ comes to heal us. We are afraid of the finality of this world; Jesus Christ tells us to find peace in Him as the beginning and end that encompasses all that we have been, are and will ever be. He is life, and God’s answer to all of our questions is Jesus Christ.

 

Candles, Cakes, and Prayers: Spoken but not Believed

prayer-in-the-dark

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Check the first two installments here and here

In most instances, when we made birthday wishes, there was always a flavor of impossibility to the wishes being made.  This was a moment to seize something that on any other day of the year would be truly out of reach.  This was the moment to wish for the most outrageous and most impossible dream.  No one ever wished for the cheapest pair of shoes. No, the correct wish was for the most expensive pair.  Don’t forget, these are birthday candles we’re talking about!

Making birthday wishes was the moment to request the unthinkable and most radical request imaginable.  However, over time we discovered that the reason that these wishes and dreams were out of reach in our minds, and why we chose to wish for them, was that they were out of reach in reality.  Although within us was the hope that something we wished for would come true, there eventually grew an acceptance that this dream would most likely never amount to more than a dream.

The Bible presents many instances where the impossible became possible through the power and will of God.  We read stories where people survived being thrown into fire or a lion’s den, and where entire bodies of water became separated upon the command of God. While these stories present great moments for awe and entertainment, the utter impossibility of these stories resign them, in our minds, to legends that could never and will never be seen in today’s world.  They are so unlikely that to hope in them is one thing, but to believe in them is something altogether different and altogether foolish.  Therefore, we continue to voice our desires and make our wishful prayers to a God up there, somewhere, while accepting that most desires and wishes will be out of the reach of even a God who claims to be able to do anything. So we find people mouthing prayers with no faith or belief in their fulfillment, or in the God whom they claim to address.

Tuesday Devotional: Daniel 2

bibleDaniel 2:24-49

24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen.

Understanding the true nature of God requires power.  One cannot comprehend the nature of God through the acquisition of knowledge.  One will never truly accept the existence of God through habitual attendance at a church or at a Bible study.  The one and only means to being transformed by the word of God is through the power of experience, and the only way to that experience is to allow the possibility of the power to be present.

One of the primary reasons why so few people ever experience this power is because, although they attend church, read their Bible or pray, they resist the truth of the message.  Regardless of how small that opening for truth is, God will always respond to it, and when he does it becomes pointless in resisting the presence of his power.  People believe they have uncontested control of their lives, the power to dictate our own direction as we see fit.  This faith will persist until it is met by a power that overpowers it.  When we experience God’s power, the only reaction in a heart hungry for truth is to fall prostrate at the feet of the God who makes himself known not through a message, a concept or a rule, but through an undeniable encounter.

Anything short of an experience with God cannot initiate the change of character required to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.   And without a powerfully personal experience with the living God, we live without the joy and peace that come from the transformed character in this new life with God.  Any faith requires trust in things we don’t necessarily see, but is established in things that have truly been experienced.  Without the testimony of experience we would never live by that faith.  God’s message will never be real unless God’s presence has been truly experienced as real.

 

Candles, Cakes, and Prayers: Spoken but Not Heard

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Here’s Part 1 of the first half of our ‘Candles, Cakes and Prayers’ reflection series. The intro to the series is here!

When wishing on birthday candles it is clear to all, although perhaps not to the innocent child doing the wishing, that the wishes are falling on deaf ears.  Adults understand that although wishes are being made, no one is listening in, to set the wish granting process in motion.  Wishes are being made to candles atop a cake. The story ends there, without debate.  One of the reasons why some people relegate their prayer life to the same fate as those old birthday wishes is that the number of wishes made compared to the number of wishes fulfilled is lopsided at best in favor of silence. Many feel that this wishing with our eyes shut over newly lit birthday candles, or kneeling at the bedside, is nothing more than wishful superstition that has no place in the “real world.”  As we outgrew the birthday candle tradition, we soon realized that we possessed much more power to affect real change in our lives by our own effort. No need to place any hopes whatsoever in silly “childish superstition.”  These hopes were grounded in fantasy and to actually count on them was to set oneself up for certain disappointment.  We came to the realization that no one was listening; therefore, there was no need to do any more talking.

Many people have put such hopes in God, only to see their wishes left at the stage of simply a wish or a dream.  There are countless cases where people have prayed for a miracle, only to find that the answer was never revealed.  One such example was Jesus himself who, while desperately praying for deliverance from his suffering, heard nothing in return, leaving him feeling entirely “forsaken.”

When our trust in God is merely at the level of the “Genie in the Lamp,” or the magic of a candle wish, we find that such a “God-Genie” is ineffective.  This idea of God even sneaks in with those who truly feel as though they understand and believe in the “will of God,” and they can be likewise disappointed by the “failure” of God to respond.  This level of disappointment and lack of response brings many to the state of wishing to candles when they bring their hands together, kneel, and close their eyes.

ASK: Proverbs 7

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

Read Proverbs 7

From childhood we naturally exhibit a desire to rebel. We see a rule and immediately seek to break it. There is ironically within the human heart a desire for absolute truths alongside a desire to create truths of our own that satisfy our desires regardless of the consequences. Sin amplifies our desire to create truths, and left to our own devices we will ultimately listen, follow and destroy ourselves because of them. The truths that we create for ourselves, grounded in wisdom that we deem worthy, is doomed to lead us astray every time. Brokenness yields brokenness and remains broken.

In the same way that we possess a natural talent for rule-breaking, we likewise possess a distaste for correction. As a result of sin, we are born deceived into thinking that we now possess the knowledge of good and evil that Satan promised us in the garden in the beginning. Therefore, any challenge to that reality immediately creates in us a fire of resentment toward whatever or whoever is challenging our authority. For many, God is at the receiving end of this wrath.

However, by the grace of God we are given in scripture a reasonable, just and loving voice that does not discipline or correct for authority’s sake. What we find is a God that disciplines, corrects and warns for our sake. Deep down we all know our weaknesses are exploited on a daily basis. God does too. His desire for us to turn from the corner that will undoubtedly bring us further into sin and despair is not to deprive us but to save us. The fallacy of human wisdom is precisely that. It is human and therefore completely incapable of discernment untainted by sin and disorder. In man’s eyes, joy follows obedience, and the devastation and depravation of the entire world follows. In God’s eyes, joy follows obedience to the words of His son Jesus, as a new life and a new world made in His image are revealed.