Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cornerstone: Called to Climb

   Greetings everybody.  We pray this post finds you blessed.  While seeking to saturate our minds with Sunday's message, The Beatitudes , we took some time to reflect upon our journey as a church-family.

   If we take a step back, it's easy to see a definite leading of the Holy Spirit here at Cornerstone.

1st – we spent the summer learning to walk with Jesus, becoming familiar with His presence and increasingly committing to a spiritual place & spiritual disciplines that require both faith and trust (trust = faith with wheels)

2nd – we are becoming familiar with harkening to His voice; hearing and obeying as a ballistic, single-step response to hearing His familiar voice.  Obedience, trained by the spiritual disciplines, can become like reading the words on a page.  Can you look at the words on this page without reading them?  Not very easily.  Disobedience to God can become just as difficult through ascetic practice rooted in love of our Lord.

3rd – now that we are walking with Him, and harkening to Him, comes the hardest milestone since we started this trek; particularly hard to get as a Church body.  Living in constancy from the brokenness that results from Embracing the Gospel – from embracing the Cross and never letting go. 

Sow What?

  Next we explored the key scriptures from The Beatitudes , seeing for ourselves (Acts 17:11) what it is to be authentically broken, and  to fully Embrace the Gospel.

   Embracing the gospel means that we get it and we live it.  We are new creations in Christ ( 2 Cor 5:17 ), and the Bible is the instruction and troubleshooting guide for this new being we've become.  You don't see Mr. Cat come home to Mrs. Cat at the end of a long day and say "Honey, I just don't think I'm cut out for this mouse chasing stuff."  We don't see him a few months later trying to hunt Impala on the plains of the Serengeti like his Lion bretheren.  Mr. Cat, enviably, knows his true nature and embraces it.  Christian lives don't merely go poorly apart from embracing the Bible, the Gospel, and the (painful but necessary) work of the Cross; they won't work at all.  Once redeemed, we are easily as different from our former selves as our former selves were from earthworms. New principles -- Kingdom Principles -- now exclusively apply.

   Anyone who has been a believer for a while will have seen a list like the one found here.  I will submit to you that truly submitting to and embracing the gospel, and understanding deeply who we are in Christ (that radically new and different being), is the Rx for 99% of what ails you, be it spiritual, mental, physical, relational, or circumstantial.  In a previous blog, Red Monkeys, Green Monkeys , we discuss replacing our thoughts and the programming of man with the Truth.  Following the instructions on the page I've linked to above are a valid means of doing that.

Key Scriptures from the Sermon
Matthew 5:1-10
Matthew 5:14
Matthew 4:23
Matthew 9:35
Ps. 37
1 Peter 4:10
Matthew 6:8

  Authentic following of Christ: is first in relationship, then in truth (harkening), then in experience – come what may!

   These scriptures and the sermon teach the Workings of the Broken Church - -

Towards God:
Adore Him in Worship 

Abandon myself to His Word

Glorify God in everything I do

Towards Man:
Rescue the lost 

Purity/Pure heart towards all/redeeming the saved 

Resend the Disciples 

... it is at once that simple and that difficult to answer the call to be a City on a Hill.

Our B.L.U.F. (Bottom Line Up Front):

(1) We need God.  No, I mean we really NEED God to become that City on a Hill

(2) Reach and remain at that utterly uncomfortable, utmost end of that...

(3) ..there is room enough on the throne of our hearts for God alone.

(4) If we don't teach, preach, and heal (by His power), nothing, tragically, happens.

(5) Love 'em all, sharing the Grace and Love of God, come what may.

><> D&N

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Closet and the Cave

   Hello everybody.  What an awesome dinner shared with family.  We would like to thank our "Sow What?" friends for allowing us to bow out this past Wednesday and enjoy the Royal Ranger and Impact Girls Awards Ceremony.   I also got to catch the end of Pastor Travis' first message, and the two-thirds-of-the-crowd response to his altar call for forgiveness, renewal, and activation for God.  'Nuff said!


“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set upon pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Weeping,
They make it a spring…”
                                                                                                           Psalm 84:5- 6

   I'll confess that the message of  Elijah in the Cave  was so right on and hit me so close to home, that the Spirit has tugged at me since I heard it.  Your input for the sermon and the "Bottom Line Up Front" will be sorely missed this week.  It took me a long time tonight (including a prayer walk around my neighborhood) to settle down to post this at all.  Speak, Lord, for your servant types...

   ..those of us who not only heard but harkened to the sermon, know that we have our caves.  The call to leave those pockets of fear and darkness was uncluttered and inescapable.  I guess the Berean task of our group this week is to dope out the nuts and bolts of what to do when we find ourselves there.

   I'm in a cave..

   Sow What?
  The caves in our lives bear time-honored tags..

“Death of a Loved One”
“Terminal Illness”
“Permanently Disabled”
“Financial Ruin”
… but finding our wounds on a list is of little help.  In spiritual warfare and in life, we have to engage the enemies before us, often despite being gravely wounded.  You will have to fight your way out of the cave you find yourself in.  Your struggle may be easier or harder than you envision. 

    A soldier will know that his mission is to “attack” or “defend” or “withdraw”, but this will tell him only the general intention of his commander for the situation.  Confusion sets in the moment we encounter the enemy and a war plan only lasts, as conceived, until the first battle.  We must be flexible, and adjust to a real enemy and dynamic circumstances that could not have been perfectly anticipated by any plan except God's. 

     There are three common mistakes Christians make in the cave:

1.      Ignoring that real enemies are trying to keep you in that cave. Their goal is to get you to surrender, and to turn traitor.  Failing in that, ending your life or rendering it useless to God is nearly as desirable.

2.      Forgetting that your perspective while in the cave is skewed.  An enemy can magnify in our estimation when he attacks suddenly and from the darkness, cuts us off from friendly forces, seems to block our only escape,  and keeps us so punch drunk that we don't properly asses the situation.

In FM 90-6 (the field manual for Army Mountain Operations) describes this type of fight as “compartmentalized warfare”.  This type of combat  ” is won or lost in the mind of the commander,” it continues, “persevering while temporarily outnumbered and out gunned until our superiority in the battle space can be brought to bear.”  The warrior that wins... understands that the enemy wants to keep him misinformed, uninformed, and cut off, and he deals with that reality. 

    Last, and worst, is the fact that you, dear believer, face an enemy that has trained in cave warfare since the fall of man. This is the enemy’s preferred killing ground. It really is worse than you think. Satan, like any predator, seeks to devour those sheep weakened and separated from the flock. However, the final common error, if avoided, will bear us out even when we foolishly make the first two.

3. The third error is forgetting that

  • your commander controls the entire battlefield/cave, and you have been given both power and authority over the enemy 

  • your forces are superior in quality, weaponry, and quantity and that the enemy is already defeated 

    Often the basics of life become too much for the man or woman suffering in the cave. If we can’t even manage the fundamentals of daily survival, we tell ourselves, then how can we manage victory? Our hearts exhausted, our minds unreliable, and with a list of desperately needed miracles, we can make the third error despite ourselves.

But wait, there’s more bad news...
    .. in the long dark night of the soul, you must take great care not to accept the comfort of the enemy.  It is unwise to avail yourself of every ally and resource available.
     It is always better to wait, even painfully, for help from a godly friend or counselor, and for God’s provision.  A true friend will not point out an ungodly means of escape.  A real ally will exhort you in seeking God’s face, God’s wisdom, and God’s heart for your situation.  The Bible tells us that “...faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
    Any resource, to include this blog post, must measure up against and point to God’s Word.  Many books, good and evil, make their way into print.  The mass media, too, is rarely a friend to our Savior; be wary. 

There’s still more bad news...      
       The situation you’re in may be, at least in part,  a consequence of your own sin.   If so, part of what defines victory will be dealing with that conviction as God’s son or daughter.   You’ll need to hold close to the truth that our enemies are Satan, his demons and evil spirits, and sin.  God is not the enemy, you are not the enemy, and neither is anyone who may have wounded you or your loved ones.  As impossible as this can seem, it is the truth. 

The final unpleasant reality...     
     God’s Will for your circumstance – His perfect escape plan for your cave – may be absolutely repugnant to you.  You may have to fight with all of your heart for an outcome God calls for, but that you have no desire for, nor any ability to attain by yourself.   It may well fly in the face of what society, family, and friends tell you is sensible.  You may be unpleasantly labeled for your God-pleasing response, and lose face so that you may prove the perfect will of God.  You may look weak, foolish, or just plain nuts.
     It is a rare circumstance indeed when limited man can see our infinite God coming!  Our Father’s response is not like the answer to a simplistic riddle from a small child.   In his book Secrets of the Vine , Don Wilkinson states “...the valley always lasts longer and cuts closer than we think it has a right to.”  We forget that even now, in our hour of greatest need, we belong completely to Him.  The Lord is the Potter, and we are just the clay.  The sustaining truth? Jeremiah 29:11

       Consider the situation in its entirety; the worst-case scenario:

     You are in a spiritual darkness.  A well armed enemy, expert in cave warfare, wants you spiritually, emotionally, and physically dead.  Their hatred for you defies description. There will be no truce, and the enemy will not give up.  The terrain and climate will make everything you do more difficult.  You will make mistakes, and there will be days when just surviving earns you a checkmark in the win column.  The wounds you now bear will not likely be the last of this battle.  No matter how desperate you are, accepting comfort from the enemy will only make matters worse.  Your own sin may well have been what has brought you to this cavern, resulting in injuries to you and to those around you.  God’s guidance for your escape may make no sense to you; it may seem like He is misinformed, uncaring, or cruel.  You will be spared no human indignity, should it stand between you and a transparent relationship with your God.   Your resources may be spent, and your endurance gone.  If you are able to sleep, it may be tortured and worse than sleeplessness.  Several trials, at once or consecutively, may be upon you.  There is no hope in sight…

.. until you turn your eyes upon Jesus.

B.L.U.F. (Bottom Line Up Front): 

  • Yours is an Impossible Mission, without God. Take a moment, and rest until your heart is still.  The long, dark night of the soul may be upon you, but herein is opportunity. You have been thrust into a fiery furnace, but if you invite the Lord to guide you in the flames, the only thing burned away when it’s over will be what binds you.    

  •   You cannot escape the cave you are in by avoidance.  This is war, and facing reality is crucial to your victory.  Acknowledging wounds, obstacles, and enemy capabilities makes sense.     Be humble enough to ask for His solution, knowing that it will both be better than yours could ever be, and that it will be of real use to the Kingdom.  Don’t fret if you can’t find the right words to express exactly what lies in your heart of hearts, because the Holy Spirit of the Living God translates for you (Romans 8:26), and Jesus Christ Himself advocates on your behalf (Romans 8:34) before Elyon (God in all His Glory).   Receive His grace for your concerns – claim them – and finish your prayer time as the Holy Spirit leads you.  Now trust Him with what you have given Him.  His faithfulness and loving-care of your worries spoken and unspoken in that prayer will not go untended.

  • Commit completely to God’s path and purpose.  God's plan is our only true path, and His friendly forces our only allies. 

  • If you turn your cave into a prayer closet, and really hear from God, any trial can be refining and draw us nearer to our Lord. 
><> D & N

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Listening to His Voice...Not the World

..and your flesh and your heart, contrary to the P/C media, are not on the short list of things we should be listening to, either.  The flesh must be given no wiggle room,  according to Paul ( Romans 13:14 ), & the heart isn't trustworthy ( Jeremiah 17:9 ).


   How are we to proceed?  According to the scriptures we studied during Sunday's message Listen to His Voice..Not the World , the Christian has but two sources of authority - God and His Word.  We learned in our previous study Walking with Jesus - Knowing God's Word that our relationship with the Bible is mission critical. We now understand that we are ineffectual in the war against sin without our only offensive weapon, the Sword of the Spirit. But why do we need to hear from God Himself if we have the scriptures?

   First, reading the Bible doesn't automatically equate to Listening to His Voice.   The message Sunday illustrated that ( Mt 5:1-2 , Prv 4:20-23) we need to be paying close attention, immersed in this top-three (love, hear, & obey God) most important thing we can do with our lives.  We know from God's literal call on Samuel that we can listen to Him, hear Him, and yet not harken to Him.  The word "Harken" describes a hear-listen-obey reaction that is submitted, diligent, and volitional.  It's the obedience-with-abandon part that makes the difference.  We believers are found of saying we hunger for more of Jesus Christ, yet we ignore the one section of scripture that teaches us how to get Him to show up (manifest) in our lives ( John 14:21 )!

   Why, in the final analysis, is the lesson in  Listen to His Voice..Not the World so vital? Because of what happens, and fails to happen, if we don't.

   We in Sow What? realized that if we are not listening to His voice, in all of it's facets, then we are not only forsaking the manifestation of Christ in our lives, we are not truly in relationship with Him at all.  Think about it.

  • If we pray but don't listen, we might as well be talking to ourselves or a neighbor as our omniscient Creator.
  • If we read the scriptures but don't listen, we might as well be reading the uninspired works of  < insert latest guru's name here>.  When we don't harken, we are not washing our minds with the Word and building our faith.
  • If we go to Church but don't listen, we miss the precision guidance that the Holy Spirit has for us as a local body.  

Sow What?

     How then, do we walk this out? What's the Bottom Line, Up Front? 


     1. Study and understand the obedience factor from John 14:21. The last instructions Christ gave us before leaving the planet were to love Him fully, and to love others as ourselves; loving God and loving others are inseparably one. If we hear-listen- and obey Him in the missions/instructions that he gives us, that is part of our medicine/healing and of our deeper connectedness to Him.   The medicine/healing then enables further obedient fulfillment of missions, again leading to better relationship and rest within Him.  God cannot reward disobedience.

     2. Remain mindful that God is alive and working with you, now.  He has guidance for you, and desires fellowship with you this very moment. You cannot do what you do not harken to.  By scriptural precedent, God has spoken to us via the Bible, His prophets, audibly, through His creation (specifically through angels, animals, the manifest universe, miracles, and other believers), in Person, and by the myriad unctions of the Holy Spirit.  None of this is relationship building absent consistent time listening to Him.  Intimacy in a relationship with God means we vote with our feet, all the time, to move further up the mountain of God when He calls.

   3. Harken, Respond, Repeat.  Spiritually, its all a dialogue; prayer, preaching, worship, ministry - even reading  the word.

   4. Understand the need for deliberate solitude and purity.   Get alone with God.  If the President desired to speak to you, you would, whatever your opinion of him, be attentive and polite.  You would not clutter that conversation with nonsense while, say, you texted somebody else.  We need to be as deliberate with God, only more so.  First, because He is the Almighty God.  Secondly, because the static from our flesh, hearts, and the world is incessant.  We must deliberately strive for Biblical purity, lest we adulterate our communications with God.

   5. Pray for Constancy in love, fellowship, faith, speech, and deed.  

><> db