Thursday, December 16, 2010

My House Will Be Called A House of Prayer

Matthew 21:12, 13 "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.'"

Question: Why did Jesus drive out those who were buying, selling and money changing in the temple area? After all, were they not purchasing the doves for burnt offerings and sacrifices to God as commanded?

Reflection: I've been troubled lately at the amount of sales that goes on in the church to raise funds for this and for that. From the prevalence of bake sales and vending done within the church or right in front of the sanctuary on days when services, be it Sunday worship, Bible study, prayer meeting are typically held. I can't help but wonder how Jesus feels about all this? Even though in most cases our motives are pure, often times to raise money for the church activities or school activities - and I've been guilty myself. I just am becoming increasingly disturbed in spirit by the abundance of these activities without much thought as to how it affects those spiritually and physically sick and hurting who may be distracted by these activities when they enter or leave the house of God.  Is the message that the house of God should be viewed and reverenced as a house of prayer being lost?

It started with car washes, tag sales and bake sales in the community rooms to now interjections during announcements on overhead TV Screens right after worship or before the Word is preached. Is anyone else bothered about all this? Do you see any similarity to Matt. 21:12-13? Have we now become more dependent on natural commerical means to provide for our church programming rather than on faith in prayer? A couple other scripture references that come to mind are: Isaiah 55:8-9, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. As high as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Also,  Proverbs 3:5- 6, which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."

These are just some thoughts that have been coming to mind. Your feedback would be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Be Careful To Whom and How You Listen

I had an interesting experience yesterday that reminded me a little of Matthew 16:23 where Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Except, in the conversation I had with the young lady, she did have in mind the things of God and still it could have been a stumbling block if I allowed it.

Okay, I need you to fasten your seatbelts and hang in there with me on this one, because it'll be a ride.

For the last couple days I'd been feeling a little spiritually off center as though I was missing the target. My mind was crowded and I wasn't spending sufficient time with the Lord in comparison to all I had going on. Yesterday was Bible study and I had an URGENCY in my spirit to get there, like a car that badly needed an alignment. I didn't know how I was going to get there seeing that my car is inoperable at the moment and I don't know my way around yet. So I called a sister from my new church who told me I could call her when I needed a ride. However, she was out of town. I shared with her how I was feeling a little spiritually off center and my yearning to be at Bible study last night. She reminded me that we are the church and that God is with us no matter where we are and gently rebuked me for doubting and displaying a lack of faith among some other well-intentioned advice. All of which was true. But either I didn't do a good job of expressing myself or she wasn't listening to the Spirit. There was also the factor that she didn't know me very well.

We prayed together about a couple things and I got off the phone. I was a little comforted, but still disturbed in my spirit. She's someone in leadership and one whom I respect. So I considered taking her advice and not pressing my way to Bible study. I left it in God's hands.

Shortly afterwards my sister came home and she offered me a ride to the church. The series of events that proceeded was beautifully orchestrated by God. It was not only that I needed to get to church to hear a specific message entitled, "Patience Under Pressure" by a visiting missionary from Guatemala, but there were 3-4 other specific encounters God had lined up for me at the church that evening! From the moment I'd gotten to the church premises my spirit had lifted and I knew that I was where I was supposed to be that evening. The missionary even said as part of his message, "that some of our friends and family may try to comfort or give well-meaning advice out of love but may not be part of God's will." Look at God!

Sometimes, all I can do is just "look" at God and shake my head at his awesomeness. We have to be so careful whom we're listening to. When Jesus turned to Peter in Matt. 16:23 and rebuked Satan it was because the enemy was using Peter to try to obstruct God's plan and purpose. It's important that we discern God's plan and purpose in our lives and for different seasons in our lives. We must be able to discern God's will, God's voice or we will miss out.

About 5 months ago I had a similar experience on a much higher level. My decision to relocate was being questioned and rejected by the spiritual and business mentors in my life. However, I'd heard clearly from God to make the move, so proceeded to prepare, by faith, to go. It was causing all kinds of upheavel and changes, but I kept praying and moving forward. A week or two before my move I had a major clash with the primary spiritual leader in my life at the time. I left his office with a resounding headache unlike any other I've ever had. I'd always had God confirm what he was saying to me through this leader. So why not this time when it was of such major importance? I felt like my head was in a vice and I couldn't think. I knew it was the enemy, but I couldn't pray. It was 10:30 at night after Bible study. I finally cried out as I was driving to Walmart in my car, "Lord, I need to hear from you. Send someone who knows you AND knows me." (Sometimes the person may know God, but not know the work God is doing in your life. Other times, they may know you, but not know God. I needed someone who knew both.)

I called a couple friends. They were unavailable or asleep. As I walked through Walmart searching for the packaging tape I was looking for to seal up the moving boxes, I held my head and groaned audibly. A very friendly young man came up to me and greeted me. I recognized his face but didn't know his name. I'd never spoken with him before but he greeted me like a long lost friend. I was on the phone seeking comfort from a friend when this practical stranger greeted me and wouldn't leave me alone. I told him I'd get back with him once I got off the phone. The headache wouldn't leave and I couldn't think so I got off the phone and continued my search for the tape.

I ran into the young man again and he offered to help me find the tape. After seeking help from a sales associate for me, he led me to the tape in a rear aisle in the store. Immediately afterwards he started sharing his testimony with me. Within the first 5 minutes of sharing the vice around my head released. My headache was gone. He had my full attention because I knew immediately God was speaking to me. I stood there transfixed as I listened to him. He went from telling his testimony to speaking prophetically. I was in awe. He was confirming the things God had previously said to me and telling me of some things that God was about to do for me. I marveled at God and how he answered my prayer. I thought, "Wow God, you're awesome! You knew that no one really knew what you were doing in me, or that no one knows me like you do, so you came yourself to speak to me through a stranger!" It was a very special "moment" (the guy spoke to me that way for almost an hour and a half)!

So this morning as I reflected on what God did last night and as I remembered again the care of the Lord to send his messenger to speak to me at such a crucial time 5 months ago, it brought home how critically important it is for us to be careful to whom and how we listen. In both instances the people who were giving me godly counsel, were indeed giving me biblical (Logos) counsel, just not spiritually discerned counseled, or Rhema counsel. Good people, good words just not in the right season.

"Be quick to listen, slow to speak..." James :19a