Spiritual Focus (from Worship Services)
WHAT IS THE SPIRITUAL FOCUS FOR THE WEEK?
Each Sunday, the minister leading the service introduces a spiritual focus for the week based on the subject of the talks. It is referred to during the adult sermon portion of the service and includes a brief summary of the lesson and practical suggestions for how you might use the spiritual message of the sermon in the workplace, at home, in your marriage, with parenting, friends, etc.
Listed below are many of the recent spiritual focus messages in chronological order. This list also gives an overview of the topics covered from week to week.
As of October 14th, 2012, our spiritual focus for the week is now being shared on Oak Arbor Church's Facebook page.
Click here to read about our latest worship series, and other news on Facebook.
10/7/12 - Extreme Attitude Makeover #2 - Accepting the Bread of Heaven
There's a reason why our spiritual re-birth is slow and gradual, and not instantaneous. It's because our body and the material delights of this world convince us that only physical pleasures will make us happy. Of course, we know that there are deeper, higher loves that will make us truly happy but these spiritual pleasures seem less tangible and more remote. When the Lord sent "bread" from heaven the Israelites were baffled: what is it? In a similar way, our natural mind is baffled by the Lord's call to go the extra mile, to turn the other cheek, to practie the Golden Rule, to build up treasures in heaven: why do that? This is why we spend "forty" years in the wilderness eating the bread of heaven. We do it to cultivate a spiritual appetite for the Lord's truth and goodness. Each person's need is different and changes over time which is why the Lord is in charge of portion control. Our job is to trust the Lord and eat our "daily bread."
9/30/12 - Extreme Attitude Makeover #1 - Tearing Down the Tower
We all care about our personal reputation. In the story of the Tower of Babel, the people made two specific things: bricks, and a tower - all with the goal of “making a name for themselves.” “Tower-building” in our lives is any effort we make to prove ourselves right, or promote our esteem and greatness, or demonstrate our superiority. Bricks are the false “voices” in our heads that justify tower-building. In what ways can we fall into the trap of tower-building in the name of promoting our reputation? What are the good and useful building blocks of reputation?
12 Healing Miracles - Embracing the urgency to improve spiritual health
9/23/21 - 12 Healing Miracles
#3 - Healing from Spiritual Slavery
Sermon summary: Jesus was met by a man whose body had been taken over by evil spirits. This caused him to act (and live) like a wild animal. Jesus told the evil spirit to “come out” and asked him his name. “Legion” was his reply, “for we are many.” The evil spirits knew immediately they were no match against the Lord, and begged Him to send them into a herd of swine nearby. As soon as the Lord gave them permission to do this, the herd ran violently into the sea and drowned. Later the man was found sitting and clothed and in his “right mind” (v. 15). It’s not uncommon for us to experience intrusive thoughts and emotions – unwelcome thoughts and feelings that come up involuntarily and cause distress. The occasional “intrusive” thought or emotion is easily dismissed, but it’s the persistent ones like criticism, pessimism or sarcasm that are harder to manage, causing us longer term distress. One of the best things we can do to free ourselves of these “intruders” is to separate (disassociate) ourselves from the “possession.” That way we relinquish “ownership” allowing the Lord to say, “Come out…you unclean spirit.”
Spiritual task: Get in your right mind!
9/16/12 - 12 Healing Miracles
#2 - Healing from Lack of Forgiveness
Sermon summary: The connection between paralysis and forgiveness is unmistakable in this healing miracle - the two go hand in hand. Only after receiving the Lord's forgiveness, "your sins are forgiven you," was the man released from his paralysis. And yet the full healing couldn't take effect until the man actually got up and walked off, much to the astonishment of everyone who was watching. The same is true in our own lives. The Lord is constantly forgiving us any time we stray from His path and yet we cannot be truly healed of our sins until we symbolically "get up" and "walk", that is, to live a life in keeping with the Lord's commandments. There are many things that "paralyze" us each day: old wounds, a critical, judgmental spirit, impatient, angry thoughts, deeds of which we're ashamed, the list goes on. So let the Lord speak to you, "your sins are forgiven you", and then get up and walk. Once we feel the Lord's forgiveness we'll be in a much better position to forgive others.
We’re healed from a lack of forgiveness when we:
2. Take up our bed
9/9/12 - 12 Healing Miracles
# 1 - Healing from Feelings of Unworthiness
A woman from Canaan comes to Jesus begging Him to have mercy on her daughter who is severely demon-possessed. Jesus “appears” to rebuff her at every turn, first by not answering her, then by saying He has come to save the lost sheep of Israel, not gentiles like her. She then falls down and worships Him, and begs for help. Jesus says it is not good to take the children’s bread and feed it to the dogs, giving voice to a cultural prejudice that gentiles are of no more value than dogs. Of course what the Lord our God was doing was giving voice to the demeaning, evil messages that spew from hell telling us we’re not good enough, that we’re not even valued by God. The woman of Canaan was undaunted by all the obstacles thrown in her way, for such was her confidence in the Lord. In reality, the Lord used this woman’s faith, humility, courage and persistence to demonstrate how true healing occurs. Let us have the faith of this woman the next time we are confronted with feelings of unworthiness.
9/2/12 - You’ve Got Talent
“To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance...” (Matthew 25: 29)
We tend to be quick in our judgment of who has talent - “Oh, _____ is so talented! He/she is amazing.” And conversely, “I could never do that...I don’t have the talent.” The problem with this way of thinking is that it’s a false dilemma. Talent is not an arbitrary, random “gift” given by God to some but not others. Everyone has talent! The Lord makes this abundantly clear in the Parable of the Talents. The fact that one servant received “five” talents, another “two,” and another “one” is not the point! It’s what each servant did with their talent that mattered. The servants who used their talents received high praise from their master, but the servant who did nothing with his talent received a blistering rebuke. We don’t praise an artist or athlete for their “talent” - we praise them for their work. Talent means nothing. It’s our work that matters. We can do almost anything with the right training and discipline. Let us use the riches we’ve been given to grow in our service to the Lord and our neighbor.
Summer Worship Series 2012
8/26/12 - “A Walk in Nature” - Animals
“And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.” (Genesis 2:19)
Even though most of us live far removed from an agrarian life, the sphere of animals is never far from us. A very high percentage of people around the world own domesticated pets like cats and dogs, and there are still many cultures that work alongside mules, camels, oxen, sheep and goats. The Bible is filled with references to animals, partly because these were working animals but mostly because every animal has a correspondence. Adam “naming” the animals gives us our fist clue that animals represent various qualities. The Lord also compares people to animals: Be wise as “serpents” and as prudent as “doves.” Beware of those who wear sheep’s clothing but are as ravenous as “wolves.” We’re distinguished from animals by virtue of our spiritual mind. Our natural mind is reactive, wild, untamed. Our spiritual mind, by contrast, is pro-active. It’s alive and receptive to spiritual qualities like love, courage, trust, hope. Use your spiritual mind to take initiative, to achieve something noble and positive.
8/19/12 - “A Walk in Nature” - Birds
“Those who wait on the Lord...shall mount up with wings like eagles…”” (Isaiah 40)
Our fascination with flight goes back to the earliest civilizations. People have looked at the birds of the air and imagined what it must be like to “lift off” from the ground and soar up into the sky. Birds are prized for their unique characteristics: colorful plumage, hunting skills, keen eyesight, even their ability to mimic human speech. As a result, birds have always held a prominent place in art and literature. A bird’s ability to take flight and “rise above” the earth corresponds to human freedom. The Lord gives us free choice, the ability to choose the life of heaven or the life of hell. Choosing the life of hell doesn’t require any “flight” because an evil person is only interested in staying on the ground (satisfying bodily and material desires). A good person, on the other hand, desires nothing more than to “take flight” and rise above the selfish promptings of the body. The Word encourages us to rise above our earthly perspective so that we can think clearly about God, heaven, love, faith, marriage, and family.
8/15/12 - “A Walk in Nature”- Fish
“The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.”
You don’t have to be an avid fisherman to appreciate the rich variety of fish that can be found in our rivers, lakes and oceans. 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water and 90% of that water is found in the oceans where fish roam these vast stretches of planet earth. In Biblical times fishing was commonplace, making fish a staple diet. The Lord used the activity of fishing and eating fish to teach a spiritual lesson. He called fishermen to be His disciples and said they’d become “fishers” of men. Fish correspond to natural, general truths. We spend a lot of time “fishing” for the meaning of life, and as adults we realize that a natural sense of right and wrong isn’t enough. Our “hunt” must expand. As we approach the Lord in His Word our appetite changes. We begin to hunger for the food that truly nourishes our mind. Much of our heartache and frustration in life comes from a lack of spiritual perspective. So let us “fish” the Lord’s Word for intelligence and wisdom, the food of everlasting life.
8/5/12 - “A Walk in Nature” - Insects
“When I consider...the work of Your fingers...” (Psalm 8)
In Psalm 8 we are encouraged to consider the wonder and beauty of the Lord’s creation, the work of His “fingers.” Everything that meets our eyes in this world can serve to strengthen our belief in the Divine. Even something as seemingly insignificant as insects is a case in point. Take the metamorphic process that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. Is this not a visible image of our earthly state being changed into a heavenly one by the Lord? Or consider the highly structured, organized nature of bee hives and ant nests. What impels these insects to work tirelessly together toward a common goal? Insects correspond to the thoughts that “fly around” in our mind - the noxious ones to false, damaging ideas from hell; the noble ones to true, constructive ideas from heaven. Consider what’s “bugging” you right now (negative, destructive thought patterns) and ask the Lord to replace those thoughts with higher, more constructive ones, thoughts that will take flight upward, toward heaven.
7/29/12 - "A Walk in Nature" - Trees
“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water...” (Psalm 1)
Trees serve many vital functions in this world. On an elemental level, trees (along with other types of vegetation) produce the oxygen we need to stay alive. This symbiotic relationship with trees goes deeper too because “trees” in the Word correspond to our spiritual development and growth. In the Garden of Eden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil play a significant role in the struggle of humankind. The tree of life is mentioned again in the book of Revelation, this time in the Holy City where it produces twelve fruits with leaves that are for the healing of the nations. Our spiritual re-birth starts as a seed; we put down roots, sprout up, branch out, produce leaves, blossom, and finally fruit. “Leaves” correspond to spiritual intelligence, “blossom” to wisdom, and “fruit” to charity in action. In some areas of our spiritual re-birth we are mature, in other areas we need to do a lot of growing. What part of your “tree” needs focused attention right now?
7/22/12 - "A Walk in Nature” - Flowers
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin...” (Matthew 6: 28)
In the next life our external surroundings will match our inner thoughts and feelings. We get glimpses of this phenomenon here on earth. We travel to beautiful destinations because we want the sights and sounds of the mountains, oceans, beaches, quaint towns and villages to match the peace, joy and happiness we are seeking within our own hearts and minds. We don’t pick a war-zone with burned-out buildings or a barren desert for our travel destination because these “environments” don't reflect how we want to think and feel! Yet no matter how much we seek out positive environments we still get bogged down by the negative influences of hell which have us fret and worry about everything: money, sex, politics, our reputation, “fair share,” etc. The Lord says, “consider the lilies.” Flowers are created by Him without any “toil” or “spinning.” When we stop to “smell the flowers” we toil and spin less. We see that our re-birth is in the Lord’s hands and that we must put much more of our trust in Him.
7/15/12 - “A Walk in Nature” - Rocks
“You are My Father, My God, the rock of my salvation.” (Psalm 89: 26)
Sometimes the normalcy or commonality of an object in nature makes it seem less important. Take rocks, for example. Not only are they commonplace, but many appear dull and boring. Yet every stone and rock tells a story. A geode has the “appearance” of being ordinary and commonplace and yet inside it is full of sparkling color and contrast. The same could be said for precious stones like rubies, sapphires and diamonds: in the rough and to the untrained eye they don’t appear to be anything special. But rocks have a very special correspondence. The antiquity of rocks correspond to the Lord’s eternal existence, His abiding love and presence, and His timeless truth. Our world changes, our lives change but He remains constant. This is why we must build our lives on “rock” and not on the “shifting sands” of human opinion. All of the beautiful rocks and gems on this planet correspond to the beautiful truths that are waiting to be “mined” from the Lord’s Word to enrich and solidify our lives.
7/8/12 - “A Walk in Nature” - Mountains
“I have caused you to see it with your eyes…” (Deuteronomy 34: 4)
Reaching the summit of a mountain is an exhilarating experience. The sensation of looking out at the panoramic view has a corresponding effect on our mind. Our thoughts are elevated, we are humbled by the stunning beauty of the Lord’s creation, and for a brief moment in time we leave “below” our worldly cares and anxieties and soak in the experience. It’s no coincidence that the momentous events of the Bible often took place on a mountain: the Ten Commandments were given on Mt. Sinai; Moses’ brief glimpse into the promised land happened on Mt. Nebo; Elijah’s show-down with the prophets of Baal was on Mt. Carmel; and much of the Lord’s work happened on the Mt. of Olives. Mountains represent the highest of loves, love for the Lord and our neighbor. Since we spend so much time at sea-level (worldly cares) we need to “climb mountains” (higher loves). Climb Mt. Sinai for God’s law, Mt. Nebo for a glimpse of heaven, Mt. Carmel to take a stand, and the Mt. of Olives to receive the Lord’s love.
7/1/12 - “A Walk in Nature” - Rivers
“Everything will live wherever the river goes...” (Ezekiel 47: 9)
No two rivers are the same. Each has its own unique characteristic. Some are narrow, slow and meandering, others are fast-moving, wide and straight. Some have strong currents while the currents of others are almost imperceptible. We’re taught that rivers correspond to the “abundance” of truths which flow from the Lord in His Word. There are truths that refresh, challenge, heal, inspire and motivate us to go forward. Ezekiel had a vision in which an angel encouraged him to wade into a river. At first he was ankle deep, then knee deep, then waist deep, and finally submerged (swim). Wading into the river corresponds to our willingness to be led by the “abundant” truths of the Word. Some truths from the Word we are only willing to go “ankle deep;” others we are willing to wade deeper, even submerge ourselves in. Which truth (teaching) from the Lord’s Word do you need to be submerged in right now?
6/24/12 - "A Walk in Nature" - Sunlight
“His face shone like the sun…” (Matthew 17:2)
It’s hard to imagine a summer without sunshine. The whole point of the summer season is to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Nothing beats a clear blue sky with the bright light and warmth of the sun on our body. The happy, positive feelings which the sun evokes in us has a spiritual origin. The sun corresponds to our Lord and Creator, the “warmth” to His love and the “light” to His truth. Just as the sun of planet earth sustains all life forms, so the does the Lord sustain us by pouring the warmth of His love and the light of His truth upon every human being on this planet for “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt. 5:45). It’s wonderfully reassuring and comforting to know that the Lord’s love and attention toward us is like the sun of this planet in that it never loses its consistency or intensity. Our role in this Divine plan is to let God’s love shine through us so that others may feel the consistency of His love and the intensity of His light.
6/17/12 - Behold, I make all things new
“There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
The New Jerusalem is a vision of hope and promise. The Lord has given us a much clearer understanding of His Word by unlocking the symbolism found throughout the Scriptures. This new perspective helps us view life’s purpose in a totally different way. We may experience death, sorrow and crying, and yet these struggles allow us to separate the ‘former things’ in our life (selfishness, worldliness, deceit, greed and lust) from the things of heaven (generosity, humility, integrity, service and love). The pain of our spiritual re-birth, of struggling against the forces of evil, will eventually “pass away” as we allow the Lord and His angels to build up, and preserve in us, feelings of hope and a positive outlook. The Lord has offered us the New Jerusalem. We can choose to respond to this gift by getting to know Him better, and gradually (step by step) moving our life toward one of “worship” in everything we do.
6/10/12 - Gateways
“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates...” (Revelation 21)
At this time of year, many of us are involved in school graduation ceremonies and the festivities that accompany them. The whole concept of “graduation” is that of a person moving from one phase of life to the next. Spiritually speaking, we are all involved in this process. The Scriptures compare it to walking through a gateway or door. The Lord says, “I have set before you an open door...no one can shut it” (Rev. 3:8). This “open door” represents all the opportunities the Lord gives us to make something of our lives here on earth. No one can “shut” this door because it is the gateway that leads to our eternal peace and happiness. Each person’s journey is different which is why there are 12 gates into the Holy City (heaven). There will be doors that appear locked because the forces of evil inside us (i.e. anger, contempt, impatience, etc.) want us to give up. It is these doors especially, the doors that lead to a life of faith and goodwill, that the Lord comes knocking, waiting to be let in.
6/3/12 - Giving; it’s what makes humans human
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
One could say that the whole reason a church exists is to facilitate the passing of what is good from one person to another.
This week’s task is to find ways to practice this by giving to the church. Challenge yourself by making a donation to a congregation that you do not attend – and thereby helping people you do not know to get connected with the Lord. In doing so, you are sharing goodness you receive from the Lord with someone you don’t even know.
5/20/12 - THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION - Part 3
What does God expect?
"Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21)
If society gives us a distorted image of the perfect look and perfect life, and if we shouldn’t expect perfection from ourselves or others, does this mean there is no ideal, no end-goal? What about heaven? Isn’t heaven the end-in-view? If it is, what are the entrance requirements? How high is the bar? How “good” do you have to be to get into heaven? The Lord expects us to be human, meaning He expects us to make mistakes and sometimes veer from the path He sets before us. But He also expects us to persevere, to learn from our mistakes, and push forward knowing we can do better. Spiritual perfection is the process of becoming “whole” or “complete” in heart and mind. If you want to be perfect, the Lord said to the rich young ruler, go “sell” what you have (let go of unhealthy attachments), give to the poor (serve others), and follow Me (the Word). Live this ideal and you will discover the perfection of heaven’s happiness.
5/13/12 - THE PUSUIT OF PERFECTION - Part 2
Accepting each others' imperfections as a mother does her child
Who can find a virtuous woman?
She is far more precious than jewels...
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and loving instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.
Her sons rise up and call her blessed.
Her husband also praises her:
Many women are capable,
but you surpass them all!
Proverbs 31:10, 25-30
The desire for perfection is not bad. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things to look “perfect.” In fact, the harder we work on a project or plan for an event the higher the expectation becomes! An architect may come up with a “brilliant” design; a composer may create a “masterpiece” and yet no one achieves complete perfection: only something close to it. Our desire for perfection comes from the Lord who created us in His image and likeness. But we live in a world that distorts this concept of perfection. We’re presented with images and messages that are fake (a lie), setting up an impossible standard. We seek unrealistic perfection in ourselves and others and when we don’t find it we get annoyed and frustrated. It’s easier to see the faults in others than it is our own so view the “imperfections” in others the way a mother does her child, with love and understanding. We’re in it for the long haul so look at everyone as a child of God.
5/6/12 - THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION - Part 1
What kind of perfection are you seeking?
"The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16: 7)
The Pharisees viewed themselves as the experts in “looking good.” They wanted everyone to obey the 613 laws prescribed in the Torah. Jesus and His followers, on the other hand, did it all wrong! Jesus healed on the Sabbath, ate with tax collectors and sinners, and didn’t perform the Judaic rituals in the proper way. The Pharisees’ demand for “outward perfection” with no concern for what’s in the heart is a picture of the bullies in our head, the hells, which demand outward perfection (an impossible goal) while denying all human effort to try (and fail), learn and grow. We live in a world that distorts the Lord’s concept of perfection. We are presented with images and messages that make us seek things that don’t exist, that set an impossible standard. The Lord wants us to look at the heart, and not the outward appearance (I Sam 16: 7). It’s not bad or evil to want things to be “perfect,” but let’s be sure to let the Lord set the standard.
4/29/12 - Springtime Miracles: New Growth when Faith Feels Dead
"Love is the essential and principle of all things in the Lord's kingdom" (Heavenly Secrets 3858)
Pay attention to your mood this week.
When you feel down or angry, pause, take a break, and think of something you love and appreciate about a person involved in triggering the issue.
Find a way to express appropriate appreciation.
Observe the effect your actions have on your mood.
4/22/12 - Q & A with God - "Do You Love Me?"
Love is such a big, all-encompassing word that it almost defies description. Love can be compared to the warmth of the sun - without it we would die and yet how do you describe that warmth? It doesn’t have any visible qualities - we only feel it. In theological terms, love gains it’s expression, it’s quality, through faith which is why the Lord addressed Peter with His questions about love. Peter represents our faith. At first our faith is memorized facts: the Lord is our heavenly Father; we must love our neighbor, shun evil and do good; live by the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, etc. Then our faith moves into the intellect: we begin to understand why these truths are so important to our spiritual health and happiness. Finally, we take the truths of the Word to heart and live them: this is faith born of love. The Lord asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Each time Peter said he did, and the Lord responded by saying feed My lambs and My sheep. We show our love by “feeding” each other.
4/15/12 - Q & A with God - "Why are you troubled?"
We need to understand the “tone” behind the Lord’s questions, especially His post-resurrection ones, otherwise we might be tempted to insert on His followers our own annoyance and impatience that they didn’t seem to “get it.” To Mary at the tomb, “Why are you crying?” To the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Or, to the eleven, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Even though the Lord had laid out in specific detail what would happen to Him (and them), He showered them with encouragement and reassurance. Instead of viewing our tears, doubts and fears as a weakness or defect, as something to avoid or cover up, consider them to be an opportunity for healing and growth, the beginning of a new life. The Lord’s appearance in the garden Easter morning is a reminder of His resurrection gift, the gift of starting over again, of new growth, of new opportunities.
4/8/12 - Easter Festival Service -
Seeing God in a new way
“She [Mary] turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus…”
When the Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene, His appearance to her seemed to be in the form of something quite ordinary - a gardener - and so she didn’t recognize His presence until He spoke her name. Things can happen in ordinary life that we suddenly recognize as the living presence of God. These seemingly ordinary events “speak our name” in the sense that it is evidence of the personal care God gives us. Maybe it is the attention or help we get from another person at just the right time or an insight that comes just when we need it. Maybe it is our eyes being open to the presence of God in nature and the people around us, or in everyday situations at work and at home. Whatever it is, the Lord appears to us in a form that we had not expected, and in a place that we had not expected. Let us remember to look outside the box of our old expectations and our old view of God. It is time for that view to be widened and broadened for the Lord, He is risen, as He said!
4/1/12 - Palm Sunday - Don't Tell Me what to Do!
"Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11:9)
The Lord rode into Jerusalem as a king. Old testament prophecy had promised that when the Messiah came, He would establish a mighty kingdom with Jerusalem as it's center. The people felt unhappy with their present circumstances. Their country was a very minor province in the mighty Roman Empire. They could easily have imagined Jesus as the king who would take them to greatness. But instead of starting a rebellion to sweep out the hated Roman rulers and their tax collectors, Jesus was more concerned about the purity of the temple. He was concerned about the way people were leading their lives. Today people who acknowledge that Jesus was God on earth can also envision that He will fix what they don't like in their lives. But the Lord is less concerned about what is happening around us than how we are responding to these cirumstances in our heart, our thoughts and actions. Are we willing to choose many times each day to accept the help He brings to us?
3/18/12 - “Be Still...”
"Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46)
Moses and Joshua were both commanded by the Lord to take their “shoes off their feet” so that they could be still and hear what the Lord had to tell them. “Shoes” represent the power of the physical senses, that part of our mind which is controlled by worldly and bodily concerns. The “shoes” have to be removed because our physical senses block out the light (truth) of heaven. When we train ourselves to “be still” we notice that we’re on sacred ground. We begin to recognize how much power the Lord has to change our lives. To give up our life and “lay it down for our friends” is to turn away from the evils and falsities that are present in our natural mind. This is to take the shoes off our feet in the holy presence of our Savior and Deliverer. To quiet the “old self” before the Lord is to bring to a halt all the negative and selfish influences that keep us from serving the Lord and our neighbor. This is what it means to “be still, and know” that the Lord is our God.
3/18/12 - Week 7 - Shift of Heart
“I have seen your face as if I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.”
Over a twenty year period, Jacob goes through a remarkable transformation. From being someone who was “hot-headed,” harsh, cold and calculating, Jacob becomes soft, humble, loving. This transition was marked by a name change - Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (one in whom God rules). He made a transition from head-stuff - conflict, stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing, to heart-stuff - bowing seven times, humility, forgiveness, reconciliation. As Jacob prepared to meet his twin brother, Esau, he feared the worst, and yet he received an unexpected blessing, Esau’s love and forgiveness. What led to this change? His actions. He fell in love, married the woman of his dreams (Rachel), raised a family, built up a business. He went through the motions of doing all that God had told him to do! And then a remarkable change occurred: he experienced the feelings of heaven - love, compassion, empathy. The same happens with us for “act precedes, then the willing follows” (AC 4538).
3/11/12 - Week 6 - Shift of Confidence
"The man said, 'Let Me go, for it is daybreak,' but Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless You bless me.' (Genesis 32:26)
The mysterious incident of Jacob “wrestling” with God all night speaks to an important principle: it is by means of our spiritual struggles that we mature and grow. After his struggle, Jacob received a new name, Israel, which means the one in whom God rules, the one whose life is tied up with God’s purposes. This change doesn’t literally happen overnight—it’s gradual. It happens as we put more trust and confidence in the Lord, and less on self. Our confidence in the Lord grows as our faith grows, as we become more confident that the Lord is governing all things, providing all things, and leading toward a good end; when we trust that He will teach us the way, and lead us to heaven; when we become confident that He is protecting us from evil. Our struggles with self-worth, fear, anger, resentment, setback and disappointment are put in their proper context when we become more and more “tied up” with God’s purposes, when we allow the truths of His Word to take center stage in our lives.
3/4/12 - Week 5 - Shift of Motivation
“Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.” (Genesis 31: 13)
After working for Laban twenty years, it becomes clear to Jacob that it’s time for him to “move on” and return home. A lot of good things have happened during this period: Jacob fell in love with Rachel and married her; he raised a family; he became wealthy; and he learned a lot about life in general. But Jacob’s relationship with Laban had outlived its usefulness. Laban offered Jacob wage increases to entice him to stay on, and when this didn’t work he manipulated him with “guilt” - how could you do this to me? Jacob’s separation from Laban represents the way we slowly become disentangled from our old, more selfish motivations and behaviors. We hear God calling us to a higher way of life. Separating from “Laban” isn’t easy because identifying our ulterior motives isn’t easy. I ____________ because I want to look smart, fit in, be the center of attention, get a reward, be praised…….needs to be replaced with, I _____________ because it’s the right, loving, merciful, principled, faithful way to act.
2/26/12 - Week 4 - Shift of Expectations
"What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?"
Jeremiah is a prophet of “doom and gloom” and a prophet of “hope and joy.” At the beginning of his book he challenges the reader with a question: “But what will you do in the end?” (5:31). What will be your future? What do you expect out of life? Jeremiah doesn’t shy away from this world of pain, indifference, cruelty, sin, selfishness and hopelessness and yet he ends with a prophesy: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope” (29:11). The Lord had plans of peace for Jacob but this required a shift in expectations. Jacob worked for Laban seven years to win the hand of Rachel in marriage but was tricked and given Leah instead. He was given Rachel too, but on the condition he work another seven years. Rachel pictures the person we want to become - the ideals we strive for. We must never lose sight of wanting to be kind, patient, brave, trusting of the Lord but getting to be that person requires having the right blend of expectations.
2/19/12 - Week 3 - Shift of Focus
"And the spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'... And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)
Recognize that you are not "in Canaan". Life's probably not going to be perfect or thrilling today. But go to "the Well" and be patient. Look to meet the Lord there. Look for the Word's deeper, eternal purpose to animate your daily purpose. Seek connection with that deeper purpose. Notice and cherish its beauty. Take a step toward marrying yourself to it. ...You're one step closer to "Canaan."
2/12/12 -Week 2 - Shift of Perpsective
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn’t know it.” (Genesis 28:16)
We get a shift in perspective when we travel or when we take the time to “walk a mile” in another person’s shoes. The passage of time also changes our perspective - an eight-year old boy looks at the world very differently than an eighty-eight year old man does. But the biggest shift in perspective occurs when we go to the Lord in His Word. There we learn about a world we cannot see or hear with our physical eyes and ears. This is the world of the spirit, the world that our mind and heart is living in right now! Jacob glimpsed this world in a dream and realized that the Lord was present in his life and he didn’t even know it. The kingdom of God is within you. This world is temporary; the next world is permanent. That’s a shift in perspective! Jacob’s dream of the angels ascending and descending a ladder between heaven and earth pictures the step-by-step process we go through in changing our perspective, in changing our loves. The Lord will change our earthly loves into heavenly ones, if we let Him.
2/5/12 - Week 1 - Shift of Awareness
“If all is well, why am I like this?” (Genesis 25: 22)
Have you ever noticed that a lot of things in life have a way of ending up as a struggle or an argument or a conflict? Why is that? Why isn’t life smooth sailing from birth to death? Why do we find so many bumps in the road, detours, and dead-ends? Are our struggles God’s will? Does God throw obstacles in our way to help us grow and mature? No, the struggle between two forces is neutral. We don’t blame gravity when a toddler who is learning to walk falls over or when a child who is learning to ride a bicycle falls off. Our spiritual struggles are no different. God isn’t to blame for our struggles. He isn’t testing us. God has placed us in this world in perfect balance between two opposing forces, between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The struggle we feel is the tension between these two forces. The life-long struggle between Esau and Jacob pictures the struggle that exists between our head and heart. Love (Esau) is the firstborn, but truth (Jacob) must lead.
1/29/12 - Offer Yourself Willingly
“When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord.”
Humility. Willingness, Trust, and an orientation to Purpose - these are the qualities we need to bring to the leadership roles which the Lord asks of us. Choose one of these qualities to focus on this week. If pride and control are poisoning your leadership contributions, work on a living acknowledgment that only the Lord is ruler. If you are struggling to muster courage to do what is right in an area of your life, spend some time meditating on qualities of trust in the Lord, and willing response to His call. Perhaps you are finding yourself distracted or confused about where the Lord wants you to lead. In this case, it may help to give all your attention to the given task at hand and the people it serves. The Lord always calls us to usefulness and service, and by focusing on these goals you may find an increased sense of focus and purpose. As you reflect on these leadership qualities, try reading Judges:5 where Deborah celebrates in song the success of Israel's leaders who responded to the Lord's call.
1/22/12 - Q & A with God -
Do you understand what I have done for you?
“I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12)
The account in John 13 of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is counter-intuitive on many levels. Jesus stooping down to take on the menial task of a servant was appalling to the disciples at first. It turned their world upside down. The Master serving, that wasn’t right! On a deeper level, the Lord is calling us to make the journey downward! Downward? Again, a message that seems counter-intuitive. The “feet” represent the lowest level of the natural, the pleasures of the physical senses. This level, we’re taught, is the last to be regenerated or reborn in us and for good reason. It is the toughest level of the mind to be cleansed through subordination. Subordination is a good word to describe the “cleansing process” because our physical senses don’t like to be told what to do and think. This is why we must make the journey downward, to the “feet.” Becoming a servant in heart and mind is a humbling experience, and yet it will bring us the greatest joy. It is in serving that we become truly free.
1/15/12 - Q & A with God - Do you want to get well?
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.” (John 5:8)
It’s risky following the Lord because we enter into a new kind of freedom. It’s risky because the change will feel different. It’s risky because we don’t know if it will work or not. The paralytic who lay by the pool of Bethesda had these thoughts running through his head. Jesus said to him, “Do you want to get well?” Was he willing to let go of his old way of life or had he become accustomed to some of the benefits of being paralyzed? After all, he had people, friends or relatives, who fetched and carried him; people who fed him and took care of him. He didn’t have to take responsibility for his life; others had to do that for him. The real test happened when Jesus said, “Arise, take up your bed, and walk.” The paralytic immediately obeyed the Lord’s command. It must have taken immense courage and faith. Imagine his thoughts: what happens if I fail? How will I cope not begging for a living? Can I trust this man’s word? Will he help me if I obey? Take the risk of obedience - see what happens!
1/8/12 - Q&A with God - Why are you so fearful?
And they said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and sea obey Him!”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39).
1/1/12 - Forget the Past, Embrace the Future
"Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41: 51-52)
Joseph had every reason to be haunted by his past: he’d been despised and mocked by his older brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt, and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And yet when it came to reviewing and assessing his life, Joseph saw nothing but good things from the hand of God. In naming his first-born son, Manasseh, he said “God has made me forget all my toil,” and in naming his second son, Ephraim, he said, “God has caused me to be fruitful.” Manasseh represents a new kind of motivation (willing) that is born in us as a result of our struggles. Ephraim represents the new ideas and future plans born in our understanding as a result of this new willing, this new motivation. The Lord helps us forget the mistakes from our past when we fight the good fight for after temptation He “removes the evils that cause distress” (AC 5352). Let us enter this New Year with the trust and confidence of Joseph, forgetting the toil of our past so that we may be bear new fruit in the future.
12/18/11 - Nativity Enactment Service
“Arise, shine, for your light has come.” (Isaiah 60:1)
One of the strongest thematic elements in the Lord’s Word is that of “light” and “darkness,” and nowhere is this imagery stronger than in the Christmas story. Spiritual darkness is the absence of God while spiritual light is the presence of God. Let this Christmas season be a journey out of darkness into the Lord’s Light. And in the spirit of the season, carry that Light forward by spreading peace and goodwill amongst your family, friends, and neighbors.
Have a wonderful Christmas!
12/11/11 - The Path to Bethlehem
“Joseph also went up...to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”
(Luke 2: 4-5)
We tend to think of decisions as individual, disconnected events, but they aren’t that at all. Each decision we make is actually a step in a direction. If our spiritual eyes were opened right now, we’d see all sorts of pathways in front of us. We’d see our life not so much as a set of “problems” in need of a solution as a life that needs a new direction, a new path. The Lord shows us His path in the Word. As we learn about His Way, we discover that it’s the right path, the only Way to go. And as we become more confident in walking this Path we realize that His truth leads to a new set of loves - loves we’ve never experienced before. All of the main characters on the path to Bethlehem represent these loves, ones we adopt as we walk the same path: the humility of Joseph; the willingness of Mary; being teachers and leaders like the shepherds; evangelizing (spread the good news) like the angels; living with honor and respect like the wise men. Remember: our direction determines our destination.
12/4/11 - Forever
“He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Forever. Always. Everlasting. These words are familiar enough, and we know what they mean. It is amazing to apply them to ourselves, or to some of our relationships. “I will live forever.” “I will always love you.” Equally amazing is to apply those same words to the Lord. We read that He has made an “everlasting covenant” with us (Isaiah 55:3), meaning that He will always provide a pathway to heaven. One of the amazing things about the Christmas story is that the eternal God came on earth to teach us about His eternal kingdom, and show us how to receive from Him eternal life. He calls us to live our daily lives with an eternal perspective. That means considering the lasting consequences of our choices. How can you keep an eternal perspective as you go about the many facets of your life? What can you do now to receive eternal life from the Lord?
11/27/11 - Hope & Trust
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
We may not always stop to think about it, but hope is the “driver” behind everything we do. Hope determines our direction in life, our happiness, our peace of mind, our attitude, and the health and quality of all our relationships. How do we know this is true? Well, take away hope and what do you have - nothing! This isn’t to say we don’t have moments of despair when it seems as if all is lost, but hope is restored once we realize our “despair” is only a temporary state of mind. When we suffer a serious setback the evil spirits torment us by making us think it’s going to be permanent but the “Lord preserves in us a sense of hope and trust, which are the fighting strengths from within that enable us to offer resistance” (AC 6097). The Scriptures repeatedly say our hope is the Lord! The two “strengths” of hope and trust come directly from the Lord Himself - they are His motivation in us for “those who allow themselves to be filled with hope remain steadfastly in an affirmative outlook…” (AC 2338).
11/24/11 - Thanksgiving
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)
It’s easier to have faith and trust in the Lord when things are going well than it is when things are going badly because we feel more in control. So is it possible to have faith and trust in Lord in the midst of despair and sorrow? Is it possible to be grateful and thankful to the Lord in the midst of set-back and disappointment? The 23rd Psalm gives us an emphatic, yes! The Lord is with us no matter what the circumstances. He is with us in our peaceful times (green pastures, still waters), in our difficult times (valley of the shadow), and in our bountiful times (table, overflowing cup). The “peaceful” times have to do with our thoughts, we’re peaceful in what we know to be the truth. The “difficult” times have to do with our confusion, not getting it. The “bountiful” times have to do with feelings of love, goodness, and kindness. Let us be “confident in the Lord, that He directs all things and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end, no matter what the appearance may be at the time” (AC 8455).
11/20/11 - Choosing a Heavenly Identity
“Behold, I will bring [Jerusalem] health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.” (Jeremiah 33.6)
The troublesome spirits in our lives can take us to some pretty dark places, driving us wild, making it so that we cannot even be bound with the “shackles” of appropriate behavior. When we find ourselves or a close friend hitting a bottom, desperate and lonely, we can cry out to the Lord. The Lord alone grants the power to remove these infestations. The Lord may initially seem “afar off” or distant. Part of us may even seem to oppose His presence, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” Our job is to keep seeking Him, to run to Him, kneel before Him and surrender the feelings and thoughts in our minds which oppose His presence. And He can bring us to a new state of being – clothed and in our right mind – even if we are not immediately able to see that possibility.
11/13/11 - Q&A with God - What are you doing here?
"So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And suddenly a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:13)
Elijah had been on the run, and after forty days and nights collapsed with exhaustion in a cave on Mount Horeb. The word of the Lord came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah explained his situation, and said he had failed in his job as prophet. The Lord told Elijah to step outside the cave, and after witnessing a strong wind, earthquake, and fire heard the “still, small voice” of the Lord. Elijah was given the opportunity to (1). Stop, (2). Listen, and (3). Evaluate. When we’re burned out or exhausted we need to learn how to “stop” in order to hear the Divine Whisper. Once we truly stop, we’re ready to move closer and hear the Divine Whisper which manifests itself in the form of “hope, comfort, or some inward joy” (AC 2535). We lose our perspective when we’re burned out which is why we need to evaluate our situation from the Lord’s perspective, and not ours. The Lord gave Elijah a new perspective, and it turned out that Elijah had been quite off the mark!
11/6/11 - Q&A with God - What is that in your hand?
“Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ (Exodus 4: 1-2)
Just as no two people are identical in looks or mannerisms, neither are the talents and abilities of two people ever the same. We’re taught that “all who allow themselves to be led to heaven are being prepared for their own place in heaven” (DP 67). Yet, like Moses, we tend to have a hard time believing we are cut out for anything special or that the Lord has a specific use, a specific job, just for us! And like Moses, we tend to make up excuses when it appears as if the Lord “might” be calling us to do something - I’m nobody; I don’t know enough about God; what happens if I fail?; I don’t have what it takes; someone else could do it better (Exodus 3 & 4). The Lord responds with a question: “What is that in your hand?” Moses had a staff in his hand - the Lord wanted to use this simple stick to liberate a nation! The “hand” and “staff” represent the Lord’s Divine power. When we make available to the Lord what we “hold” in our hands, we will be astounded by what the Lord can do with it.
10/30/11 - Q&A with God - Where are you going?
"And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”
When the tension between Sarai and Hagar reached a breaking-point, Hagar, the maid, fled into the wilderness in a desperate attempt to escape the intolerable situation. Jehovah “finds” Hagar by a spring on the road to Shur and asks, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” Hagar explains her situation, but is told by Jehovah to return to her mistress and submit herself to Sarai. This God-question gets us to recognize two things: the significance of our roots, and the importance of submitting ourselves to the truth. Hagar needed to make a U-Turn, a 180. When the going gets tough, our natural tendency is to look for an external solution (avoidance, food, T.V., alcohol, etc.) to our spiritual problem (anxiety, lack of trust, conflict in a relationship, etc.) which is why the Lord tells us to “return” to our roots (Sarai - spiritual upbringing). There’s more freedom in temptation, in “submitting” ourselves to the truth, than outside it. Returning to the truth will set you free.
10/23/11 - The Visible God
“That they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us.” (John 17: 21)
This week, make a commitment to take a ten minute period each day to have a private time with the Lord - just you and He. Picture yourself with Him in the upper room. Feel the freedom to talk with Him about anything, or just have a time of silence in His presence. Know that He is the infinite God of heaven and earth and He knows and cares about you.
10/16/11 - Marriage: in it for the long haul
"Now Jacob loved Rachel; and he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter...” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed but a few days to him because of the love he had for her." (Genesis 29: 18, 20)
Jacob worked seven years to win the hand of Rachel in marriage and it seemed but a “few days” to him because of his love for her. The Scriptures give us a brief glimpse of the eternal nature of marriage since “eternity is inherent in this love” (ML 216). When a young man and woman get married they too experience the “eternal nature” of marriage and vow never to stop loving each other—and that vow becomes a reality when they commit to the long haul (“seven” years). The hells attack a marriage via the evil tendencies all couples are susceptible to like jealousy, anger, dishonesty, selfishness, lust, cruelty - all ugly feelings which no-one ever wanted in the first place! Marriage is hard because our “old self” doesn’t want to do what the “new self” (conscience) wants. In truth, we can’t experience the feelings of trust, love, honesty, kindness, and tenderness in marriage, unless we combat their opposite! But once we do “the closer we get to heaven, and the more we focus on good” (TC 330).
10/9/11 - A Worry-Free World
“This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat...and he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need.” (Exodus 16: 15, 18)
It’s a remarkable fact that the ancient Israelites had a law which forbid them to worry about the future, although they may not have thought of it that way. In giving them their “daily bread” (Manna) the Lord’s instructions were clear: “let every man gather it according to each one’s need.” And it worked very well: “he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” On a deeper level this law means that the Lord provides us “every moment” with what to think, and is present with us in the “smallest details” of our lives. Accepting this daily “provision” is a matter of trust. Do you believe the Lord operates at this level? What are these thoughts which the Lord gives us “every moment?” The thoughts which lead to a worry-free world are these: go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, pray, lay up your treasures in heaven, build your life on a rock, don’t be critical, don’t serve two masters. Seek first the kingdom of God and you won’t worry anymore!
10/2/11 - Q & A with God - What is Your Name?
And he said, “Jacob.” And Jehovah said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32: 27-28)
The Hebrew meaning of the name Jacob is “cheat” or “deceiver.” Quite literally, his name meant “to grab someone’s heel.” Jacob certainly lived up to his name; he deceived his father, his brother, and his father-in-law. He lived his life by trickery and deceit. The turning point in his journey began to take place only when he faced up to God’s question “What is your name?” and became honest about who he really was. When we meet Jacob in Genesis 32 we are told he was frightened and worried. His deceptive past had caught up with him. Alone, he went down to the Jabbok River. There he wrestled with a mysterious stranger all night. In the midst of the struggle Jacob received a new name, Israel. Israel means the one in whom God rules, the one whose life is now tied up with God’s purposes. When we face up to ourselves (self-examination) before God, we are given a new identity. This new identity tells us that no matter who we are or what we’ve done, God has a new future for us.
9/25/11 - Q & A with God - Where is Your Brother?
"Where Is Your Brother?" (Genesis 4:9)
God asked of Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" This question reverberates today. Where is our brother? Our sister? Who are they? What responsibility do we have to them? Tough questions. Members of a biological family are easily identified but God is asking for more, for a broader definition of "brother" and "sister." Competition, comparison, anger will all get in the way of the definitions God wants to draw us to. Where is your brother? Where is your sister?
9/18/11 - Q & A with God - Where Are You?
Then God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
A mistake was made - a serious one. It’s followed by embarrassment, shame and a desire to hide or run away. As this is not the most healthy response to a bad judgment or decision, God asks "Where are you?" The most productive response is to start by admitting the mistake, and 'come clean.' Be honest with yourself, and honest with God. There are other steps to follow, but the first step of repentance starts with self examination. Why is it so hard to admit a mistake? Why do we get the urge to “run” or “hide?” Are we afraid that God (or other people) will lose their respect for us? What is the real nature of the fear? There’s great value in exploring some of the feelings that are associated with an error, and some of the barriers we build to avoid facing our mistakes and problems. Deal with the feeling of wanting to “hide” (avoidance) and you are well on the way to changing an unhealthy behavior.
9/11/11 - Q&A with God - An Introduction
Jesus answered, “I will also ask you one question; then answer Me...” (Mark 11:29)
Teachers ask students questions because they want to help them see what they know, and don’t know. Teaching is about helping others learn something new. This is why the Lord asks us questions. He wants to help us think about what we know, and don’t know. Since a life in heaven is His goal, He wants us to think about our spiritual growth, and what we need to do next. “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9); “Where are you going? (Gen. 16:8); “Do you want to be made well?” (Jn. 5:6). The Lord asks us these types of questions because He cares about us, He cares about our soul, our eternal happiness! The four steps of repentance: examining ourselves, recognizing and acknowledging our sins, praying to the Lord for help, and beginning a new life can be viewed as questions the Lord is asking us. He asks us to face the evils “inside” (anger, hatred) and “outside” (events of 9/11) because this is the way toward healing. When we face evil we make progress. The real benefit is the good (growth) that comes out of it.
9/4/11 - Labor Day Service - Moving On...
“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The dawn of a new day provides the opportunity to “move on.” If yesterday wasn’t a good day, today will be...or so we like to think. But “moving on” is easier said than done. This is because the past and future often turn up like an uninvited guest. Past habits and memories often gate crash our efforts to do something different, and if our past experiences don’t ruin our new resolve, future worries and concerns will. “Moving on” becomes easier when we understand who the players are on the field: the evil spirits from hell (in black) lock us into the past or future. They don’t care which we choose because worry about either accomplishes the same thing - inaction. The angels from heaven (in white) dwell in the present. The evil spirits hate their opponent because they can’t control the present. They have no power over our “now.” That is why the Lord tells us to put “hand to plow” and not “look back.” The “not looking back” part means letting the POWER of the present (now) move us forward.
8/28/11 - Summer Worship Series - Traveling
“So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him...” (Luke 19: 4)
Zacchaeus was despised by the locals because he was a tax collector and rich, but our attention is drawn to something else: his short stature. When the Lord arrived in Jericho, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to get a better view. The Lord saw him in the tree, invited him to come down, and the story ends with Zacchaeus confessing his sins, and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness - “today salvation has come to this house” (v. 9). Zacchaeus overcame his limitation (short stature) by climbing a tree. “Climbing” corresponds to our desire for greater understanding, greater clarity about the Lord and the life of religion. Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments; Jacob saw in a dream angels climb a ladder that stretched up into heaven. Let us “climb” to the Source (Lord) for comfort and direction. Let us enter the sheepfold (heaven) by the door, and not “climb up” another way. Let your mind be lifted up “rung by rung” by the angelic influence (sphere) of truth and love found in the Lord’s Word.
8/21/11 - Summer Worship Series - Traveling
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:4-5)
In today’s world, flying is such a familiar form of human travel that many of us have long since left behind the majesty and miracle of human flight. For today’s purposes, we cast our minds back to the time when flying held mystery and excitement, and even further back to the time when human beings regarded the flight of birds with dreams of one day being able to soar through the clouds.
The Word of the Lord picks up on this fascination with flight by using birds, and the wings of birds, to describe some of the Lord’s blessings. “Those who wait on the Lord…shall mount up with wings like eagles…” (Isaiah 40:31). “The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness” (Revelation 12:14). Whenever flying is mentioned in the Word, it symbolizes the kind of insight that the Lord can give us. Flying means to perceive and to understand. It stands for the clear vision that the Lord can give us when we “rise up” as it were, and see things from a higher perspective. One way to bring home the message for today is to carve out time to reflect on an issue that is before you, with the specific mental image of rising up with wings of an eagle in an attempt to gain wise perspective. It may help to consider specific teachings from the Lord’s Word that might apply, and also to include a prayer for enlightenment, so that the actions which spring from this time of contemplation are more likely to be ones that the Lord can bless.
8/14/11 - Summer Worship Series - Traveling
And [they] fell down and worshipped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!”
The Scriptures speak of two kinds of “falling,” one that’s involuntary and one that’s voluntary. Both produce the same result, namely a sense of our total dependence upon the Lord and His angels, but the means to that end will vary. Joseph, for example, was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers - an involuntary act on the part of Joseph, as it was for the prophet, Jeremiah who was also thrown into a pit. On a spiritual level, we experience the sensation of “falling” into a pit (false thinking) when the negative sphere of hell influences our thinking. It’s a dark and lonely place, but also a temporary state since the Lord immediately comes to our aid and lifts us out of the darkness. We also “fall down” voluntarily. This is pictured in the Scriptures by the followers of Jesus “falling down” at His feet to worship Him or ask Him for help. The voluntary act of “falling down” before the Lord pictures a state of humility. Afterwards, like Joseph, we say, “God has made me forget all my toil” (Genesis 41:51).
7/31/11 - Summer Worship Series - Traveling
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.” (Revelation 19:11)
Horses feature strongly in the Word. Think of the “fiery” horses which pulled Elijah’s chariot up into heaven or Pharaoh’s “war” horses which chased after the Israelites or the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who rode on white, red, black, and pale horses. Or consider the vision of the Lord Himself riding on a white horse Whose name was “Faithful and True.” Implicit in each reference is the strength, beauty, and majesty of the animal itself! “Horses” correspond to the power of the human intellect. Our mind, our intellect, has the ability to rise above our emotions into the light of heaven itself. We can do this whenever we want, regardless of how we might be feeling at the time. By means of the “light” (truth) gained from heaven, we can look down at our situation and train our body, our emotions, our feelings, to act differently. To ride a horse, symbolically, is to put your mind on something and not let up! An enlightened understanding makes all the difference in the world - it changes lives.
7/24/11 - Summer Worship Series - Traveling
“Then behold, men carried on a bed a man who was paralyzed...” (Luke 5:18)
If it wasn’t for his friends, the man with paralysis wouldn’t have gained access to the Lord—and wouldn’t have been healed. The Lord “saw” their faith and acknowledged the role they played in getting their friend help. Since he was paralyzed, they had to carry him in his make-shift bed. Even though most of us don’t remember it, we began life being “carried” around by our parents. We put our complete trust in them. As adults, we continue to be “carried” around, not physically, but as to our spirit. Good thoughts and feelings carry our spirit “upward,” and negative thoughts and feelings drag us “downward.” In fact, negative thoughts and feelings cause spiritual paralysis making it impossible for us to get out of “bed” (our mindset) and be a useful contributor to society. Our friends and community play a special role in encouraging us to fight the good fight. Their sphere and influence “carries” us to the true source of our spiritual healing and happiness - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.