God Doesn’t Hug People

Do you know that God does not hug two people at a time? All of His hugs are individualized – done one person at a time. Customized. He loves us one at a time.

Big deal! What’s the great revelation in that, Ralph? Well, the revelation is that this means you need to find time to be alone with Him every day to receive your hug. So, we need to be willing to get alone with Him every day to have this “hug time” tand receive this outward expression of His love for us. That is where the problem begins because we are seldom alone and we seldon have the quiet or the time to focus on God so that we can receive our hugs.

Because God doesn’t hug two people at a time; He hugs us one at a time – He loves us one at a time -we need to make time to be with Him every day to receive the hugs He has for us. We need to sit in His presence every day and experience His love. That sounds like an easy enough thing to do, doesn’t it? Then my question is why does it not happen?

How do you know it doesn’t happen, Ralph? Just by the number of believers that tell me on a regular basis that they do not hear God speak to them and so believe that He doesn’t. This is, of course, contrary to what the Bible states. I know this doesn’t happen because of the number of people who will tell you that they have never experienced God’s love – have never felt loved – and really don’t know deep inside that God loves them unconditionally. They have no assurance of His love. I know this as a fact because most Christians are not having a daily encounter or experience with the living God and so their faith in God plays a very minor role in their every day life and there is little change in their lives from before they were “born again”. And, if they were encountering and experiencing His love and receiving their hugs regularly there would be massive and immediate changes because His love is life-changing and radical.

Here’s the problem then: Because the Bible states that “faith works by love” we have few believers walking in or applying their faith. Because the Bible startes that “love covers a multitude of sins” we have few believers who really know that their sins are forgiven and many who are unable and unwilling to forgive others. Because Jesus said: “if you love Me you will obey Me” we have many who are not obeying Him because they are not loving Him. They can’t love Him because the same Bible states: “We love Him because He first loved us”. If we don’t experience His love and have never encountered His love we simply don’t love Him in return and will not be obedient to what He has spoken in His Word or what He speaks to us in the stillness of our heart.

So much of the Christian Faith is connected to this aspect of knowing God’s love as found in the gift of His Son Jesus. So much of the Christian faith is connected to knowing Jesus who loved us so much that He died on the Cross of Calvary for us. If we don’t know love we don’t know God because the Scriptures state that: “God is love”. So, how can we reach out and evangelize others as we are commanded to do if we have not experienced and do not continue to experience His love? We can’t and we don’t. The Bible states that we are to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” and we don’t love ourselves if we have not experienced the love of God and come to know and accept the fact that God loves us unconditionally and without reservation all of the time.

Love – the lack of an encounter with and a continuing daily experience of – is the root of many of the problems and issues that the believer faces today in their walk with the Lord and in living their lives as a testimony before others. It is not a lack of knowing what they should do. It is not a lack of knowledge. It is not a lack of being willing and wanting to do things right. We don’t need another prophetic word from the Spirit of God. We don’t a new revelation of truth. We don’t need a different pastor or to switch churches … we simply need to return to the foundational issue of knowing God’s love – encountering, experiencing, and walking in His love every day. And, whether that happens is up to us – God has already done His part and continues to daily welcome us into His presence if we care to take the time to get alone with Him.

And, here is what I know for certain: He has a hug with your name on it waiting for YOU even today!

Passive Listening

Read a basic book on how to listen to God – basic but good. It’s always good to go back to the basics and refresh your heart and mind as there is often something we knew and have forgotten or something we had right and now have put a personal spin on it so that it is no longer benificial to one’s ability to hear God clearly and consistently. So, a good read and worth the few hours invested in it on a cold winter night before a warm wood fire in the old wood stove in my office.

It is important for believers to hear God for themselves. The Bible says that His sheep hear His voice. So, the given is – ever believer hears God. Now, I know that many Christians do not believe that they hear God. However, they are wrong. Scriptural truth always wins out over experience. So, every true believer is hearing God because the Bible says that they are. The problem is not in hearing God – that’s a given. The problem is in recognizing and then knowing that you are hearing Him. Therein is the problem. But it is solvable as believers can learn to recongize God’s voice through trial and error and simply making the effort to listen and to take the time to record what they hear and then test it to the scriptures. It also helps to check what you are hearing with your spiritual mentor and those in leadership in the local church you attend so that you don’t end up deceiving yourself – which is easy to do.

Then, of course, the next problem you face is that God expects you to do something with what you hear. Hearing biblically means obeying – so hearing and heeding. Hearing in the head and heeding in the heart … and then acting upon what you have heard and tested.

If you simply listen to what God is saying – in your quiet time, at a group Bible study or in Church on Sunday during the sermon or teaching … hearing but not heeding and thus do nothing with what God is saying then you will, in short order, stop hearing Him speak altogether. Silence will welcome you every time you go before the Lord and speak to Him. You will think that your prayers are not getting past the ceiling. God is not responding to what you are saying. And, you are absolutely right. God is not speaking to you or responding to what you are saying. And, it is your fault.

You have fallen into a “passive listening” pattern. And what is that?, you ask! It means you listen to what God is saying but don’t really plan to take it too seriously or too personally and simply do little to nothing with what you hear. Listen to what the author of the book I just finished reading had to say about “passive listening”.

“Afterall, why should God continue to allow them to hear one truth after the other when they are not going to do anything about it? To listen passively to Scripture, which is the eternal Word of the living God, is a sin against God. To prescribe arbitrarily areas that God can enter in their lives denies His Lordship.” (Charles Stanley – How to Listen to God – page 106).

When Jesus is truly Lord then everything He says is very important. We don’t get to pick and choose what we will heed and what we will ignore, what we will act on and what we will leave on the shelf for future consideration (maybe). When Jesus is truly Lord there are no areas of your life that are off-limits to Him. He is allowed and should be welcome to speak into every area of our lives. Lord means total master and either he is Lord of all or not Lord at all.

When Jesus is recognized to be God in human flesh – the Creator in direct relationship with His creation (the height of His creation made in His image) then everything He says in vitially important and must be heard and immediated heeded and acted upon. Everything – without question. Anything less is “passive listening” which God cannot honor and which leads to a deafening silence from the throne room and a seriously sense of lack of direction from the Father and connection to the Father.

I believe that this is the major issue in many of the churches here in North America where I minister. People are “passive listeners” and so God is not using the teaching to speak to them. My words are just words to them – another opinion or another option to consider. But is someone is an “active listener” who comes expecting to hear God and excited about what is going to be taught then they are not disappointed and God speaks through my words and communicates loudly to the hungry heart … and they walk away knowing they have heard God speak to them.

It is not the sermon that is the problem – or the preacher. The problem is in the heart of the listener who comes with a “take it or leave it” attitude and thus doesn’t really want to hear God. Or, the listener who comes knowing it all already, being deceived by their own pride, and thus they don’t need to hear what God just might happen to say through the preacher.

Passive listening and passive listeners can defeat and destroy a preacher. People sit there week-after-week and yawn and nod off and the preacher becomes discouraged and feels defeated by the lack of response and the apparent lack of interest. Don’t fool yourself – any good communicator keeps his eyes on those who are there listening and notes who is sleeping, day-dreaming, nodding off or are being distracted by other thoughts and activities (looking for gum, sharing their gum with others in the area, speaking to the person next to them….). Then, everyone suffers because the preacher doesn’t give his best because they become discouraged after months of this kind of reaction. Then the few who are listening and are hungry begin to receive less and less nourishment and hear God less frequently … and the cycle continues until spiritual death invades every aspect of the Sunday assembly.

Solution to the problem? Those who are not passive listeners need to come prepared to encourage the preacher by speaking up during the teaching – a few “amens” and a nod of the head here and a high-five there will go a long way to encourage the preacher and let them know that there are some people interested in hearing the voice of God and that they not only want to hear but will heed what they hear. Maybe, just maybe, it will be contagious.

2010 – We Are On a Journey

When I first encountered the living God as revealed through Jesus Christ, who is the expression of the Father in human form, I started a journey or a pilgrimage. This journey or pilgrimage has now stretched into 33 years of daily adventures as I have walked with Him and talked to Him as well as listened to Him each and every day.

I have come to know His heart – and taken time to let Him show me my own heart – finding things out about myself that I would not have been aware of without His revelation. I have discovered, with His help of course, who I really am as a believer and a son of God. I have come to discover what it means to be “in Christ” which is the result of having Christ in me as a born again believer. I have learned to walk in His realm – the supernatural – and for it to become a daily and even somewhat “confortable” occurrence.

Every day has been a supernatural adventure. That’s not to say that everything I do is dynamic and exciting as there are many activities that are less than exciting and often it could be said that I am doing “the same old same old”. However, I have learned that God has a twinkle in His eye and is always looking for ways to surprise me, suddenly brighten up the repetitive activity,
show me something in the midst of the desk work, or simply interrupt my routine day to let me know He is with me and how much He loves me. It always brings me to tears to know He cares that much and wants to be that involved in the every day details of my life. And, His sudden revelations makes even the most ho-hum day into an adventure as I take another step on my journey with Him – coming to appreciate His even more and know Him a slight bit better.

The Psalmist had this to say on one of his regular days … and on his journey with the living God.

Psalm 84:5 “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”

My heart has been set on walking with the Lord since the first night that He interrupted my life and turned it around aiming me in a totally different direction. From that night onwards I somehow realized that nothing would ever be the same again and that nothing would remain constant, except Him. I realized that I was on a journey – most times I call it an adventure – or, as the Psalmist calls it, a pilgrimage – and that this would mean I would never be the same again and never be the same for long. It has meant constant growth and constant movement in the things of the Spirit as I have learned, grown, changed, adjusted and become who God wants me to be and placed my hand to what God has planned and purposed for my life.

The ESV reads this way:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”

So, I am walking down this inner highway to reach the place where, like David, it could be recorded “after David (Ralph) had served his generation according to the will of God, he died and was buried” (Acts 13:36).

Not once on this journey have I been disappointed with the Lord. Oh, many things have happened that I did not expect, numerous “bad things” have transpired, but God has turned and is turning each one into good because of His love for me (Romans 8:28). He has always looked after me and worked hard on my behalf bringing me, each day, to the place where I can be involved in what He is doing. He has been faithful even when I have not been … and His will, His plans, and His purpose for my life are unfolding just as they should – according to His daily directions.

And the journey, the pilgrimage continues. Here at the start of January, 2010 and well into my 2nd month of my 33rd year of walking with Him I am expecting every day to be more exciting than the one before. I am already experiencing new things and greater revelation of His goodness and love than ever before. The highway stretches out before me and I actually can see further down it than I have ever been able to in the past – things are becoming clearer (world events, changes in the Kingdom, adjustments in the Church, details of people’s lives…) and I am both excited and humbled by it all.

I am doing just what Jesus asked of all of us – I am taking one day at a time. And, as I follow Him and obey Him. as well as respond to Him today, I will be ready to face tomorrow when the sun rises upon the new day that the Lord gives to me. I let Him take care of the details while I simply look for His footprints on the highway because He has been this way before and I have not.

And the Question Is

One of my observations during this past year – and thus the topic of several blogs I am sure – is that people are no longer seem to be satisfied with “just Jesus” but that they think that they need Jesus and the latest and the greatest whatever … Jesus plus an angel, Jesus plus a new (and most often wacko revelation), Jesus and a worldwide ministry, Jesus and communicating with the ‘great cloud of wintesses’, Jesus and Mary, Jesus and praying to dead saints, Jesus plus icons, Jesus plus a revival, Jesus plus a miracle, Jesus and (you can fill in your choice of topping here)…

This has always bothered me. Since I first encountered Jesus many years ago I have been on the adventure of a life time. It has never been dull or boring. I have never felt that it was unfulfilling and thus I needed to add something to spice it up somewhat. I have always considered it a tremendous challenge to keep up with the Lord and what He is asking me to be involved in and invest my life in. Each day has been something to look forward to as no two days have ever been the same. He is always sharing something neat and wonderful with me and allowing me to become involved in things that He is doing that stretch and challenge me. I honestly have not had time to look around for something “new” to add on to Jesus. For me, Jesus has been enough.

Here in my observation – and my belief – People are not satisfied with Jesus because they do not know Him. They do not know Him because they have not taken the time or made the effort to dig in deeper into the Word of God which reveals the heart and nature of the God we walk with and worship. If they took time to be with Him each day and hear Him speak to them they would discover how exciting Jesus Christ really is. So, there is a lack of knowing Him that causes people to look for more than Jesus to fulfill the God-given hunger and spiritual thirst they are experiencing in life.

Of course, it is not easy to solve this problem that is so prevelant in the Christian faith. It means people will need to first see that this is a problem – and, believe me, it is not easy to convince someone that they have a problem if they are already on this treadmill of “Jesus plus”. Next you need to wean them off of television and internet preachers and writers who are selling their “Jesus Plus” products to Christians who are still being “tossed about by every wind of doctrine”.

Then, once the problem is recognized, the person needs to reorganize their life to allow them time with God every day – and time in His Word. In line with this, they will need to learn how to read the Bible as you don’t approach it as you do all other books. And, they will need to be taught how to “… study to show yourself approved – a workman” as well as how to meditate on His Word. All the while avoiding the traps of ‘private interpretation’ and reading things into the Word of God that are simply not true and can simply and quickly become another “plus” that we add to Jesus.

Of course, the majority of this flies in the face of the current expression of the Christian faith and all that it has to offer in the various formats in which we find it … home fellowship and no assemblying together with a larger group of believers; internet-tv church; religion posing as the Christian faith; pastor-driven churches built upon man’s wisdom and not by God’s design; pastoral model of the Church focusing on counselling where the Book of Acts shows us an apostolic-prophetic model of the Church focusing on reaching the lost; Hollywood-style celebrity pastors; self-centered, what’s in it for me? teaching; prosperity preaching; teaching the Word and not seeing supernatural signs and wonders meaning that we are not “fully preaching the Gospel”; intellectual and rational Christianity.. and the list goes on.

So, it is uphill all the way. Uphill while many others seem content to be going downhill – or down the sewer (personal opinion – but then it is my blog so this is allowed) … But remember, dead fish float downstream. Which means – if we want life, His life, flowing in and through us we only find it by swimming upstream against the flow and this takes daily effort and energy … as well as determination and intentionality.

The question then: What are you expecting in your walk with the Lord in 2010 and what are you willing to invest in that walk so that you experience all that your relationship with Jesus offers?

Yahweh or My Way

I was ministering in another city where I was preaching and ministering prophetically to the youth … and during my time there the lead pastor commented on something and simply said “Yahweh or my way” which just might be a little Christanese on “my way or the highway”. Be that as it may, it really stuck with me and sort of sat in my brain for several days and then impacted my spirit man.

I believe in 2010 that the Lord is speaking to His people and saying something very similar to Yahweh or my way… that it is time for believers to drop their individual plans, desires, and any agenda they might have; it is time for the Church in general to drop most if not all of its programming and move forward into the things of the Lord.

It is as if we are being asked – commanded – to drop things that He never asked us to do or become involved in … and to get out of the way so that He can build His Church. He wants us to go from being the Church to being His Church and there is a very great difference between the two.

This will not be easy as man-made plans and programs will need to be replaced with seeking the Lord and waiting on Him – waiting for Him to reveal His plans and His purpose, His methods and His agenda. This will not be easy because religion and tradition die hard and change is never openly embraced. This will not be easy because we will need to go from walking in the flesh to walking with the Holy Spirit. This will not be easy because we will need to shift the focus off of ourselves and ‘turn our eyes on Jesus’. Never easy and often not a welcome change for many believers.

I believe the Lord has much for us to accomplish as His Church following the Head of the Church in 2010 but that there is much rearranging, dismantling, tearing down and uprooting that needs to go on first. Then, still in 2010, the Lord will be able to build up, to plant, and to establish His people in the ways of the Lord so that much can be accomplished supernaturally. And, a lot of that will be accomplished outside the four walls of the organization as the organism known as the Body of Christ becomes healthy and reaches out to the lost and we see many new converts and begin to disciple them – including teaching them to reach out and seek and save the lost.

Here is what I believe this will mean… Playing Church will come to an end and those who are simply sitting on the sidelines watching will either get in the game or will leave the ballpark. No more fence sitting – you will be either in – committed, responsible, accountable, active, ministering -or you will simply drop out of the life of the Church you are rejecting anyways and drop off the radar altogether. Not a backslidder – just a dropout.

Here is what I believe this will mean … a lean and mean machine will come into being. The Church will be fewer in numbers but greater in power. It will be lean – not carrying all that excess weight of programs and man’s plans and inactive and uninvolved believers. It will be ‘mean’ – mean to the Devil as it will focus outwards and rob the domain of the Devil of many souls and much influence. Lean and mean in 2010 … not a slogan that rhymes but one that accurately portrays what the Lord will be doing and accomplishing.

Here is what I believe that will mean … the true Church will be hated (I know that is a strong word) and persecuted. So much so that it will move underground by moving away from buildings and public assemblies and will begin meeting in homes and in business offices as the focus moves to building “community” and connectedness which will lead to accountability and people picking up responsibilities that have before simply been neglected or totally ignored.

Here is what I believe this will mean … that the Church will truly begin to focus on the task that the Lord gave us to accomplish … that we will seek and save the lost by working intentionally, authentically and relationally. This means we will do much more “on purpose” – not waiting for it to happen but giving it opportunity to happen or simply making it happen. And it will mean we will be building authentic relationships with the unsaved where we live and work. This will mean less time with other believers feeding ourselves with fellowship and Bible studies … we are well “fellowed” and well “fed” and it is time to lose some of that excess spiritual weight by becoming active – spiritual participaction!

I believe that this will mean we will see the reappearance of passion in the lives of believers – passion for the Lord and then passion for the lost.

I believe that this will mean we will approach Bible studies, fellowship, worship as well as daily devotionals hungry and happy. Hungry for more spiritual food (insights into God’s nature and character) and happy to be about our Father’s business and looking for more insights into His business … coming to know His heart.

I believe that this will mean … well, I could go on and on with what I see happening and what I sense is changing about His Church. But, that’s enough. You get the idea. There is a radical shift and a God-shaking going to happen in 2010 in the Church so that we will reach out and touch our world with the love of Jesus.

I Am Always In the Way

As we approach a brand new year 2010 my mind turns to my annual activity of looking at the next twelve months and thinking / praying through what the Lord would have me be doing with this wonderful gift of life that faces me. And, during this time I also have a good look at my own personal life to see what, if any, changes I need to be making in the way I live – relationships, activities, life-style, involvements…

I spend some extra time during the week between Christmas and New Years with the Lord and this means intentionally booking fewer activities and no appointments so that I can focus during these few days on what the Lord is saying about the year that is ending and what He has planned for me in the year that is about to unfold.

It is never an exciting time – but it is a time when I am still and quiet which is not my normal state of affairs … And as mst people are preoccupied with extra events during the Christmas-New Year season it is a good time for me to focus on these things and spend this special time with the Lord.

This year He directed me to a partial verse in the book of Genesis (where I am not currently reading) which states: “the Lord has led me in the way (ESV)”. The KJV states this partial verse this way: “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” [Genesis 24:27]

I believe that as I sit quietly with Him that “the Lord will lead me in the way” that I am to go in 2010 and show me the changes that I need to make both personally and in the ministry that He has granted me. But I do like the way the KJV reads … “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” I like to think that all I have to do is get in the way and then the Lord will lead me. If I can simply determine what it is He is specifically doing and simply stand in the middle of the road leading there then “I being in the way…” the Lord will take me along with Him.

Of course, it could also mean that seeing I am on my way already – that I have already begun to make some definite moves towards His plans and purpose for my life in 2010 – and so I am “on my way” … that He can then simply come alongside of me, place His hand in mine as we continue down the same road going in the same direction.

I have learned that as I walk with Him – in His will and His way for my life – that I need not be concerned with the details of the coming year … my plans and my goals can be “general” and not too ‘specific’ as He is quite capable of taking care of each day and the details …

Sir William Osler stated: “Our main business is not to see what lies dimply at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:34 TLB).

So, I am looking for and considering the big picture for 2010 and the general direction that the road needs to take so that next year, at this time, I can say that it has been a good journey and know in my heart that I am where the Lord wants me to be. He will take care of the daily details and the destination. And really the destination is never that important anyways.

And, in fact, at this time next year I know that even then I will not be able to say that “I have arrived” as the destination is not important – it is the journey that is the focus … for wherever I get to in my journey by next December will simply be one step on a continuing journey. We never do “arrive” and so we must never focus on the goals and our plans – destination disease derails the best of us – as if they were a place to ‘arrive at’ as they are really only one more step in the adventure we call life – and when lived hand-in-hand with the Lord it is a wonderful adventure deserving to have each moment of it enjoyed to the fullest.

So, yes I am looking at 2010 but I am living for today and then tomorow I will have a good look at that new day – early in the day – and live it then and not now … because that way we can enjoy “the gift of today” that the Lord has so graciously given to us.

Live Life Seriously and Seriously Live Life

Mike Glenn, a pastor in Nashville, sums it up well: “The world does not take us seriously because we do not live serious lives.”

The unchurched see no reason to consider the Gospel of Jesus Christ if those who claim to be believers do not take the primary mission of the Gospel seriously. We serve a risen Savior. We walk with God the Creator on a daily basis, hearing His voice. We know the answers to life’s most important question. A ho-hum attitude to worship, the Word and to witnessing means the world need not take us seriously because we don’t take what we say we believe seriously. We major on the minors and ignore the important in our conversations and thus are seen as not living life seriously – not living or sharing what we say we believe.

So, in 2010 – the new year that we have just entered tonight – we need to take seriously what it is we believe about life and the Christian faith that is to make a real difference in our daily lives. What we believe is to make a major impact on how we think, how we live, our values, our life-style as well as our actions and attitudes. So, we need to live life seriously and take the Christian faith seriously – then the world will notice us and consider how we live and then, eventually in their search, they will come to know what we believe … the reason we live as we do. So, live life seriously.

At the same time – seriously live life. It is not just a cute play on words. Many Christians are not seriously living life. You listen to them and you hear nothing but complaints and criticisms, negatives and narrow-minded thinking. You watch them and they have a survivors attitude barely making it through the day – every day. They are not living life to the fullest. They are not celebrating life and enjoying it – content with what the Lord has done, is doing and plans to do. They are not content with what the Lord is allowing them to go through. They are, at times boring, problem-centered, not fun to be with and do not appear to be seriously living and celebrating life. Tolerating it day-in and day-out. Surviving it. Living it as best they can under the circumstances. But not seriously living life.

So, non-Christians look at us and see that we don’t take our beliefs to heart and do not walk out the foundational teachings of the Christian faith and so decide that Christians do not live life seriously – don’t really believe what they profess to believe. And, a second glance tells them that the Christian does not seriously live life and are not particularly fun to be around – not even on new year’s eve.

So, we need to make some changes on day one of 2010. Well, I do at least. And I plan to as I want to represent the King and the Kingdom better in 2010 than I did in 2009. So, during the past week as I have been taking stock of my spiritual life and my lifestyle (taking inventory as I mentioned in a blog earlier in the week) I have noted some attitudes and actions that need some changing – some just need a bit of fine tuning – others need to be seriously tossed and replaced by new ones.Tonight I pray that with the help of God’s grace and power these changes will be immediate and obvious and that during 2010 many will notice and that these changes will lead to many more conversations about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have decided to live life seriously and share the Gospel more often with more people. And, I have deceided to seriously live life to the fullest every day until the day I no longer have any strength left and then simply go home to Heaven.