Indifference

Yesterday I wrote about “Passion” and how misplaced the passion of many believers is. Today I want to share about a concern and a thought that hit me yesterday when reading my Bible. The word that summaries this blog is “indifference.”

I was reading the Parable of the Wedding Feast … a parable about the Kingdom:

Matthew 22:1-14 “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ʻTell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”ʼ But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ʻThe wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.ʼ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. And he said to him, ʻFriend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?ʼ But he had nothing to say. Then the king said to his attendants, ʻTie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!ʼ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The dictionary defines “indifference” as: lack of interest or concern: unimportance; little or no concern: the quality or condition of being indifferent.

Those who were “indifferent” simply walked away and did not accept the invitation of the king to come to the celebrations for his son’s wedding. They were busy. Their focus was elsewhere. They lacked interest. They were not concerned, apparently, that they were directly insulting the king which might not be a good idea in the long run. 

I see this today in the Christian Church and among believers. People come to the weekly assembly late and thus miss part or all of the worship to the King. And, they lack any consideration for others who are worshipping as they walk in late and interrupt what is already in progress. People texting (or even sleeping) while the teacher or preacher is bringing a message that they believe God gave them for those assembled. Not participating in the before-service and/or after-service fellowship for what I am sure are good reasons … But apparently indifferent to the need for fellowship and the benefit of building solid relationships within the local Body of Christ, the Church. 

Paul writes and tells us that we should be the opposite of indifferent. Romans 12:11 is my favourite verse in this regard…

NET “Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord.”

TPT “Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”

MSG. “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.”

Some things to note from the story:

A wedding feast could go on for days with much food and merriment. An invitation from the king would be considered both an honour and a command, but the citizens of this country at first refused the invitation, even though the king had describes the many pleasures of the feast.

Some invited guests were not only indifferent and ignored or scorned the king’s invitation but also reacted violently against his messengers. The king reacted as ancient rulers often did; he sent his troops to destroy those murderers. To treat the king’s messengers with contempt and indifference was to treat the king himself with contempt and indifference.

The invitation to the wedding feast was given to everyone — both bad and good —  because the original invitees had refused the invitation. This detail indicated that the Gentiles were now being offered salvation because the Jews had rejected the Gospel.

Even though the final invitation to the celebration was broadcast indiscriminately, guests still had to meet certain conditions to participate in the feast, including wearing wedding clothes, which were probably given to the guests by the king himself (Esther 6:8-9; Ezekiel 16:10-13). When the king found a man without his wedding garment, the man was summarily tied up and thrown out of the palace.

So, in summary:

The king in the parable wants the wedding to be well attended. He wants his people to celebrate this great family event with him and his son (future king). So, he sends his servants out to invite a certain group of people who were indifferent to the invite and to the inviter. Then the king sent servants to invite whoever they meet, everyone they encounter. And many prepare and come to the celebration. In the midst of the crowd, however, there is one man who has come without preparing, without dressing for the occasion. He was immediately tossed. The king wanted everyone to come but also wanted those who choose to accept his invitation to come properly dressed for the occasion. In other words, it is not a “do your own thing.” There was some preparation needed before attending.

Those listening, the priests and teachers of the law, understood that the message was that the call of the Gospel when out to the whole world, but to the Jewish people first. Relatively few accepted the Lord’s invitation to eternal life, so the invitation was extended to the Gentiles as well. However, to participate in the great feast of God, one must not only be called but also put on the king’s wedding clothes — the righteousness of Christ — accepted by grace through faith. Those without such a garment, although invited, reveal they are not the chosen.

So, everyone is called but few choose to accept the calling, the invitation. And, apparently, one of the key reasons is indifference. Which we have seen means: lack of interest or concern: unimportance; little or no concern: the quality or condition of being indifferent.

The Passion Principle

I am watching the passion that some believers have for a current “truckers demonstration” heading across Canada to the nation’s capital and picking up support and more trucks as they go. Currently they have raised millions to help support and encourage those driving the big rigs from all corners of the nation. Their demonstration is in regard to wanting the government to not mandate that all truckers get double vaccinated for Covid. They believe that it infringes on their personal rights.

I must admit that I am amazed at the passion and the momentum that is behind this current public demonstration of some people’s desire to not be told what they must do. As I have watched and listened, read and studied this current national movement I have to admit that it has been a long time since I have witnessed such passion about anything in the public sphere. 

I am reminded of a verse in Scripture which I want to share…

Romans 12:11 NET “Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Other versions render it slightly different…

MSG. “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.”

TPT “Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”

NIV “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”

It strikes me that some believers are more passionate about this “truckers convoy” than they are about the things of the Lord. I am seeing, hearing, and sensing more excitement, enthusiasm, and passion regarding this convey than I have seen for Jesus in a long time. It saddens my heart. My spirit weeps for the Church where we seldom witness the kind of passion being expressed for this national demonstration.

As I study the Scriptures I see The Passion Principle in a number of places and in a variety of forms. Let me briefly share my insights…

    • PASSION PURSUES. Passion is David loving God with fixed intensity as he vows to seek and pursue Him with his whole heart, obey the Word with his whole heart, and pray with his whole heart.
    • PASSION PLEDGES. Passion is David praising God with his whole heart before all other gods pledging His loyalty to God and God only (Psalm 138:1).
    • PASSION CONFRONTS. Passion is Elijah standing up to the prophets of Baal and calling down the fire of God.
    • PASSION PRODUCES. Passion is Nehemiah completing the wall of Jerusalem in a record 52 days in the face of opposition.
    • PASSION PERSISTS. Passion is Jeremiah refusing to retire from ministry, in spite of discouragement, because the fire in his bones would not let him quit.
    • PASSION PRAYS. Passion is Daniel praying, in spite of threats against his life, because prayer was the heartbeat of his life.
    • PASSION MOVES. Passion is Peter jumping out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water, in spite of the “impossibility” of it.
    • PASSION MOTIVATES. Passion is Paul turning the zeal of his past into a fire for the cause of Christ.

I am hoping and praying that believers will, once again, become passionate about the things of the Lord and His Word, the Bible. Not just exhibiting passion for the current bandwagon and demonstration against something. Not jumping on the hottest and newest trend among believers on the internet. Or getting excited and passionate about a prophetic word that has not been tested or properly judged according to God’s standard – the Bible. Or the most current musical trend or worship team gaining everyone’s attention. For true believers “passion” should be reserved for the Lord and the Kingdom that He established that is currently continuing to expand and touch places that are in spiritual darkness and bondage.

I long for the day when the Church — Christians — will be known for what we are for and not just what we are against. When people will see our true passion for the Lord and the things of the Lord. 

An Encounter With a Neighbour

 I was walking my dog the other day and stopped to chat with a neighbour who lives a few houses down the street from mine. He was shovelling snow – something a lot of us are doing a lot of this winter. We have a new city by-law that requires we shovel the snow on the city sidewalks that border our property. It has always been a suggestion and a nice courtesy to those who walk in the winter. Now it is the law and so many more people are clearing the sidewalks. Dog owners greatly appreciate the clearer sidewalks. 

We were talking about one of his neighbours who apparently is not aware of the new by-law or chooses to ignore it. He immediately responded that he would be happy to clear his part as well if he had not been such a “bad neighbour” this past summer. It seems when he was cutting grass his mower spun a stone out with the grass clippings and it damaged his car. When brought to his attention he did nothing about it – not even an apology. It was obvious that my new friend had not forgiven his neighbour and would therefore not be helping to keep his portion of the city sidewalks clear. 

In Matthew 18 we read about Peter who was apparently struggling with a neighbour or a family member along the same lines of needing to forgive.

Matthew 18:21-22 NET “Then Peter came to him and said, ‘Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!’”

Rabbinic tradition taught that a brother could be forgiven three times for the same offence, but not four times. Peter, trying to be a better than a superior Law keeper, doubled that and added one – seven times. He did not anticipate Jesus’ response, which is not a congratulations but a correction. Whether the phrase should be rendered seventy times seven or seventy-seven is irrelevant; Jesus teaches us that believers in Christ have been forgiven more than they will ever be asked to forgive. They must cultivate a spirit of forgiveness, not a habit of counting offences.

Matthew 6:14 adds a bit around the edges to this truth…

““For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”

So our forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others and not becoming offended.

Mark, the author of another Gospel, adds his thoughts on the matter connecting the whole area of forgiveness to our personal prayer lives…

“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NET)

Paul, the apostle, in writing to the believers in Colossae writes:

“… bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NET)

And, of course, the very familiar Lord’s Prayer states…

“So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”

That is certainly stated in no uncertain terms. Forgiveness is a very important aspect of our walk as believers. We need to deal with our issues and learn to forgive immediately and totally. Otherwise, we are simply poisoning ourselves and hindering our relation hship with Jesus and others. 

Just some of my thoughts after seeing how entangled my neighbour was because of the anger and unforgiveness he was harbouring towards his next door neighbour. 

Have You Noticed What Is Missing?

Have you noticed and given any thought to what is missing in the ministry and message of Jesus? When He was born as a man and spent thirty-three years among us; three of those years were very public and witnessed by multitudes as well as by His twelve apostles. Men who were hand-picked and chosen to be leaders in this new movement and eventually the Church He would build.

Jesus did not speak about current affairs. The Roman occupation. Rampant homosexuality. Slavery. Woman’s rights. Abortion. And a number of mandated requirements forced upon them by the government – like carrying the soldier’s bags for a mile when asked and paying high taxes to Caesar.

Nope! He simply spoke about the Kingdom that He brought to earth with His birth and revealed in His ministry. The Kingdom that was to grow and develop as it increased in size and influence until the whole world was changed and came into line with God’s plan (Isaiah 9:7). 

His first public message was “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” ((Matthew 4:17). To repent meant to turn from the way they were living and what they were believing and turn back to God and His Word, His truth. It was a call to reject their current lifestyle and to live one based on the teachings of Scripture and the principles of the Kingdom. 

And, only when we repent and turn to God can we see and then enter the Kingdom.

John 3:3-7 NET “Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his motherʼs womb and be born a second time, can he?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ʻYou must all be born from above (born again).ʼ”

The Kingdom was His message. Repentance was the initial call to enable people to have hearts ready to receive and enter the Kingdom. And then through conviction, repentance and godly sorrow, a person repents, asks for and receives forgiveness, and is born again.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10 “For even if I made you sad by my letter, I do not regret having written it (even though I did regret it, for I see that my letter made you sad, though only for a short time). Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad, but because you were made sad to the point of repentance. For you were made sad as God intended, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death.”

 And the lifestyle of those in the Kingdom was again to be positive. Read the Beatitudes and the initial teachings of Jesus and see what the Kingdom mandate really was and is (Matthew 5:1-7:27). This was the call upon born again believers – to be salt and light. To be positive influences upon the culture and society of the day. 

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavour, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honour to your Father in heaven.”

Those ‘good deeds’ again are positive and powerful as Jesus told us that we would do what He did … and I remind you that He did not preach against any of the current social issues of His day. 

John 14:12 “ I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father.”

It was in this way that the world would realize that the Kingdom of God had arrived and entered into the world with its transforming influence and impact. The Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23; Matthew 24:14) was a positive message backed by miracles, signs, and wonders; the sick were healed and the dead were raised; demons were cast out and a new way of living – Kingdom living – was introduced. All very positive. All very powerful.

It is sad that today the Church is known more for what it is against than what it stands for and believes. It is sad that often we spend so much time and effort opposing things and little mention of Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom is heard. Our hope is in Him and He needs, once again, to be the center of our focus. Only as the Kingdom and the King continue to influence the hearts of people through true believers will the things people now speak, write, and march against in the culture and society in general will eventually come to an end. 

Remember the words of Jesus: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). 

Let’s adjust our focus accordingly and truly be the salt and light that Jesus told us we should be. 

What Causes Hunger in a Believer?

Earlier this week I spent two hours with some young disciples of Jesus. I’m guessing they were between 18 and 30 and the leader was in his mid fifties. 

The young people had such a hunger for God. For more of God. 

They were attentive to everything I was sharing. They asked questions. They “leaned into” the material I was teaching and interacted with it and with me. 

It was an amazing two hours that blessed me and super-charged me. 

I felt encouraged and excited. Not drained and depleted as I often do after teaching. 

When people are hungry for more of God it is so exciting to teach. 

When they are not hungry it is like dragging a dead horse uphill all the way. An effort and very unrewarding for the teacher. For me. 

So afterwards I began thinking about the difference between today’s experience and that which I most often encounter when travelling and teaching.

 And it seems to be that it simply boils down to how hungry people are for more of God. And hunger leads to people being expectant, wanting to receive from God through the teachings. Anticipating meeting God in some way within the teaching.

So, the questions I asked myself: What Causes Hunger in a Believer? How Can A Person Stay Hungry for God? 

We read in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (NIV). 

It seems that the greatest blessing comes to those who are hungry and thirsting for Jesus. 

Disciples who hunger after the bread of life and thirst for living water (to put it in Bible terms).

So how can we develop this hunger for God, and then stay hungry for Him?

1> Receive Hunger as a Gift

Hunger for God isn’t something that we conjure up for ourselves. It’s a gift that we can only receive from Him. 

A lot of Christians try to coerce themselves into hunger for God, thinking, “I’ve got to have more faith, I’ve got to be more hungry, I’ve got to be more loving.”

In Galatians 2:20 we read, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV). 

In the King James translation, we read “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” 

When we grasp that Christ is alive inside of us, that we are no longer alive in our old ways, then we can understand that all of our ability to live the Christian life comes from Jesus. All our ability to love God comes from Him. Our hunger for more of Him comes from Him.

So then, we recognize that our hunger for God is because of Jesus’ passion for the Father and the Holy Spirit and thus a gift to us personally

So, we need to simply ask for this hunger for more of God to grow within us. It’s a gift and God most certainly wants to give this gift to each and every one of His children.

2. Ground Yourself in the Fear of the Lord

True hunger for God comes from a revelation of the fear of the Lord. 

Fear of the Lord … means to be in reverent awe of His holiness, to give Him complete reverence and to honour Him as the God of great glory, majesty, purity and power. To be in serious awe of God!

For example, when God revealed Himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai through “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast,” they all “trembled” in fear (Exodus 19:16) because of His great power. 

When the psalm writer reflects on God as Creator, he says: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere (honour, be in awe) Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:8-9) 

When you’re grounded in the fear of the Lord, you want your life to bless Him, for His sake, more than for your own gain. 

Then our hunger is fueled knowing that Jesus is the center of our salvation rather than ourselves. All of our life is by Him, through Him and for Him.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were chosen as a nation to be priests and kings for God’s purposes and His glory. They feared Him, honoured and served Him

When they understood this, they were on the right track. When, on the other hand, they focused on themselves, whether they were blessed or not, they lost their way and followed other gods. The fear of the Lord was not at the centre of their hearts.

We develop the fear of the Lord by understanding who He is, and who He has made us to be. 

When you’re grounded in the fear of the Lord, you want God to be glorified in your life. Your entire motivation for your life is to please Him. 

As you live a life worthy of Jesus Christ, a life that glorifies Him in thought, word, and deed then a deep hunger for God overwhelms you.

3. Read the Bible to Develop Lasting Hunger

I’m so thankful that He’s given us His Word – the Bible. 

It’s by reading and studying His Word that we discover His ways and His character. We can’t learn God’s ways without knowing His Word which reveals who He is and speaks new life to us every day – fresh manna / revelation 

By reading the Bible every day and spending time listening to His voice through the Word, we develop a lasting hunger for God. 

I have read the Bible, cover to cover, every year for the last 45 years – sometimes twice a year

Reading and studying God’s Word has absolutely transformed me. It has caused me to be more in love with Him It has caused me to be increasingly more hungry to know Him.

I urge you to develop a disciplined approach to reading God’s Word. It will create a broad and wide foundation for your spiritual life. Your passion for God will grow Your fear of the Lord will grow You will develop discernment about how He’s leading you to live your life.

4. Express Your Devotion Through Prayer

As you read the Word, your understanding of God grows as does your love and devotion to God And prayer becomes the way you express that love and devotion.

Not just talking about “seek, ask, knock” but simply spending time with Him and strengthening your relationship with Him

The mechanics of prayer looks different in different people’s lives. I pray early in the morning after spending time quietly listening for His voice by reading His Word, the Bible. 

I do more listening than speaking … 

Prayer is a discipline of our faith, but when our hearts are devoted to Jesus, it doesn’t feel like a chore. It becomes a deep pleasure.

There are so many ways that you can practice prayer. 

Find ways to pray that help you express your love and devotion to Jesus and that inspire a greater hunger for Him

Don’t copy others — don’t design your prayer life based on what everyone else does, but follow your heart 

It is a personal relationship with Him and not just a way to receive what you think you need in your life at this point in time.

5. Let Encounters Fuel Your Hunger

Encounters with God – experiences where you are touched by His presence and His power – are where our theology (our understanding of God and His Word) becomes a reality. 

When we encounter God, we meet Him in a very special and uniquely personal way. 

When we encounter and experience God our faith in Him becomes stronger and we feel more secure and connected to Him. 

Not all encounters with God will be dramatic, but every encounter with God has created (birthed) in me a greater hunger for more of Him

I have a greater hunger to know His heart better and hear what He has to say. 

And each encounter – big or small – has strengthened my faith.

Thomas told the other disciples that he wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, 

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,” (John 20:25b NIV). 

When Thomas eventually met Jesus, had an encounter with Him, Jesus told him, 

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV). 

What’s Jesus saying? 

I believe He is saying that encounters and personal experiences are good but they don’t create faith. 

They strengthen faith. They encourage us in our faith.They deepen our faith.

But, Faith is created in our hearts and comes to us simply by hearing His voice through His Word and as He speaks to us in times of prayer. 

Romans 10:17 states: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word (Rhema) of Christ.” (ESV)

There are many people who are hungry for God that have never experienced God physically like Thomas did, and yet they believe in Him and continue to press in. 

I believe that they’re more blessed than those who have big encounters with God. 

God is present and good, whether we feel Him or not. 

My point is: An encounter with God is a beautiful part of our journey of developing greater hunger for God. 

It fuels our desire, our passion, and our hunger, but it can’t determine our faith in who God is.

6. Avoid Hunger-Suppressing Fillers

We’re all made with a built in desire for God. We’re made to be hungry for Him. 

But if we snack and fill up in other areas that satisfy for a short amount of time, that hunger for God will grow dull. 

These “fillers” look different for different people. For some, fillers are numbing habits that allow us to disengage with life For others more possessions For others it is a great social life and always being surrounded by friends

The way to figure out if something in your life is a filler is to ask yourself how you’re motivated. What motives you to keep moving forward? What fuels your “get up and go?” Who is the beneficiary of the things you’re pursuing? Is it God, others, or you? 

The things that will develop hunger for God in you will be motivated by your love for God

They will be things you do for others as a result of God’s love for you. 

These things will result in God being glorified, rather than your personal gain.

Other things that are self-centered and benefit just you are hunger-suppressing fillers that need to be seriously avoided

7. Pursue a God-Focused Life – Be “Christ-Centered”

God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – must be at the centre of our lives. We must put Him first in our lives…

Then our hearts will be filled with the fear of the Lord, and all our motivations will be for His glory. 

All our affections will be focused on God, and our behaviours will come into line with that.

Matthew 6:31-33 NET “So then, donʼt worry saying, ʻWhat will we eat?ʼ or ʻWhat will we drink?ʼ or ʻWhat will we wear?ʼ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Remember our lead verse … 

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (NIV). 

And, of course, the Great Commandment which gives us our foundational focus in all of life…

Matthew 22:37 (NET) “Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” 

So, keep God and your relationship with Him as the central focus of your daily life. 

Conclusion:

So, our prayer should be:

That our hunger for God will increase every day

That God will enable and empower us to stay focused on Him in everything we do

That our fellowship with the Holy Spirit will grow sweeter and deeper and that we can and will experience His presence every day (2 Corinthians 13:14)

That through His Word (Bible) and His world we will see the hand of God active in our lives on a daily basis as this fuels our hunger for more

That our lives will be ever increasingly filled with His joy and contentment

That we may live a life loving and pleasing Him as you walk in His love and give it away to those who do not know Him personally

24/6 and not 24/7

At the beginning of 2021 I made a decision to create a few different personal boundaries in my life. These new boundaries and operating rules also impacted my ministry and the way I approached the many projects and people that I am involved with. For example, I decided that starting at 5:30p on Friday night I would not answer text messages and emails. And that this release from needing to respond – or, at least, feeling like I was expected to respond – immediately brought with it a definite sense of freedom. Not only did I shut down answering emails and texts on Friday night but continued this shutdown until 9:00a on Monday morning.

This gave me a night with my wife on Friday evening uninterrupted by texts and messages on a variety of apps. And, it gave me all day Saturday to focus on my writing and especially on the teaching I was preparing for Saturday evening when I lead a house church. A whole day from 5:30a to 5:30p without interruption. Of course this improved my attitude and approach to Saturday night’s fellowship time, as well.

And then I took the whole of Sunday as a day away from all expectations. I did not go into my office. I did not answer calls, have appointments, write blogs, answer emails. It was a day for me and a day to refresh my soul and body and to refocus after a busy and often hectic full week. 

This could be regarded as having a Sabbath and I am good with that label. But, my point was to set some boundaries in my life so as to reclaim who I am in the midst of what I do. And, not let the needs and demands of others dictate what I do and who I was becoming. At least for a day or so each week.

We are now well into January of 2022 and I have continued the practice of Friday evening to Monday morning. And I have added an hour a day, Monday to Friday, when I take time out of everything that a busy ministry throws my way and I simply rest, relax, and reflect. Like a mini-sabbath in the midst of a very active and often stressful and long day. 

And, starting this week I have decided to remove all notification sounds – that constant ding and beep that lets me know when a text, email or message has come in on one of the dozen or more ways for people to communicate with me and me with others. Then I am scheduling a time near the end of the work day when I will read all the messages and emails in one time block and respond to the ones that need to hear back from me. And, so I am eliminating the constant small and annoying interruptions that go on all day tempting me to stop what I am doing to see who might be trying to get in touch with me. Those who study these things remind us that can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to refocus on what we were actively involved in before we respond to an electronic signal that we had received a message, a text, or an email. 

A side benefit is that when speaking face-to-face with someone I no longer hear my phone trying to grab my attention away from the eye-to-eye conversation that I am currently involved in. 

So, I now take a “sabbath” or a full 24 hours away from what I do for a living. And, I am controlling or maybe a better word is managing my time better and allowing fewer constant interruptions by establishing and maintaining boundaries.

I highly recommend that you consider doing the same if you have not already done so. 

What Causes Hunger in a Believer? – Part Two

We are looking at having a hunger for more of God… And we examined:

1> Receive hunger as a gift

2> Ground yourself in the fear of the Lord

3> Read the Bible to develop lasting hunger

4. Express Your Devotion Through Prayer

As you read the Word, your understanding of God grows as does your love and devotion to God, and prayer becomes the way you express that love and devotion.

Prayer looks different in different people’s lives. I pray early in the morning after spending time quietly listening for His voice and reading His Word, the Bible. As I pray I reflect on al the amazing and wonderful things He has done in my life, my family, and in the ministry He has blessed me with. 

I just can’t help but magnify God in worship for all that He’s done and created. Prayer is a discipline of our faith, but when our hearts are devoted to Jesus, it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s a deep pleasure.

There are so many ways that you can practice prayer. Find ways to pray that help you express your devotion to Jesus and inspire a greater hunger for Him, not based necessarily on what everyone else does, but from your heart of pure devotion to Jesus. 

And remember prayer is basically building a relationship with the Lord God and not just a way to receive what you think you need in your life at this point in time.

5. Let Encounters Fuel Your Hunger

Encounters with God – experiences where you are touched by His presence and His power – are where our theology becomes a reality. When we encounter God, we meet Him in a very special way. When we encounter and experience God (Father’s love, Jesus, Holy Spirit) our faith in Him becomes stronger and we feel more secure and connected to Him. 

Not all encounters with God will be dramatic, but every encounter with God has drawn me into more hunger for Him, as I long to know His heart better and hear what He has to say. But each encounter – big or small – has strengthened my faith.

Thomas told the other disciples that he wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,” (John 20:25b NIV). 

When Thomas eventually met Jesus, Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV). 

What’s Jesus saying? I believe He is saying that encounters and personal experiences are good but they don’t create faith. However, they strengthen faith. Faith comes to us simply by hearing His voice through His Word and in prayer. Romans 10:17 states: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word (Rhema) of Christ.” (ESV)

There are many people who are hungry for God that have never experienced God physically like Thomas did, and yet they believe in Him and continue to press in. I believe that they’re more blessed than those who have big encounters with God. 

God is present and good, whether we feel Him or not. Encounter is a beautiful part of our journey of developing hunger for God. It fuels our desire, our passion, and our hunger, but it can’t determine our faith in who God is.

6. Avoid Hunger-Suppressing Fillers

We’re all made with a built in desire for God. We’re made to be hungry for Him. But if we snack and fill up in other areas that satisfy for a short amount of time, that hunger for God will grow dull. These “fillers” look different for different people. For some, fillers are numbing habits, for others perhaps a better salary, bigger success, more possessions, or greater status, even within Christian circles.

The way to figure out if something in your life is a filler is to ask yourself how you’re motivated. 

Love is always self-sacrificing, and the sinful nature is always motivated by selfish gain. Who is the beneficiary of the things you’re pursuing? Is it God, others, or you? The things that will develop hunger for God in you will be motivated by your love for God, they’ll be things you do for others as a result of God’s love for you. These things will result in God being glorified, rather than your personal gain.

7. Pursue a God-Focused Life – Be “Christ-Centered”

God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – must be at the centre of our lives. We must put Him first in our lives…

Then our hearts will be filled with the fear of the Lord, and all our motivations will be for His glory. All our affections will be focused on God, and our behaviours will come into line with that.

Matthew 6:31-33 NET “So then, donʼt worry saying, ʻWhat will we eat?ʼ or ʻWhat will we drink?ʼ or ʻWhat will we wear?ʼ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Remember our lead verse … 

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (NIV). 

Matthew 22:37 (NET) “Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” 

So, keep God and your relationship with Him as the central focus of your daily life. 

Conclusion:

So, our prayer should be:

That our hunger for God will increase every day

That God will enable and empower us to stay focused on Him in everything we do

That our fellowship with the Holy Spirit will grow sweeter and deeper and that we can and will experience His presence every day

That through His Word (Bible) and His world we will see the hand of God active in our lives on a daily basis

That our lives will be ever increasingly filled with His joy and contentment

That we may live a life loving and pleasing Him as you walk in His love and give it away to those who do not know Him personally

What Causes Hunger in a Believer? – Part One

Earlier today I spent two hours with some young disciples of Jesus. I’m guessing they were between 18 and 30 and the leader was in his mid fifties. The young people had such a hunger for God. For more of God. They were attentive to everything I was sharing. They asked questions. They “leaned into” the material I was teaching and interacted with it and with me. It was an amazing two hours that blessed me and super-charged me. I felt encouraged and excited. Not drained and depleted as I often do after teaching. 

When people are hungry for more of God it is so exciting to teach. When they are not hungry it is like pushing a dead horse uphill all the way. An effort and very unrewarding for the teacher. For me. 

So afterwards I began thinking about the difference between today’s experience and that which I most often encounter when teaching. And it seems to be that it simply boils down to how hungry people are for more of God. And hunger leads to people being expectant, wanting to receive from God through the teachings. Anticipating meeting God in some way within the teaching.

So, the question I asked myself: How Can A Person Stay Hungry for God?

We read in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (NIV). 

It seems that the greatest blessing comes to those who are hungry and thirsting for Jesus. Disciples who hunger after the bread of life and thirst for living water (to put it in Bible terms).

So how can we develop this hunger for God, and then stay hungry for Him?

1> Receive Hunger as a Gift

Hunger for God isn’t something that we conjure up for ourselves. It’s a gift that we can only receive from Him. A lot of Christians try to coerce themselves into hunger for God, thinking, “I’ve got to have more faith, I’ve got to be more hungry, I’ve got to be more loving.”

In Galatians 2:20 we read, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV). 

In the King James translation, we read “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” 

When we grasp that Christ is alive inside of us, that we are no longer alive in our old ways, then we can understand that all of our ability to live the Christian life comes from Jesus. All our ability to love God comes from Him. Our hunger for God is because of Jesus’ passion for the Father and the Holy Spirit.

So, we need to simply ask for this hunger for more of God to grow within us. It’s a gift and God most certainly wants to give this gift to each and every one of His children.

2. Ground Yourself in the Fear of the Lord

True hunger for God comes from a revelation of the fear of the Lord. When you’re grounded in the fear of the Lord, you want your life to bless Him, for His sake, more than for your own gain. Our hunger is fueled knowing that Jesus is the center of our salvation rather than ourselves. It’s all by Him, through Him and for Him.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were chosen as a nation to be priests and kings for God’s purposes and His glory. When they understood this, they were on the right track. When, on the other hand, they focused on themselves, whether they were blessed or not, they lost their way and followed other gods. The fear of the Lord was not at the centre of their hearts.

We develop the fear of the Lord by understanding who He is, and who He has made us to be. When you’re grounded in the fear of the Lord, you want God to be glorified in your life. Your entire motivation for your life is to please Him. 

As you live a life worthy of Jesus Christ, a life that glorifies Him in thought, word, and deed then a deep hunger for God overwhelms you.

3. Read the Bible to Develop Lasting Hunger

How do we know that the God we’re relating to is the true and living God? I’m so thankful that He’s given us His Word. It’s by reading and studying His Word that we discover His ways and His character. We can’t learn God’s ways without knowing His Word.

By reading the Bible every day and spending time listening to His voice, we develop a lasting hunger for God. I have read the Bible, cover to cover, every year for the last 45 years. Reading and studying God’s Word has absolutely transformed me. It has caused me to be more in love with Him, and to be increasingly more hungry to know Him.

I urge you to develop a disciplined approach to reading God’s Word. It will create a broad and wide foundation for your spiritual life. Your passion for God will grow, your fear of the Lord will grow and you’ll develop discernment about how He’s leading you to live your life

Who Do You Think Jesus Is?

I am currently reading the Gospel according to Matthew. The tax collector turned disciple and apostle. He is relaying the story of when the Lord Jesus asked them who others thought He was. Let me refresh your memory of the story:

When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 NET)

These two questions — “Who do others think I am?” and “Who do you think I am?” — were at the heart of Jesus’ desire for His own disciples to comprehend the truth of His deity, that He was truly God in human flesh, God born as a man. And to understand His coming death on the Cross of Calvary. 

The theoretical beliefs of others about Jesus — a fanatic (John the Baptist), a powerful preacher (Elijah), or one of the prophets — were not nearly as important as each disciple’s personal belief about who He is. 

This is true of every person. Ultimately, the question that matters is, “Who do you think Jesus is? 

Peter understood that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

John 6:69 “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”

John 11:27 “She replied, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.’”

1 John 4:15 “If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.”

Jesus goes on to tell Peter that because he knew this by revelation directly from the Father God that he would be used mightily in the Kingdom and in the Church.

Jesus used a clever play on words to teach the disciples about the Church. When Jesus referred to Peter by name (Grk. Petros), He used the word for a small, moveable stone, like a pebble (John 1:42). 

But the word rock in our passage (Grk. Petra) means an immovable foundation. Jesus was saying the Church would not be built on Peter “the pebble,” but upon Christ, the massive Rock and chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). 

The term translated built refers to the construction of a house (Matthew 7:24). Here, it refers to the building up of people or, more specifically, the “house” of God — the Body of Christ. 

And then there is the comment about the keys of the Kingdom and binding and loosing. Jesus declared that Peter had the keys to preaching the Kingdom of God to both Jews and Gentiles. This came to fruition after the resurrection, when Peter first preached and 3,000 were saved and added to the Church in one day (Acts 2:38-41). Then, in Acts 10, Peter received a vision and preached to a Roman named Cornelius, opening the door to Gentiles. 

Rabbis used the terms bind and loose to refer to whether something was permissible or not according to the Law. Peter would one day make judgements about what was permissible in the Church, although the final determination remains with Jesus (Revelation 1:18)

What Occupies Your Time?

It is mid-morning as I sit in front of my computer screen to write this blog. A blog that was suppose to be written and published yesterday. But, yesterday happened and my writing time simply seemed to vanish. There was a lot to accomplish yesterday and by the time the day was over a number of things simply did not receive any of my time or attention. So, late last night I sat for a few minutes to think through what I had spent my time doing throughout the day and why a blog did not warrant any of my time or attention. Why it seemed not to be a priority when it should have been.

Arising out of this not unique experience of running out of time before running out of things needing to be accomplished I asked myself, “What occupies my time?” And so I ask you the same question: “What occupies your time?”

May I be so bold as to mention a few observations I have made recently.

1> A number of believers seem to be preoccupied with a number of conspiracy theories that are still going the rounds out there. I am connected to enough social media apps to note how often these conspiracy theories pop up and how emotionally some people’s involvement is.

2> The amount of time and effort that goes into the “latest prophetic words” from some of the leading ministries in the United States… and even some not-so-well known ministries complements of several on-line web sites that major in sharing every prophetic word obviously, at times, without testing them to God’s Word. 

3> The sharing of news items off of some questionable web sites which can very quickly be disproved as simply not true. One recently I read I knew was wrong (the man supposedly involved had been shot dead when I was a teenager) could be disproved in less than 90 seconds simply by a little basic research and some common sense. 

4> Teachings that are supposedly based in Scripture (Scripture is quoted) that are seriously not biblical and certainly not doctrinally sound. But, because they are from either well known ministries or are well presented by a charismatic teacher or preacher people believe what is being taught and share the links with others.

5> People’s pet peeves which they simply won’t let go. And which they seem to take some pleasure in sharing with others. 

And I also note that in many of the on-line posts by believers and followers of Jesus He is seldom mentioned. The topics shared and discussed are many and varied but seldom is Jesus discussed. The focus is so often “us” and not Him, our situations and not the Kingdom’s agenda. And, in fact, seldom do people share what they are learning in their Bible reading and study which might edify others when shared.

So, join me please in examining what occupies your time as a believer. And, then let’s all be honest and real with ourselves and make some needed adjustments.