FOCUS: December 2008… HOPE

Hope is the word that lingers in my head these days.  There’s a lot of people in need of hope.  Hope in conquering the past, the present, and the fears of the future.  Hope…

I watched and interview yesterday on CBN.  CBN’s guest was Glenn Beck.  They were talking about his new book, The Christmas Sweater.  It was a very emotional interview… full of redemption and hope.  As I enter into December 2008, I am going to focus on hope.

Romans 5:1-5 in the Message,

1-2By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

 3-5There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

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A sad face is good for the heart

I received a comment from my “Are you hungry?” post.  Instead of posting a lengthy comment there I have decided to write one here.  The question posted was, “Is it possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sad at the same time?”  There were several thoughts that came to mind as I read this question.  If anyone would like to add to the discussion please jump in. 

One thing about sadness and the Christian I believe is that the sadness should draw us closer to God.  Ecclesiastes 7:3 states, “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”(NIV).  I first came in contact with this verse back in the late 80’s when The Choir released their CD Chase the Kangaroo.  The song “Sad Face” has been a great inspiration to me over the years.

I loved the song then as I do now.  This verse puzzled me as a young believer.  I was in a church at the time that was very focused on the Holy Spirit.  (Can one get out of balance when it comes to the Holy Spirit?)  I felt as though when something “bad” happened to me that there was something wrong (with me)… like I wasn’t spiritual (enough) or I wasn’t as good as the other believers I hung out with…  Or I was out of God’s will.

I remember a night when I shared this verse sitting in the worship center with some of the youth and youth leaders.  I basically said then that it is OK to have issues of sadness, loneliness, etc… then quoted this verse.  But I didn’t understand what it really meant.  I had not ever drank from the cup of true sadness and hurt.

Before I go there lets look at John 16 where Jesus talks to his disciples about the coming work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says,

Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…  (v 5-7).

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you…  (v. 13-15).

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (v. 20-24).

I think now I have come to understand sadness and how it relates to my walk with God as a Christian.  As a young believer in my late teens early 20’s, I had not had the opportunity to walk a road of real sadness, heartbreak, separatedness, etc.  Now that I am in my young 40’s I have had a taste of that road.  I think I am beginning to understand why sadness is allowed in the life of the Holy Spirit driven believer.  Jesus said, “Your grief will turn to joy.”  He goes on to say, “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

As a Christian, I believe it is possible to become sad and to stay there – to live in sadness that ultimately leads to a depression.  Remember Jesus said, “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  It’s in those times of sadness He wants us to come to Him.  It is through turning over that situation with trust to the Father so that the Counselor has opportunity to work in our lives.  If we choose to sit in our sadness we choose to stay focused on ourselves – which leads to bondage in self pity.

…the greatest destroyer of that confident relationship to God, so necessary for intercession, is our own personal sympathy and preconceived bias. Identification with God is the key to intercession, and whenever we stop being identified with Him it is because of our sympathy with others, not because of sin. It is not likely that sin will interfere with our intercessory relationship with God, but sympathy will. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 3).

I know there is so much more that can be said on this.  This is probably not even an answer to the question but rather the beginning of a dialogue on the subject.  Below is the song that I referenced above.

Sad Face by Steve Hindalong as performed by The Choir.  I think this song was written after Hindalong’s wife miscarried their baby.  You may also recognize the name Steve Hindalong as the co-writer of the song God of Wonders we have all come to love in our churches.

There’s a crystal in the window
Throwing rainbows around
There’s a girl by the mirror
And her feet won’t touch the ground
‘Cause she never saw the sky so bright
Isn’t that like a cloud, to come by night
Nevermind the sky
There’s a tear in her eye

A sad face is good for the heart
Go on cry, does it seem a cruel world?
A sad face is good for the heart of a girl
A sad face

There’s a woman in my kitchen
With a rainbow on her cheek
Well isn’t that a promise?
Still I never felt so weak
There’s a tiny spirit in a world above
Cradled so sweetly in our Father’s love
So you don’t have to cry
No there’s something in my eye

A sad face is good for the heart
Maybe just now I don’t understand
A sad face is good for the heart of a man
A sad face

A sad face is good for the heart
It’s alright you don’t have to smile
A sad face is good for the heart of a child
For the heart of a child
For the heart of a child
For the heart of a child
A sad face
A sad face…

Are you hungry?

It’s the day after Thanksgiving… Did you get enough to eat yesterday?  I’m now extremely full after the 3 rounds of leftovers I had tonight for dinner!  I am more stuffed than the turkey was yesterday!  But that’s not quite the kind of hunger I am talking about.  Are you hungry for more of God?  Are you satisfied or do you want a little bit more?

It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is placed and made effective in us by the Holy Spirit. He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, making us truly alive. He takes that which was “beyond” us and places it “within” us. And immediately, once “the beyond” has come “within,” it rises up to “the above,” and we are lifted into the kingdom where Jesus lives and reigns (see John 3:5).  (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 28).

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit since you believed?” Acts 19:2

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

I’ll never forget when Joshua Tree by U2 was released (1987).  I was in Cleveland, TN at Lee College.  I headed over to the mall after classes and purchased the cassette.  While driving back to campus I heard this song and was blown away.  “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a powerful song.  It is a deep song born out of a believers heart to know God more. 

If you are familiar with how this song was recorded on “Rattle and Hum” then you know the song was recorded for the movie in a church with a choir.  On the movie, the next song is by a guy on the street singing about freedom. 

As a Christian, freedom from sin and the things of this earth is what we are looking for.  We are looking to know God more… to go into a deeper relationship of knowing God.  Our lives as Christians need to be about knowing God more.  As we get to know Him more, we become His hands and His feet living in a world in need of His love… the freedom that only He can give.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers states,

The Spirit of God has set a great many people free from their sin, yet they are experiencing no fullness in their lives— no true sense of freedom.  The kind of religious life we see around the world today is entirely different from the vigorous holiness of the life of Jesus Christ. “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” ( John 17:15 ). We are to be in the world but not of it— to be separated internally, not externally (seeJohn 17:16  ). (November 27).

Focal Point

Are you living life on “Focal Point”?

Focal [foh-kuhl] of or pertaining to a focus.

Point [point] (n.) a particular aim, end, or purpose. (v.) to direct the mind or thought in some direction; call attention to.  (There are some 90 definitions for point on Dictionary.com)

Last night I was thinking about looking for a book by Steve Farrar, Point Man.  From what I recall, Point Man deals with men leading their families spiritually.  After reading Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest,  “The Focal Point of Spiritual Power,”  I think I will get it of the shelf. 

…except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… Galatians 6:14

Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there. We lose power because we don’t focus on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” ( 1 Corinthians 2:2  ). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s focal point in your preaching, and even if your listeners seem to pay it no attention, they will never be the same again. (My Utmost for His Highest, November 25). 

After reading this today, I have been challenged all the more to ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with His power.  I want to lead my family and to lead everything I do in life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I know the cental message for the believer is the Cross of Christ. 

I wrote in “The Most Powerful Force!“,

Sometimes I think we get so bent on doing the act of prayer that we forget God is the reason for the act.  Sometimes we get so focused on so many other ”things” of God that we miss God in the process.

Oswald Chambers goes on to say, “…the focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross.”  I don’t want to get lost in seeking answers to prayer over seeking God… getting to know God… growing in Him.  I pray my focus stays on Jesus.