TEACH US TO PRAY! (part 1)

John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. Likewise Jesus. Must be important. 

CHOOSE A TIME

What we schedule we treat as significant. If we don’t schedule it, we may be less likely to enjoy a consistent life of prayer. If you say to someone, “Hey, let’s get together sometime,” meaning in the distant future, and he gets out the calendar, he is valuing that appointment more than you are. If you’re married, how about scheduling a prayer time together as well? I love praying with my wife. We are different in how we approach prayer, so we learn from each other.

…AND PLACE

While you are deciding on the time, pick a spot. Peter and John went to the temple (place) at the hour of prayer (the time), and God showed up. Daniel prayed three times a day in the same place–and position; he knelt. If you have a place and time, I guarantee you—Jesus won’t be late for the meeting. But it’s possible to have a good prayer life and not have a specific time and place–especially if you’re the apostle Paul. 

An acronym helps to keep me on track: P-R-A-Y.

PRAISE

Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘Father’”. The apostles prayed to the Father (Eph. 3:14). It positions us as children coming to receive. We are servants of the Lord and children of the Father. In prayer we are children. Jesus taught us to pray to his Father and ours. It is not wrong to pray to Jesus, but it is not the way he taught us.

I start with praise for three reasons: First, we are encouraged to enter this way (Ps. 100). Second, it decentralizes us, an ongoing need. The world does not revolve around me. I am not the center of the universe. I want to live a God-focused life.  And third, we become what we behold. The more I focus on God, the more I become like Him. I used to focus on myself and my sin in prayer. Didn’t work. I praise God both for who He is (like sovereign, generous, forgiving, accessible, helpful) and what He does (sanctifies, seats me in the heavenlies, overcomes). I include thanksgiving because the Bible says, “In all things give thanks.” I didn’t obey that for a long time–now I do. I thank God daily for tests, trials, tension, and for conflict. Then I see how He uses them, and I am less likely to complain and more likely to praise him in difficult times.

REPENT

God takes sin more seriously than I do. Think cross. Repentance sobers me up. I easily overlook a wrong thought, an unkind word. Not to confess could harden my heart to sin. Unforgiveness leads to torment (Matt. 18:35). It was sin that ruined the human race. To repent of sin enables me to not focus on sin. David described what happens to people who ignore sin (Ps. 32). Not a pretty picture. It makes our soul sick–and sometimes our body. God turns from directing to disciplining. We don’t hear His voice in the same way. Confession clears the deck  and brings back fellowship with God and others who walk in the light (I John 1:7). Part 2 next.

DO YOU NEED A BEARD TO PROPHESY? (part 4)

11  When the Spirit shows up in our lives, he brings gifts with him. “To one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kind of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.” And as if he has not emphasized enough the source of the gifts, he says once again that “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (I Corinthians 12:8-11). As has been said, the greatest difference between prophecy in the old and the new is the presence of the Spirit. That is why Paul writes, “You can all prophesy” (14:31), because all Christians have the Spirit. And maybe there were a lot of young prophet types giving it a try, because Paul wrote, “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good” (I Thess. 5:20,21). That suggests that people may have been getting tired of the newbies going for it, as Paul encouraged. Patience is needed to give the gifts of the Spirit time to mature. No surprise. A new young pastor to the congregation needs some patience from the flock while the preaching/teaching gift matures over time.

12  In addition to Judas and Silas, recognized prophets in Antioch, Philip the evangelist had four prophetic daughters, which show us that you don’t need a beard to prophesy (but you do need the Holy Spirit).

13  Peter quotes something remarkable from Joel about the outpouring of the Spirit and the difference it makes for the people of God in his Pentecost sermon. They have just been filled with the Spirit and all spoke in tongues. Now he says that “your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Acts 2:17).  He even includes the lowest of the low in this radical gift-giving of the Spirit when he says, “Even upon My bondslaves, both men and women I will in those days pour forth of my Spirit and they shall prophesy” (2:18). So the giving of the Spirit would mean a crossing of social and sexual boundaries. Although women were known to prophesy in the Old Covenant, the coming of the Spirit would throw the door wide open to radically include the women with the men and the slaves with people in high places. Then he adds in the same quotation that “your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams” (2:17), suggesting that now hearing from the Lord in the variety of ways that He speaks would not be limited to a chosen few but to all who receive the life-giving Spirit. It was a new day indeed!

14  Highly important to Paul for the exercise of any gift, including the two highly common gifts of tongues and prophecy, was the underlying fruit of the Spirit–love, which is what I Corinthians 13 says explicitly, and it comes between Paul’s longest discourse on spiritual gifts– 12 & 14. The gifts are tools, not toys!  When love is absent, the gift of tongues is disruptive and sounds like a noisy gong rather than an edifying prayer to heaven. Love will remain long after spiritual gifts like prophecy fade away. So, sisters and brothers, let us step in boldly to speak in tongues and to develop the gift of prophecy, “but the greatest of these is love!” (end of series!)

DO YOU NEED A BEARD TO PROPHESY? (part 3)

7  We do not seek out prophets under the New Covenant as they did in the Old. Saul needed help and sought a prophet regarding his lost donkey. We have the Spirit, and Jesus promised that He would communicate truth to us. We can hear from God ourselves. We need not consult with a prophet when we have God the Holy Spirit living within. 

8  Paul makes clear that under the New Covenant all can prophesy, but some will have it as a predominant gift. He writes in Romans 12 that “since we have gifts that differ according to the grace give to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation…” (v. 6-8). So the gift of prophecy is available to all, but some will function primarily in this gift as opposed to other foundational gifts like teaching or leading.

9 New Covenant prophets are a part of a team of leaders: “…he gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry”  (Ephesians 4:  12). Old Testament prophets often stood alone. They were sometimes eccentric, and often delivered harsh messages of judgment. They were accountable to God alone. They longed for people to know God’s heart of compassion and were broken by massive disobedience and rebellion. They often had to stand against the religious culture of the day and against the king. New Covenant prophets stand with the people of God, encouraging them to walk in obedience. Their words are not received at face value as under the Old Covenant. Prophecies are weighed and so is the prophet. Because “you can all prophesy,” and because all are at different levels of 

maturity and of walking with the prophetic gift, we cut some slack for those less experienced and give them time to mature in prophesying. We don’t slay the prophet, but we evaluate the prophecies.

10 As Graham Cooke wrote in his book Developing Your Prophetic Gifting, ”The purpose of the New Testament prophet is not primarily to prophesy. First, it is to train people to hear the Lord for themselves (and I add–an important truth often neglected). Second, it is to teach believers how to find and live in the will of God for themselves. Third, it is to instruct and train people in the gift of prophecy and to help churches establish the right framework and protocol for the gift. Fourth, it is to bring the word of the Lord either in inspired preaching or by supernatural prophetic utterance” (p. 167). Cooke also wrote that those with a mature prophetic gift in a local church can serve that body in a variety of ways:  by a) helping people to learn how to hear the voice of God (a huge asset to prepare people to step into the prophetic gift and the main requirement for speaking prophetically on His behalf), and b) assisting in the discernment process, understanding that even a true and important word for a church can have a segment of untruth. (Part 4 coming soon!)

GABRIEL SEPTEMBER 30, 1981

We can hardly be more proud of you on your 40th birthday. Wonderful to see you and your family functioning so well. Here are some of the reasons for our joy:

  1. YOUR MARRIAGE. You take it seriously. You don’t neglect your wife for your kids. You put her above the children, which means that they are going to get your best and not 2nd best. When you and Heather are operating with strength and unity, it is communicated to the kids. When there is peace, they know it. And they pick up on the opposite as well. You chose well, and you are living it out well. It shows not only in the family but way beyond. What a great team you two are. You complement each other in such significant ways. You do the dance well–I would say exceptionally well.
  2. YOUR PARENTING. You are patient, but you don’t let things go. You are on top of matters, whether good or not so good. You know your children and how they operate. You don’t over-discipline, but you don’t let things slide that need to be taken care of. So honorable. Many dads leave that for mom, or they leave it altogether. You and Heather work so well as a team that important matters do not get left unattended. You are a wonderful team, so different and so complementary. Happy Birthday, Heather! You have made Gabriel a better man!
  3. YOUR JOB. You take it seriously, but not too seriously. It is a part of who you are, not the whole. Some guys overdo it with their work–you don’t. So you don’t neglect your wife or kids because of “more important matters.” Bravo. The family knows they are more important. But I also know that when you work, you work. You are earning whatever you are getting. They are fortunate to have you. You do your job well–and they know that. You have built up a good record, and they are confident in you. You seem easy to live with and easy to work with. Any company would be better with you around.
  4. YOUR SIBLINGS. You give time for them. You don’t neglect them because of a busy schedule at home or work. You make them an important part of your life, and they are thankful for that. You have fun with them, and you can be serious with them as well–sometimes! That is a gift you bring to the table. When it is time for fun, you love to play, and you don’t hold back. Both feet in!
  5. YOUR FAITH. You continue to press into the Lord with activities to strengthen your walk with Jesus. You and Heather seem to be in a wonderful rhythm following the Lord together. We could not be happier with where you are in your family and in your faith. Keep up the good work. You are honoring God by putting Him first, and He is honoring you!

                                                                  Love, Dad and Mom

DO YOU NEED A BEARD TO PROPHESY? (part 2)

2  All have received the Spirit in the New Covenant and can therefore speak on God’s behalf under the inspiration of the indwelling Spirit. But we “prophesy according to our faith” (Romans 12:6), so growing faith brings more accurate prophecy. Old Testament prophets were not given a second chance if they prophesied what was not fully true. They were stoned.

3  The people of God judge prophecies in the New Covenant, not in the Old. They knew it was the word of the Lord, straight from heaven. They either chose to obey or took the consequences of disobedience. In the New, we judge both the prophecy and the prophet. One doesn’t expect someone younger in the faith or newer to the gift of prophecy to speak with 100% accuracy. The message can still be received and what aligns with truth can be accepted. As Paul said, “We prophesy according to our faith” (Romans 12:6), which suggests that greater faith produces clearer prophecy. No Old Testament prophet would make that statement. He received the message and gave the message–accurately and entirely.

4   Jesus did not speak much about the Holy Spirit, but He walked in the power of the Spirit. As He prepared to leave, He turned the attention of the disciples to the One coming. He spoke about seven things the Spirit would do for them in his Upper Room message under the radical New Covenant arrangement. He would a) live within them, making their bodies His temple; b) counsel them personally, c) guide them accurately, d) speak to them clearly, e) make Christ their center, f) convict the world, and g) teach them effectively. The massive difference between the Old and New Covenant is that now Jesus reigns with the Father in heaven and the Spirit has taken up where Jesus left off. He  is indwelling all of God’s children, giving them what they need to carry on the ministry of Christ.

5  Paul wrote, “Pursue love (tying into the previous chapter), yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (I Corinthians 14:1). He then speaks about how it should be a regular part in the life of the worshiping community. Whoops! Sounds like we missed something somewhere! Hey, we had better take another look! “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation (prophecy–a word from the Lord), a tongue, an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (v.26). Looks like a great way for God’s people to come together, especially in smaller gatherings like house churches. Anyone want to try it?! What a great way to share together! (Let me know. I am starting a house church network!)

6  Learning to prophesy first means learning that God has a voice and that we can hear it. (See article on “Hearing the Voice of the Spirit”). Jesus said that “his sheep hear his voice” (John 10:27). And he said of the Spirit that “when he…comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears, he will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine, and shall disclose it to you” (John 16:13,14). So the Holy Spirit according to Jesus is a communicator, and it is important for us to learn how to hear his voice. (Part 3 coming).

DO YOU NEED A BEARD TO PROPHESY? (part 1)

God had a presence in the Old Testament. He dwelt first in a tent. If little children asked their father where God stayed, he could point to the tent and say, “He lives there.” When the temple was built in Jerusalem, the presence of God filled the holy of holies. Boys twelve years and older came yearly to Jerusalem. They knew that God dwelt in that big and beautiful building. When the temple was destroyed, so was the faith of those who believed that God could not dwell without a place.

But anointed prophets began to speak about a person who would embody the presence of God. Then Jesus came on the scene. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So if you wanted to see God, you could find him by seeking out Jesus. God came to a body, not a building. Jesus told his disciples, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). 

As Jesus prepared to leave, he shared with the disciples that they would soon be containers for the life of God. A shift was taking place through the coming of the sovereign Holy Spirit. Jesus told them, “You know him. He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). “With” describes the Old Covenant; “in” the New. Now God would take up residence by the Spirit in all God’s people, not just one, a radical new arrangement indeed. Pentecost made that happen. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). From Pentecost on, the place of God’s dwelling is in the people of God. Paul told the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16). 

John the Baptist was the greatest prophet and the last of the old. Jesus was the first of the New. John laid down his ministry and pointed people to the Lamb of God, who fulfilled the Old Covenant by being the sacrificial Lamb, ending the Old Covenant by his death and resurrection and ushering in a new relationship with the Father through the work of the Son and the coming presence of the Spirit.

Two things the Holy Spirit brings with him are fruit and gifts. Fruit is the supernatural character of Jesus, and gifts are the supernatural ministry of Jesus. I am highlighting the gift of prophecy in this series and showing how it changed radically from the old to the new. Paul makes a big deal out of the gift of prophecy in the church. He uses a whole chapter to speak about two of the more common gifts of the Spirit–speaking in tongues and prophecy. He says some vitally important truths about the gift of prophecy that every church wanting to grow in the prophetic would do well to hear and heed.

1  The purpose of New Covenant prophecy is to bring “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (I Corinthians 14:3). While prophecy in the old sometimes included that, denunciation and judgment are also common themes. From Pentecost on, prophecy would only be upbuilding. As a teenager, I thought prophecy was used to call someone out and shame them into repentance.  I was wrong! (Part 2 coming).

OVERCOME–OR OVERCOMING?

John writes that “they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of the testimony, and they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12;11). We overcome the same way. Many good people are taken down. Sad to see. They were running a good race, and they got tripped up by the lure of sexual pleasure, the desire for riches, the glory of fame–and they left the race for the world. Or discouragement set in and slowly took them out of the competition.

Demas was doing well. He was a part of Paul’s apostolic band, referenced three times in Paul’s letters, with such notables as Luke. But Paul writes that “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:11). I’ve seen it with really good people. Will you be overcome? Not if you learn to overcome the enemy by:

THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB

Walking in the light brings two things: “We have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Christians on a hunt for pleasure begin to walk in the dark, saying all the while that they are in the light, deceiving others–and themselves. They sell out a rich inheritance for a bowl of cold stew. Christians bent on fighting the fight of faith keep short accounts, confess their sins to God and to people, and keep their consciences clear. Satan has no answer to the blood.Those, however, who keep secrets about personal pleasure spend their time in the darkness, Satan’s realm, and they get chewed up, no matter how strong they think they are.

THE WORD OF YOUR TESTIMONY

We are tested through our life just as the heroes of Scripture were. When they passed, as Joseph consistently did, the test became their testimony. They praise the faithfulness of God to keep His word and give them the destiny promised. Joseph became the second most powerful person in the world–one test at a time. He consistently passed, and the faithfulness of God was matched by the faithfulness of a young slave with a heart of integrity. Hear the word of his testimony: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). No desire for revenge, no unforgiveness clogging the arteries, no sense of victimization for all the suffering he had gone through, just thanksgiving to God that he overcame. You can too. Turn tests that come your way into a testimony by trusting a loving Father to bring you through.

LOVING NOT YOUR LIFE TO THE POINT OF DEATH.

For Joseph and for every follower of God, the issue is not live or die, but obey or not obey. Threaten this kind of person with death and you get nowhere, because he is not clinging to his life; he is clinging to his Lord. Paul put it this way: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). How do you take someone down who cannot be scared by death itself? The choice to obey regardless sets you free from the threat of harm or the fear of retaliation. Christ-followers deny themselves and take up their cross–the place of death. What an overcoming life! I try to practice this in my marriage and my ministry. Join me.

8 MARKS OF HUMILITY…

from the life of John the Lutheran (or was he a Baptist?). If you need to learn humility, John can teach you. Why would you want to learn? Because “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). Without humility, we cannot walk into our God-appointed destiny, and we cannot please God. He resists proud Christians, but He gives power to the weak and lowly, not the high and mighty.

1 John was a friend of the bridegroom. Jesus was the Bridegroom. All eyes are on the bride and bridegroom at a wedding, from start to finish. Many people don’t even know the friend of the bridegroom. John was not looking for placement in the religious establishment. He only wanted to be close to support the main event–the coming of the Messiah.

2 John was the voice, Jesus was the Word. John was so successful that people wondered if were the promised Messiah. Had he longed for position or prominence, the attention he was receiving could have tempted him. But he had spent years of preparation with his godly parents who knew from Gabriel’s astounding proclamation and their prophetic words what he was called to. He probably also spent years in the desert in prayer and meditation after their deaths, listening to the voice of God and preparing for the role he had been raised for.

3 John was open to incredible revelation. God hides truth from the proud but reveals to the lowly, to little children, to those open to receive it. John was given revelation about Jesus before anyone else did, making it possible to point people, including his own disciples, to the main event, the person on center stage. When he saw him for the first time as an adult, he summed up the whole old covenant, saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Then he speaks of the pre-existence of Jesus, which he could only have known by way of revelation: “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me” (30). He also understood what many people today miss–the relationship between Passover and Pentecost: the Lamb of God is “he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (33). 

4 John was like a flashlight. Jesus called himself the light of the world. Shine that light in someone’s face who is not expecting it, and they will run for cover. John got people ready for the bright light. Jesus called him “a lamp that burned and gave light” (John 5:35).  John was sent to “testify concerning that light…He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (John 1:7-8). 

5 John was a forerunner. Forerunners set the pace for the runners. Pacesetters don’t even finish the race. They set the desired speed for those who are competing, then they drop out. John knew he would be dropping out of the race when Jesus stepped on the scene. He had no idea how painful that would be for him.

6 John’s pulpit was in the desert, not the holy City, not the temple, not the center of town. If anyone wanted to meet him, they would have to go out to the Judean desert, a hot place much of the year. Important people don’t hang out in the desert. They hob-nob where the popular people are, in big cities, in crowded hotels. John did just the opposite.

7 John’s clothes fit his message. He looked much more like a prophet of God than a religious leader. The Pharisees wore long, flowing robes. They were leaders by virtue of their position, the lowest form of leadership. John was a leader by virtue of his character. People came out to the desert to hear him, because he was preaching the truth and people knew it. When the Pharisees came out, rather than thanking them for coming, he mocked them for showing up, knowing they were not there to repent but to simply make an appearance. He didn’t play it safe with them. He told them what they needed to do to escape the sure wrath of God. They probably wished they had not come to the revival service. They stuck out, and it didn’t feel good at all.

8 John was bold enough to risk his life. Humble people are bold. Proud people are fearful and defensive, like Herod who slaughtered children when he thought his throne was at risk. John took on the religious leaders with hard-hitting denunciations. He did not hold back for fear of losing his position (he had none) or his reputation (he didn’t care about it).

CHILDREN–FOR LIFE!

Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Paul doesn’t say, “Obey your parents when they are right.” He says, “for this is right.” Obedience is always the right way, even if parents aren’t doing it right. He doesn’t give wiggle room to make exceptions, like, “I don’t have to obey, because they are always arguing,” or “Sometimes they are wrong.” Children are not given the final word.  He doesn’t qualify obedience to give children a way out, an obvious exception to the rule. Obedience is always right–regardless! Children are not in charge of parents. Parents are in charge of children. 

Then Paul uses another word to describe how children relate to parents: honor. That means to hold them in esteem, value them highly, place them above you. It goes beyond fulfilling a command. It deals not only with what a child does but how it is done, attitude, not only action. A child stations himself under the parents in all ways. It would never be appropriate for a child to opt out of obedience, thinking, “In the area of friends (or hobbies or homework or TV), I know more than they do.” This commandment (the only one with a promise attached) gives two strong words to cover the landscape: obey and honor.

How long is the obedience? The command to obey assumes a change in relationship. That child will one day leave the home and often become a parent. Then the issue of obedience changes. Honor, however, continues for a lifetime, because we never stop relating to them as parents. When we leave home, our parents stop giving us commands like, “Do your homework.” The command to honor holds true for as long as they live. God put them in our life–for life.

Is the honor dependent upon whether we think they deserve it or not? No. We honor the position they have served and continue to serve. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (2:17). The emperor was Nero, not an honorable king. But the position he held called for humble respect regardless. It doesn’t require us to agree with a person or do everything he or she says. Honor is an attitude of the heart, stationing ourselves under a person in authority for the sake of our well-being and the well-being of society.

So we honor parents for a lifetime. We don’t have to take their advice on every matter. They still hold the place of parent, and we hold that position in reverence. To do so from childhood up guarantees two rewards that money cannot touch–a long life and a good life. People would pay big bucks if they could buy these two commodities. God promises them to the child who chooses to honor his father and mother as long as they live. That means to hold them in high regard, to treat them with humble and thoughtful respect, to defer to them, and to care for them when they need help. Imagine a society where this command is carried out to the fullest! So my questions to all children, whatever your age: “Are you honoring your father and mother?”

ERIKKA SHEPP BIRTHDAY!

TRIBUTE FROM YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER!!

1  YOU BOUNCE BACK.

You rebound. If you get down, you don’t stay down. You let God or people take you back up.

2  YOU CARE FOR PEOPLE.

Makes you a really good friend. You love your siblings and they know it. Your commitment goes deep.

3  YOU ARE INTENSE.

You don’t go halfway. Makes you fun to connect with. When you are in, you are all in. Life was more exciting in the Anderson house when you came along. You were number four, but you held your own with three sibs ahead of you.

4  YOU ARE HONEST.

You speak the truth, even when it can be hard to receive. Because you are a woman of integrity, you don’t withhold things that can be of help to people, even if it may hurt. And at the other end, you are willing to receive it as well.

5  YOU AND DREW MAKE A GREAT ACT.

Quite a combination. You make it happen—between the two of you. You are both highly capable leader types. You deserve each other. I suspect that hell was not happy when you said “I do” to each other. Two for two!

6  YOU ADD TO EVERY SITUATION YOU WALK INTO, 

whether a group of women, some couples, a church gathering, or a family picnic. People want to be with you, because you exude joy. It comes out of you in life-giving ways. Just does. It is not that you are pushy; it is that you are positive and you are Erikka.