Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 11

Are we prepared this year to have our Lord ask us questions? This is what we see in Isaiah 58. This is part of our relationship with Him. We know we are called to listen to His voice and read/heed His word to us. But sometimes the questions He asks us can be more instructional and transforming as we ponder what He is asking. And when He asks us a question it is not because He needs information. It is for the purpose of awakening something in our thinking or perspective.

Each of us have come to believe things and draw certain conclusions that seem right to us throughout life. We have developed a mindset, a set of lenses by which we look out at the world and make our choices, with a hope of certain outcomes. We have adopted certain values that influence our priorities and practices. And, mostly hidden to our conscious awareness, we have built defenses and fortresses within our mind and emotions to compensate for the insecurity and inferiority we deal with every day. Left to ourselves, we live handicapped and deceived, never questioning the realities we hold to for living and surviving.

Hence, when we hear and entertain questions from God, it creates an opening for us to look at what we have been holding onto and practicing everyday. His questions can stop us dead in our tracks to consider our ways and plans: "Is this the fast I have chosen?" (Isaiah 58:5). His questions can reveal our unbelief toward Him or wrong understanding of His heart: "Who made your mouth?" (Exodus 4:11). Sometimes His questions will awaken a new level of faith and possibility that we were blind to: "Is there anything to hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:13).

His question is meant to provide an instrument by which we use faculties of our mind and heart to discover and take hold of what we did not previously see or understand or believe. New light comes with new opportunity for something heavenly to be unfolded in our lives and our walk with Him.

Questions can be more challenging to us than being given information. We more easily filter/resist new information and instruction from God with our present view of things and our reason. Questions force us to grapple with what God is asking and we will find our present understanding by which we operate to be lacking. And this sets us up for self-confrontation to deal with our lack of being in alignment with God and His heaven.

Reformation and restoration will come to us and the church as we embrace and engage the questions God will ask us this year. Can you position your heart to receive whatever He may ask you in 2018?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 10

When we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, hopefully we are also identifying with His plans and purposes, not just His blessings to His kids. And this is a real game-changer as we stand at the beginning of this year 2018 with hopes and dreams for the year. It is part of our human nature, as God created us in His image, to look into our future with hope and desire, for our Father also operates in hope and with desire. Unfortunately, most of humanity tries to muster up a confident expectation for good things to come based in themselves, according to what they feel, think and see from their flesh and natural mind, which is connected to the world.

But you and I have received through Jesus a new nature by which we can access the heart and mind of Christ, connecting us to the very heartbeat of heaven's plans and purposes. And by the Holy Spirit we are given the ability to love what God loves and desire what He desires. And here is the game-changer as we step into 2018. I am given the opportunity to displace my own fleshly (often fear-based) desires with God's and to hitch my wagon load of needs/dreams to His all-powerful wisdom and ability, as He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Every time one of God's people set their heart toward God's desire and purpose, giving Him an avenue to reveal His excellent and superior goodness, His glory can be seen in the earth by others.

In Isaiah 58 God invites His people to consider what they are choosing and why. Did you know that every time God comes to us and presses this issue with us, it is a gift to us. We are prone to blindness when it comes to own heart's desires and motivations. He asked of them, "Is this what I choose, is this acceptable to me?" (v. 5). He calls them to ask themselves if they are seeking/acting/planning according to their own pleasure, their own practices/habits, and their own words/thoughts, rather than His (v. 13). Is our Father a selfish, ego-centered person, wanting to control us? No! Rather, He presses us with such questions in order to open our eyes and help bring us into alignment and focus with the absolute best that heaven has already prepared for us in this year. Wow! What a blessing! But the choice is ours.

How about this as a description of your 2018: "Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 58:14). Ask yourself today, what does delighting in the Lord look like and how might I rearrange the priorities and practices of my life to pursue this with passion?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 9

In Isaiah 58 we can see that God's heart is not so much focused on teaching the people about fasting but to help them arrive in a place of blessing where the heaven's are open over them and they fulfill their destiny as a people. The people had wandered far from knowing what this was like and why they existed as a nation under the covenant of God. The nation that King David had built up with its foundations in worship and keeping God's laws, with the ark of God's Presence in their midst, had become just a shell of the former glory. And the glory which had come down numerous times in the temple that Solomon built was no longer a reality they knew or desired. Instead idols were throughout the land and demonic worship and sorcery had become the source of power.

So when Isaiah had his encounter with the glory of God which we read of in Isaiah 6, it was a wake-up call to Isaiah of what they all had been missing. It also was a plumb line for the nation of Israel calling them back into alignment with what set their nation apart from all others. It was not just their temple or their laws, it was the very glory of God in their midst which caused them to know that their God was utterly holy and above all other Gods. This glory created within their hearts wonder, worship, trust and sanctification.

Isaiah reminds the people again in chapter 58 that if they will align themselves again with what God is seeking, "your light will break out like the dawn... the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard... your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday" (Vs. 8-10). These are all references to the glory of the Lord coming into their midst and effecting the quality and impact of their lives. The darkness of the world that had crept into their nation and opened them up to destruction would be pushed back. They would have light again. They would become light again!

And this is what Isaiah so powerfully brought forth in Isaiah 60. As I wrote before, Isaiah 58 -61 really all flow together. What God was trying to bring these Israelites into, as well as us today, was the fullness of His glory in their midst. This would be the answer to all that they needed and hoped for.

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples. But the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising!" (Isaiah 60:1-3)

And this is where Holy Spirit is leading His church again today. 2018 is to be a year of increased glory in our midst. I believe that if we will truly focus ourselves into our Father's heart, following the Son, filled with Holy Spirit, our alignment will become such that the glory will be seen again among us. We will bring about the fulfillment of our destiny that causes "the knowledge of the glory of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). Let's shake the darkness and stir the nations!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 8

In yesterday's post I wrote on the passion of God revealed in Isaiah 58 to break all forms of bondage and captivity through the anointing of the Spirit as referenced by Isaiah in chapter 61. Just like Jesus, the Spirit of Lord is upon believers with an anointing to do what He did, destroying the works of the devil around us in other people's lives. It may be to heal the sick around us, cast out their demons, prophesy over them God's favorable plans or something as simple as "dividing our bread" with them, sharing our resources to meet their obvious need with love in the Name of Jesus.

Jesus told His disciples as He sent them out ahead of Him to various places He would be coming to, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). This would be the evidence that "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v 7). It takes the rule of God as it is in Heaven to truly break bondages and yokes in people's lives. And giving away what you receive is the hallmark of those of us who carry the power of the Kingdom to change someone else's life.

We see in Acts 4 & 5 how this worked in the early church after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them... For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need... At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people... and all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number" (Acts 4:32-35, 5:12-14).

When God's people are walking in the anointing of God that "breaks the yoke" off people, they will see people in their bondages with different eyes. And they will see themselves as powerful against the captivity that Satan has brought people into. This sense of Holy Spirit power and anointing releases a generosity and freedom to give to others with faith/expectation for a flow of heaven to bring even more resource and supply without end. "Give and it will be given unto you, pressed down and shaken together and overflowing into your lap" Jesus said (Luke 6:38). And you enter into a level of joy and freedom yourself as you divide your bread with others and clothe the naked, satisfying their need.

One of the ways Margie and I have found opportunity to do this in a simple and practical way has happened when we go out to eat. I have been a waiter/server in a restaurant myself trying to feed my family off the tips I receive above my minimum wage earnings. We try to see the server through those eyes in our interactions with the server during the meal and when we are deciding how large a tip to leave. We all are more generous naturally with exceptional service and food. But what if the food and/or service was not only lacking but awful? It has been our joy to use our love, compassion and power of generosity to make that server's day by "shocking" them with a tip and written encouraging word that they would never have expected, but really needed. Most of the time we really can not afford to give like this but we know where our supply comes from. We love the thought that whatever Satan may be working in that server's life to bring hopelessness and fear just got hit with an anointed and strategic sledge hammer from heaven! Let's do this!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Focus. 2018 - Post 7

If you have been following this blog you should have a good sense of what is written in Isaiah 58. It is not a long chapter but loaded with revelation about God Himself; not only His priorities but what is behind those priorities. What we see is an intense hatred for anything that brings bondage and captivity in the lives of those He created for freedom. When God speaks through Isaiah to call for a fast that He has chosen, He reveals His true heart of love: Loosen the bonds, undo the bands, break every yoke and let the oppressed go free. We must understand this about our Heavenly Father if we are to walk with Him in this world. It is a passion for Him.

That is why we read scriptures in the New Testament that say, "It is for freedom that Christ set you free, therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1), and, "Now the Lord is a Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17).

One of the primary purposes for Jesus to bring the Kingdom God (His rule and reign) was to set people free from the brutal regime of Satan's oppression. "He came to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Peter declared to a group of gentiles in Acts 10:38, "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power and how He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him." One of the great joys of reading the gospels is to see all the stories of how Jesus released heaven's provision for freedom to thousands of the sick, the demonized, the poor, the broken, the estranged, the religious proud, and those who had no hope. And ultimately He breaks the power of death and judgement over all of us who would receive Him, removing the yoke of orphan as He gives the right to become sons and daughters of God.

Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 58. But it was not by starting a social justice group or food bank or any other organized relief program to help people get a leg up in life. He revealed the true means of fulfilling God's heart for the oppressed when he took the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth that was handed to Him to read. He found Isaiah 61. We see in Luke 4 that He began to read to the people a passage that they all knew and had longed to see fulfilled in their nation, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." After He read all of Isaiah 61 he sat down in the seat of the teacher and declared, "This prophecy/promise of God for which you have been waiting, is NOW FULFILLED in your hearing!"

The ministry of Jesus is explained by Isaiah 61. And Isaiah 61 was the answer to God's call to the people in Isaiah 58! Isaiah 58-61 were all tied together. The answer to setting people free from yokes that had come through Satan's kingdom of darkness was the anointing of the Spirit of God upon a people who would carry the heart of God within them by His Spirit resting on them. Freedom and liberty, release of captives and those in bondage would be the very nature of those who were in Christ and filled with the Spirit.

And this is why Jesus told His disciples in John 14:12, "Whoever has faith in Me, the works I do, He shall also do, and even greater works than these." They would also receive this same Spirit that was on Jesus as a Son. And wherever they went this anointing would break out through them to set captives free. And we see a description of the early church in Acts 4:34, "For there was not a needy person among them... and the people held them in high esteem...but even carried their sick out into the streets to be healed" by the church. Wow! That is called releasing freedom and hope to a city and nation!

As we look into 2018, can we seek the Lord for more of His Spirit to be upon us? Can we be determined to carry the anointing of God and gain His heart for releasing captives and breaking yokes? Can we expect that we will see resources in our hands multiplied to feed thousands? Let's do this!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Focus 2018 - Post 6

In Isaiah 58 we see a picture of contrasts between God and man. You will find this in all of the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament. For all of the scriptures are given by God through the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we have not understood about our God, His heart, His ways, and His Kingdom realm. Everything about Him is eternal, spirit and beyond the natural world we are preoccupied with. After the fall of man in the garden, a great division came between flesh and spirit, between truth/reality and our worldly perceptions. Man fell from the glory of God and could no longer see what He sees or think the way He thinks. We were given over to what the apostle Paul refers to as "the natural mind" (I Corinthians 2:6-14). We were reduced to the level of human wisdom which is dictated by the rulers of this age (and the kingdom of darkness). And left to ourselves we can only live according to our own foolishness.

But we have an Heavenly Father Who so loves us that He will break in with His own word to reveal to those who have ears to hear the way out of our own confusion and escape the results of our foolishness. And this is what is happening in Isaiah 58. God is speaking to His chosen covenant people to whom He had revealed Himself and given His words and laws. But they are not operating according to the wisdom of God or His ways. They have strayed so far off from really knowing and loving Him. And their connection/fellowship with Him was so broken that they did not know how to receive life and blessing from Him.

They certainly were aware that things were not well with their nation and that there were problems that they were not able to solve. They could tell things were sick and dysfunctional and blessings were missing. Much like today in our nation, we can tell that things are not good. We know how unhealthy our culture has become and we can see the continuing division and anger growing. We see families falling apart and our prisons filling up beyond capacity. We see the perverseness of sexual behaviors and abortion sweeping beyond imagination. But do we know what we need to provide a remedy and be healed? Did these Israelites know how to restore, rebuild and repair their society? No...

But deeper than that, they did not know what they really needed. The were crying out with fastings and religious acts of sacrifice to be noticed of God. But if you don't even understand what is wrong because you are so deep in your own fleshly thinking, disconnected from heaven's wisdom and love, how can you receive the remedy? But fortunately our Father does know what we need to find life and be restored. And He reveals it.

Here is what God spoke through Isaiah. We need His light to become our light so that it will go before us. We need His righteousness, not our own, to lead the way. We need His ways and values to choose the right path. We need to connect ourselves to His voice, His strength and His life-giving water. We need His glory in our midst. And God promises that not only will we recover speedily, our gloom become like the brightness of the midday, and our health in all areas of life be restored, but we will also know how to make our whole nation find healing and be founded again in the Wisdom of God. Wow! This is our God offering us beauty for ashes.

But can we trust Him that only He knows what is wrong with us and what we really need. Will we forsake our own wisdom and give ear to His word? Will we let go of our natural/foolish mindsets and press into His ways with obedience? If we, God's covenant people will press in this year of 2018, how far can we go to be used of God to bring healing to our lives and our nation? Let's find out!

Friday, January 12, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 5

We read in Isaiah 58 that the people were busy coming before the Lord with what they thought would get His attention and release His blessing. As they came with fasting, they saw themselves as righteous and obedient, seeking God's presence. And yet God told Isaiah to confront them about how out of alignment their lives were with His ways and desires. God asked them, "Is what you are doing what I really want?" The intent was to awaken the people to recalibrate and refocus on what was pleasing to God.

And here is the mercy of God to all of us: when we find ourselves out of alignment God comes to renew us to His plan and His promise. "This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope: The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:21-13). So the Lord comes to His people to tell them what He is looking for and the reward that is theirs if they respond and seek His pleasure.

We see in Isaiah 58 how the Lord tenderly renews these people to His plan and destiny over their lives. He sets before them the "if...then" breakthrough. "If you will choose this, then I will release this to you." Understand that our Father is responsible for fulfilling His promises to us but He is not responsible for our potential and the choices we make toward that. He will keep reminding us about who we are in Him and the abundance He wants to release to us as we move within His pleasures.

Here we see the Lord longing to bring them into increased light that impacts those around them. He wants to bring them into recovery of things lost to them. He wants to surround them with His glory that protects them and provides. He wants them to come into such relationship with Him that they know their voice is heard immediately and He will answer. They would walk with Him and He would guide them. They would see the devastated places of their lives become the very places of greatest fruitfulness and power. Not only that, but they would begin to rebuild the previous glory of their culture and restore to prominence of the wisdom of heaven in their nation. God would use them to become the answer to unsolvable problems and lead the way into a glorious future as God had promised when He first brought them into this land flowing with milk and honey.

As we seek the Lord this month for 2018, ask Holy Spirit to reveal the promises He has for us individually and as a church. As we set our hearts to know what is pleasing to the Lord and give ourselves to these things, let us anticipate the mercy of the Lord to come upon us and break open massive restoration, fulfillment, empowerment and glory which positions us to become the answer to our valley, nation and the nations where God will send us. It's a new day!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 4

One of the precious revelations in Isaiah 58 is how the Lord instructs His people on what is pleasing and acceptable to Him. Even though the people's hearts were out of alignment with heaven and their actions were displeasing to God, He was willing to show them His thoughts and ways so that they might be blessed and fulfill their destiny.

The main issue in Father God's confrontation with them centered in the words "your own desire", "your own pleasure", "your own words". And He asked the questions of them, "what is acceptable to me?", "what do I choose?". All that they were looking for from God was not coming to them because their hearts had not been transformed in a loving relationship with their Creator. The Lord was nothing more than a power source, a blessing machine. Though they entered the temple of God day after day with prayers and fastings, their hearts were far away. So God spoke through Isaiah the prophet to help bring them back into alignment, give them a chance to repent, and know what was pleasing to God.

I have found that one of the greatest turning points in a believer's life is when they recognize that in this love relationship with our Father and His son there is an expression of love that drives us to find out what pleases Him and then operate that way. The apostle Paul wrote it this way to the Ephesian church, "For you were formerly darkness but now your are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.... trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.... so then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:8,10,17). To the Colossian church he wrote, "we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please hIm in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work" (Colossians 1:9-10).

There must come a point in our lives where we transition from our natural inclination to please ourselves and choose our ways to an elevated consciousness of something greater, more satisfying, more fruitful and rewarding that is only found in the desire and plans of God. If He is the way, the truth and the life, what will we find if we seek His pleasure first? How superior will your life become if you give yourself to understand His will and heart and live in alignment with heaven?

Laying down my own desire for His does not come easy. Something in our flesh must die. Our relationship with the world which has supplied so much of our pleasure must be radically altered. In fact, apart from Jesus you can't do it. Jesus is the only one who has perfectly loved the Father enough to do all of the Father's pleasure and will. And this is why we must be born again of the Spirit of God and baptized into Christ. We receive a new nature that is in perfect harmony with heaven's desires, thoughts and ways. It is only a new creation in Christ that has the supernatural ability and potential to walk in a manner pleasing to God.

But the reality is that even though millions have been born again and received the powerful Holy Spirit indwelling them, they take no thought of living so as to please God. They are just like the Israelites in Isaiah 58 seeking to get by with doing certain things that will yield blessings and get them to heaven.

Paul wrote something to the Philippian church that helped me greatly. He told them, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Do you see what has been happening since the day you gave your life to Jesus? God has been working, moving, stirring and pressing you from your spirit to love and choose His good pleasure! Wow! He is giving us the "want to". But not only that, if we choose it, He gives us the power/ability to follow through. And when we do that, our salvation, our new nature in Christ, takes us somewhere. We are changed into the very likeness of Jesus Himself, and we get His results and blessings!

Take a moment and ask yourself honestly whose pleasure you seek most often. Would you like Holy Spirit to teach you what is pleasing to God? Are you willing to have your heart trained in understanding what God desires so that is your greatest motivation and "go to" choice? If you will make this your focus in 2018 you will be amazed at all that opens up before you from heaven! Why not ask the Holy Spirit right now?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 3

As we stand before the word of the Lord in Isaiah 58 as standing before a mirror to see clearly (btw, there is no other way to come to scripture that will change your life), we are given a picture of spiritual life among the Israelites in Isaiah's day. These people had a strong sense of connection to the God of their father's, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom they had received a covenant and laws unlike any other people on the earth. In their midst was the temple that Solomon had built unto the Lord to facilitate worship, house the Ark of God's Presence in the Holy of Holies, offer sacrifices to maintain right relationship with God, and to promote the teachings/word of God through the generations. If you were a visitor to Israel, and especially Jerusalem, you would be strongly impressed by what appeared to be a faith/religious- centered culture. 

And if you had observed these people of God in the day described by Isaiah in chapter 58 as they were seeking God through their fasting, you would have been even more impressed. You would have seen people laying on the ground in various places, especially around and in the temple courts. You would have seen them laying in ashes with some of the ashes thrown on their heads and smeared on their faces, looking sad and humbled. You would have noticed their bodies wrapped not in normal clothes, but very uncomfortable (and ugly!) sackcloth. You would wonder what it must be like to have that scratchy material against your skin, rubbing you every time you move. You would have been impressed by the level of suffering, humility and hunger they were enduring to be seen and heard by their God. They are not even lifting up their heads toward heaven, but are bowed down and bent over. You would have thought to yourself, "These are very righteous people, they want their God to come to them and bring justice and more of His glorious works in their midst. Oh how they love their God to go to such great lengths of service, suffering and sacrifice! Look at how they are calling upon their God with groans and tears!"

In fact, that is how these Israelites saw themselves! But God had a different opinion about them. Can I tell you that this is one of the most profound, life-changing revelations that a person can embrace in their life-time: No matter how I see myself and the value of what I am doing, our Father Who created us and rules over all, He has a different opinion? And He is always right. He is never deceived nor can be, as we so often become. As the prophet Isaiah had told these people previously, "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts....For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways....For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:7-9). Until we grasp this and adjust our whole lives to this reality, we are grossly out of alignment with heaven's truth and life.

I am sure that when Isaiah spoke those words to these Israelites there were some who said to themselves that he must be talking to somebody else because he referred to the wicked and the unrighteous. But we are never the judge of what is wicked or unrighteous, only God is. And we would like to look at all the spiritual things we might be doing to feel better about ourselves and be seen as righteous in God's eyes. But what did God say to these people? Your ways and your thoughts don't line up with Mine. There is a big and awful gap. What God was revealing is that when we do not really know our God's heart, His thoughts, His words, His desires, His plans, His motivations, His views, etc, and our own heart is not seeking after these, all that we do produce through our own thoughts and choices will not come close to what God esteems as righteous and good.

This is a moment of recognition that Holy Spirit longs to bring each person to. And sometimes it is a moment of crisis where I come to the end of trusting in myself. I begin to realize as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:25, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." He also added in 16:2, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives." Can you see the real problem we are up against from within ourselves? Can you see that until we let Holy Spirit confront our own self-deception, self-reliance and selfish desires, our relationship with Papa God, His throne, His plans and His blessings will always have a breakdown. And we will blame God for it!

And this is what Isaiah was addressing with the people in Isaiah 58. As we read it now, as standing before a mirror, all these centuries later, can we hear the confrontation that comes from His love and desire for us? "Behold, on the day of your fast you find your own desire" (v. 3). "Is it a fast like this which I choose?....Will you call this an acceptable day to the Lord?" (V.5). ""Turn your foot from doing your own pleasure....desisting from your own ways and speaking your own word....delighting in the Lord" (vs. 13-14).

As we stand before 2018 to focus on what really matters and what will release heaven's blessings on earth, let us take a profound moment today to humble ourselves before the Lord and acknowledge there is a most likely a gap between our thoughts, desires and ways and His. And that we need help in this. What if in this year we gave our hearts completely over to knowing the heart and desire of Father God? That our hearts became so transformed unto the very heart of Jesus, the Son, who said that His very food was to do the will of His Father Who sent Him and accomplish His work (John 4:34). At the end of a 40 day fast (a real one with no fruit juices), Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread as a practical answer to solving His hunger issue. But even then Jesus declared, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). He was saying, "I don't want the results of my words, only my Father's perfect and amazing words". May God grant you and me such a heart change in this year that will allow us to be trusted with Heaven's best to set the captives free and release a glorious reformation, such as the world (and the church) has never seen!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 2

We have entered into this dedicated time in January 2018 to engage our God with an open heart. What is so radically different for us than the billions of people on the planet who are presently bowing down to their many gods for favor and blessing is not only Who we are seeking but what we believe about Him. We are coming in fasting and prayer and worship to Yahweh, The Lord of Hosts, the Lord of all the earth, The Holy One, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great I AM. And we come with a view of Him revealed in the Bible, God's Word.

And we are coming in the light of endless testimonies from those who have sought after Him and walked with Him throughout history. And what does the Word and the testimony invite us into? A relationship with this One Who is good, Who is love, Who is perfect and holy, Who is faithful and all-powerful, Who is the embodiment of all wisdom, knowledge and truth.

Can we come to anyone higher or greater than Him? Can we find anyone more kind and wonderful than Him? Can we bring all the cares and needs of our lives to anymore more capable and trustworthy than this One Who calls Himself our Father and Shepherd? Can we find real life and hope in any other power or philosophy or reality besides the One Who created us for Himself to share in His glory?

Oh how blessed are we that we have found Him, rather that He found us and revealed Himself to us that we might seek Him. And in seeking after Him there is open before us unlimited possibility to rise above, to transcend, the brokenness and darkness of this world where death and futility define all the outcomes of the days we spend trying to find life in this world. Not only do we rise above and overcome, in Him we are restored to a potential place of power and authority to change the painful outcomes for countless others who have not known our wonderful Father and His Son. We are invited into heaven's family, into the Kingdom of God, where we get to be a part of a movement from heaven toward earth that releases redemption, restoration, recovery, reconciliation, renewal, revival, recompense and all the other "re's" that powerfully change all the negatives that suck the life out of us and position for all the best heaven has for those created to be sons and daughters of God. Yeah!!!

And this is where we find ourselves today as we bow before Him to consider what He wants to do in 2018 and how we might be a part of it. We are seeking Him to align ourselves more perfectly with His heart, His ways, His plans and His rewards. And it requires that we focus like never before, to see more clearly Whom we are seeking and what matters most in this next year. "How" you see Him and "how" you see the life He is inviting us into will determine "how" you seek after Him during this time we have set aside as a church.

As you read in Isaiah 58, especially in vs. 1-5 and 13, you can see that the people of God were seeking God but not in the right way. It was producing nothing. Is it possible that they did not really know Him or His heart? Did they really trust Him and love Him, following His ways and plans? Or was Yahweh just another god among many they were trying to manipulate for their own needs? As we read in Isaiah 29:13, "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of traditions they have learned."

Today, since there lies within each of us the potential to seek after God erroneously as these Israelites did, operating from inadequate knowledge of Him, and relating to Him without our hearts fully loving and trusting Him, can we take a moment to ask Holy Spirit to help us see Him and ourselves more clearly? Can we cry out for true alignment with our Father Creator? Can we choose to humble ourselves to focus and see what we have not seen before that will require us to repent and renew our commitment to Him? Is there a level of worthiness in our God that rearranges our priorities and how we worship Him that we are willing to embrace this year? How we respond to these questions will determine where we end up at the end of 2018. May this be the greatest year we have ever experienced because we are aligned with our magnificent and worthy God and Savior! He is standing at the end of 2018 calling us forward into things He has prepared for those who love Him.

If you didn't get a copy of the FOCUS 2018 booklet, you can still pick one up at The River. We look forward to seeing you for our 3 special gatherings for the The River or Cowboy Church.

The River
  • Tuesday at 7pm 
  • Thursday at 7pm 
  • Friday at 7pm 
Flathead Valley Cowboy Church
  • Monday at 7pm 
  • Wednesday at 7pm 
  • Saturday at 7pm

Monday, January 8, 2018

FOCUS 2018 - Post 1

As we turn our faces toward the journey we will take through 2018 (ready or not, here we come), we as a church family are choosing to pause this month at the beginning of the journey to be intentional with Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be in partnership with heaven. We want to reap heavenly fruit that only God can make happen in our individual lives and in our church. We want to be wise, not foolish, with the gift of this year, which all of heaven has already prepared for us—things we would not believe, even if we were told. We are taking on the attitude of the wise virgins who made sure they not only trimmed their lamps but had plenty of oil as they head into the unknown with certainty for encounter with the One Who is coming with blessing and eternal promise.

(If you have not read all of Isaiah 58, take a moment to read it now before reading the rest of this.)

Every great journey worth taking begins with great preparation. You may know what you want to see and experience when you get there (or what you want to take away with you that made the journey worth the investment). But even though you may gather all the maps and google all the potential places to go, you check in with Trip Advisor or other websites that give you the inside scoop on what is the best and things to avoid, so your takeaway is optimum.

This is why we are pressing into Isaiah 58 this year as we ponder what God will do in us, for us and through us, and what we might do with Him to change the world and bring Him glory. In this chapter we find a marvelous list from God's heart of all that He would like to do in our lives through His love, things we are seeking after: light in the darkness, recovery, restoration, more glory, protection, direct line to heaven, guidance, desires fulfilled, health, and our nation healed! Wow! This could be the best year ever!

But you find from the prophet Isaiah something that is hard for many of us: correction, confrontation, a call to repentance and change. Ouch! Is this any way to begin a great journey with God? Is this what love looks like from our Papa Creator? Actually, absolutely yes! If you read Revelation 3:14-19 you will see not only one of the biggest corrections in the New Testament from Jesus to his people but, you will see the motivation: Love.

As we start out FOCUS 2018, can we stop and do a heart check in our relationship with God? Am I willing to hear His voice that lovingly speaks correction, adjustment, needed changes that will help me to focus on what really matters? Am I willing to let Him drop a plumb line over my life and heart to see what is out of alignment with His perfect created purpose for my life? Will He find a big "yes" in me all along the journey of this year? Can He lead me into some places and with certain people to do particular things that might be challenging to me and push me out of my comfort zone, because I trust Him and His word?

Fasting is not a natural choice for us. It carries a cost in various ways. It is a choice you make by your will to trade one thing for another, to lay aside one thing to gain another, to pursue things that are not easy to come by. And there are the kinds of fasting that we choose according to what we think will be effective. But then there is fast that God calls us to. It may be totally off your map and surprise you. As you work through the FOCUS 2018 booklet handed out on Sunday, give your heart to hear from God about what He is calling you to do this week, this month, and commit yourself to the things you write down to fulfill this fast unto the Lord. Amazing things await us!

If you didn't get a copy of the FOCUS 2018 booklet, you can still pick one up at The River. We look forward to seeing you for our 3 special gatherings for the The River or Cowboy Church.

The River
  • Tuesday at 7pm 
  • Thursday at 7pm 
  • Friday at 7pm 
Flathead Valley Cowboy Church
  • Monday at 7pm 
  • Wednesday at 7pm 
  • Saturday at 7pm