Category Archives: God Encounters

An Acceptable Offering

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” – Genesis 4:3-5

I’m pretty passionate about worship! But in more recent years I’ve seen an increasing emphasis across the church seeing worship as something that ‘does it for me’.

Certainly, taking time to worship God has a positive effect on our lives – but it’s not the primary reason we worship, nor should it be our primary motivation. Worship isn’t about God pleasing our hearts – it’s about us pleasing His!

What I think is interesting about this verse is that God did not look on Cain’s offering with favour. It’s easy for us to think that God will accept an offering of worship from us, simply because we’ve taken the time to do it. Cain sure took the time to do it, and not only that but it was probably much harder work for him to dig up some vegetables and clean them up to bring to God, rather than for Abel to select a lamb and sacrifice it. Yet God was pleased with Abel’s offering, and not with Cain’s. He didn’t just take it because it was brought – he was looking for something in particular.

So just because we bring an offering – it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to please God’s heart. We have to look past just what we like, or what does it for us, and ask the same question that Abel did… what does God want? What does it for Him? For Cain, that would have meant getting outside his own comfort zone, and doing something that didn’t come as naturally to him.

Advertisements

The Tempter

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” – Matthew 4:1-2

The dictionary defines ‘tempt’ as meaning ‘to entice or try to entice (someone) to do something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or unwise’.

Right from the first moment we meet the devil in Genesis 3, he’s doing business with humanity – enticing and offering a substitute for God’s best.

What’s interesting here is that the devil pitches up after Jesus has fasted and waited on God for 40 days and right before Jesus gets his breakthrough.

In my experience, I’ve always found that he comes around in that time between sacrifice and breakthrough. When we’ve paid a price to set ourselves apart for God, or we’ve taken an action of obedience, but we haven’t seen God fulfill his promise yet. That’s prime devil-zone.

He comes in with lies (‘what are you doing? God’s not going to come through… you’re wasting your time’) or he comes selling something less than what God has promised, but with the bonus that you can have it right here, and right now.

The passage goes on and three times Jesus resists him, until the devil finally leaves… and ‘angels attend him’ (v11).

If we stand firm through temptation, then we will receive the promise that God has for us. And it’s not some second-rate substitute – it’s the real deal!

The Key To Becoming Prophetic

“Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”  – Genesis 18:17

 

There was nothing seemingly special about Abraham.  His claim to fame was that he simply believed God.  When God spoke, Abraham listened and obeyed.

This simple obedience proved to be the key for Abraham increasing in his ability to know what God was going to do next.  A person with faith is a God-magnet, and so supernatural activities began to occur around Abraham’s life.

But the key is a very simple one – have faith in, and obey what God has already shown you.  Many people want to grow in prophetic power to know what God is saying about the future, or to have supernatural experiences with Him.  But God won’t necessarily bring greater words to those who haven’t listened or responded to his smaller words.

Training in the prophetic starts with obeying the small promptings of the Holy Spirit.  To believe God for something impossible, to turn away from a particular sin, to share a seemingly insignificant word with someone.  Abraham had become so good at believing God, so reliable at walking out what God wanted… that God said to Himself… “can I really hide from Abraham what I’m going to do next?”.

As we learn to be faithful with the little things… this same question will grow in God’s heart towards us too.

He’s At The Door! (The Process Of Answered Prayer)

Acts 12:12 – Thinking about that, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
Acts 12:13 – When Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.
Acts 12:14 – When she recognized Peter’s voice, she didn’t open the gate for joy, but ran in, and reported that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
Acts 12:15 – They said to her, “You are crazy!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.”
Acts 12:16 – But Peter continued knocking. When they had opened, they saw him, and were amazed.

The apostle Peter is in prison, and on death row by the hand of Herod.  So the early church is praying hard out for him to be released and for God to intervene.  There’s a bunch of things in this little passage about PRAYERS GETTING ANSWERED!

1) God was working on the answer to the prayer while they were still praying

The people didn’t know it – but while they were in their prayer meeting, God was at work in Peter’s prison cell.  He’d already made it out while they were still praying!  This demonstrates the power of prayer!

Last night I found about a stunning answer to prayer in a situation I’d been praying pretty hard for.  It was such a reminder that we should continue to pray and never give up!  The devil will do anything he can to try to get us to a place where we feel like prayer doesn’t count or isn’t powerful. 

But not only that – the answers to our prayers are often taking place where we can’t even see them.  The people were unaware that Peter was already walking free as they continued on in their prayer. 

2) Can You Hear Your Miracle Knocking?

There would have been a bunch of church heavyweights at the prayer meeting – but it was the maid who heard the knock at the door.  I’m sure that the prayer meeting would have been pretty noisy as all these people cried out and interceded.  But in the midst of the noise we’re making about our troubles or issues – could it be that God has already released our answer and we don’t even know about it? 

It reminds me of the story in 2 Kings 7 where the four lepers went out and discovered that God had routed the enemy of Israel, while everyone else was still stuck inside the city fearing for their life.  Yesterday Paul Saunders spoke at The River about Jacob saying ‘God was in this place, and I didn’t even know it’. 

I don’t think it was an accident that the maid noticed before the spiritual heavyweights… it’s because she would have been listening!  Stay attuned to what is happening around you… God may have already answered your prayer!

3) Rejoice Before You See

The maid didn’t even see Peter’s face – she just heard his voice.  That was enough for her – and leaving the poor apostle locked outside she runs back to the prayer meeting to bring the good news.  Elijah didn’t see the rain, he just ‘heard the sound’, and saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand.  That was enough for him! 

Miracles will start to speak before they appear – things begin to change, a good report starts to come.  Yet the maid didn’t open the door.  The door speaks of our heart – sometimes when God starts to answer our prayers, we still don’t actually open our hearts.  We leave them closed because we maybe we’ve been hurt before. 

4) Don’t Be Surprised If People Think You’re A Fool

Every person who has been seriously used by God has gone through a process by which others thought they were a fool before God answered their prayer.  This prayer meeting of the early church – the place where people are getting healed and miracles are happening all the time – called the maid crazy because she believed that the prayer they’d all been praying had been answered!

4) Expect Answers To Your Prayers

I think it’s very telling that this group of people were having a prayer meeting for something that they obviously didn’t believe was going to happen!  In fact, they have more faith that it’s Peter’s angel than Peter got out of prison!  And if it was Peter’s angel knocking on the door – why didn’t they go ahead and open up the door, rather than calling the maid crazy?! 

5) God’s Answers Will Keep On Knocking

God knows that we’re not always the sharpest at picking up on when He’s doing something.  Fortunately for us, He doesn’t just knock once – but keeps on knocking!  He calls us to be persistent in prayer with Him, because He’s persistent with us! 

Breaking Open Historic Wells

From there they continued on to Beer, the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.”  Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank– the nobles with scepters and staffs.” – Numbers 21:16-18 (NIV)

In their journey towards the Promised Land, the Israelites came to a place where God promised to give them water.  It was called ‘Beer’ (which in Hebrew means ‘water’) – but interestingly it doesn’t seem like there’s any water there – as God has to specifically tell Moses that He will give water to the people.  So the people sing, and the princes and nobles dig, and the water flows. 

Leadership Principles

There’s some keys in this passage for those who are leaders – as every leader in some way is a shepherd, with the responsibility of both feeding the sheep and leading them to water.  We feed them with the Word of God, but in order to water them, we must bring them into places where they encounter His power and presence.  Churches and leaders need both the Word and the Spirit working simultaneously in order for the ‘sheep’ to be healthy.  So how do we get a ‘well’ going for our people when it seems like it’s all dry?

Key 1 – Find An Historic Well

The Israelites came to a place called Beer, called water.  There may not have been any water there when they arrived, but there must have been water there at some point in the past for it to have received the name it did.  God has ordained a whole lot of different ‘wells’ for His people to drink from, but many of them have been stopped up or stopped flowing over the years.  But the water is still there, under the ground – ready to be tapped.  Some of these wells include salvation, healing, revival, worship.  When these wells get tapped then power begins to flow and the people of God get refreshed. 

Key 2 – Gather The People Together

The power of unity is well documented in the Word of God – and is an essential key if we’re going to get a well going.  The people must be gathered together, and given a common focus and plan.  Without a united group people – no well will be opened.  But when the people are together – then God’s blessing quickly comes upon the work.  We unite the people by showing them why they need the well – and what has happened historically when that well has been opened.

Key 3 – Sing To It

Worship has supernatural power to unblock wells.  One of the best ways that we can start to unblock a particular well is by choosing songs that we sing together about that well.  For example, if we want to see a healing well unblocked – then it’s important that we’re corporately singing songs about God’s healing power.  The worship not only ‘speaks’ to the situation with words of power, but worship also carries God’s transforming power to change the hearts and minds of those who worship.  Worship gets into the hearts and minds of the people.  Whatever we sing to will spring up in our midst! 

Key 4 – Get The Leaders And Nobles Digging

The final key is to get those who have visible leadership – the ‘leaders’ and ‘nobles’ – to get them ‘digging’ alongside you.  Get them committed to prayer & fasting, and to speaking and encouraging the others.  Get them investing in it. 

In Conclusion

When Israel rocked up to Beer, there was no water there.  But they left behind them a flowing well.  God is calling us to be people like that too – who come into situations where there is no life, and not only get life flowing in our time, but leave behind us a legacy for those who will follow as well. 

The Vow Of The Nazirite

I don’t usually write messages that I preach at church up here (maybe I should) but I thought this message which I brought at our evening meeting last night could be a helpful insight for someone!

We know that Christianity is free… but to follow Jesus will cost you everything!  There is a price to pay to walk in the power of God, but this price has nothing to do with our sin as Jesus has already paid for that.  No, the price we pay has to do with the changes that need to happen in our lives to accomodate more of God’s presence and power. 

A grass airstrip is fine if you want to land a small plane.  But if you want a 747 to land, you need to clear a lot of space and build a tarmac airstrip.  God has some 747’s that are flying around that He wants to land and He’s looking for lives to land them in.  These big jets carry many of the things that the church is looking for to be released, but unfortunately most people simply have a grass airstrip.

Which brings me to ‘The Vow Of The Nazirite’.  In the Old Testament, God set aside a way that those who wanted to be devoted to Him, could be. Naturally the zealots looked at this as a way of them showing everyone else that they were the best Jews.  But God’s point in establishing the Nazirite Vow wasn’t to encourage ellitism – rather it was to provide a way for those who had a genuine heart and desire to be set apart for God for His purposes. 

Numbers 6:1-8 contains the description of what the Nazirite vow entailed. 

This passage gives us 3 things:

* no alcohol,

* long hair,

* no dead bodies.

Now this doesn’t mean that we succeed if we have long-haired teetotallers who don’t hang around funeral homes!  That’s not the point.  For us today – it’s symbolic – and makes sense as we start to unpack it.  

Before I start, I’ll mention this – as I’ve prayed and studied… these are the conclusions I’ve come to.  Others may get other things out of this passage – I’m not claiming this to be the definitive work on the subject.  

So what does this kind of heart toward God look like in our day?

1) No alcohol – ABSTAINING FROM WORLDLY PLEASURES

For the people of the Old Testament, alcohol was a pleasure that they engaged in when they came to ‘chill out’.  They didn’t have TV & Playstations!  If we’re going to translate this first one into our context today – I think it’s about more than alcohol.  I believe it’s actively looking to abstain from worldly pleasures so that we can more actively seek God.  

Now get me right – I’m not talking about a bunch of self-righteous people who who look with disdain upon anyone else who isn’t doing what they’re doing.  It’s about, through love, looking for ways that we can accommodate more of God in our lives. 

The word ‘Nazirite’ comes from the Hebrew word Nazir – which means to keep something for special.  All of us I’m sure have stuff that we ‘keep for special’.  

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. – 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)  

We get to choose (to a certain extent) how God uses our lives.  If we set our lives apart – nazir – build a big landing strip on our lives – He can use us for bigger purposes.  But if we fill our lives up with common, everyday busyness… it becomes harder for God to use us for His purposes.  There are times and seasons in your life where you may want to forgo some of the usual worldly things that you enjoy in order that you can make more room in your life for God to move.  Sometimes people make a decision that a certain thing is actually distracting them from going further with God – so they make a decision that they’re going to abstain for it from here on out.  

2) Long Hair – STANDING OUT / BEING INCONVENIENCED

People who were making a Nazirite vow physically stood out from others (especially the men).  In order to increase your capacity to become an ‘airstrip for God’, He’s going to make you do stuff that will make you stand out!  It may be shutting down gossip in the workplace, sharing your testimony or having to pray for healing for someone.  The increase in your heart will come as you obediently follow God’s direction – not just in your times of prayer or when you’re around Christians – but at all times!

Not only that, but long hair can be a real inconvenience!  I know, because I had it for a while!  And in the same way, when we’re looking for God to increase our capacity for more of Him – get prepared to be inconvenienced!  If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  How many times have you committed to fast, only to be invited out for an all expenses paid lunch?!  The Holy Spirit will often nudge us to do things that are a great inconvenience to us.  But obeying Him is how we grow! 

3) Avoiding Dead Bodies – LEAVING GRIEF/PAIN BEHIND

This is proof that we’re not supposed to take this literally – how could we raise people from the dead if we’re not allowed to touch dead bodies!  One way that we can bring this forward into our time is by NOT CONTINUALLY WEEPING OVER THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN LOST.

All of us have experienced loss & pain.  But the one who wants to devote their life to God says to Him – ‘I’m going to serve you in my pain.  I’m not going to stop serving you to deal with it’.  I always find it amazing how some people have huge amounts of pain and keep serving God.  Others have a little, and they stop their whole lives.

If you’re wanting to see the power of God come into your life – be a person who puts God first in spite of your pain.

IN CONCLUSION

VOW OF THE NAZIRITE IS ABOUT THROUGH LOVE, CREATING SPACE IN YOUR LIFE SO THAT GOD’S POWER AND PRESENCE CAN MOVE THROUGH YOU MORE.