“So, What’s the Funnel All About?”

“So, What’s the Funnel All About?”

“For by grace are you saved through faith” (Eph_2:8)

We had traveled about a half day and were making good progress when someone asked, “Hey, so what’s that funnel all about in the Tour Guide?”

Yea, I was wondering when somebody was going to notice that. So, let’s talk about it.

Remember that Paul told us that we are saved by grace through faith. In our visual Tour Guide drawing, we can see “grace” entering the “funnel of faith” at the top. When grace passes through faith, what comes out of the funnel, and floods our lives is — salvation.

Salvation. That’s a word we need to examine closer. Most of us assume that it means “being born again.” No, it is much more than that. Being born again is but one part of the great salvation we have in Jesus.

By definition, salvation is the complete reordering of our entire lives in keeping with the will of God. Faith, another word we need to redefine, means something much more than merely “believing” – it means “knowing.”

Faith is the conscious awareness of what meets with God’s approval (as revealed to us by the Spirit of God through the Word), and the courageous decision to live within that conviction.

“Faith comes by hearing,” the Bible says. And note; it does not say, faith comes by reading. There are many who read the Bible and never hear what God is saying. They see the golden leaves on the surface of the river, but do not see the true gold beneath the surface on the river bed.

We hear when the Spirit of God opens our hearts to God’s voice. Faith comes when the gift of hearing occurs, and in that moment we not only know God’s will, but we are also filled with the desire to do God’s will.

Putting this all together here is what we learn.

When we hear (i.e., experience the gift of faith that causes us to know) what God is saying to us, and we agree with Him (i.e., humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord), then God gives us grace (i.e., the power of Christ to do God’s will) and we experience salvation (i.e., the complete reordering of our entire lives in keeping with God’s will).

And that’s what the “funnel” is all about.

So, if there are no other questions, let’s pick up the pace. Having made this journey before, I can tell you that we are in for a special treat first thing tomorrow. The Ancient Library (where I received my credentials for this Tour) is but a half day’s distance ahead.

We’ll stop there for an extended visit before we make our final push to the place named Grace.

Lesson Two: Never Under-estimate the Power of a Personal Word from God

 

Lesson Two: Never Under-estimate the Power of a Personal Word from God

 

“With God nothing shall be impossible.”

(

Luk_1:37)

Sometimes important things can be lost in translation. This verse is one example of that. The word nothing fails to convey into English the fullness of its Greek beginnings. In order to get a better sense of what is being said, we first need to split the word into two words — as in “no thing” instead of “nothing.”

Next we examine the Greek word rhema, which is translated as “thing.” It literally means “that which is spoken by a living voice.” It refers to the power that is inherent within any thing that God says.

In fact, the full meaning of the word “nothing” would look like this if translated into English — “Each and every thing God says; any and all words that proceed from His mouth; the whole of what He speaks, and not just a part, shall not under any circumstance of any sort be impossible in any way or at any time.”

Or, as the English puts it, “With God nothing shall be impossible.”

The point is both powerful, and personal. Whenever God speaks a word to your heart and places a promise upon your life — you can take it to the bank! He will do what He has said He will do.

“God said it, and it was so.” This phrase fills the first chapter of Genesis and introduces us to the God who does what He says. Even foolish Balaam had enough sense to state the obvious — “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (

Num_23:19).

So, then, what has God spoken to you? What promise has He made, what dream has He given, what hope has He placed in your heart? Whatever it is, know this for certain — “Each and every thing God says; any and all words that proceed from His mouth; the whole of what He speaks, and not just a part, shall not under any circumstance of any sort be impossible in any way or at any time.”

Never under-estimate the power of a personal word from God! That’s the second of three great lessons we learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s amazing invitation.

Lesson Three will come tomorrow.

Lesson One: Never Overlook the Potential of the Ordinary

 

Lesson One: Never Overlook the Potential of the Ordinary

 

“Despise not the day of small beginnings.”

(

Zec_4:10, NLT)

God always does extraordinary things with ordinary stuff. Just look at what He made with dirt — YOU! How amazing is that? The Bible tells us that He made everything out of nothing. He is the CAN DO God. With Him nothing is impossible.

One day a young boy showed up at a crowded event to hear a traveling preached talk about wonderful things. He never dreamed for an instant that he would become the central character in an epic moment of history. The preacher was Jesus. The young boy was the lad with a small sack lunch containing two fish and five loaves of bread.

It was just a sack lunch on any other day, but on this day it became the stuff of miracles. It is amazing what can happen when you place something in the hands of Jesus. What do you think could happen if you placed your life in His hands?

You may be just an ordinary person, with ordinary looks, and ordinary thoughts, ordinary talents and ordinary dreams — but Jesus can do something amazing with that sack lunch of yours. If you just let Him have it.

Most people never reach their full potential in life simply because they overlook the potential of the ordinary. If you simply start where you ARE, instead of waiting to start until you get to where you hope to go — you will become all you ever dreamed of being!

Little by little. Step by step. Day by day.

Like Mary did on that first night when God told her of extraordinary things, say yes to God and let the miracle begin to slowly grow inside you.

Never overlook the potential of the ordinary. That’s the first of three great lessons we learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s invitation.

Lesson Two will come tomorrow.

Say Yes to God

Say Yes to God

“Be it unto me according to Thy Word.” (Luk_1:38)

As you travel up this mountain — and to call it a mountain is more than a little overstated; actually it’s more like a rocky hill. But as you travel up you come to this town. And to call it a town is somewhat ambitious; it’s more like a mobile home park that sprang up around a truck stop.

It is a nowhere town, with nothing going for it. No one would ever want to live there, and the people who do so were either born there and don’t realize they can leave, or they were forced there by economic circumstances that left them powerless. The other group that rounds out the citizenship of this sad place are outlaws and social misfits.

To make matters worse the people of this particular place are of an ethnic group that is reviled by the dominant culture of the land. Yet, though they suffer from discrimination, there exists within their own social structure a similar misbehavior. They discriminate against one another.

But, inasmuch as it cannot be based on ethnicity, the discrimination is based on position and influence; it is based upon gender and wealth. Thus, wealthy men are the top of the pile…and poor girls are at the bottom. The worst thing you could be in this pitiful place is a poor girl.

One such girl lived in this town. And like any girl, she dreamed of something more. God took note of her tender hopes, and one special night He spoke to her of unimaginable things. She said “Yes” to God’s will and then walked into history.

We know her today as Mother Mary.

There are three great lessons we may learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s amazing invitation, and if we will follow her example and say YES to God’s will for our lives — we just might step into history as well.

Lesson One will come tomorrow.

The Community of the Called Out

The Community of the Called Out

“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the City, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psa_127:1)

Man is a communal creature by design; we are not built to be alone. While some rare souls seek solace in the caverns of monastic retreat, the overwhelming majority of us are forever compelled toward community. It is how God has wired us.

The question, then, is what kind of community do we seek? Like Abraham of old, we “seek a city, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb_11:10). That is to say, we hunger for a godly community in every sense of the word. Law and order, peace and justice, truth and goodness, love and mercy, freedom and creativity. In one word — godly.

Jesus made it clear that He came to start just such a community on the earth. “I will build My Church,” He said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Greek word He used is ekklesia, meaning “the community of the called out.” This immediately makes us ask, “Called out of what?”

The old hymn gives the best answer –

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night;Thy freedom, gladness, and light.of my sickness into Thy health,of my want and into Thy wealth,of my sin and into Thyself,, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss;the glorious gain of Thy cross.of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,of life’s storms and into Thy calm,of distress to jubilant psalm,, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride;Thy blessed will to abide.of myself to dwell in Thy love,of despair into raptures above,for aye on wings like a dove,, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb;the joy and light of Thy home.of the depths of ruin untold,the peace of Thy sheltering fold,Thy glorious face to behold,, I come to Thee.
(William T. Sleeper, 1896)
another question rises, “What, then is it that we have been called into?” To be sure, it is a community like nothing this world has to offer. The Bible refers to it in such comprehensive terms as The House of the Lord, the City of our God, and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is both local and global, as well as eternal. It is not institutional; but relational.

It is gathered in the name of the Lord, governed by the word of the Lord, guided by the Spirit of the Lord, guarded by the power of the Lord, and garnished with the glory of the Lord.

And there is only one way into this Community; it is through faith in the Lord Jesus, evidenced by love for His people, which springs out of obedience to His word.

Are you in?

Royal Ambassadors

Royal Ambassadors

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Mat_10:7)

The message has not changed. John the Baptizer said it first, as the forerunner for the Lord Jesus. Then Jesus Himself debuted His own ministry with the same declaration. And now He authorizes His followers to carry the exact same message everywhere we go.

More specifically — as we go.

This is an important distinction. For if we approach this calling to proclaim the Kingdom with our minds focused upon where it is we are going to deliver the message once we get there, then we will miss all the opportunities that await us all along the way. And, frankly speaking, that is where most of the Kingdom occurs.

It would be a mistake if we became so focused on what God is going to do later that we missed out on what God is doing right now.

So, as you go, preach; don’t wait until you get there, for by then the sermon will be nothing more than, well, a sermon. And haven’t we heard enough of those already! Somewhere along the slow unfolding years of time, we have somehow actually come to the place where we evidently believe that a tidy church service on Sunday morning supposedly fulfills this mandate from our Master.

And we miss out on the Kingdom of God each and every day all around us!

The Kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power. Jesus told them to not only proclaim the kingdom as they went, but to also demonstrate it by what they did. In other words, He wants for us to become the means whereby His power is expressed — changing things from what they are, to what God wills them to be.

“As the Father has sent Me,” Jesus said, “even so send I you.” (Joh_20:21). Paul the Apostle said, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2Co_5:20). Few verses more precisely summarize not only our mission — but our message.

You are a royal ambassador for the Kingdom of God. As you go everywhere fulfill this mission and proclaim this message – “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In the course of everyday activity, simply tell others the good news that the ruling power of God is present to help them in whatever they face.

Driven to My Knees

Driven to My Knees

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psa_27:4)

Abraham Lincoln said, “Many times I have been driven to my knees in prayer by the conscious knowledge that I had no where else to turn.”

For many of us it takes trouble to drive us to our knees. A crisis in our life, or some dread calamity beyond our power to avert. While prayer is certainly the appropriate course when faced with such things, I want to make a case for a more noble cause.

Beginning tomorrow, I want to share three great facts about prayer that, once comprehended by us, will drive us to our knees without the aid of crisis and calamity.

By way of introduction to this short series of posts, let me acquaint you with a great promise from Scripture: “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Psa_92:13.

Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Thus, if we are “planted in the house of the Lord” then we are rooted and grounded in a life of devotional faithfulness. This means that we will “flourish in the courts of our God.” If House is where He lives, the Courts is where He works.

In other words, our commitment to a life of prayer opens the doors for us to enter into the fullness of God’s work in the earth. Being made sensitive to His presence, to His Voice, and to His ways while we are in His House, makes us ready and available to see His Hand at work in our world — bringing His kingdom all around us in the lives of our families, our friends — and even our foes.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” (Samuel Chadwick)

May we become men and women who are driven to our knees!

Tested by Trials, Trusted by God

 

Tested by Trials, Trusted by God

 

“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed…”

(

2Ti_2:15, Amplified Bible)

There comes a time in every situation where light-weight pretenders just can’t get the job done. They may talk a good game, but in the trenches when the pressure hits — they fold like a house of cards.

I think of Abraham being tested to the point of raising the blade to slay his son, Isaac. God stopped him, and place great trust in him from that time forward. I think of Joseph being sorely tested in Egypt as he went through multiple injustices, without turning bitter in his heart against the Lord. And we see how God raised him up to be a prince in Egypt who brought salvation to the people of God.

I think of Daniel and the Hebrew children facing great trial of soul in Babylonian captivity, who nevertheless kept their faith in the darkest hour and were elevated by God to positions of extraordinary influence.

Tested by trials, trusted by God.

This is the way of the Kingdom. God looks for those who have been proven by going through significant trials; men and women who are not out to make a fast buck, or jump on the fast track to fame and glory. Men and women of substance, found in the depths of solitude and separation.

Earlier Paul told Timothy, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has given me the strength for my work because he knew that he could trust me.” (

1Ti_1:12). Can the Lord trust you?

And listen to Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches — the Thessalonians: “God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.” (

1Th_2:3-5, The Message).

May God exalt in these days those whom HE trusts, because they have been tested by trial — and passed. If God trusts them — then so can we.

Pass your tests my friend; we are all counting on what God will do with you next!

A Place Where Begging is Unnecessary

 

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

Heb_4:16

A dignified English solicitor-widower with a considerable income had long dreamed of playing Muirfield, one of Great Britain’s most exclusive golf courses, and one day he made up his mind to chance it when he was traveling in the area. Entering the clubhouse, he asked at the desk if he might play the course.

The club secretary inquired, “Member?”  To which he replied, “No, sir.”   “Guest of a member?”  “No, sir.”  The answer came back, “Sorry.”  As he turned to leave, the lawyer spotted a slightly familiar figure seated in the lounge, reading the London Times.  It was Lord Hampton.

He approached and, bowing low, said, “I beg your pardon, your Lordship, but my name is Higginbotham of the London solicitors Higginbotham, Willinby and Barclay. I should like to crave your Lordship’s indulgence.  Might I play this beautiful course as your guest?”

His Lordship gave Higginbotham a long look, put down his paper and asked, “Church?”

“Church of England, sir, as was my late wife.”

“Education?”  “Eton, sir, and Oxford.”

“Sport?” “Rugby, sir, a spot of tennis and No. 4 on the crew that beat Cambridge.”

“Service?”  “Brigadier, sir, Coldstream Guards.  Victoria Cross and Knight of the Garter.”

“Campaigns?” “Dunkirk, El Alamein and Normandy, sir.”

“Languages?”  “Private tutor in French, fluent German and a bit of Greek.”

His Lordship considered this briefly, then nodded to the club secretary and said, “Nine holes.”

My friends, this World will have you jump through a lot of hoops just to have some of your dreams sort of come true; but it is not this way with the Lord. “If any man thirsts let him come unto Me and drink,” Jesus said, “and out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water!” You will find fulfillment like no other in a friendship with Jesus.

Yes,  while the Lords and Dukes of this world would have us bow and grovel for their fleeting favors, the King of Heaven welcomes us into His royal presence as we are and greets us as friends! When you “tee it up” with Jesus the sky is the limit — and, of course, it has no ceiling. In His presence you will find the place where begging is unnecessar, and living full and free is endless!

“Let us therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!”

Staring at What Isn’t There

Staring at What Isn’t There

“Be anxious about nothing…” (Php_4:6, The Living Bible)

The word nothing means “something that does not exist.” The word anxious means “to be troubled with care; to concentrate one’s thoughts upon something in a fretful manner.” Could anything be more incongruous than a person focusing all their fretful thoughts upon something that doesn’t even exist?

Yet people do it everyday, almost all day long.
from the present, their eyes somewhat glazed with vacancy, they dismiss the obvious for the oblivious — staring at something that’s not even there. They are unable to appreciate what they actually do have, because they are so wrapped up with anxiety over what they do not have.

One of my favorite hymns that I learned as a boy encourages us to count our many blessings. “When upon Life’s billows you are tempted, tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will amaze you what the Lord has done!” (Justin Oatman, 1856)

It is true. A few thoughtful moments spent in thankfulness to God for the many blessings that undeniably are yours, will quell the whispering voices that beckon you to become upset by staring at nothing.

Next time anxiety begins to crowd your space, step back and start counting your many blessings — not generally, but specifically. Name them, one by one. Let your mind dwell upon the massive benefits which the Lord has downloaded into your life. You’ll find in no time that by looking at what is really there, your imagination will no longer drift into the darkness of what is not there.

Hey, you there! Stop staring; and start counting your many blessings!