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Is your glass half-empty or half-full?

Do you want to be happy or sad?

While there are some people who are unhappy because they need emotional healing from a broken heart, others choose to be pessimistic, to look on the negative side of life.

There are a couple of very interesting verses in Proverbs 15. Verses 13 and 15 say this:

A glad heart makes a happy face;  a broken heart crushes the spirit.

For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

The impression, especially from verse 15, is that we can choose what kind of heart we have. Are we going to choose to be glad, or sad? Some people perceive the same event as a negative; others as a positive.

Do we choose to see the glass half empty or half full. It makes a big difference. In general, people prefer to be around someone who is encouraging and has a joyful outlook on life. Jesus was “anointed with gladness more than his companions” (Hebrews 1:9). If we want to be winsome to those who don’t yet know the Lord, we would do well to have a joyful attitude towards life.

Photo credit: Jim_sama (Creative Commons)

An evening to remember

Last Friday the church in our home had one of the most beautiful times together that I ever remember in more than 20 years of meeting in house-church sized groups. The presence of Jesus was so real, it was almost tangible.

Young kids (three of them aged around five) were there, watching spellbound as things unfolded. The two toddlers went from one adult to another as they needed attention. The older kids were fully engaged in what was going on.

As usual, we started with a meal. Over dessert, the usual question: “What God events have there been in your life this week?”

First was Rosaura. Those of you who follow this blog will recognize her story. She was a crack addict for 30 years who was instantly delivered from her addictions during a meeting of our church. We were away in Russia at the time, so it was a group of new Christians and young people who prayed for her to be set free–all in response to the prayers of her 15-year-old son, Jose.

Rosaura shared that for her birthday that week, three of her old friends came round to celebrate and they wanted her to do drugs with them. She was very tempted, but went outside to ask God for help. When she came back in, her friends had decided to go somewhere else. “We’ll be back later,” they told her. They never returned and Rosaura is rejoicing. She is only a few weeks away from a full year of being clean and sober.

We’ll throw a party for her that day!!

We praised God for keeping Rosaura safe and laid hands on her, praying that she not only makes a year drug free but a lifetime.

Jose had asked God for something impossible–his mom set free from drugs. So using that example, we broke into six or so smaller groups to pray for the “impossible situations” amongst our families and friends.

Next came a couple of students who are holding a student CPX this week at their university. They sat on the “hot seat” while people prayed for them and shared any impressions God was giving them. They will be bold in following the Holy Spirit this week, and it will result in more churches on their campus.

One of them had finally graduated from college. Applause and praise.

A young Hispanic couple shared how since they had started coming to the church about two months ago, their lives had totally changed. Their faith had become real to them. They had been struggling financially, but now the husband has a new job. This week they have been able to purchase a second car, and their young son has been accepted into a charter school.

More praise and thanksgiving.

A young man who became a Christian around two months ago when he was homeless shared how his faith has been real, even through difficult circumstances. This week he has a job and is now back with his family.

Applause and thanksgiving.

Then Tony asked, “Is there a passage of Scripture that has been on anyone’s heart this week that fits in with what the Holy Spirit has been saying so far?” Someone shared that the verse from 1 John 4, that perfect love casts out fear, had been on her heart. We studied that passage of Scripture together, different ones commenting on parts that were especially relevant to them.

A description of the highlights we experienced doesn’t begin to do justice to what happened in our midst on Friday evening. How do you accurately convey the sense of God’s presence, the leading of the Holy Spirit, the friendship, fun and camaraderie?  The glow on people’s faces as no one wanted to leave because the presence and power of Jesus was so real.

Do you have similar stories? I’d love to hear them.

 

 

A simple story of darkness to light

Light at end of tunnel
Photo Credit: Jon…in 3D (Creative Commons)

Yesterday evening church met at our home. Rosaura had brought along a young man, maybe 16 or 17 years old, a relative. He gave his heart to Jesus last night. This was his story.

"All my life I've felt as though I'm in a dark tunnel. I could see the light at the end, but it didn't matter what I did, I couldn't get any closer to the light, no matter how hard I tried. Tonight the light is right in front of me."

He walked into the light with Jesus and a smile from ear to ear.

How do we recognize God’s presence?

Wind in trees
Photo credit: antgirl (Creative Commons)

Recently, God has spoken very specifically to Tony and me from the book of Haggai. His prophecy, "I am with you, says the Lord" was enough to get the Israelites to resume the work of building the temple after a 20 year hiatus.

Those of us in organic/simple church believe that the simplest and most basic building block of the church comes from the verse, "For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20) Jesus among us is church.

As Robert Fitts says:

"When two or three true, born-again believers come together in His name, Jesus is in the midst. Jesus in the midst is church! It is a different experience than Jesus within. We cannot experience Jesus in the midst when we are alone. We can only experience Jesus in the midst when we are in company with others–at least one or two others.

But is it church in the fullest sense of the word? Yes, it is church in the fullest sense of the world. It is the basic church. You can have more than two or three and it is still a church but it does not become "more church" because there are more than two or three. It only becomes a bigger church. (Saturation Church Planting)

Theologically we hold to this truth, that Jesus is with us when we come together in his name.  But do we experience this as a reality?

So I've been asking God the question, "How do we recognize your presence in our midst?"

When Jesus and Nicodemus talked together about being born again, Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to the wind. You cannot see the wind; you just hear it.  If you look outside you can see the effects of a breeze on the trees.

Many people seek a personal sense of God's presence through spiritual feelings when they come together  But what the Lord seemed to say is that we will know he is present with us when we see the effects of his Holy Spirit being with us.

His presence in our midst looks like Rosaura finding the Lord and being set free from drugs and alcohol. It looks like the Lord answering Jose's prayers. It looks like a Hindu family coming to know Jesus. It looks like a person being instantly set free from crippling worries and anxieties. It looks like marriages being restored. It looks like the incredible sense of community we have together. It looks like new daughter and grand-daughter groups forming. 

How do you know God's presence in your midst?

 

My thinking has stretch-marks!

Idea
Periodically the Lord stretches my thinking. An idea will grab me, until I find it consumes my prayer, my study, my spare-time thinking.

Now is such a time. 

The ideas began around some discussions about Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat center in Wales where not-yet-believers often encounter God just by walking onto the land.  Could we know the presence of God in such a way in our home, in our gatherings, at work, that not-yet-believers would experience Christ just by being with us? 

Each believer has the Lord dwelling within them by his Holy Spirit, but there is a difference when we come together. Then we have the Lord among us. Perhaps that is what characterizes church more than anything else–God among his people. 

"For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (Matthew 20:18) 

Throughout the Scriptures, we see God's desire is to dwell with his people. 

From Genesis 3 we see that God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Other passages from the Old Testament make this equally clear. For example:

Exodus 29: 45-46: Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Leviticus 26:12  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 

In Ezekiel 37:27, the promise comes again:  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.

We now live in the fulfillment of that promise. Even the very name, Emmanuel, means God with us (Matt 1:23). Here are some other Scriptures from the New Testament:

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:   “I will live with them  and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  (2 Corinthians 6:16) 

 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)

We know the theory: when we are together, God is with us. How can we live it out on a daily basis?

Are any of you thinking about this topic too? I'd love to hear some of your ideas.