Meanwhile, Until We are Truly “Abiding in Him”…

9 05 2013

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.  Psalm 91:9-10

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

Holy Scripture is filled with amazing promises.  But almost all of them come with conditions.  You know the formula…“IF my people…will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN will I hear from Heaven and…” etc.  Or…“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make your path straight.”  Most of God’s awesome promises come with a condition of some kind or another, or at least an assumption or implication.  It seems to be one of His many wondrous ways.

I read all the wonderful promises of Psalm 91 in that same light. All those promises of God’s protection and provision all hinge upon the very first line (repeated in verse 9): If you make the Most High your dwelling.

baby feet in heartWhen I deal with conflicting parties within the church, I often hear both sides invoke the name of the Lord for their positions.  I hear both sides claiming that God is on their side, that He will prevail and that He will bring about what they want.  But I also hear both sides in very much a “win/lose” mindset, wherein they will not be satisfied unless they win AND the other side loses.  I recall working with a church some years ago wherein one group was very much wanting to get rid of the pastor.  They were acting as “God’s agents”.  Midway through the process, the pastor accepted a call to another church and resigned, whereupon that group became  angry!  They had won…but they also wanted him to lose, and he did not.  At that point, I’m afraid their true motives, their true hearts, became crystal clear.

Meeting God’s criteria for enjoying His promises is never as simple as merely doing something for God.  It will never be enough to say, “I have prayed about this” and therefore expect God’s armies to go before you and to smite anyone who gets in your way.  The criteria for God’s promises, more often than not, have something to do with abiding in Him…DWELLING in Him.  You cannot hold a handful of prayer meetings with those who all agree with your position and come away claiming God’s anointing and a superior handle on God’s will.

If you have never read Andrew Murray’s devotional book, Abide in Christ, you really must. It should be a part of every Christian leader’s library.  He does such a masterful job of exploring just what it means to “abide in Him”.  It is a mindset…a condition of the heart…a way of being…a lifestyle…and so much more.  I believe that person who is truly “abiding in Christ” actually does have a leg up in terms of wisdom and understanding God’s heart and God’s desires.  I know a few people whom I believe fit that description.  I trust them implicitly in matters of discernment.  But the rest of us will just have to continue doing our best to seek God’s will together and will continue to see “as through a glass dimly”.  We will just have to continue to rely on the cumulative effect of hearing God speak through his Word, through prayer, through His people and through the church.  And it will NOT be an nice, easy process.  It will take time…more time than we want to take.  It will require uncommon humility and extraordinary patience.

And when it is all said and done, you and I will both be better for having waited on the Lord and for having walked through the process together.  And if we step carefully and prayerfully, at the end of the discernment process, we may well find ourselves one step closer to truly “dwelling in Him.”

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




A Peacemaker’s Advent: Mary and Joseph

15 12 2011

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”… When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  Matthew 1:19-21, 23

 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  Luke 1:35-38

The Christmas story is filled with contrasts between those who rearranged their very lives in order to make room for the birth of the Messiah and those who either opposed His birth or were completely indifferent to it.  Mary and Joseph had their lives changed forever.  Their obedience and their ability to embrace a seemingly impossible circumstance set them apart.  Even more, it was their willingness to set aside their own pretty good plans in order to be obedient to God which makes them perfect illustrations for our “Peacemaker’s Advent” series.

Upon learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph had a plan.  he respected the law but also had great mercy on Mary.  He would just divorce her quietly.  No public spectacle.  Follow the law but do as little harm as possible to Mary.  He had it all worked out.  It was actually a good and honorable plan.  And then God gave him a different plan…one fraught with risk and probable public humiliation.  Through a series of dreams, God would show Joseph a better way.

I started my peacemaking ministry to churches as an arrogant young lawyer out to teach all the simple-minded laymen in the church a thing or two about conflict resolution.  Having spent hundreds of hours in mediations and other conflict resolution forums, I felt confident that I had a good and honorable plan for dealing with conflict among God’s people.  Just a few huge disappointments later, God had my attention.  We would not be doing peacemaking the world’s way…we would be doing it His way.

Oh how I would like to be able to report to you that, like Joseph and Mary, I immediately stepped in line and started to get it all right.  I did not.  Frankly, I still do not.  But I am learning more and more that peacemaking among God’s people is not a process that lends itself to nice, clean formulas and protocols…rather, it is a dance…with God…and I am not leading!

Mary and Joseph are wonderful illustrations for us.  They demonstrate what it looks like to let go of our own very good plans in order to pursue the clear will of God, even when that will doesn’t make a great deal of sense to us or to the people around us.  As peacemakers among God’s people, there is no more important skill for us to develop than letting go and letting God do what only He can do.    It is a trust thing.  Merry Christmas, fellow peacemakers.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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