Understanding “Brokenness” and “Surrender”

Apostle and pastor Sonny Misar offers keys to maturity int his 18 minute video. Every minute offers insight for those who yearn for God to use them.

The Iowa Blessing

I enjoy publishing stories of God’s blessings. At the Church of the Living Water we pray each Sunday morning for our leaders. Watch this music video for a few minutes. You will be inspired.

The Iowa Blessing: Worship Leaders from churches all over the state of Iowa came together to create a music video to show unity and share a message of hope. 

The Day I Cried

Our daughter Sarah Kirsten put together this short video about one of the dramatic events in the lives of the Anderson family. I think you will enjoy it and resonate with the hope it brings. God bless you.

You are Such a Good Listener

You are such a good listener

My daughter surprised me last week. “You are such a god listener!” she exclaimed.” Yes, a surprise. If she had said, “You never listen,” I may not have been so surprised.

Her accolade, of course, made me happy and want to become a better listener. I was all ears.

Our daughter continued, “People are troubled these days. They need someone to talk to.” Our daughter is sensitive and aware of people and their feelings. She suggested I give a “gift of presence” to people in the community by announcing that I will be available to listen to anyone who comes to the church sanctuary or calls during certain hours. (From my perspective, I’m already available. But then, not everybody knows this.)

So I kept listening. Our daughter explained her rational to me and to her brother Ethan, who serves as associate pastor in our church:

“I think this addresses a) that you’re offering a listening ear, which I think is what will most speak to people, and b) that you’re not offering answers, just your presence. These two things, presence and listening, are two of the most humanity-restoring things we can offer, and what you both are so good at giving to me.”

Here’s the blurb she wrote as we announced this to the world:

We’re here to listen, if you’d like to talk. In these uncertain times, we’re all under a tremendous amount of stress. You’re handling it very well! We’d like to come alongside you and listen to what’s on your heart. We don’t have all the answers, but we can offer a listening ear, and just be there with you for a moment in your day.

If you’d like to talk with Pastor Mark, he’ll be standing by his phone on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the month of May. Here’s his number: 563-554-1401.

Do you think anyone would call?

Yes! A fellow named L called and talked almost 40 minutes, He asked for prayer for someone close to him and even sent a picture.

Later, I got to thinking, “Am I a good listener?”

I remembered a Pastor S who came earlier into my office and poured out his heart for nearly an hour.

I remembered R who sometimes calls or comes two or more times a week. He says he doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.

I thought of a woman with severe cancer who needs to talk and ask questions. She wants me to be her “cancer coach.”

Why Listen?

One time, years ago, I was planning to resign. An elder, Tom said, “Not now!” I’m so glad I listened.

Joab, an Israeli military general in the Bible, won an important battle because he listened to a wise woman (2 Samuel 20:17f).

Love listens. When we love people, we listen to them.

Many people are lonely and feel isolated. Nearly everyone wants someone to listen to them with empathy.

Part of the ordination ritual for priests in the Old Testament included sprinkling blood on the ear. It was called a “filling” or consecration and equipped the priest for service (Leviticus 8:22f). If we want to serve people, we need to hear them.

God has given us two ears and one mouth. This ought to be a clue about God’s will for our lives!

Two Caveats for Great Listeners

One, our chief concern is that folks learn to pour out their hearts into the “ears” of the Almighty. He’s the One Who cares the most. He’s the One Who gives results.

We always want to direct people to God. Yet, sometimes people just need to talk with someone with flesh and blood.

Second, a good listener need not listen to gossip and evil. Sometimes we need to cut people off or redirect a conversation.

Who is the Best Listener?

No doubt–God Himself! Give ear to my prayer, O God; And do not hide Yourself from my supplication (Psalm 55:1). The book of Psalms could be summarised as one great plea for God to listen.

So again, we want to direct people to God, to pour out their hearts to Him. And if we love people, we will listen to them.

Are you a good listener?

All Authority is from God

When I served as an intern at a Lutheran Church in Le Center, Minnesota, I did not get along well with the pastor. He looked askance at me for starting a jail ministry. Most of the people, however, liked me. One even compared me to Billy Graham!

Toward the end of my term in Le Center I started a community-wide youth group—without telling the pastor. We called it “Inter-team” and met around a campfire at night. It was exciting! When summer arrived, I left Le Center and went back to Luther Seminary.

But God started convicting me. The problems I created with the pastor were at least partially my fault. I was rebellious, doing the “right thing” with the wrong attitude. As hard as it was, I had to call Pastor Bill, confess my fault, and ask his forgiveness. He graciously forgave.

Immediately, God increased my ministry. Folks from another church called that same week, asking for advice. I was able to give wise counsel.

Because I had worked out my relationship with an authority figure, I became able to solve many church problems.

In the days of coronavirus-19, many are considering the role of civil government in society. Are the various lockdowns violating the constitution? Should churches follow state guidelines?

This article purposes to help us think biblically about authority.  Where does authority come from? What are the realms of authority that God has established? How does one realm of authority relate to another? How do church and state relate to each other?

Confusion exists unless we understand some basic foundational truths.

Foundational Truth Number One: All Authority Comes from God

All authority comes from the Creator. Christians with a biblical worldview can agree on this.

For by Him [Christ Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him (Col 1:16 NASB).

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me [Jesus] (Mat 28:18).

Foundational Truth Number 2: God Has Established 4 Realms of Authority—Family, Church, State, Business

Family—Gen 2-3; My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother (Prov 6:20).

Church–Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Heb 13:17).

Business–Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord (Col 3:22 ASV)

State–Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right (1 Pet 2:13,14).

Foundational Truth Number 3: God Has Delegated Some of His Authority to Each of These Realms

These spheres are complementary, not hierarchical. In other words, one is not “over” another. Neither is the list in order of importance. Each is significant in itself.

Ideally, each realm should support and strengthen the others for the purpose of peace in society (1 Tim 2:1ff).

Foundational Truth Number Four: When One Realm Usurps Power Over Another, the Others are Mandated to Rise Up and Restore God’s Intended Balance

Here are a couple of examples from the Bible.

  1. When the Senate (the ruling council among Jews at the time) over extended their authority and said, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name; Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us responsible for this man’s blood.” But Peter and the other apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’
  2. But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live (Ex 1:17). Then God backed up the midwives and honored them by giving them families of their own (Ex 1:21).

Foundational Truth Number Five: God Honors His Realms of Authority

This principle is succinctly stated in Psalm 75:7 But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.

When Realms of Authorities that God has established disagree, what do we do?

First, we need to check our attitude. During my life, I’ve had many conflicts with authority in family, church, business, and civil government. Often, I have had to realize my own attitude was wrong. I’ve had to repent. And sometimes apologize. (Fortunately, I’m not as bad as I once was!)

Foundational Truth Number Six: God Uses Conflicts with Authority to Purify Us

God has ordained these types of conflicts to humble us and cause us to seek Him. God uses conflicts with authority to transform us. As we submit our attitude to Him, we find grace to become more Christ-like.

So What Do We Do?

Let me suggest a sequence. Prayer, check attitude, Holy Spirit guidance, Godly appeal, and perhaps–pay the consequences.

Sometimes prayer and a changed attitude will resolve a conflict. If that doesn’t work, perhaps God will lead us to make an appeal to an authority figure or group. (How to make a God-pleasing appeal is vitally important; however, that is a topic for another time.)

When authority groups engage in conflict, the Holy Spirit is our guide. God has promised the Spirit will guide us into all truth.

Ultimately, however, we may have to suffer the consequences. Think of Jeremiah in the cistern or David fleeing from King Saul. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith are honored today because of their faith and courage to take a stand for God.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I FORGAVE HIM–40 YEARS LATER!

Publisher’s note: This powerful story is from Paul ANderson–not a relative, but a friend. I want everyone to know Paul wrote it, not me.

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson

Karen and I were living at 1603 W. 7th St., San Pedro, California. We had a good-size home, and we chose to share our living space with friends and relatives. One Christmas we invited a homeless young couple in with an infant. We usually knew the people well who joined us. They needed a place, and we had room downstairs. It was nice, with its own entrance, bathroom, and living room. For our Christmas Eve service, I used their baby to help people visualize the marvel of the incarnation.

He was a handy-man and did some work in our garden, making some steps that are still functioning well today. I helped him and he helped me. Until he left. Then he helped himself to some of our stuff, like pots and pans and my guitar, the best one! Don Barteld from our church also assisted him, and he managed to buy something on Don’s credit card. And they were gone.

No thank-you, no promise to pay us back. They left by ripping us off. It didn’t feel good. We had gone out of our way to help them. They weren’t married and we didn’t make a deal out of that They were welcomed like honored guests. And when they left, they treated us like scum.

This morning I was reading in Luke 6 where Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them…But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (27-32,35)

Many of us have heard about Corrie ten Boom struggling to forgive a German guard who showed up at a meeting where she was speaking. He served where Corrie and her sister Betsy were imprisoned and where Betsy died after cruel treatment. He came up to the front afterward. She could see him out of the corner of her eye as she talked to people. A difficult moment. Could she forgive? Would she? She had to search her heart.

She felt the pain, but she found grace to forgive him, and perhaps a million people have heard, read, or seen the story (there’s a movie). Had she not forgiven him, she would have been tormented (Matthew 18:34), as Jesus says will happen if we do not forgive others from our heart (35). The tormentors are probably demons, who like rats enjoy hanging around garbage–unforgiveness, hostility, resentment, rage. Forgiveness releases the offender–and the offended one! Two for two!

Today I spoke out forgiveness to the young man who took advantage of us. I might have forgiven him before, but I wanted to make sure. I urge you as well to forgive if you have been taken advantage of–and God Himself will pay you back. Great deal!

What Do You Say to People that Believe All Apostles and Prophets Died with Peter and Paul?

Steve Fatow explains the difference between the apostles of Christ and the apostles of the Lamb.

What Are You Doing for Fun During the Lockdown?

Me? I’ll show you.

Just so you know, our family is taking the lockdown seriously. We were all quarantined for 14 days early on, and thankfully that time is over now.

I spent extra time in prayer. Phone calls to many of our church members were meaningful. Planning online meetings took a lot of time because I needed to ramp up my tech skills. Still working on that one.

But what did we do just for fun?

What Are You Doing for Fun During the Lockdown?
What Are You Doing for Fun During the Lockdown?

We made maple syrup. I say “we,” and that means “Kari.” Ok, I helped a bit. I carried the wood and built an impromptu fireplace. But mostly I ate the luscious syrup on pancakes. Kari did all the rest.

If you look carefully in this photo you will notice two white spots in the background. Each is a milk jug attached to a maple tree. The trees have a spout inserted. Then a tube drains the sap into the jug.

It takes hours to boil down the maple sap to syrup. For every 40 cups of sap, only 1 cup of syrup is produced.

I had to struggle to get this fire to blaze hot and steady. In the picture above, it’s just getting started.

It was fun and it was worth the effort.

I’m tempted to invite you over for some pancakes laden with butter and maple syrup. But alas! Can’t do that . . . the lockdown is still going on.

So, What Are You Doing for Fun During the Lockdown?

Facing the Giant of Fear

Facing the Giant of Fear
Facing the Giant of Fear

Public speaking, terminal illness, coronavirus, flying, growing old, failing a test, facing a global shut-down. Someone just got afraid reading this list. As a boy I didn’t go to bed—I flew. That way I avoided the bad guy under the bed. I overcame that fear by the time I married Karen. Some fears hang around our whole life. The story of David and Goliath gives us some lessons on fear.

WHAT’S THIS GIANT OF FEAR LIKE?

Goliath measured in at nine feet. That means slam-dunking without leaving the ground. He wasn’t the friendly kind of giant: “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel… Choose a man for yourselves…If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail…then you shall be our servants” (I Samuel 17:8,9). Response: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words…they were dismayed and greatly afraid (11).

Ignoring him didn’t work: “For forty days the Philistine came forward” (16). Fear unchallenged grows. Saul, the tallest in Israel, should have taken the challenge, but walking in disobedience brings fear, not faith.

WHAT EFFECT DOES THIS GIANT HAVE ON US?

Fear attacks at our most vulnerable point. The Philistines were perennial weeds in Israel’s garden patch. Fear reduces us to subjection, making us afraid to act, to fly, to talk, to lead, to believe.

Fear makes us flee

“All the men of Israel…fled from him and were much afraid” (24). God allows fear to grow faith. Fear is faith in reverse, believing the worst rather than the best. Fear produces a sinister imagination. The soldiers chose flight over fight, and fear increased exponentially.

Fear makes us fight

—the wrong people. When David showed up at camp and expressed interest in taking on Goliath, his brother argued, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?” (28). Anger proves a more respectable response than fear. When we feel like failures, we might go after those wanting to make a difference.

HOW DO WE STOP THE GIANT?

We face him

The longer we ignore fear, the deeper the roots grow. David didn’t give it a chance to take root. Some prefer living with fears to accepting the painful challenge of confronting them. The Bible tells us to flee fornication but face fear. We sometimes do the opposite.

We trust in the Lord

The soldiers compared themselves to the giant. David compared the giant to the Almighty: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine” (37). Past defeats can paralyze us, but past victories turn tests into testimonies. Affirmations of faith help trust to grow: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head” (46). Face it, fight it, faith it!

During seminary I developed some fears that immobilized me. Normal things like answering the phone or raising my hand in class proved difficult. I looked up scripture references on fear and quoted them out loud when the giant showed up. It took months of declarations, but the fears did subside. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Fear comes by hearing the word of Satan.

David didn’t go against Goliath because he thought he was a better fighter but because he learned with tests to upgrade his confidence in God. Worked for him. Trust leads to courage. “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). You have good reason to be confident in the presence of this coronavirus, because “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

Stephen–Forgiveness Unleashed

Chuck Porta
Chuck Porta

Chuck and Kitty Porta

Stephen stood, facing a religious leadership group filled with unbridled hate. In about an hour, that hate would express itself with a brutal stoning and Stephen would die and go to Heaven.

He had been saved for about four years, an integral part of the first church, a first fruit of the culture of that church. He now faces the greatest trial, and test for his heart and faith. He has been called to the place of the first martyr of the first church.

Acts 6 records the growing climate of confrontation, with the last verse in the chapter showing us Stephen’s heart status. He was in the eye of the storm. He was at peace, rest, supremely confident, and ready to unleash a prophetic word for the ages.

Acts 7 is a record of that message. He is clear, articulate, anointed, and bold in his declaration.

Stephen faces Paul, and others like him, who love Moses, Law, and the temple. Stephen loves Jesus Christ, Grace, and has the revelation of the new temple, built by the Spirit, called the Body of Christ. Stephen knows the deep, full, implications of the work done at Calvary by Jesus Christ. A new creation was started at the Cross, with a new leader, the last Adam.(1Cor 15)  He is fearless that day in his prophetic declaration of New Covenant truth and reality.

In short, Stephen knows the New has come the Old is over. Paul believes he is a blasphemer like Jesus Christ, so Paul believes the Old is wonderful and the New must die.

At the conclusion of his Acts 7 message, Stephen receives a vision of Heaven, the Glory, and Jesus standing to welcome him home. He declares, with a cry, what he has seen.

With this last prophetic challenge, the mob stop their ears from hearing, and their rage is unchecked. Stephen was dragged from the Council chamber, down a narrow street, and thrown over a small cliff to a pit. Stones are gathered and outer garments are  placed at the feet of Saul/Paul, who spurs them into action. Stone after stone begin to pummel the young man. Quick bruising turns to open gashes and severe wounds, and his blood flows easily. Some of his bones are broken and some break through his skin. Internal material from his head and body begin to emerge. Stoning is very painful and brutal.

Half conscious, after so many blows, he stumbles to his knees and releases a pray for the ages. With his final breath he speaks; “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)

A prayer of forgiveness is released by Stephen, a prayer for his murderers, a prayer for the eternal ages.

LORD HELP US ALL TO FORGIVE

Please read and prayerfully meditate on Acts 6/7

Publisher’s note: Please contact Chuck for information on the Life of Stephen that he teaches. It explores the church culture that formed the heart of this amazing young martyr.