VIDEO All Eyes On God

By Jack Hibbs

As evil increases in the world around us, a great awakening is also taking place. People are asking questions about God and what will happen next. The great news is that there is comfort and peace for those who turn their eyes to God.

A Faulty Focus

 / MULYALE MUTISYA

Human beings are good at putting two and two together to draw intellectual, logical and systematic conclusions. But when it comes to spiritual conclusions, we excel at missing the mark. Still, we tend to make spiritual conclusions quicker than the speed of light – to our detriment. Because our spiritual conclusions tend to be erroneous, they come appended with Jesus’s words: ‘If you had known what these words mean’ (Matthew 12:7), you are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’ (22:v29), and ‘Listen and understand’(15:v10).

Although many listen, they do not understand because spiritual things are ‘spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). When Jesus was saying profound things about the Kingdom of God and Satan’s kingdom, many drew conclusions from a humanistic perspective. They used their intellect and logic which brought about intellectual and logical conclusions, and so missed the point. This happened, ‘as Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ (Luke 11:27).

The woman shifted her focus from Jesus to His ‘mother’. It was a faulty focus. Unfortunately, this focus has been carried on decades later because some take their petitions through Jesus’s ‘mother’ crying out, ‘Hail Mary!’. Revisiting the genealogical records of Jesus, only two mothers are mentioned; ‘Salmon the father of Obed, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed whose mother was Ruth’ (Matthew 1:5). When it comes to Jesus no mother is mentioned, it is written, ‘Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’ (v16).

Mary was just a vessel whom God used to fulfil the prophesy of long ago; ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14). Unfortunately, many take sign, symbols, and instruments which God uses, to be sacred – shifting their focus from the Holiness of God. Mary herself exclaims, ‘the Mighty One has done great things to me– holy is his name’ (Luke 1:49).

Mary’s focus was on the spiritual for she knew the Scriptures. She knew that the Child she was about to bring forth would bring Salvation to all mankind, including herself no wonder she says, ‘the Mighty One has done great things to me’. Mary only saw herself as a servant and declares that the Lord, ‘has been mindful of the humble state of his servant’ (v48). And so if the woman in the crowd had a spiritual focus, she would have known that Jesus had no mother or father because there is no beginning or end to Him. He is the ‘Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 21:6).

When the woman in the crowd shifted the focus from Jesus to His ‘mother’ and called her blessed, Jesus replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it’ (Luke 11:28). This response matches another instance when someone told Jesus that His ‘mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you’ (Matthew 12:47), Jesus changed their earthly focus by asking, ‘Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ (v48). He then proceeds to give a spiritual perspective, ‘For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’ (v50).

When one holds a faulty focus and exalts other people and things other than God, they follow in the footsteps of Satan whom Jesus rebukes, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’ (16:v23). When prosperity and success was the portion of the King of Tyre, his focus shifted to himself. God says to him, ‘In the pride of your heart you say, ‘I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas’ (Ezekiel 28:2). Seeing his faulty focus, God quickly reminds him, ‘But you are a man and not a godthough you think you are as wise as a god’ (v2).

Not only does God remind those with a faulty focus in words, but He does so in deed to display His might, and so to the King of Tyre, He says, ’Because you think you are wise, as wise as god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor . . . Will you then say, ‘I am god’ in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a man, not a god in the hands of those who slay you’ (v6-7,9).

Like the King of Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar was ‘contented and prosperous’ (Daniel 4:4) because he had ‘become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth’ (v22). Nebuchadnezzar then held a faulty focus and praised himself saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ (v30). Before he could even finish speaking, and ‘the words were still on his lips’ (v31), God was about to shift his focus and tells him, ‘You will be driven away from people, and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle.

Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes’ (v33). After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar then shifted his focus and says ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven and my sanity was restored’ (v34). Without a faulty focus, he says, ‘Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble’ (v37).

When we hold a faulty focus, we are to know that the devil is at work. When he approached Eve in the garden, he urged her to eat the forbidden fruit saying, ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5). Having no new tricks under his sleeve to deceive men, the devil still promises men ‘enlightenment’ for he ‘masquerades as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). He himself was an angel of God stationed in ‘Eden, the garden of God’ (Ezekiel 28:14) and it is said of him, ‘You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found you’ (v15). God says that his ‘heart became proud on account of your beauty and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour’ (v17).

To date, Satan uses his corrupted wisdom to make as many people as himself. He deceives men by convincing them that they are gods. He convinces them to eat the forbidden fruit by engaging in acts to make them reach a state of consciousness, a state of awakening- until they become gods. He labels his deceptions with terms such as ‘New Age’ or ‘Spirituality’, and those who don’t know the Scriptures and the power of God fall victim to the devil’s schemes. They are blinded by the god of this word who deals in lies and misquotes Scripture, bringing them out of context.

It is only through Jesus Christ that we can radiate the image of God, be made like God. Those who use the devil’s devices and think they are god by their own merit or attainments, a day is coming when God will shift their faulty focus and tells them like to Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, ‘But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came’ (Isaiah 37:28-29).

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’ ~ Colossians 3:1-2

https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2020/12/11/a-faulty-focus/

My Most Reliable Ministry Tool: Keeping My Mouth Shut

In a world of noise, people need us to listen with God’s ears.
CHRIS NYE

My Most Reliable Ministry Tool: Keeping My Mouth Shut

I was only 21 years old when a family asked if they could meet with me to discuss how their marital difficulties were affecting their teenage daughter and son. At the time, I had “pastor” in my title, but I wasn’t yet married and certainly didn’t have any children.

As I read the email, I wondered why they contacted me. I was part of a large staff that included people with titles such as “care pastor.” Surely others were more suited for a job like this. Yet they had emailed me. What wisdom could I possibly bring to such a situation? What would I say? How could I help?

Lending an Ear

When I feel like I have nothing to bring to these moments, I remember my ears. They are, without question, the most valuable asset in pastoral ministry. I cannot tell you how many times I walk away from counseling sessions or visiting someone without having said much at all, yet feeling like I have given them the attention their problem deserves. So often what people need is to be heard with great effort.

This is what I decided to do when that couple finally came to the church to meet with me. As they explained their situation, all I had were my ears. I gave them my full attention, I asked them questions to clarify, and I sought to truly understand their situation.

A moment from the meeting sticks with me to this day. As the husband was sharing their situation, he said, “I guess now that I’m talking about it, I’m realizing how much I’m at fault.” He looked at his wife with tears in his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he said. I hadn’t said a word.

When I meet with people, I sometimes wonder if I’ll be able to give them my mind by providing a great, theological answer. Or I worry I won’t be able to give them my heart by articulating deep empathy. These can be difficult parts of me to bring to the table. But my ears are always available, even though I often forget how valuable they are.

Pastoral counseling is dynamic, and each meeting is unique. Many meetings require me to speak with great conviction. Some meetings require me to speak a lot. But I’ve never regretted listening and I often regret speaking.

Our world is crowded with attention-grabbers. Everything in your phone is working to monopolize your eyes and ears. Our work demands our attention. Our families seem to never get enough of it. In a world of noise, listening—true, active, humble listening—is the powerful ministry of the Father in which we get to participate.

God’s Focused Attention

We know that God hears our prayers—at least, we say we know this—but have you ever considered what it means that he listens? Think about your friends who you would describe as particularly good listeners. People hear you all day long, but there’s a kind of presence a good friend gives you that cannot be replicated easily.

They sit with their eyes focused on you, their posture is active, and they’re not checking their phone or darting their eyes across the room as you speak. To assure you they are picking up everything you say, they nod and sometimes repeat your phrasing or mimic your emotions. Their face changes, their head tilts, and they laugh before you can. They’re right there with you. As you think through these traits, you might be thinking about how rare it is to find a good listener.

In a world of noise, listening—true, active, humble listening—is the powerful ministry of the Father in which we get to participate.

God, the almighty creator, is a tremendous listener: “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live” (Ps. 116:1–2, ESV, emphases mine).

“We are surrounded by noise,” wrote Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder. “The world is a mob in which everyone is talking at once and no one is willing or able to listen. But God listens. He not only speaks to us, he listens to us. His listening to us is an even greater marvel than his speaking to us. … Our feelings are taken seriously. … We acquire dignity. We never know how well we think or speak until we find someone who listens to us.”

Unsure of what we want from God, our prayers are often more rambling than refined. We stumble to put together words. We murmur in the dark and try to thread together the scattered thoughts from our day. Meanwhile, God is listening. He is attentive. He reacts.

Upon the first sin in the garden, God did not blast heavenly rage at the human beings. Rather, as a good listener, he asked questions: “Where are you? … What have you done?” (Gen. 3:9, 13). God is the one who, when the people of Israel “groaned because of their slavery” and “cried out for help,” took the time to listen: “God heard their groaning” (Ex. 2:23–25). After God inquired in the garden, Adam and Eve were exiled; after hearing Israel’s groans in captivity, the Lord began his rescue. Both the acts of banishment and redemption started with God’s posture of listening.

How does it change your prayer life to know that God not only hears your prayer but listens to you? How might it change your ministry?

You might have the same response as the psalmist: “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live” (Ps. 116:2, ESV). This word inclined can also be translated “bent down.” It brings to mind a mother getting eye-to-eye with a child or a father bending on one knee. God is directing his gaze toward us, inclining his ear. He is not preoccupied nor is he busy. God has never found himself without time. He will never be distracted. God’s great power is often expressed in his rich attentiveness to the entirety of creation. When we know God is not simply tolerating our prayers but engaging with them and responding at his discretion, our attention will focus. We will, in turn, say with confidence, “The Lord has heard my plea” (Ps. 6:9, ESV).

Remarkably, pastors and spiritual leaders have the opportunity to image the listening God to people: We get to “incline” our ear to them and “hear their cry.” We get to show them the full attention God is already giving them, which just may bring them healing.

A Unique Kind of Ear

Sometimes it’s healthy for us pastors to think of ourselves as just like other people. But in other situations, it’s equally important to remember how people see us differently than they see everyone else. I loved the innocence of young students I would pastor when I worked in youth ministry: One student called me “the Jesus guy.” People often place us in a unique category.

Because of this, we have the potential for great good and great evil. Pastors can be dangerous; as a mentor told me a long ago, “In ministry, we are messing with peoples’ lives.”

Nevertheless, through our strange and unique position, we have a rare opportunity. If we listen before we speak and give people our undistracted attention, we give them something other listeners cannot. As much as I’d like to think, I’m just a friend listening, that’s not the way many people see me. When someone’s pastor listens to them, they feel God listening in too. When a pastor does not listen, talks over them, or over-explains their feelings, they sense God might do the same.

I’ve been a non-denominational pastor for over a decade. Because I do not wear vestments and people rarely call me “Pastor Chris,” I can forget the power I hold: the power for tremendous grace and tremendous harm. If pastors can use this power like God does by inclining our ears, we can participate in a radical ministry of healing.

Our dignity is often restored by a mere human listening to us; how much more so if we have God’s heavenly ear bent toward us? As a pastor, I get to see firsthand the healing work of listening, and moreover, I can join in that work with the Spirit’s help and power.

Chris Nye is a pastor, writer, and sometimes professor living in Silicon Valley with his wife, Allison. His latest book is Less of More: Pursuing Spiritual Abundance in a World of Never Enough.

 

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