29 Ways to Increase Your Creativity
You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life
In You death has lost its sting
(Oh) I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
To Your embrace
Light of the world
You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I’m made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I’m letting go
My heart will sing
No other name
Jesus, Jesus (repeat)
Do you remember Gehazi? He’s one Bible character that doesn’t get a lot of Sunday School time. But, you probably remember the role that he plays in Scripture. Gehazi was Elisha’s servant. He was blind. The only problem was…he didn’t realize he was blind.
In 2 Kings 6, the king of Aram became enraged at Elisha because, through the direction of God, he continually foiled Aram’s plans to attack Israel. So, the king of Aram changed his focus. Instead of attacking Israel, he sent his army to capture Elisha.
“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
When the servant of the man of God [Gehazi] got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:13-17).
Until that point, Gehazi probably didn’t realize that he was blind. He had walked with the man of God for extended periods of time, but was never intimate with God like Elisha. In spite of his proximity to Elisha, something was blinding him to the ways of God.
So, why wasn’t Gehazi growing in God along with Elisha? If he was such a close companion of Elisha, if he was witness to all of the miracles, why was he so often blind to the things of God? Well, we could just call it God’s sovereign decision and leave it there…but I think the previous chapter of 2 Kings gives us further insight.
In 2 Kings 5, Naaman (who, ironically, was the commander of the armies of Aram) came to Elisha in hopes that he could be cured of leprosy. Elisha told Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed. And it happened just as Elisha said.
Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused (2 Kings 5:15-16).
Gehazi, frustrated with Elisha’s failure to accept a monetary reward, eventually tracked down Naaman and made his own request for material gain. He told Naaman that Elisha now wanted seventy-five pounds of silver and two sets of clothes for his services.
When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow (2 Kings 5:25-27).
This may be a stretch, but do you think Gehazi could have been blind to the things of God because of his love for money? Do you think materialism could have clouded his spiritual sight? If so, he wouldn’t be the only one in Scripture with this problem.
Judah, the son of Simon
In the gospel of Matthew, there is a guy known as Judah, the son of Simon. He was one of Jesus’s disciples. He was there when Jesus sent out the seventy two to the surrounding towns and villages to preach the good news of the kingdom. He wasn’t as close to Jesus as some of the other disciples, but he was a consistent eye witness to the “image of the invisible God.”
It is likely that he, the son of Simon, was in the boat when Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves…calming the storm. There is a good chance that he was present when the legion of demons was driven out of the Gerasene man. He probably sitting in the home of Simon the Leper…he may have even been reclined around the table with Jesus…when a woman came in and anointed Him with very expensive perfume. Chances are high that this kind of financial waste drove him crazy. After all, he was the responsible for handling the money bag of Jesus and his disciples. You probably know him best by the Greek form of his name – Judas.
In spite of walking in the dust of Jesus’s sandals for a couple of years, he was blind. He missed it. He was a firsthand witness to the kingdom of God breaking into the everyday lives of the people, but he didn’t have the eyes to see God. He was spiritually blind.
One of the last acts of his life gives us some indication of what caused his blindness. He agreed to hand over Jesus to the religious authorizes for thirty pieces of silver. In other words, he may have missed God because of his love for material possessions.
One final story
According to the Bible, this kind of spiritual blindness may be contagious. Apparently, it can spread within certain groups of people. And the church runs a real risk of catching this disease.
Do you remember the Church at Laodicea? According to Revelation 3:17, this group was “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” But, they did not realize it. And what was the cause? Verse 17 spells out the origin of their condition in very distinct language. They were blinded by affluence; “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”
This world is hard to navigate when you’re blind. But, it’s even worse to suffer from blindness and not know it.
Maybe those of us who live in affluence should take a cue from Bartimaeus. Maybe we should cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And when He asks what we need, instead of complaining about how we need more possessions, maybe we should simply say, “Rabbi, I want to see” (Mark 10:47-51).
With His grace, we can have the vision of Elisha instead of the eyes of Gehazi.
Aren’t you tired of being relevant? Erwin McManus encourages leaders to stop trying to be relevant to culture and start leading the way and paving a new path for the world to see.
“O Praise Him (All This For A King)” is track #8 on the album Illuminate. It was written by Rodney, Winston Godfrey.
Turn your ear
To Heaven and hear
The noise inside
The sound of angels
The sound of angel’s songs
And all this for a King
We could join and sing
All for Christ the King
This song of ours will rise
Oh, how constant
This love of ours will rise
O praise Him!
O praise Him!
He is Holy!
He is Holy, yeah!
Turn your gaze
To Heaven and raise
A joyous noise
Oh, the sound of salvation come
The sound of rescued ones
And all this for a king
Angles join to sing
“All for Christ the King!”
Oh la la la la la…
O praise Him!
O praise Him!
He is Holy!
He is Holy!
How infinite and sweet
This love so rescuing
Oh how infinitely sweet
This great love that has redeemed
As one, we sing
He is Holy
He is Holy!
O praise Him!
O praise Him!
He is Holy!
He is Holy!
Oh, la la la la la la
He is Holy
He is Holy
O praise Him
O praise Him
He is Holy
He is Holy
Oh la la la la la la
An anonymous commenter asked:
What does it mean that God hardens human hearts? And will he do that to a believer?
We posed the question to Tony Reinke, content strategist for DesiringGod.org in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This is a serious and important two-part question, but it is really six questions in disguise. Though human speculation could not touch it with a javelin pole, God’s revelation helps to unfold the answer. None of us is made modest by tiptoeing past this question if the Bible offers us answers.
I’ll try to unfold the six questions and answer them briefly in this (woefully short) article.
1. What is a hard heart?
A hard heart is an obstinate and calloused heart that fails to respond to God or obey him. A hard heart is blind to the precious value of the gospel and refuses to embrace Christ (Rom. 11:8). Most precariously, a hard heart is synonymous with spiritual ignorance and alienation from God (Eph. 4:18).
2. But does God actively harden the hearts of sinners? And if so, why?
Without question, the answer is yes, he does. The Bible speaks of God’s active agency in hardening hearts with unmistakable bluntness.
Maybe the clearest example is Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. God hardened his heart in obstinacy on purpose. “Not once in Exodus 4-14 is the assertion of God’s hardening of Pharaoh grounded in any attitude or act of Pharaoh. Instead, again and again the reason given for the hardening is God’s purpose to demonstrate his power and magnify his name,” as Paul explains in Romans 9:17 (John Piper, The Justification of God, 174).
We find another example in John 12:36-43, showing Jesus unmistakably connecting unbelief in his day with the hardening of God. But before we go much further it’s vital to hear four key qualifications from D. A. Carson on this text:
If a superficial reading finds this harsh, manipulative, even robotic, four things must constantly be borne in mind:
(1) God’s sovereignty in these matters is never pitted against human responsibility;
(2) God’s judicial hardening is not presented as the capricious manipulation of an arbitrary potentate cursing morally neutral or even morally pure beings, but as a holy condemnation of a guilty people who are condemned to do and be what they themselves have chosen;
(3) God’s sovereignty in these matters can also be a cause for hope, for if he is not sovereign in these areas there is little point in petitioning him for help, while if he is sovereign the anguished pleas of the prophet (Is. 63:15-19)—and of believers throughout the history of the church—make sense;
(4) God’s sovereign hardening of the people in Isaiah’s day, his commissioning of Isaiah to apparently fruitless ministry, is a stage in God’s “strange work” (Is. 28:21-22) that brings God’s ultimate redemptive purposes to pass. [Carson, John, 448-9]
God has his ways and his prerogatives in divine hardening, and those prerogatives are just and right (Rom. 9:14-24).
At the same time, a hardened heart always reflects the willful, self-hardening, and rejection of God by the sinner (Rom. 1:26-28). Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 8:15). God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 7:3) for God to display his wrath and power.
But this answer raises another question: is the hardening work of God now passed? Was it only a stage in redemptive history to bring out the cross and the ingathering of Gentiles? Or, to ask the question another way:
3. Does God harden Gentile hearts, and does he still harden hearts today?
Further evidence in the epistles leads me to answer yes and yes. We know God’s hardening will one day manifest in the Gentile world on earth at a future point leading up to the return of Christ (2 Thess. 2:1-12).
But even more tangibly, the hardening of God is made manifest in two ways: in the continued rejection of the Messiah by ethnic Israel (Rom. 9-11), and in the celebration of homosexual sin by Gentiles (Rom. 1:26-28). In both cases, broadly speaking, God’s hardening is made visible to modern eyes.
4. So whose hearts are hardened?
As the New Testament makes clear, the whole world is ultimately divided into two groups, the gospel-embracers and the gospel-rejecters, or more specifically, the elect and the non-elect. In the end, these categories divide the entire population. There are vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath (Rom. 2:5). There are “elect” and there are “the rest” (Rom. 11:7). God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills,” and those two categories cover all human beings. The hardened in this passage include a Gentile Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17-18).
Taking this point even further, based on the contrast in Romans 11:7, I believe we can say every one of the non-elect will experience God’s active hardening at some point, to be shut up in a condition that excludes one from salvation. God’s hardening is a feature of his activity with the “vessels of wrath.”
5. So does God harden the heart of a believer?
Now we get to the main question, one where even Reformed theologians seem to disagree. Some say yes, God could harden the heart of the pre-converted elect in their sin but then reverse that hardening later in regeneration. The case of David is cited as an episode where a child of God may have experienced a circumstantial divine hardening (2 Sam. 24:1).
And this possibility raises questions about what ultimately happened to Pharaoh. Did he convert after the Exodus? Possibly, but this would seem to contradict Paul’s use of Pharaoh as an example in his discussion of election in Romans 9-11. It seems more likely that Paul uses Pharaoh as an example of a “vessel of wrath” who was never converted.
But I think the best answer to this question is no, because in the argument of Romans, God’s act of hardening is permanent. As one commentator puts it:
It is unlikely that the hardening to which Paul refers is reversible (Rom. 9:18, 21-23; 11:1-10). One is the object either of God’s mercy or of his hardening (9:18), and there is not the slightest hint in 9:21-23 that the vessels of wrath may become vessels of mercy. Instead, Paul argues that the vessels of mercy will appreciate God’s mercy when they see his just anger inflicted upon the vessels of wrath. (Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, 618)
Based on Romans, it seems best to say God hardens only the vessels of wrath (non-elect), never the hearts of the vessels of mercy (elect), either before, or after, conversion. God’s hardening of a heart is a judicial act that is never overturned. Therefore I think it’s best to say, no, the true believer is never the object of God’s hardening.
6. But has my heart been hardened?
Often this question comes from Christians suffering spiritual numbness in their heart. They don’t feel joy in God like they want, or like they did before. Their Bible reading plan is less fruitful on a daily basis than they desire. But all believers feel and lament this sort of coldness in their hearts. All believers struggle with occasional callousness in their affections—but this feeling is not the same thing as a hard heart. A truly hard heart cannot feel or lament its own hardness, and there’s the key difference.
Hardness of heart leads the non-elect to feel increasing confident in their sin; hardness of heart in the redeemed makes us feel weak and needy.
So how do you know if God has hardened your heart? Well, have you hardened your heart to God (Heb. 3:7-19)? The beauty of God’s divine drama is that we don’t immediately know who is a vessel of mercy and who is a God-hardened vessel of wrath. The Jewish man who currently rejects Christ may eventually come to faith in Christ by an act of God’s sovereign grace overriding his self-hardened heart. And the practicing homosexual sinner may turn from her sins and live by an act of God’s sovereign grace overriding her self-hardened heart.
This is why gospel preaching is so amazing. We offer the gospel to all. We let the gospel-lion out of its cage to do its work in separating sheep from goats, vessels of mercy from vessels of wrath. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing (non-elect), but to us who are being saved (elect) it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
In the end, each of us must answer one question above all regarding the condition of our heart: Do I embrace Jesus Christ as the greatest treasure in the universe?
Tony Reinke is a content strategist for Desiring God in Minneapolis. He is the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011). He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three children.
The easiest way to build a platform in today’s world is to start a blog. While you can do this with free hosted options like WordPress.com, TypePad.com, and Blogger.com, you will get the most control by using self-hosted WordPress. This is what most serious bloggers use. It is what I use here at MichaelHyatt.com.
However, this is where many people get stuck. They assume that the process of setting up a hosting service and installing WordPress is complicated and time-consuming. It’s not.(By the way, if you are not sure about the difference between hosted and self-hosted WordPress, check out this helpful infographic.)
In the video above, I show you how to setup your blog in twenty minutes or less. As a bonus, I explain to you how to write and publish your first blog post. If you don’t need this information yourself, perhaps you know someone who does. Please feel free to pass along the link to this post.
The good news is that you won’t need any technical expertise to setup your blog. This tutorial is simple. I walk you through the process, one click at a time.
When God’s Spirit moved at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire. That is truly astonishing. The Apostle Peter’s sermon brought conviction and commitment to more than 3,000 people. But might I be so bold as to argue that these spiritual encounters do not include the most miraculous development of all?
The 3,000 people who experienced God and responded to the gospel did not return home. Instead, they encouraged their loved ones to come and be a part of God’s great outpouring. The church began with pilgrims who stayed in Jerusalem. What could have possibly caused them to make such a dramatic life change?
I believe the answer is that we all do amazing things when we fall in love. The first converts fell in love with God and with each other. They found what they had been searching for all their lives. The new life of Jesus always demands a new lifestyle. And this new lifestyle centered on five areas of life the church repented into. [Below, Teter focuses on three of the five. Download the full eBook What We Repent Into to read all five].
1. The Apostles’ Teaching
The new life brings about a hunger for God’s Word. New disciples must be taught how to listen to, study and live out Scripture. When the new converts entered into the daily life of the Jerusalem church, they knew very little Scripture. Can you imagine how the hearts of those in the early church burned within when they went to their regular teaching times and Peter began speaking?
Like the first converts at Pentecost, our new Christians must be taught God’s Word. And they must not only learn, but also apply and practically live out God’s Word—tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, so that their faith will be strong and their lives will bear fruit.
The church began with devotion to God’s Word.
The church was devoted to fellowship. Some 3,000 new brothers and sisters in Christ began to get to know one another. The church began with a group of people who truly enjoyed being together. They learned each other’s cultures and asked each other, “Why do you do things that way?” They made time for relationships and prioritized their new life together.
What does this look like in the life of the church today? We must invite people into these life-giving relationships and welcome them. I remember the first year of planting Fountain of Life. My wife and I hosted a weekly Life Group Bible study. We would begin with dinner at 6:30 p.m. followed by Bible study at 7:30. Our group of 20 people bonded deeply. After study, we spent time getting to know each other. We talked, joked and watched funny YouTube videos. Time flew by. A few of us still recall laughing in my driveway, when the Los Angeles Times driver delivered the paper early in the morning. People do amazing things when they fall in love with God and each other.
The church began by repenting into meaningful and life-giving relationships.
3. Breaking of Bread
Luke shares that in the early church there was much joy in the sharing of meals.
There is another component, however, to Luke’s description of life at the table. With glad and generous hearts, they ate The Meal together. They shared the Lord’s Table meal living in the great reality that Christ could return at any moment.
The Lord’s Table has an especially powerful place in the hearts and mind of Fountain of Life Covenant Church. In the first year of our plant, we suffered a horrendous loss. Dear friends of mine from college—the fourth family to commit to the church plant—were driving home from a New Year’s Day family party when a drunk driver barreled through an intersection and struck their van. Midi, age 35, wife of Mark and mother to twin boys, died instantly. One of the twins, Nathan, survived through the night on a breathing machine, only to die in the early morning hours.
For that first year after the accident, the Lord ministered to all of us through communion. Every time we served communion, we employed the “missing man formation,” placing two empty chairs at the table. It was a visual reminder of our sorrow and loss, but it directed us upwards, rejoicing that they were in the presence of the King.
God met us every time we approached the table and allowed us to be broken as He fed us the bread. He allowed us to be weak as we drank His wine. And He gave us hope that we would see our friends again who used to sit in those chairs. That was His promise. One day, on that amazing day, He will make all things new.
The church began by repenting into sharing The Table together.
Being the Church
The church began when 3,000 people repented away from the world and what they knew to be true. The church grew when 3,000 people repented into being the church.
Repenting out of the world is never enough. We must repent into that which gives life.
This article is excerpted and adapted from the Exponential FREE eBook What We Repent Into: 5 Things Every New Believer Must Do by John Teter.
John Teter was born in Los Angeles, the son of Korean and Dutch parents. He was raised in a non-religious home. But while at UCLA, Jesus captured John’s heart and life through an evangelistic Bible study. He went on to serve with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for 12 years at USC, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Compton College. In 2007, John and his family planted Fountain of Life Covenant Church, a multiethnic, inner-city congregation of Long Beach to incarnate God’s love and make disciples. John serves the church today as senior pastor. He also serves as the church planting team leader for The Evangelical Covenant Church. He is passionate about calling, training, and sending the next generation of apostles to plant churches that are strong in faith and add to their numbers daily. John has written two books, Get the Word Out and Jesus & the Hip Hop Prophets, co-authored with Alex Gee. He and his wife, Becky, have been blessed with three wonderful children. In his spare time, John enjoys good film and television, fantasy football, and being a part of the Los Angeles Lakers Band. John will be speaking on the live Exponential East 2014 live webcast. Register for the webcast here.
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Recorded at The Church at South Las Vegas during The Church Conference:
Sean Cannell is the Director of Communications at The Church at South Las Vegas & Co-Founder of THiNK International.