Worship is such a critical thing that we do. It's not so much about making us feel good, but about lifting up the name of Jesus because He is the worthy One.
We are so blessed by all the friends who come to share their gifting with us and who are willing to lead us in worship. Bill Jolley came to lead at this Lampstand and he brought a team of other friends who also brought along some of their lovely family members: Jamin Rathbun, Chris Boyd, Jason Pierce. These guys poured out their hearts to the Lord and the music was awesome, but even greater than the foot-stomping and heart-felt music was the presence of the Lord. The way we can unite as we sing the truth of who God is and what He says about us really opened up our time to unite all of us in being sensitive to hearing the Spirit in this gathering time.
Matthew had a word in tongues during the worship time. This can be a very powerful experience and several people told us that it was very impacting for them personally to experience this corporate expression of the gifts of the Spirit at work. There is a great deal of Biblical basis and instruction for an expression like this. Matthew shared some of these things briefly, and I explained how we just want to be faithful to share whatever it is we receive while we listen rather than feeling we have to have an entire message “thus says the Lord.” It becomes a beautiful time of just listening together to try to understand what the Lord might want to say to us. One friend immediately shared she sensed that the Lord was saying He is shutting out the darkness. Someone else had another piece, an admonish to rise up and take the land! You have won the battle, the Kingdom is coming! The theme that emerged seemed to be VICTORY and the assurance of the Lord's victory over the enemy and the darkness around us.
We have seen God use this unique gift to bring a sense of corporate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and a unified seeking Him for understanding. Rather than being uncomfortable or strange, it just feels like a great treasure hunt together and it gives us all practice listening for the voice of the Lord. Jesus says that His sheep know His voice so this is a good thing to be able to discern His voice!
We continued our study in Psalm 23, looking at our Good Shepherd. We are using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Shepherds would lead their sheep to the rich grazing pastures high up in the mountains for the hot summer months and the easiest ways to these highlands would be through the valleys. Though there are dangers unique to the valley, the Shepherd is also very present through this portion of the journey.
This brings great encouragement to us that our Good Shepherd will never leave us or forsake us, especially when we are walking through difficult places!
Some highlights from the meeting:
*The valley of the shadow of death is never an end point. We always walk THROUGH the valley. Even if we do actually die, that is truly the moment that we step from this valley into the glorious beyond (if we are believers in the Lord Jesus)! He never leads us to the valley of the shadow of death as our end destination!
*We want to see the valleys as the way to “higher ground” with the Lord. We want to have “higher ground thinking.” We don't want to run from adversity; rather we want to accept adversity.
*There are well-watered valleys! Even in difficult seasons, He makes sure there are places of refreshing!
*The rod was mainly a weapon of defense and it was for protection and discipline. It is a picture of God's power and authority. The rod is the Word of God. It reassures us in a world of confusion and it is a comfort to know He will correct us if we get off course. We also use the Word to counter the assaults of the enemy, just as Jesus did in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
*The staff was used to draw sheep together and to the shepherd. It is a picture of the Spirit of God and how He gently leads us and and guides us.
We took time again to worship and then ended the meeting by praying for one another. I love the way the Lord moves in these times to encourage and He truly is speaking through this series on Psalm 23 which gives us oil for the difficult moments we face in life.
Julie and Ginny led worship together! This was an exciting and grand experiment for the two of us to sing and play our instruments simultaneously! We often worship together at TRIHOP meetings with one of us leading a devotional or worship time, and we have even led a couple different worship/prayer times together but we would trade off on our songs and we didn't' try to sing or play along together. So, we practiced together and felt that this is a blessing to be able to unite our voices and songs in praise to the Lord.
It was a great time of declaring the Lord's goodness. It was a time of declaring that truly the Lord leads us so well whether we feel it or not.
Continuing in our study of Psalm 23 using Phillip Keller's book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, Matthew shared from Psalm 23:3.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
This was an excellent time of looking at Jesus and considering His excellent care and leadership in our lives. Here are some highlights:
1.His reputation is at stake in leading us! He is careful to lead us well!
2.A shepherd restores a sheep who is cast. A cast sheep is one that ends up stuck on its back and unable to get up on its own. A shepherd is diligent to look for these sheep and then he is so tender and yet also rebuking in restoring the sheep.
3.We end up like cast sheep when we go our own way and refuse to follow God's way. Isaiah 53:6. His way with us is always to restore us!
4.If we want to walk in His paths of righteousness there are 7 attitudes we should embrace:
1.Love Christ best and others more than myself.
2.Be willing to be set apart from the crowd; walking in holiness and “going against the flow.”
3.Instead of insisting on my own rights, seeking the rights of others.
4.Instead of being boss, I'm willing to be the bottom of the heap.
5.Willing to accept every circumstance believing He is for my good and he is leading me in every situation.
6.Learn to comply with His will instead of asserting my own.
7.Choose and follow Christ's way; Do what He is saying.
After Matthew shared we had an excellent discussion time about knowing the Lord as our Shepherd. Skip Cone shared about the difference between European shepherds who would drive their sheep from behind with dogs and prodding, and a Middle Eastern shepherd who would lead their sheep. The difference between the two is relationship! We want to cultivate that relationship with our Shepherd.
We also discussed the need to know Jesus, His ways, His plans, and ALL His names in order to guard against offense, particularly as we look to the end times.
There is something so beautiful that can happen as we set ourselves before the Living God to worship Him. When we lift our gaze to Him, our perspective changes. And, when a group of people come together to lift up His name, sometimes He will weave together an amazing tapestry. Through the prayers and thoughts of our hearts, combined with the songs that are sung and the prayers that different people pray all weave together into something that is clearly a theme. You are left in awe of the way God is able to communicate with His people.
This is what happened at our Lampstand meeting in June. We spent time worshiping, led by Bethany Oakes, and the songs, prayers, and scriptures all flowed together to bring great encouragement to our herats.
Bethany sang a song called Conquering Lion that led us into praying about how the Shepherd leads us so well to fountains of living water. Bethany didn't know when she chose the song Conquering Lion that we would be talking about Psalm 23:2 which refers to the Lord leading us to quiet waters. This is an illustration of the way the Lord can weave things together as we seek Him. I love to see His Holy Spirit work in this way.
At the end of worship, Matthew shared about a recent experience in which he went to the eye doctor who told him his eyes were dry and needed oil. He played a song by David Ruis called “True Love.” There is a spontaneous part of this song on the CD where David Ruis shares about people with contact lenses and how they get dry. He said spiritually sometimes our eyes get dry and we need the gift of tears. God gives us tears to cleanse our hearts.
As Matthew played this song for us, I personally felt such encouragement and healing. It's easy to get frustrated, dry, and irritable. Times of focus on the Lord bring such healing and restoration. I think this was a time for many of us to find refreshing tears and just encouragement in the Lord.
We are in a series about Psalm 23 using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. We highly recommend this book to anyone! This is a powerful look at the way the Lord Jesus is our Good Shepherd. This Lampstand we were focusing on Psalm 23:2.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.
Some highlights from the message are:
-Sheep do not lie down unless they are free from fear, friction with other sheep, pests, and hunger. In each of these circumstances the presence and ministry of the Shepherd makes all the difference.
1.He protects us and His nearness reminds us that we do not have to fear.
2.When He is near, we don't tend to fight with one another!
3.He applies the oil that frees us from pests that distract and destroy us.
4.He works to ensure we are fed and nourished.
-He leads us to quiet waters. He knows where the water is and has provided the watering places!
Sheep have 3 main sources of necessary water.
1.Dew! Getting up early and beginning our day with the Lord is like drinking dew from the grass.
2.Deep wells! He digs these out and provides them for us. Jeremiah 2:13...let's drink from the sources He provides and not from unhealthy substitutes.
3.Streams! Are we drinking from potholes along the path or are we drinking from the beautiful streams He leads us to?
As Matthew shared about these things, we were all encouraged to trust the excellent leadership of our Good Shepherd who always leads so well.
Taking time to respond to this message helped to seal these words in our hearts.
In December of 2017 I battled some annoying and prolonged eye infections, mostly on my eyelids from sties. People joked about my wife clocking me. I had to defend her constantly. Ha! Anyway, after weeks of warm compresses, ointments, drops, and visiting the eye doctor, my eyes (more accurately eyelids) cleared up. The pain and the irritation subsided. People stopped accusing Julie of spousal abuse.
Yet after all that my eyes have not seemed to be as they were before. They seem to dry out easier. My eyelids seem to get red around the edges more often. I have gotten what seems to be small sties that do not last long.
At a recent appointment to get new glasses, the optometrist shed some light on the subject. He described the dryness I was feeling as not stemming from a lack of tears but a thin layer of oil that covers that tear layer. Without that layer, the eyes dry out. He said that layer comes from oil glands on the edges of my eyelids. Long story short, I have some oil glands that have been damaged on my eyelids. I need a little help from some specific eye drops that contain mineral oil. WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT HAS MADE. My new glasses have helped my eyes to not be so strained, thus less rubbing my eyes when they have trouble focusing and are tired.
This oil thing has really “opened my eyes” though.
Let me share a little context about “oil.” We have been focusing on “getting oil” at our Lampstand meetings (growing in the knowledge of God, developing a secret life with God, growing in connection and communion with the Lord). Oil is the fuel for our lives so that in hard times we are not burning our wick but the oil source we have stored up. It causes our light to shine brightly.
We also have recently studied the oil used by shepherds with their sheep; to protect against highly irritating insects that can greatly annoy the sheep and even can lay eggs in their nose. Thus the larva can drive them crazy.
The work of the Holy Spirit and His anointing are also described in terms of oil in the Scriptures.
So with this eye issue I felt like the Lord was encouraging me that I need the “oil” He gives to see rightly in a spiritual sense as well as with the eye drops that contain mineral oil to see rightly in the natural.
We need the background of His word, knowledge of Him and His ways, daily encounter, connection and communion, and the oil of the Holy Spirit (a supernatural work we cannot do) applied to our vision. It is with that, that we can rightly discern what He is saying and doing, SEEING CLEARLY AND WITH RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.
I don’t know about you but I need this in my life. “Lord, apply the oil to our minds and vision. Help us to see the way you see. Help us to see rightly. Amen.”
We have talked many times at our Lampstand Meetings about the necessity of “getting oil” for our lamps. The oil is the source of fuel for us to have to have burning hearts for the Lord Jesus in every season of our lives. It is about having real revelation of the knowledge of the Lord found in Scripture, growing in connection and relationship with Him, and developing a personal history with God. That fuel is what sources the flame of the testimony of the Lord that others see in us. The oil fuels the ministry that we have toward others in His name whether that is our children and spouses, people in our church, or those who don’t know Him, to give a few examples.
I was listening to a recent teaching by Mike Bickle from His recent Bride of Christ series (Growing in Intimacy with Jesus) and he made the comment that many times we are so busy looking for areas where we can shine our light that we neglect getting oil for our lamps. How true this is! If we think about it, if we have a blazing flame that is fueled by deep intimacy and wholehearted devotion to the Lord, dynamic knowledge of the holy God, and a vibrant, growing heart for Him and the things He values, the impact we desire to have flows freely from us and we don’t have to focus as much on the effectiveness we have on others.
Have you ever met someone who loved to talk about one particular subject? Maybe it was something like trains or cars, or food, or decorating, or some other subject that is important to them. It’s easy to see their passion and fervor. It’s easy to see their depth and dedication. You can’t help but take notice of what they value. If as followers of Christ are deeply engulfed in, preoccupied with, caught up in, immersed in, captured by, enthralled with, and captivated and fascinated by in Him, won’t that be obviously noticeable and impacting to others?
(Sometimes as believers we can get into “run around and do” mode. We are busy with ministry activities. This program or that, this campaign and that. It is often with good motives. We want to make an impact, see people come to Christ, advance the kingdom. Yet many times we forget about the necessary connection with Him. Yet many times I think we don’t see the impact we want to see from those endeavors. We get beyond the reach of our light and we can burn out. This is because we are more focused on “getting our light out there” rather than cultivating the secret life of God that is within.)
I have seen people try to minister Jesus to others without much fuel in their lives, without much life of Jesus on the inside. Not only is it not very effective, it can be damaging to those they are trying to minister to as well as to themselves. How do I know? I have been there. I have stepped out to share and have had a wrong attitude, bad motives, not much to say, and no real desire. I have often done it because I feel obligation to do it. Isn’t this what I should be doing to be a good Christian, leader, etc? I can even see that I wanted the kingdom to grow and I wanted to be used to do it. Yet when I did it without a working knowledge of His love and truth and without much real devotion, the result has been even more lack of desire, more disappointment, frustration, and disillusionment.
But I can honestly say that since I have taken more time to cultivate the connection and communion with the Lord, to grow in devotion and love, to learn more about Him and His ways, I have reached out more than I ever have. I have shared with more unbelievers the gospel of Christ and shared more with believers about a deeper life with Him. I have had less fear and insecurity. I have felt that my words have been an extension of His heart and love. I have shared with more joy and excitement, I have been less selfish and angry in my attitude. I have had more to talk about and I have a growing desire to talk about Jesus.
Not only do I see this reality in myself, I look around at those I see spending consistent time in personal Bible study, prayer and worship times, and getting oil and I am personally encouraged by them and am astounded over the impact they have on others.
Hear me, I’m not saying there aren’t times we share about Christ when we don’t feel like it or that we don’t support outreaches, programs, and service projects. My point is, if we focused more on the oil in our lamps, wouldn’t the outreach, service, proclaiming the gospel, flow more naturally and supernaturally from our lives? I mean, it does say in John 15, if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.
As I think about all this, I want “getting oil” for my lamp to be even more of my life vision. The Lord will handle the impact of my light. I am certain it will be greater than if I just went around with my dim flame trying to let me light shine.
Ian led worship at this Lampstand gathering and we really spent time declaring that the Lord is WORTHY! Lifting up the name of Jesus because there is no other name like His name! His name is higher than every other name. As we spent time doing this, Ginny shared that the Lord was encouraging her about honing the weapon we have of crying out and declaring His name!
There was a unique time of sharing things people felt the Lord stirring after our worship time. It was confirmation of the value of these meetings. I think it was valuable to people on many levels.
We are beginning a series about Psalm 23 using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. We highly recommend this book to anyone! This is a powerful look at the way the Lord Jesus is our Good Shepherd.
At this May Lampstand, we began with Matthew sharing from the chapters of the book dealing with Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Some highlights from the teaching time:
-The Lord is my shepherd. This is a declaration, almost boasting, by David, Israel's shepherd king. He is declaring that the Lord is the manager of his life and that He is an excellent manager! It is important to ask, Do I really believe the Lord has the credentials to be the Shepherd or manager of my life? And, truly, He does!! He created us; He loves us; He gave His Son for us; He continually provides for us. He is an excellent Shepherd!!
-I shall not want. Sometimes people take this to mean that if you come under the management of the Lord, you will never have troubles or problems. This is clearly not true and not even Biblical! The idea of this statement is saying I am content in His care and management of my life. Like in Philippians 4, are we able to say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”? Will we trust the Lord to care for us and lead us despite the trials and valleys and challenges? Can we be content IN Him?
There were so many beautiful things shared by people in attendance. We all felt the challenge to trust the Lord's leadership and the reminder that sin, Satan, and self are poor masters!!
At the end of our response time, Linda Martin shared a dream she had had years ago about climbing with the Lord on a very narrow path. It was frighteningly narrow and eventually they turned a corner into a lush green pasture. Sheep were resting in the pasture and there was a beautiful stream. After resting, Jesus was ready to lead them on again. The way forward couldn't be seen and it looked scary. Some wouldn't follow and wanted to stay in the pasture. So as He led on, some remained behind and Linda saw wolves come out of the bushes in the lush green pasture and devour those who had remained behind. Where we are seems “good enough” but we must ALWAYS keep following Jesus!
We must make this our declaration: Lead ON!! We will follow in Your footsteps, Lord!
Bethany Oakes led us in a beautiful time of worship in which we were lifting our voices as the Bride crying out “Come, Lord Jesus!” It’s hard to write a “description” of a time of worship. More than we can write out what was said or done, worship is a thing that we engage in and that we experience. So, we try to capture some highlight of these times together just to remember what the Lord was doing, but more than anything, we invite you to come and just enter into worship with us!
Matthew and Julie both shared at this Lampstand. Matthew sharing a brief encouragement from a book called “When People are Big and God is Small.” He described how before we are followers of Jesus, we are looking for all kinds of things to satisfy us. Then, we become followers of Christ and we then look for Jesus to satisfy that same place within us. However, this is incomplete because we are still the center. The shift is that we want to see Jesus be the center and then we certainly do find fulfillment, but the point is that we are looking to love and please Him, and as our focus is on Him and not ourselves, we find ultimate satisfaction! Ultimately, we are not the point. He is the point. Our lives, our stories are all part of a BIGGER picture.
Julie shared from Revelation 5, finishing out our series on Revelation 4 and 5. We looked at the end of Revelation 5, “He is worthy!” A critical aspect of this chapter is the invitation into something bigger than ourselves. We see the Son taking the scroll from the Father on the throne and the importance of it that caused John to weep that no one could open it, and I always pause and think, “What is this scroll all about? This is something so much bigger than just my life!” This passage of Scripture draws our eyes up from our own circumstances and causes us to see the Lamb who was slain and to sing with those around the throne, “He is Worthy!!”
We finished out our time by listening to a song by Andrew Peterson called “Is He Worthy” (which you can find HERE). This beautiful liturgical song is a call and response that again lifts our eyes to the One who is worthy of all of our worship and all of our praise, and all of our lives.
15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
The context of this passage in the book of Jeremiah is a prophecy to the nation of Israel in the midst of the Lord’s beckoning message to Israel to return to Him. It was a message of encouragement to Israel that God was going to raise up shepherds who reflect His heart in contrast to some of the unfaithful shepherds that they had experienced.
It is a great encouragement to me that God will not only literally do this with Israel but He is raising up more and more shepherds who fit this description in Jeremiah 3:15 in the church worldwide.
This description is very similar to the description we have of King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), who was called to be Israel’s “Shepherd King” (2 Samuel 5:2). God prepared David to be a shepherd to His people by being a literal shepherd where he learned to shepherd them “according to the integrity of His heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”
The “according to My heart” described in Jeremiah 3:15 describes shepherds who are after the Lord’s heart, diligently seeking Him. They are those whose hearts are corresponding with the Lord’s heart, conforming to His heart, and in agreement with His heart; not only His emotions, passions, and desires but His thoughts and His ways.
These shepherds will feed others, caring for them by leading them to the knowledge of God. This is more than just an informational knowing of Bible facts but a “knowing God,” intimate with Him, familiar with His personality, attributes, etc (Jeremiah 9:23). This kind of knowledge is what brings stability to us (Isaiah 33:6). It is not a window shopping type of knowledge but a partaking of every aspect of who He is. The understanding of Jeremiah 3:15 describes insight into, consideration of, and comprehension of the Lord, who He is, what He is like, and why He does the things He does.
In contrast to the descriptions of other shepherds in Jeremiah, these ones the Lord is raising up will be those who don’t “destroy and scatter the sheep,” those who attend to the needs of the sheep, who have stood in the counsel of the Lord causing God’s people to hear His words (Jeremiah 23). We also get other descriptions of unfaithful, irresponsible, and absent shepherds out of passages like Ezekiel 34, Zechariah 10, and other places in Scripture.
We also have prophesies about God himself being a shepherd in Ezekiel 24 & 37, Zechariah 13, and Jeremiah 31. We know the ultimate example of a shepherd of God’s people is Jesus. He had compassion on people because they “were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9: 36). He is the Good Shepherd described in John 10, modeling wonderfully what His shepherds will look like.
So, God is raising up shepherds. They will be after His heart and according to His heart. They will fill others on knowledge and understanding, yet they will not be just in the “pastor of a church” role. They are those who will carry His heart into the workplace and lead like Jesus leads. They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers, older sisters who will influence others in their family according to the heart of God. They are mentors and teacher who will tend to others with right understanding of who God is and what He does. Two questions each of us can consider are: where are we serving as shepherds and what kind of shepherds are we?
The most important lesson for shepherds is knowing THE SHEPHERD. How else can we truly impart His heart and truth to others? Shepherds must themselves feed on knowledge and understanding from the Good Shepherd before they can effectively lead others.
Lord, you are raising up shepherds like King David who are after your heart. You are preparing them to tend your people. Prepare us in whatever role of shepherding you would call us to. Feed us. Tend to us. Help us to grow in knowledge and understanding of You. And then use us to feed and care for others, effectively leading others in Your paths. Amen.
Ginny Wall led worship. We were a smaller group than usual because of all the sickness going around at this time. We took some time to pray for healing and protection for the ones who are sick and prevention for those who are not sick! We are so thankful for Ginny’s ministry to the Lord. She chooses songs so prayerfully and they are always powerful to lead us in worship.
We have been really digging into Revelation 4 and 5 to find fuel for our hearts. On this night, Matthew shared about Revelation 5. He began with words about why we are looking at Revelation 5 and how it fuels our hearts to understand this picture we have of what is happening around the throne. He opened up the first half of this chapter talking about the details that God has chosen to reveal in these Scriptures. These things really do make our hearts alive and bring steadiness to us in times of trials as we face difficulty in our lives personally as well as facing the Great Day that will come when Jesus returns to end this current age we are living in.
We prayed for needs we knew existed, particularly for health concerns.
What a great time gathering! In the midst of a busy month full of holiday activities, we carved out some time to pray, worship, learn about the celebration of Hanukkah, and “gather some oil” for our own hearts.
Linda Edwards began our time together with several Christmas hymns. “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory” were two not so familiar songs that struck our hearts this year with their powerful lyrics.
After these songs, Matthew shared a great message helping us all understand the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. We were in the midst of the Hanukkah celebration at the time of the meeting so it seemed an appropriate time to enjoy jelly donuts along with our coffee and learn about this Jewish festival that often gets confused as “Jewish Christmas,” which it is not. We watched a helpful and humorous YouTube video (Hanukkah || Mayim Bialik), that explains this event on the Jewish calendar.
Matthew then read from an article "Christ in the Feast of Hanukkah by David Brickner of Jews for Jesus) explaining not only the historical facts about the Maccabean revolt against the Greek rule of that day to purge the temple from Greek desecration, but also the connections Jesus had with Hanukkah. Matthew also wrote some Hanukkah reflections in a December Blog, Hanukkah Reflections 2017
We watched a few fun videos about Hanukkah by the Maccabeats (Candlelight & Miracle & Latke Recipe). The point of this was to see that Jewish people are faithfully remembering this historical event, but they are missing the LIGHT who has come.
Matthew’s main point in sharing all of this about Hanukkah was so that we would gain a heart of love for God’s people Israel. We also gain understanding of the struggles they have faced as well as their culture and customs. We realize the beauty of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. He shared a great word of wisdom that although we don’t necessarily agree with everything that the political nation of Israel does, we want to always be in agreement with God’s plans for Israel, the Land and the People.
In the story of Hanukkah there was a miracle of oil that Jewish history tells. After the Jews drove out the Greeks who were polluting their place of worship, the Jews cleansed the temple. They only had enough oil for 1 day, but the oil miraculously lasted 8 days, long enough to allow them to prepare more oil. This has an application for us as we have talked about pressing out oil. We do our part of seeking the Lord and studying the Word, but ultimately, we look to Him for a miraculous supply of oil in our own lives.
Ginny Wall and Ian Wilson both led us in worship focusing on having oil in our lamps and on Jesus as our light.
We prayed for impartation of God’s heart for Israel as well as having oil.
Matthew or Julie Wine