Saturday, November 26, 2022

Sowing in Tears

Psalm 126

It's early - still dark outside.  The faithful one is up and sitting quietly with the Lord.  She is tired but full of hope.  Her questions are many.  Will the cries of my heart receive swift action from on high today?  Will the bills get paid?  Will my wayward child finally return to his rightful place at the Lord's table?  Will my neighbor be healed?  Will God use my next prayer-sermon-song-conversation-idea as a catalyst for spiritual awakening among the people I serve?  

And the tears flow sliding down her cheeks.  She wipes them, for they are not tears of fear or anger or doubt or lack of determination.  They are the tears of hope experienced by one who fully believes in the power and promises of God.  She questions not His faithfulness but her own patience in seeing the fulfillment of all He has planned.  She renews her mind as she sows in tears.  She renews her devotion as she sows in tears.  She renews her plans as she sows in tears.  She laughs.  When will I reap with songs of joy?

Her quiet preparation for the day is your preparation for the day.  Her name is your name.  Her tears are your tears.  You will reap with songs of joy with her because you too are a child of God - the One who turns small seeds for sowing into bundles of joyful songs.  You see, God moves from small to big; from hidden to revealed; from unnoticed to displayed; and from confusion to clarity.  But through it all He lovingly and faithfully shows that He is for you not against you.  He is the giver of life and strength.  He is Truth.  He takes her hand and leads her out for another day with Him.  

She is you.


Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Word From The Lord: Sunday March 20, 2022

I humbly submit this word from the Lord that was given to me on Sunday morning March 20, 2022 at Risen Nation church in Keller, Texas


The Lord would say to us:

I love people not platforms.  Jesus died for people not platforms; He rose again for people not platforms; He ascended to the right hand of the Father for people not platforms; and He is coming again for people not platforms.  Only people will live for eternity.

People are the objects of my love.  Platforms are merely the medium used to communicate my love for people.

So why do you covet someone else's platform?  Why do you compare platforms?  Why do you seek platforms rather than people?  Who has told you that your platform is insufficient?  Do you not realize that I use all kinds of platforms?

I use unnoticed platforms:  The birth of the Savior of the world.

I use relational platforms:  The Calling of the Disciples

I use one on one platforms:  Nicodemus

I use public platforms:  Jesus' teachings and healings

I use religious platforms:  Jesus' reading of Isaiah in the synagogue

I use dinner table platforms:  The last supper

I use large platforms:  The day of Pentecost

I use writing platforms:  The inspired Word of God

I use prison platforms:  Paul

I use exiled platforms:  Revelation 

And many more.  

Different platforms but the same power of God is active in all of them.

In these Last days I will pour out my blessing and anointing on those who focus on people not platforms.  I free you from the burden and chase of platforms and release you to an abundant life of singing, laughing, dancing, witnessing, ministering, and praying upon the platform I have placed you.

Test me and see if I will not be faithful to this promise.


Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden



 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

7 Ways Education Has Ruined Me

I sometimes hear people say things like:  "Don't let education ruin your passion for God." Or "I read the Bible not textbooks that can ruin me." Or "I had a [nephew] on fire for God until he went to seminary.  He was ruined there."

So I am officially going on record acknowledging that, yes, education has ruined me too.  Here are the 7 ways:

     1.  It taught me how to rightly divide God's Word and develop biblical interpretational skills ensuring accurate content whenever I teach or preach.  It ruined me from being able to teach and preach whatever idea pops into my mind.

     2.  It taught me to think theologically.  It ruined me from being able to chase after whatever theological fad is in vogue.

     3.  It taught me to be a good listener to a variety of voices learning how to extract the "take-aways" and ignore the nuggets that are questionable.  It ruined from being able to listen to whatever podcast my itching ears want to hear and accept the entire teaching as gospel truth.

     4.  It taught me to know the difference between the essentials and the non-essentials affording me the opportunity to fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ from many different traditions.  It ruined me from being isolated within my fellowship having no outside collegiality or interaction.

     5.  It taught me to be deeply honored and grateful for being Pentecostal enjoying the global impact and size of our movement.  It ruined me from small thinking and false inferiority associated with being a part of an on-the-other-side-of-the-tracks church.

     6.  It taught me to write and develop my thoughts through words expanding my ministry to both the spoken and written word.  It ruined me from always using the excuse that I'm not a good writer.

     7.  It taught me to be a lifelong learner.  It ruined me from living a life of mediocre thinking rarely expanding my brain.


Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden, President

Ascent.edu

Sunday, February 6, 2022

The Day The Song Won't End

I have the annoying love of playing a song I like over and over and over.  I can remember rewinding the tape back in the 80's to listen to the song just one more time.  One road trip of doing this, I almost brought my sisters to the brink of mutiny over the control of the tape deck (haven't used that term in a while).  To this day they will claim it was the closest they have ever come to being brainwashed.

But I have pressed on over the decades fully embracing my annoying love.  I stopped years ago trying to analyze why I don't get bored with the song or even end up hating it.  I just simply don't, of course, much to the dismay of those closest to me that have a more normal song-listening practice.

However, I can offer one simple explanation for my madness:  I get happy when the song begins, and I get sad when the song ends.  Pretty deep, huh?  I'm sure smarter people could give a more academic or even neurological reason for my love of repetition, but I'm content with my simple explanation.

And leaning into it a little more, I believe that my chronic wonder with how my soul is being fully prepared for Eternity might offer some insight as well.  Perhaps my annoying love is actually a small taste of that which is to come:  The day the song won't end. The day that the words penned by John as he was caught up in the Spirit will no longer be words for me to read but a reality for me to experience.  The day where I will be with the angels and every tribe, tongue and nation singing together:  Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise (Revelation 5).  In that Day, my annoying love will no longer be annoying.  It will be the norm.

So in the meantime, give some grace to those who love playing the same song over and over again, and maybe give it a try yourself.  Who knows?  Maybe your soul, if you listen close enough, will whisper of the coming Day of Glory, the Day of Heavenly bliss, the Day the Song Won't End.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Invitations

The Evite arrives in my inbox.  It's efficient, budget-friendly, digitally communal, and is automatically resent if I delay my RSVP.

The formal invitation arrives in that antiquated box on a post near my curb.  It requires me to walk out to it in rain, snow, sleet, or 100 degree weather (serious First-World problem).  The person who delivers it is rarely seen.  It has a stamp on it.  The font or professional handwriting is beautiful.  The crisp thick paper is nice.  The final destination of the invitation is on our refrigerator door secured by a magnet.

The phone rings.  The caller's voice on the other end is familiar, kind, and genuinely interested in how I am doing.  Then comes the personal invite:  Let's hang out.  Let's grab coffee.  Let's get dinner.  I feel special.

This morning I am thinking about the different ways we invite.  Nothing wrong with the three described.  Each has a different purpose and is warranted depending on the nature of the occasion.  

But in my heart today I am reflecting on Jesus' invitation to me, you, and the world.  Come to me and Follow me, he speaks.  I'm grateful that Jesus knows our name and that He speaks our name as He invites.  He said, "Zacchaeus," not "Hey you up there in the tree."

Jesus has the ability to invite the world to follow him, and yet, at the same time, it is also a personal invite to each of us.  He casts the net wide, but it feels like I'm the only one He catches and takes into His Hand.  How does He do that?  Who cares.  I just love that He does it.

Even though His invitation and calling is personal, it is never designed to make us the center of His attention.  Quite the opposite, actually.  He draws us close so we may join the multitude from every tribe, nation, and tongue on the earth who are worshipping and glorifying His name.  It's the ultimate party.  It's a global movement.  It's His Kingdom.  But somehow in the midst of all of it, I can still hear Him calling my name.  He is doing it again this morning.  The voice is familiar, kind, and genuinely interested in how I am doing.  

I'm relishing in this mystery today.  Oh, and He is calling your name again this morning as well.  Can you hear His voice?  Are you listening?  His kindness and goodness is there to fill your heart again to overflowing.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden


  

Friday, January 7, 2022

Barn Story Five: Only Fools Pray in Barns

 For the foolishness of God is wiser than anyone's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than anyone's strength. - 1 Corinthians 1:25

In the first chapter of the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, the Holy Spirit inspires him to compare the work of Christ on the cross and those that follow the message of the cross as a kind of "foolishness." Why? Because it is!  From a human rationale perspective:  How is death victory? How is losing oneself the way to finding oneself? How does decrease produce increase? How is more less and less more?

The Bible talks a lot about wisdom.  And while the way of wisdom is essential and God-ordained, it is the way of "foolishness" that lands us in unlikely places - with unlikely people - doing unlikely things - but square in the middle of God's Presence and Purposes.

You and I miss so much of what God is up to because we reject foolishness.  We want God on our terms, with our people, in our comfort zones, within our time constraints, and limited to our adventure tolerance.  God is not looking for people who have a nice and neat spiritual resume.  He is looking for fools who are foolish enough to recognize human ingenuity as limited and the mystery of God as compelling.

I like it when people like me.  I like it when people say, "Job well done."  And I like it when I hear, "That just makes good sense."  None of those statements are bad.  In fact, they are often necessary outcomes for successfully completing a variety of tasks.  

But I want to add to the list some other statements and learn to like them as well.  I want to like it also when people say, "Are you sure?" or  "That's so crazy that it better be God." or "Isn't that a strange combination of people?" or  "Why is God leading you to do that? (and not knowing the answer and being ok with that)" or "Do you think that might be too big a prayer? (and just smiling)"

A group of us pray in a barn in Goochland every Wednesday night because:

  • We are fools for Christ and proud of it
  • We have been drawn to this space by the Holy Spirit
  • We want to see:
    • The Word of God proclaimed
    • Prayer and support and encouragement for all our pastors and churches
    • Prodigals return
    • Hardened hearts made tender
    • The lame walk
    • The blind see
    • The deaf hear
    • Strongholds demolished
    • Disease and sickness gone in Jesus' Name
    • Fresh baptisms in the Holy Spirit
    • Spiritual gifts in operation
    • The lonely comforted
    • Weekly inner renewal so we can go out on mission for another week
    • A youth movement emerging that produces young people on fire for the things of God
    • Men and women Called into ministry and trained and commissioned
    • And whatever else the Lord has ordained for us at His appointed times
So only fools pray in barns.  I wonder if God is calling you in 2022 to become a fool with us.  The time is now, and the time is urgent.  We are not a church; we are a prayer movement.  We are not in despair but we are in a state of longing for a great move of God that brings glory and fame to His Name in all the earth.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden

(If interested in joining us, email me at rrhoden@ascent.edu or call/text at 804.239.0032.)
#PrayInTheBarn
#BecomeAFool

 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Barn Story Four: Confession

One night in the barn people started confessing.  There was no request that had gone forth for confession; no teaching emphasis on the subject; no testimony highlighting it; and no pressure. It simply began to flow.

The First One:  I feel I must confess that it has been years since I have practiced the Presence of the Lord with others

Another:  I need to confess I'm using foul language again after years of it being gone

Another:  I need to confess the same thing

Another:  I confess that I am full of pride

Another:  I confess that I am full of anxiety

Another:  I confess that I struggle with fear all the time

Another:  I confess I'm angry at God

And more.

Confession does not inform God of anything.  He already knows and is ready to extend grace and forgiveness.  But public confession informs ourselves and others that we are ready to deal openly and honestly with those things that hinder us from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we speak and name our sins, we take the final step in owning their existence.  We are acknowledging that though they are real, we are resolved to no longer remain comfortable with them being present.  Because the curse of sin is broken, we will fully avail ourselves to the power of God at work in us to be victorious.

The forgiveness of sin that God grants us is not dependent on public confession.  But when we confess openly to a group of brothers and sisters in Christ, there is an "All In" quality to our confession that is not present in personal confession.  Public declaration invites others to love us, pray for us, and keep us accountable - three gifts that we desperately need.  Personal confession triggers forgiveness from God, but it does not trigger fellowship with others.  It actually keeps us in spiritual isolation.

The opposite of community is not being alone.  It's being with others but remaining silent.  The benefits and transformative power of God in community is experienced in transparency not guardedness.  This is why someone can be around people but still feel isolated or lonely.

The rustic barn in which we gather every Wednesday evening has become a safe space for confession.  It does not happen every week but often.  If you study revivals, one of the common elements is an intense awareness of unrighteousness with subsequent confession.  Who knows all that God is going to unfold and display as we faithfully practice His Presence together weekly in the barn?  But this one thing is known:  Confession is a precursor for all kinds of new demonstrations of the Spirit of the Living God.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden 


If you want to pray with us in the barn, contact me at 804.239.0032 or robertrhoden1970@gmail.com.