Monday, October 9, 2017

Knowing God Is An Up To The Minute Relationship

While God is a God that doesn't change, he is in the business of bringing change everywhere he is allowed to go.  You might ask, "allowed to go?"  Certainly God can go anywhere he wants to go!  Yes, he certainly can because he is almighty God.  Yet, from a relationship perspective he seldom goes where he is not welcomed and shown an ongoing loving hospitality.  It is so interesting and even a little embarrassing to men to read of the Church as the Bride of Christ.  We read of a day coming when there will be a wedding feast and a bridal chamber.  Even as I write this I pause and look off in the distance in discomfort.  Yet, I know it is true.  To me it speaks to my need to learn how to walk with Jesus and live with him much like I have learned to walk with my wife Teresa.  We are in our 50th year of marriage as I write this.  There have been turbulent years, joyful years, adjustment years and fulfilling years.  After 50 years our marriage is so wonderful...more wonderful than ever before in every way.  Yet it has always been a learning process and a dying process or we would never have gotten to this place of reward, joy and fulfillment.  There was a time when it looked like we wouldn't make it. During that time our problem was not God not helping us, it was my lack of cooperation with God's plan of change leading to today.  Having said that, that doesn't mean that we have now arrived.  I remember walking through some very hard times in our relationship.  There were times when we didn't really like each other and even love had to be examined.  Don't let me stun you but walking with Jesus as His Bride isn't a lot different.  Walking with Jesus isn't like a wedding banquet everyday.  Again, Jesus doesn't change but when you are walking with someone who is bringing change in your life it can get a bit difficult at times.  There have even been times when I might question, "do I really want to do this?"

As I look back over the last 50 years I see clearly that all that I have experienced was necessary and not simply a bunch of mistakes.  This is true in my life, marriage and my walk with the Lord.  There are times when you have to get your head and heart clear and ask yourself the question, "what is the right thing to do at this moment in time?"  Don't rush the decision and be honest with yourself.  Then, do the right thing.  Seek with all your heart to do the best thing, the righteous thing.  You next step won't be any easier necessarily but it is the right decision leading to the right next step.  One day as you look back on you life map you will see that it was not a haphazard journey but a Divine plan with a Divine destination.  Every one of those course adjustments may have been painful but yet they were necessary to get you to today.  The worst thing is to enter into a relationship of existing.  You can do that in your marriage.  I refuse to live that way!  You can do that in your relationship with Jesus.  I refuse to live that way!  Today make a fresh commitment to welcome the loving hand of God that promises even more change ahead.  Oh yeah, before I forget...quit asking why?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Do We Need The Supernatural Gifts In The Church Today?

There are two primary views concerning the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit today.  These two opinions are cessationism and continuationism.  Cessationism says that when the New Testament was complete there was no more need for supernatural gifts in the life of the church.  Continuationism teaches that those supernatural gifts never ceased since they were given at Pentecost.  One of the reasons given as evidence for cessationism, that God stopped using these gifts in the church after the canon of Scripture was complete, was because over time those primitive gifts were witnessed less and less in practice.  The most ardent theologians amazingly arrive at this conclusion with very weak, if any, Scriptural validation.  If you read many scholars you will find they will depart from Biblical proof and use as verification the ancient writings of "church fathers."  There is certainly another obvious reason as to why the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit waned after the first century church.  That reason is a loss of a "first love" experience mentioned in Revelation 2:4.  In Revelation chapter 2 we read that Jesus is affirming the testimony of the church in that they worked hard, they stood the test of persecution but they had "left the love they had at the beginning."  
When we weaken in our faith, we weaken in our practice.  I would suggest that a major reason supernatural gifts were seen less after the first century church was not at all because God was not intending them to be functioning but because of a faith and love crisis within the church.  When that happens it is very difficult for the next generation to rediscover what has been lost.  It has never been modeled or taught to them.  It is not presented to them as something to seek and often taught as not to be sought.  Yet, even among those who teach the supernatural gifts of yesterday are not needed in the modern church, they still teach about spiritual warfare.  They tell us how we must battle in the heavenly realm with demonic powers and principalities. Certainly the use of Scripture is essential in obtaining victory.  Yet, as Peter demonstrated in his ministry the Christian ministry help for the hurting must come from the internal spring of "such as I have."  It is Christ in us that is the "hope of glory."  Christ in us consists of the Life of Christ, the Words of Christ as well as the supernatural power and authority of Christ.  As we enter deeper and deeper into the last days we encounter an amplification of Satanic and antichrist activity in the earth.  No generation in history has ever needed the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit like this generation.  Why would God withdraw this power when it is needed most?  He did not! He has not!  There is written evidence in the second and third century of spiritual gifts and miracles still happening.  They never ceased but lukewarm Christianity quenched the Spirit.  There is a direct correlation between faith and spiritual gifts.  We prophesy according to our faith.  (Romans 12:6)

What is our answer?  We must return to a first love faith!  Jesus must become the focus of the Church even more so than mission or movement or reaching a generation.  As we seek Him He will be found.  When He is found in his fullness the Church will manifest Him in His fullness. When His Church manifests  His fullness the world will be saved, delivered from bondage and activated into like ministry.

"Yes, this old-time pow’r was given
To our fathers who were true;
This is promised to believers,
And we all may have it too." (Charles D. Tillman 1895)

Hebrews 13:8  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Monday, August 7, 2017

For Glory and For Beauty


 Exodus 28:2 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”

I am studying in the book of Exodus right now.  I was struck as I read this verse in Exodus 28:2.  I wasn’t able to move beyond it until I gave it some thought.  Why would the idea that God would do something for the expressed purpose of beauty surprise me?  Like some of you I was a part of a renewal movement during the 1960’s and 70’s.  It was birthed by a hunger to know God in a more intimate way than the forms and rituals of religion alone.  It produced a radical pursuit of God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  That spirit of yearning, motivated by the Love for God, created, in some ways, a disdain for the more formal forms of worship.  There was a “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” approach to this new era of church planting and Christian practice.  It was reflected in the architecture and quality of our meeting places, the lack of grandeur in our spiritual gatherings and even the clothes that we wore.  In many ways it was a necessary departure from the old norms in order to discover a more vibrant worship lifestyle.  We placed our emphasis on knowing God personally and worshipping from our hearts.  It was all centered around the indwelling, active, motivating Holy Spirit.  I have to ask if something was missing from our renewal journey?  Probably not in the sense of that time as that approach made the main thing the main thing.  Yet, God is bigger than our revelation of the hour.  He is always larger and grander than our present revelation and understanding. Now back to beauty.  God loves beauty and values beauty.  When I read of the plans for the tabernacle and the detail given to the garments of the priests I see over and again that God cares about quality and beauty.  We have almost come to believe that if the Holy Spirit does it that it must be crude with no thought of beauty being involved.  However, the first time the Scripture mentions the Holy Spirit filling someone it relates to God filling the artisans with the Holy Spirit to skillfully work on His designs in clothes and buildings.  Certainly these are Old Testament instructions and we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit but that doesn’t change God’s taste, His pleasure and His quality in all he does and leads us to do.  That brings us to appreciate His Glory and Beauty.  I visited the Louvre in Paris last winter.  It made me aware of how much of the old art had a religious theme.  Many of them were anointed to create what the Holy Spirit led them to design.  The same is true in music and much of the Arts.  That doesn’t mean that all art and all music are good.  It does mean that we need to open our minds to a broader appreciation to the work of the Holy Spirit.  May we release the gifts already given to the Church by encouraging those around us to discover their God given gifts and talents and use them for His Glory and Beauty. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Have You Ever Seen A Miracle?

One of the most common questions I have been asked through the years is, "have you ever seen a miracle?" The short answer is Yes!  But then I wonder what generated the question.  The implication is that the person asking the question has not, or they don't think that they have.  You may not think that it matters in the world of faith.  It really does matter.  The foundational truth of Christianity is that the Christian life itself is supernatural.  There is a vast difference between joining a Church and becoming a Christian.  As a Church member I become a new attender, a rule keeper.  As a Christian I have become a new person.  The Apostle Paul describes it as becoming a new creation.  We struggle with the concept because we still see residual character traits of the old person and we are tempted to believe that we are still trapped in the old life.  The moment we truly repent of our old nature and ask God for a new nature He brokers a change of identity within us.  From that point on there is a war of identity, not in heaven but in our own minds.  Heaven knows our new identity and acknowledges it. Our names are written in the "Lambs book of Life" in heaven.   One of the biggest faith battles is the battle in our own minds.  Because the new identity or new creation happens the moment we ask God in faith, we have trouble believing it is possible with us.  We know us!  We remember the past and all our bad thoughts and evil deeds.  It can't be that easy.  Oh, it wasn't easy!  It wasn't easy for Jesus but He did the work once and for all on the cross as a sacrificial act for us.  However, we have to daily make the decision to believe that we are changed by the finished work of Jesus.  It would be easy to think that we are talking about mind over matter here. No, we are talking about a Miracle!  That's right, a miracle.  Every person who has ever become a Christian since Jesus died on the cross has become a miracle.  No miracle ever performed has come near to comparing to the miracle of you being made into a Christian.  It is an ongoing work for sure yet it is a completed work.  Romans tells us that we are transformed by the "renewing of our minds."  While we are a completely new creation we are still in process, we are in the renewing of the mind process.  The spirit man inside of us is a completely new creature and now our mind is gradually transformed to bring us outwardly in line with what has happened inwardly.  That means that you haven't just seen a miracle you are a miracle.  Keep cooperating with the inner miracle and you will continue to see and experience the outer miracle.   

Monday, June 5, 2017

Street Beggars

It is a difficult thing to see beggars on the street corner.  All that we say we believe flashes before our eyes and burns in our hearts.  I was raised in a hard working blue collar world that rewarded the industrious and penalized the lazy. More often than not when I see one of these unfortunates, I'm not moved with compassion but with indignation.  (Please don't write me to correct me as I already struggle with what is right!)  I often think of the words in Scripture, "if a man won't work, neither let him eat."  I see those asking for handouts and I study their appearance. Some of them are obviously well fed, smoking expensive cigarettes and have fat well fed dogs with them.  Then the inner war begins.  Are these folks con men and women?  Out on the streets taking advantage of our Christian compassion?  I have seen some reject food, refuse to work even while holding a sign, "will work for food!"  I have seen teams of them unloading from vans, working an area in the city and regrouping later to share their spoils!  My humanity wants to scream, "Get a job, you bum!"  Then as I drive away the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit begins to seep into my consciousness.  "How do you know the truth of this person's condition or need?"  They may be whole physically but crippled emotionally.  Then I am reminded that we might be "entertaining angels and not be aware."  Certainly there are professional beggars who learn to play upon our Christian conviction and conscience.  But what if our turning away from them has calloused our hearts to the point that we are now insulated against genuine needs or even angels?  The enemy has now positioned us into a place where we may be robbed of a "God event" in our future.   What a difficult dilemma!   I believe the Holy Spirit can reveal to us the difference between the real and the fake but how good are we at discerning in this way?  I'll leave you with words from the Bible commentator Matthew Henry who lived between 1662-1714: 

"It is better to feed five drones, or wasps, than to starve one bee."

 Matthew Henry

Monday, May 1, 2017

IS THE NEW THING REALLY AN OLD THING?

I must admit that I like new shiny and up to date things.  I don't have to have them but I do prefer new.  That isn't always a good thing.  I have to be careful not to go on the Amazon website too often because I always see something new that I think "I really need!"  Advertising has mastered the art of appealing to the "lust of the eyes."  I remember a time about a quarter of a century ago I witnessed as a traveling preacher a great appetite within the church world for something new.  There was a pride that said, "ho hum, I've heard that before."  There seemed to be professional hearers within the church.  Of course we all know that hearing is not possessing.  To possess Truth we must seek it, comprehend it and draw it into our hearts by faith with a desire to live it out in our lives.  We must understand that we cannot attain Truth without a humility that knows that truth is not ours for the taking.  Truth becomes living truth when we humble ourselves and seek to be conformed to it.  There is a negative and positive aspect to being changed by truth in actual life.  The negative aspect is a realization that we don't possess it, we can't obtain it in our own efforts and we are destitute without it.  The positive aspect is that embodied truth comes and takes shape in us only after we have stood in the naked reality of our need of Him.  From this we see that the "negative" isn't really a negative but a launching pad for the positive, obtaining truth.  There is therefore a negative and positive aspect to preaching or sharing the Gospel. Certainly there is the "good news" that Jesus has already settled the sin problem and He freely offers that cure to all of sin-sick mankind.  Yet, before any man can obtain the personified truth in the form of Salvation he must first recognize he is eternally destined for hell and a separation from God.  I can't remember when I last heard that coming from a pulpit.  It is sometimes alluded to but not clearly communicated.  There is a vast overemphasis on God's forgiving nature with little emphasis on the penalty for those who have not truly repented.  Certainly none of us want to return to the "hell fire and brimstone" sermons of times past.  Certainly the "kindness of God brings men to repentance" but there must be the understanding of the negative before the positive can become a reality.

In this era in church history where a strong desire exists to become more relevant to the world in order to win the world, preachers and teachers stand precariously on the edge of  a slope of a false gospel.  In our efforts to reach the new generation we must be careful not to leave out the ancient Truths of past generations.  It is not knowledge or behavioral changes that sets the captives free but only Truth, God's Truth.  As we seek to reach a new generation we must remember that the new thing is really an old thing.

May the Word of God and the guiding light of the Holy Spirit empower us to reach our generation with Truth that brings men to true repentance and salvation.  Truth must be embraced before it can bring transformation.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mystery of the Gospel

"The mystery made known to me by revelation..." Ephesians 3:3


The word "mystery" refers to something that is hidden.  Why would God want to hide Truth from people?  Even that thought is something of a mystery.  Having had a personal friendship, relationship with God for most of my life I still stand amazed at the ever unfolding discovery of His identity.  The deeper I travel into the knowledge of Him the more I discover His vastness.  Who He is doesn't change but it expands.  It is like walking down a street and getting familiar with all the sights and sounds on that street and you might think that is the entirety of a town.  You may live on that street for years and one day you venture around a corner to find that the small town is really a large city.  It goes on and on.  How sad it would be to live on one street and experience the limitations of that short street, never knowing that with exploration there is much, much more to experience.  Paul's words here in Ephesians 3:3 and in other of his writings reveals to us that there are mysteries to be discovered.  It seems that the Word of God itself and the life giving power of living in that Word is a great mystery to most of the world.  True believers read the Bible in faith and a supernatural impartation occurs within them.  A non believer may pick it up without faith or without interest and it might be just another book to them.  

The late Derek Prince was a Kings Scholar from Eton College in England.  He was a philosopher who began to read the Bible to disprove it.  He said that as he read the Scripture something amazing happened.  He started changing on the inside.  He said it was the only book that he had ever read that was a living book.  As he read, something living was happening on the inside.  That is a part of how revelation is experienced and how mysteries are revealed. We have heard it said that some people say, "when I see I will believe."  Believers in Jesus know that "when we believe we will see."  God wants to make his Truth known but not to intellect alone but to the spirit man first then comes the understanding.  Faith comes first and revelation will follow.  As we face ongoing mysteries may we approach them in faith.  Then and only then will we see new revelation.  
What question is troubling you now?  Don't approach God with an eye of distrust but settle it in your heart that God is for you and your ultimate good.  

Knowing God Is An Up To The Minute Relationship

While God is a God that doesn't change, he is in the business of bringing change everywhere he is allowed to go.  You might ask, "a...