The Red Words #4 12/18/2018

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the mew piece pulls away from the old and the tear is made worse.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine is spilled and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.  Mark 2:21-22

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Any time we are seeking to understand a scripture passage, we must first examine what was going on with the people directly involved.  Just before speaking the words above, Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s home – the account we considered last week. The fact that Jesus was associating with notorious sinners was in and of itself a scandal to the religious crowd. But apparently this gathering was on a day that the Pharisees and John’s disciples normally fasted. These disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were therefore questioning Jesus about why His disciples didn’t keep the traditional fast days imposed by rabbinic decree.

As you read the Gospels, you quickly see that conflict surrounded Jesus much of the time.

In chapter 1 Jesus is confronted with the temptation of Satan and the dangers of the wilderness and wild animals; in Capernaum he attends synagogue and is confronted with a demon possessed synagogue member.

In ch. 2 Jesus heals a paralyzed man but forgives his sin publicly first, thus causing the  Pharisees to accuse him of blaspheming God. Now he has the audacity to choose a tax collector as a disciple and to actually eat with all those nasty sinners, and on a fast day no less!  Jesus is just plain irritating to the Pharisees.

Now Jesus explains why his disciples do not fast by saying there is no fasting at a wedding banquet and follows that declaration with a parable about patches and old garments.  The Pharisees readily understood about the wineskins; new wine expands and if the skins it is put into for fermentation are old, they’ll burst as the wine expands. Remember, there were no synthetic fabrics in the ancient world.  When you washed anything made of cloth, it shrank.

But what is the wedding stuff?  What in the world is He saying?

In parable language, Jesus announces that He is bringing something entirely new onto the scene –  the Kingdom of God –  which, by the way, will not fit in with the man made religious traditions of the elite.  His coming to earth can be likened to a wedding.  It is the beginning of an entirely new life for all who heed the call of the Gospel.

Jesus then made crystal clear that what He’s preaching is completely opposite of what the Pharisees are preaching. What the Pharisees preached was that you work your own way to heaven by doing enough good works to convince God that He should let you into heaven when you die.  (As a friend of mine said once, ‘Good luck with that!‘)

The message of Jesus is so different, so opposite: He not only offers forgiveness to the worst of sinners but He actually is comfortable enough to sit down to a meal with them! This is an outrage to the Pharisees. And so on the heels of that act in regard to Matthew, Jesus now spells out just exactly how incompatible His message is with the establishment’s religious views.  In this confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus makes abundantly clear that there is no mixing of the old ways of legalism with the coming of the Kingdom, for salvation by grace through faith is a brand new garment.

The Pharisees should have quickly related what He was saying to something they knew from the prophet, Ezekiel:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

But they didn’t.  They had it backwards.  Their teaching was comprised of a legalistic and harsh keeping of rules and with His parable, Jesus declares the absolute incompatibility of the gospel with any words-based religious system.

Man’s sinfulness could not be ‘patched up’ with a few good works; mankind was in dire need of a brand new start – the gospel of repentance and forgiveness by grace made available through the precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But lest anyone misunderstand, let’s be clear. The old garment is not God’s Torah, it’s not the Old Testament.  The old garment is the religious system of rituals and traditions devised by man.  It is the religion of human self-righteousness and pieces of the gospel can never be stitched into it.

Make no mistake about it – the Pharisee-spirit is alive and well today.  Human nature likes independence, self-sufficiency, pride of achievement.  We are all the proverbial two year old who says, “I can do it myself!!!”

However, that doesn’t work when it comes to salvation or holiness.  No, my dear friend, you can’t do it yourself!  Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

I cannot save myself; and I cannot sanctify myself.  For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.  Philippians 2:13  Yes, He does the work in us; all He asks is that we acknowledge our complete dependence on Him and live grateful for His grace.

This Christmas season, may we all be renewed in the wonderment of His amazing grace!

 

Snippets from My Journal #16 November 13, 2018

November 13, 2007   (exactly eleven years ago today)

Lord Jesus, it was written of you in the book of Hebrews that You are ‘the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact representation of His nature’.  Heb. 1:3  So I guess I could say that you are the mirror image of the Father.  How incredibly awesome is that!

But You say that You want us to be a mirror image of You.  I feel so inadequate! I want to and yet how often I stumble.  Will I ever be able to be a reflection of You, Jesus?

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I heard the Lord reply, ‘No, you won’t; you’re not able but I am.  It is My life within you that will make you a reflection of Who I am. Do not take on a responsibility you are incapable of fulfilling.  Just take Me and let Me do it in you.’

Lord, I’ve given myself to You a hundred times – maybe a thousand times over the years – and I still get frustrated when I want to be like You and I fail.

Jesus: ‘Did you listen to yourself? Did you hear what you just said? It is not by your effort; it’s by your surrender that you become like MeSurrender means to stop resisting, to yield, to give in, to cave in, to back down.  To surrender to Me is a moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day habit of yielding to what My Spirit says to you and what My Word teaches you. It’s actually simple on the one hand and extremely demanding on the other.  The principle is simple; but to live it consistently is where the challenge lies.

I realized as I pondered what the Lord said that the key to living a surrendered life is learning to hear the voice of the Spirit within.  I can’t submit if I don’t hear the instruction.  I can’t yield if I don’t hear the warning.

Lord, I cry out to You for the ear of a disciple. My mind talks too much; it never stops.  It’s as if I have this ‘radio’ on within me, always ‘broadcasting’ thoughts, ideas, feelings, opinions.  How do I turn it off so I can be quiet in Your presence and hear what You say to me?

Yes, Lord.  I heard that. The more I spend time in Your Word, the more my mind will come under discipline.  Thank you, Jesus.  Grant me grace to be faithful.

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In response to several inquiries, let me invite you to visit our website and become a partner with us in spreading the Word of the Lord.

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Snippets from My Journal #15 November 6, 2018

February 28, 2017

And looking at them, Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’  Matthew 19:26

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Lord, forgive me for all the times in my life when I thought that the solution to a situation or circumstance was ‘impossible’.  Forgive me for small thinking!

This present circumstance is only impossible when I measure it by my limited thinking and my limited understanding.  But Your Word says that I ‘have the mind of Christ.’  In Your mind, Jesus, there’s NOTHING impossible about this present situation – absolutely nothing!

You have unlimited ability and creativity to resolve situations and turn circumstances around to Your purposes for my life.  My frame of reference is so limited; yours is limitless.  When I think something is ‘impossible’ it’s only because I’m using limited human measurement or perspective.  Forgive me, Lord, for my limited thinking.

You are outrageously GOOD! You are unlimited and unstoppable, and You delight to do what is beyond our imagination, what exceeds our dreams, and what overwhelms our small thinking.  When You act according to Your infinite wisdom and love towards us, we fall on our faces in awe and wonder at Your greatness and Your glory.

Lord, I love it when You surprise me! I love it when Your answers to my cries are so ‘out of the box’ of my thinking that I am reminded again of how great, how awesome, how loving, how compassionate, how merciful and how utterly amazing You are!

Jesus, I don’t want to live by my human understanding.  Nor do I want to live by the so-called wisdom of this world. I want to live by Your wisdom, Your understanding and Your perfect timing for I know that ‘impossible’ is not in Your heavenly dictionary!

Lord, You know my deep desire – You know the burden of my heart at this time. Lord Jesus, please surprise me again. I cast down every imagination of how You will answer my prayer; I choose to wait on You with full expectation of another heavenly and delightful surprise, for You act according to Your holiness, Your righteousness and Your boundless love.

I love you, Lord. By Your Holy Spirit, grant me grace to fulfill what the Father wrote in my book.

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Note to my readers:  Whatever is happening in your life right now that seems impossible to you, I challenge you to move out of the ‘impossible’ mindset and lock on to God’s limitless possibility and creativity.  There is NOTHING too hard for God; NOTHING impossible with Him.  And His ways are far beyond anything we can imagine, so trust Him and He WILL make the impossible, POSSIBLE!

And He’ll do it in such a way that only HE gets all the glory!

Snippets from My Journal #14 October 31, 2018

January 24, 1992

Wow, Lord! How can I ever thank You?  I receive Your promise and by Your grace I will hold tight to it.  Your faithfulness is beyond my understanding.  I just thank You for Who You are and that You have loved me and shown me such mercy.

The Lord quickened this scripture to me this morning as I was praying for my children:

“As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says the Lord. My Spirit Who is upon you and My Words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants forever from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.  Isaiah 59: 21

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Lord, I thank You for my children and for the uniqueness of each one.  I know Your hand is upon them and Your grace covers them.  You know, Lord, that Mike and I desire more than anything that they would serve You with all their hearts, walk in Your ways and fulfill the calling You have on their lives.

To receive this scripture today as Your promise to me is such an amazing gift.  We will stand on Your Word and trust You with our children.  Let Your perfect will be accomplished in each of their lives.

Thank you, Lord, thank you! Grant me grace to love you passionately and unconditionally.

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Note to my readers:  As I share this personal word with you today, I am convinced that, as the Scriptures are for all of us, this promise is for you as well.  To parents who have concerns about their children, young children or adult children, take this word and make it your own. The Lord is no respecter of persons and His heart is toward praying parents.  No matter where your children are today, your prayers and your unconditional love are the most powerful gifts you give them.  The Lord’s promise will not fail.

If you are reading this and you don’t have children, I would suggest to you that if you’ve been walking with the Lord for any length of time, then you have spiritual children; or you have relatives who have children.  In either case, take hold of this promise for your spiritual children, especially those who may be causing you concern at present; or for your nieces, nephews, ‘spiritually adopted children’, etc.  You can be a parent in the Spirit whether of not you literally gave birth to a child.

Let’s believe God with bold faith for the younger generation – for children, for grandchildren, even great-grandchildren – of the flesh and of the Spirit!

Snippets from My Journal #13 October 23, 2018

February 22, 2013

The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions [mercies] never fail.  They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!  Lamentations 3:22-23

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As many times as I’ve read and heard these two verses, this morning something new came alive for me when the two words ‘every morning’ jumped off the page.

Every morning – loving kindnesses (plural).

Every morning – compassions or mercies (plural).

Lord, You alone know what is written on every page of my book in heaven (Psalm 139).  Before the earth was ever created, You wrote that book, planning out my days before I was ever conceived in my mother’s womb.

Your plan for me was perfect and designed to lead me to fulfill the purpose for which You chose to create me.  And knowing my human weakness, You included in Your plan that every morning of my life, You would make available loving kindnesses and mercies. 

You did not just create a magnificent plan for my life; You also provided the means for me to fulfill it, all the while knowing that there would be many days of my life when I was completely ignorant of what You wanted and oblivious to the amazing empowerment available if I would just trust You, listen to You and follow You.  Lord, You love is beyond amazing; it is mind-blowing!

Your Word also says,  …man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.  Deuteronomy 8:3b

I never put this together before, Lord.  I see it! Thank you!

That word ‘proceed’ is in the present tense which means continually proceeding – as in every morning.

So, every morning you have fresh compassions and loving kindnesses that You make available to us for each specific day.  Of course You do, because You know what we don’t know!

You know what we will face this day, who we’ll see, how we will need to respond to whatever happens.  And because You know what we don’t, You dispense ahead of time – every morning – the loving kindnesses and the fresh compassions or mercies that we will need to walk to navigate this day in holiness and righteousness.

And to help us grasp what You are giving us, You told us that we do not live by bread alone but our life is dependent on every word that proceeds from Your mouth.  ‘Give us this day our daily bread…’ has just taken on another depth of meaning.  Jesus, You are the Bread of Life.  It’s You – bread for my soul – that I need every morning, every moment.

So we wake up every morning to a fresh outpouring of kindness and compassion from You and to food for our soul from Your Word – all of it specific to that day!

Lord, You are so AMAZING!

No wonder it’s so vital to reach for Your Word first thing in the morning! You ALWAYS have something to say to us if we will just look to You at the start of each new day; if we will just open Your Word.

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for taking Your daily outpouring of grace and revelation for granted.  Lord, I want to start each day differently than I have in the past and I begin this morning.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the loving kindnesses You have for me today; thank You for the mercies You have for me today; thank You for the word or words You will quicken to my heart today as I open Your Word today.  Equip me for each day according to the Father’s design for my life.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear the ‘proceeding word’ that comes from Your mouth to my heart today.

Holy Spirit, please remind me to start each day according to what You have shown me this morning.

 

 

Snippets from My Journal #11 October 9, 2018

October 21, 2016

I’ve been reading a book entitled LIVING WATER by Brother Yun, a Chinese pastor.  What he has suffered for the Gospel is staggering.  I was particularly struck this morning with what he wrote about discipleship.

In China new believers are immediately taught five things which all disciples must be ready to do at any time.

Disciples must always be ready to pray, regardless of the circumstances around them or happening to them.  Prayer is the foundational practice because it is in our private times of prayer, alone with the Lord, that we get to know Him, to hear from Him and to adopt His ways.

Disciples must always be ready to share the Gospel.  The words of Paul to Timothy are the mandate that Chinese leaders teach to the new believers: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.  (2Tim. 2:4)  In China, this is not just a lesson in a classroom; new disciples are promptly sent out to put into practice what they are learning.  Is it any wonder that millions in China have given their lives to Christ?  It’s amazing what can happen when we love God more than we fear the face of man.

Disciples must always be ready to suffer for the name of Jesus.  It is convicting to read testimony after testimony of arrest, torture and imprisonment of Chinese disciples which results in hardened criminals in the same prisons hearing the Gospel and coming to faith.  Those testimonies are dramatic but the ones that touch me even more is when I read of Chinese disciples who have been disowned by their families, spat upon by friends, even beaten by parents because of their faith. And they, like the early Christians, rejoice that they are worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake.

Disciples in China are taught to live each day as though it could be their last. They are taught to be ready to be martyred because of their love for Jesus.  Heaven is real to them; they lay aside the seductions of this world and look ‘for the city whose builder and maker is God.’

Disciples in China are also taught that they should be ready to escape for the Gospel’s sake if an opportunity presents itself, for Jesus said: ‘When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.’ (Matt. 10:23)

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Brother Yun comments that there is great power in suffering for the gospel. While thousands of Chinese Christians have been brutally tortured, imprisoned and even killed for the gospel, the Church in China has grown exponentially.

The early Christians in the book of Acts were also empowered and emboldened through what they suffered.  After some of the Apostles were thrown in jail, the Lord delivered them supernaturally and they prayed ‘for more boldness’ to preach the Gospel (Acts 5:41-42)

How little most of us in America can relate but is that day coming? There are hints in our day that persecution of Christians could be coming in the near future.

Lord, I’m a coward by nature.  I don’t like pain – physical or emotional. I know that right at this moment I don’t have the grace to be a martyr but at this moment I’m not facing that challenge.  I put all my trust in You that if that day ever comes, You, Yourself, will be with me and carry me by your grace through whatever I may face.

I love you, Lord. You know I do, but I am reluctant to say “I’ll never fail You”.  What I do know is that YOU will never fail me!  And that’s all I need to know, isn’t it, Jesus?

Thank You for Your faithfulness!

Snippets from My Journal #10 October 2, 2018

March 12, 2016

The Lord has been speaking to me about the Beatitudes and this morning I’ve been meditating on Matthew 5:5, ‘Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.‘ NASB

I looked it up in the New Living Translation: ‘God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the earth.‘  Hmm – that’s quite a promise.

The Message Bible provokes me to think of this Beatitude in a different way: ‘You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more and no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.’

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Sometimes we have funny ideas about what humility looks like.  I was thinking this morning that there are only two people in the entire Bible that are identified as humble or meek.  Moses was the first and Jesus is the second.  Both of them show incredible patience and compassion towards other people but both of them also had no reluctance to boldly confront unrighteousness, rebellion and hypocrisy.  These are the two the Bible lifts up as ‘humble’.  No weakness there….

I’m intrigued by the way the Message Bible rendered this verse: ‘You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more and no less.’  Never thought about it just that way but the wisdom of that statement really strikes me this morning. Humility starts with believing that the God Who loves us created us just the way we are for His purposes.  Accepting ourselves then is an act of gratitude and a recognition that He knows better than we do what we needed to be in order to fulfill our destiny.  It is also an act of faith in an all loving, all wise and all knowing Heavenly Father.

That being true, I need to repent for every time I have complained to myself or anybody else about my appearance, my height, my body type, etc., etc. How foolish of me and how ungrateful.  You, Lord, are the Potter, I am the clay.  It’s the Potter’s right to make me however He wants to and it’s grossly unrighteous for me to complain about the creation of my Heavenly Father.

So, Lord, I repent – I really repent. Please forgive me and I choose this morning to agree with You.  I confess my fleshly opinions – how wrong they were.  What an arrogant thing to do!!!  Forgive me for the hundreds of times I wished I was tall and slender instead of short and chubby.  Lord, I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me.  I choose You this morning and I accept exactly how You created me.  Your ways towards us are perfect – always. I choose to be ‘content with who I am’, Lord.

It never occurred to me before that this is truly the foundation of humility but it makes so much sense to me this morning.  The very essence of pride is considering one’s own opinions and attitudes superior to everyone else’s, including the Lord’s!  What a horrifying thought!

I repent of pride, of arrogance, of thinking You could have done a better job of fashioning me in my mother’s womb!  I am appalled, Lord, at my attitude.  Cleanse me, cleanse my heart of any and every opinion or attitude I have that is rooted in pride and train me in the humility of Your Beloved Son, Jesus.  It’s not my outward appearance that really matters, it’s my heart.  All  I ask is that You conform me into the image and likeness of Your Beloved Son.

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Oh Lord, You are so amazing.  Thank you for speaking to me. Seal Your words in my heart.

The Lord just showed me that He created me with a need for discipline in eating in order to train me to be just as disciplined about feeding my soul with His Word.  I’ve never thought of that before, never made that connection.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, thank you.

Snippets from my Journal #3 Aug. 21, 2018

Early this morning I asked the Lord what He wanted for this week’s post. When He impressed me to pull out a journal from 20 years ago, I was stunned.  And then when He impressed me to put out the following entry, I was even more stunned – and to be honest, rather hesitant for though I had not reviewed this journal entry for some time, nevertheless I remembered it well and to me, it’s very personal.

But the Lord made abundantly clear that this message was not just for me, but for every devoted disciple of His, particularly in these days, twenty years after He spoke it to me.  So….here goes.

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August 21, 1998:  I remember it well.  I was in England, preaching in a number of churches there.  One morning, as I looked out the window to a typically lovely English garden, I felt the Lord’s impression to pick up my journal and wait on Him.  Over the next several minutes, I wrote what I heard in my spirit. I pray it will challenge you as it challenged me that day and has continued to challenge me ever since.

“Since I have called you to be like Me in your spirit, I will draw you into a life of crucifixion and put such demands of obedience upon you, that I will not allow you to simply follow what others do.  You will wonder why other good people do things that I will not allow you to do.

Other Christians and ministers who appear to be very effective may promote themselves, work schemes or pull strings to carry out their plans, but you cannot.  If you do, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from Me as to make you deeply penitent.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making great amounts of money, or have many luxuries, but I will be your daily supply because I want you to have something far better than gold – a helpless dependence on Me so that I may provide your needs from My unseen treasury.

Others may be honored and put forward, while you remain in the background for the choice and fragrant fruit of My Spirit is best produced in the shade.

I will let others become great while you remain small.  I will let others get the credit for what they do for Me, but you will work hard while others get the credit for what you have done, in order that humility may grow and increase in you.

My Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you with a jealous love and will convict you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, things which appear small but are the very building blocks of learning to live by My Spirit.

So make up your mind that I am your King, your Lord and the Lover of your soul, and I have the absolute right to do as I please with My very own.  I will not explain everything to you; at times you will be perplexed, puzzled, even dismayed at My dealings with you.

But know this, just as you take Me at My Word, I also take you at your word. You have asked Me to conform you into My image and that is precisely what I intend to do.

Settle it forever that by submitting yourself to Me, I am now in charge.  My Spirit has the right to lead you, to tell you when to speak and when to be quiet, what to say and what not to say, where to go and where not to go.  My Spirit is a Master Teacher to school you in My ways and transform you into My image.  Be thankful for His guardianship over you and resist not His management of your life, for in so doing, you will find the very vestibule of heaven.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Phil. 3:14

May His word and His ways be manifest in all of our lives.

The Presence of God #9 July 24, 2018

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

For God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.  God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.  And God has chosen the base things of the world and things which are despised. Yes, and He chose things which did not exist to bring to nothing things that do, so that no flesh should boast in His presence.  I Cor. 1: 27-29

GodUnusual

Among the results of spending time in the presence of the Lord is one that we might prefer didn’t happen.  Sometimes we are just plain perplexed. What in the world is going on? we might ask.  Or, how did this happen? Or, the unexpected occurs and we say, Where did that come from?  Anybody been there? I sure have.

We may not like this but part of God’s “ways” includes that He does things that make no sense to us at all – at least at first.  Yet everything – and I mean, EVERYTHING – that He does or allows into our lives has one ultimate purpose: to conform us into the image and likeness of His dear Son.

Think of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Think of Jesus choosing a tax collector to be one of His disciples.

Perplexing to the max!

One thing I’ve learned about God.  He loves to do the unexpected and with good reason. He offends our mind in order to reveal our hearts.

Read the history of some of the greatest revivals of past centuries and without exception, the ‘religious experts’ condemned them as emotionalism, fanaticism or just plain nonsense.  God doesn’t pay much attention to “religious experts”.

It is recorded that John Wesley was offended when George Whitefield went outside the church and preached in the fields to ordinary people. And when some of Whitefield’s converts jerked or made strange noises, Wesley considered that undeniable proof that Whitefield’s meetings were ‘not of God.’  Eventually, Wesley followed Whitefield into the fields and some of the same manifestations of God’s presence happened under his preaching.  Needless to say, Wesley was humbled.

God said of ancient Israel, “They have not known My ways.”  Hebrews. 3:10  Those who tend to see God’s ways only in light of His sovereignty, His majesty and His glory are often the first to criticize manifestations of the Holy Spirit that surprise or shock them.  Often the leaders of the last move of God are the critics of the ‘new’ move of God.  How easily we can get into a spiritual rut!

Unusual moves of the Spirit of God are one way that God humbles our sense of propriety and challenges our tendency to think of God in “our image” rather than our need to grow into His image.  We like a neat and respectable God in the neat and respectable box we’ve created for Him in our minds.

Sorry! God doesn’t like our boxes and operates outside of them all the time, never more than in this present season as we look for the soon appearing of the Lord.

When God shows up in ways you don’t expect, how do you react?  Is your first inclination to doubt that ‘this is God’?  If you’ve brought someone new to your church and the Holy Spirit moves in an unusual way, do you feel like you need to apologize for what happened? Are you ever inclined to reject the people who react in a manifest way to the presence and power of God in the midst of a worship service?

Jesus never apologized for saying that people were to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53), even when some of His followers reaction was to say, ‘This is a hard saying.’ (John 6:60)  It was so revolting to them that some walked away but Jesus didn’t panic, nor did He shout out to explain Himself or apologize.

When He proclaimed, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up’ (John 2:19, everyone assumed He was talking about the building on the Temple Mount and they criticized Him harshly.  Jesus didn’t respond by saying, ‘Hold on, now. I’m talking about My resurrection from the dead, not about this building!’  (see John 2:21-22)  They were offended because what He said and many of the things He did, like healing on the Sabbath, didn’t fit in their religious box.  What they didn’t realize is that Jesus had never climbed into their box and He never would!

God is God and we are not.  We love to proclaim that ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ but subconsciously confine that declaration to the boundaries of our own understanding.  If nothing is impossible with Him – and that is the truth – then who are we to stand in judgment of how the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church, chooses to deal with us, individually and as a community.

Application:

We are living in amazing times.  It is our privilege to be alive in this hour when the anticipation of the return of Jesus has never been higher.  Let us be very careful to remain humble, teachable and sincerely loving towards one another for the Spirit of the Lord is doing things in these days that were never done before; things that have specifically been reserved for the last generation at the end of days.

He has saved the best wine for last. Be thankful that you can drink in His presence.

 

The Presence of God #7 July 10, 2018

In Your presence is fullness of joy.  Psalm 16:11

If you have participated in a worship service where the presence of the Lord invaded the place, you know already that a liberating joy comes with it.  It can be so powerful that people will lose the awareness of those around them and express their worship without any thought to what anyone might think of them. I have seen people take off running around the sanctuary, weeping at the altar, dancing like David did and shouting the praises of God with all their might. Personal dignity takes second place to responding to the sweeping presence of God in a service – or, for that matter, in your private prayer time at home.

Great revivals of the past have witnessed many a phenomenon. Dozens of people face down on the ground.  No one pushed them – they fell to their faces of their own accord in utter submission to the presence and power of God.  Some lay still for so long that it was feared they were dead.  They weren’t – they were just absorbed in God.

As we consider these reports, some of which I have witnessed myself, we are challenged to realize that the greater the presence of God, the less we care about what people around us think. Our focus is to worship the Lord.

And we will also discover that in that blessed atmosphere, the Spirit of God will frequently deal with our integrity.

Integrity may be defined as being governed by the truth, even when it hurts. According to Psalm 15:4, a blameless man ‘makes firm commitments and follows through, even at great cost.’  Words mean something and for the disciple of the Lord, keeping our word should be a top priority.

integrity

Integrity is demonstrated in a number of ways: 1) godly stewardship over money and goods, 2) purity in moral issues, 3) reliability in our words, and 4) a hunger for truth.

Jesus said a great deal about money in the Gospels and I believe it was John Wesley who said that the last part of a person to be converted is his wallet!  Being ‘squeaky clean’ in our financial affairs is a demonstration of integrity and honors the Lord.  Maintaining our integrity may cost us but the person with integrity will not be swayed.  Too many people can be bought if the price is right.  For the disciple of the Lord, being ‘bought’ is never an option.

Where morality is concerned, integrity is key. Undisciplined private lives lead to public humiliations – secret affairs that lead to broken marriages, promiscuity and children deprived of a parent.  Winston Churchill once said: ‘The price of greatness is responsibility.’  The greater the position one attains, the greater the responsibility to maintain moral integrity.

We will all one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of what we have done, ‘whether good or bad‘. (2 Cor. 5:10)  In I Corinthians 3, Paul described the scene by saying that our works will be tested by fire.  If they survive the fire, we will be rewarded.  If they don’t, we will still be saved but ‘as one escaping through flames.’ (vs. 14-15)

With regard to our words, integrity means that you tell the truth and what you say is what you will do.  You can be depended on to keep your promises.  It is impossible for God to lie.  We believe His word is true and He can be utterly depended upon to keep His word. We are called to do the same.

A child does not need to be trained to lie – it comes naturally! Rather we ALL need to be trained to tell the truth.  Once we have been born again, the Spirit of Truth comes to dwell within us.  So if we walk in the Spirit we will only tell the truth!  Simple honesty, straightforward conversations, showing up when you said you would, paying what you said you would pay – all of these are evidences of integrity.

Integrity will also stir up in us a hunger for the truth.  Sometimes that means changing our position about certain beliefs.  Life is a journey of learning and many of us were taught things early in life which we later discover are not quite true.  Perhaps you were taught that the gift of tongues is not for today, or your denomination held to a particular interpretation about the end of days.  As you grow in the Lord and learn more of the Word, you may discover that what the Word of God says does not quite agree with what your denomination told you.

What are you going to do?  Integrity loves the truth.  You choose to receive the greater understanding of the Word, even when you know it may cost you – perhaps in relationships with others.

Let me add something very important right here. In growing in truth we must also grow in graciousness.  John wrote that Jesus was ‘full of grace and truth’. (John 1:17)  It is possible to be full of truth but lacking in grace! The Word of God is not a club to beat people with; it is the Sword of the Spirit, not your sword!

Job teaches us another caution. He was blameless yet when the pressure was on, his self-righteousness began to spill out.  He said to his three friends: ‘ I will never admit you’re right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity.’ Job 27:5  Self-righteousness and integrity don’t mix very well.  Job was ‘righteous in his generation’ but had allowed a certain measure of pride (self-righteousness) to creep in.  Our character is tested when we are under pressure and in Job’s case, what came out when he was squeezed was self-righteousness.

Fortunately, he came to his senses in the end and humbled himself before God.

Application:

The reward for integrity is the manifest presence of God and the reward for dwelling in His presence is integrity.  They work together as long as we maintain a teachable and humble spirit to submit ourselves to the dealings of God in our lives.

As I heard a pastor say years ago: ‘Don’t let the devil make you proud of your humility!’