Monday, August 22, 2016

THE BODY OF CHRIST


What is the Body of Christ?  Just as a physical body has various parts, each with a different function, we all have different functions in the Body of Christ.  But they all work together with Christ as the head of the Body.  And Jesus leads each one of us by the Holy Spirit.  So, we become His hands, feet, voice, and every other part of the body that is needed to do His works.  As members of Christ’s Body, we are to carry on the work that Jesus did when He was on this earth.
At the inception of the Church, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, the apostles were working miracles and healing people in the name (authority) of Jesus. There were also signs and wonders done in His name. They were the body of Christ.  They had become His feet, hands, eyes, ears and voice to continue the same works Jesus did.  They operated under the power of the Holy Ghost given to them.
As people saw Christ at work through these disciples, they came to believe in Him and were saved. When these new converts were added to the Church, they became the same dynamic soul winners as those to whom they were joined. 
Lately I have been wondering about the church of today. When someone comes to Christ and joins himself to us, what does he become? I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question, but we must answer it honestly if we want to see the Church rise up and become who God has designed it to be…the body of Christ through whom He carries out His will and His works and through Whom He shows His glory.
What does a new born-again believer look like a year after being joined to us? Has the fire settled down to a barely glowing ember or maybe even gone out completely; or has the blaze been consistently fueled by the Spirit of God? When the fire of the Spirit blazes in the heart of a man or woman, the Word of God will be spread all around. But have these believers become common church-goers who have learned the lingo and proper procedures accepted in our services?  Or are they more filled with God’s Spirit today than when they first believed?  Are they going forth as the Church to the world around them in the power of the Holy Spirit?  Are they doing the works of Jesus?  Am I? Are you?  What have today’s new believers joined themselves to?  What kind of example are we?
What did the early Christians join themselves to? What did their examples look like? Here is a glimpse of what the early Church looked like.
They were meeting daily from house to house to strengthen and exhort one another, and to seek the will of God. How often do we gather to pray together with other believers?  To join together in prayer for encouragement, healing, knowledge and direction?   Many times we have had the privilege to gather at a friend’s house just to share the Word and pray for one another.  Whatever our needs were we prayed.  As the Body of Christ, we need to bear one another’s burdens and watch over one another so we will not grow weary and faint. We can’t do that if we don’t know one another, or if we don’t share our needs for prayer with others.
Most people don’t even take time to attend church more than once a week, much less meet from house to house to serve one another and the Lord.  When we make these times of coming together a priority, God speaks, heals, gives direction, encourages, and sometimes sends out those who are called to a special work.  In Acts 13, we read of a group of believers who had gathered together. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)  Their call was confirmed as they were gathered together in prayer, and they went out to do Kingdom work.  We need to meet together as the Church.
Their lives were built around the Church.  It’s wonderful to have a designated building in which the church can come together, but if that is lost, the Church is still alive.  The early church was not a building.  It was the living organism made up of multiple members of Christ’s body. They were the living church of Jesus wherever they came together.  Their focus was not on building a good, comfortable life in this world and ‘allowing’ Jesus to be part of it. The kingdom of God was their mission, their purpose and their priority.  Leaving their old life behind, giving their all to share the gospel with others, and taking care of the people of God was their interpretation of seeking first the kingdom of God.  What is our interpretation of seeking first His kingdom?  Whatever work God calls us to in His kingdom, we need to adjust our job circumstances and lifestyles to accommodate it.  These early Christians who “turned the world upside down” were ordinary people with jobs and families.  But they became extraordinary because they put God’s kingdom first. 
So, our focus is to be on Jesus.  We should look at everything we do from the viewpoint of God’s kingdom, His purpose and will. Our career should be less of a priority in our lives than God’s mission for us.  My husband has turned down more lucrative jobs in his life because they would interfere with the ministry we are called to do.  As a result, God has blessed us and we have no lack.  Paul, the apostle, was a tentmaker.  That trade lent itself to supporting him and letting him be flexible to go wherever God led Him.  He was a learned man who could have held positions that were considered much greater in the eyes of the world. As a matter of fact, he had held a very prestigious position before his encounter with Jesus.  But He had a mission from God and it took first place.  It was more important than any worldly pursuit. 
They were listening to the Word and studying the Scriptures. These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)  They checked to make sure what they were being taught was in line with the Scripture.  We need to do the same.  In a day when there are so many false doctrines being taught, we need to search the Scripture for ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to His truth.  How much of what you know about Jesus is knowledge you received from someone else, and how much is directly from Him?  Learning about Jesus is wise, but learning from Jesus burns it into our souls and seals it in our hearts.
They followed the teachings of Jesus and His example.  It seems we are out of touch with what it means to be a real Christian, being part of the body of Jesus Christ.  It is a decision by an individual to leave everything behind, and to follow the teachings and example of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.  What did Jesus teach?  Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The words Jesus spoke and the example He set are His teachings.  Jesus’ taught humility and showed us by example.  He taught with words and example about denying ourselves, guarding against hypocrisy, how to handle money, suffering persecution and about forgiving.  And that’s just the beginning. His teachings don’t change to fit neatly into our culture.  Either we allow them to change us or we are not one of His disciples.
They gave what they had to take care of one another. We read in Acts 2 that many people sold their possessions to help those who were in need.  In 2 Corinthians 9, the churches that had plenty took offerings to be sent to those in the church in Jerusalem that needed funds.  And in James 1:27 we are told: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” What we have is to be used to help those in need.  But the Scripture is also clear that we are not called to support the lazy. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)  And Ephesians 4:28 says, “ The thief [who has become a believer] must no longer steal, but instead he must work hard [making an honest living], producing that which is good with his own hands, so that he will have something to share with those in need.” (Amplified Bible)  We are called to serve one another and be quick to share our blessings. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.
They shared the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – They shared the gospel with everyone they met. When they were persecuted and scattered to other places, they took the gospel message with them. We are more likely to talk about whatever is most important to us, and following Jesus was their top priority. They followed wherever the Spirit led them and always shared the message of Jesus. Their lives were all about fulfilling the great commission to “go ye”. Wherever the Spirit led, they went.
So, I ask again, “What are new believers joining themselves to when they join our congregations? When they join themselves to one of us as an individual believer? Are they really becoming members of the Body of Christ to carry on the ministry as Jesus did? Or do they become part of an organization that knows little of Jesus personally?

“And he [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Luke 9:23


“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

Monday, August 1, 2016

"AND WHEN YOU PRAY..."

            When I hear a siren, I usually say, “Lord, please help whoever’s in trouble.”  Sometimes I even add, “and please help those who are trying to help them.”  It’s not just a habit, it’s a prayer. God hears His people when we pray and He will answer. He expects us to communicate with Him.  Jesus said “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “be unceasing and persistent in prayer.”       
            Paul wrote to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions (specific requests), prayers, intercessions (prayers for others) and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in [positions of] high authority, so that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 - Amplified Bible)
We are to pray for all people – those who are brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are not. Then Paul zeros in on kings and those who are in places of authority.  We need to be praying for our national leaders, world leaders and all those who have positions of authority, whether great or small.
The reason they need our prayers can be found in verses 3-4. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  God desires that every person be saved.  He also desires that everyone will come to a knowledge of the Truth. People we may never see face to face can be influenced by the prayers we pray for them. No matter how much authority they have, God’s authority is over them.
It’s interesting to note here that Nero ruled as emperor during the time of Paul’s writing. Nero brutally persecuted the church with unthinkable acts against them.  But it is God’s will that ALL come to salvation through Jesus and to a knowledge of the truth. That even included Nero and every other leader.
            Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44 to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”  Here again, we are to pray for everyone…even those who do evil to us.  That’s difficult to do sometimes, but we find strength and release when we do.  It keeps our spirits pure and opens a door for the offender to be saved.
            James encourages us to pray for one another in the household of faith. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God - it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].” (James 5:16 - Amplified Bible)
            We live in “perilous times”, and we need one another to help navigate through all the traps of the enemy.  It’s time we rise up as a spiritual army of believers in Christ and hold one another up through prayer. We also need insight from the Holy Spirit to know how to pray for one another.
We pray when we need a job, a house, healing for our bodies, for circumstances to be changed, or marriages restored. And I believe God wants to give us those things. But there is something deeper and more lasting God wants for all of us.
Here is part of a prayer Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus: “[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight] into the true knowledge of Him [for we know the Father through the Son].” 
Paul knew something about revelation. He had a dramatic revelation of Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road.  Before that time, he knew only facts he had been told about Jesus and his preconceived ideas of who Jesus was.  But when he had a face to face revelation of Jesus – when Jesus pulled back the curtain and let Paul see Him as He is (His glory, majesty, power and Lordship) – he was never the same again.  Jesus IS Lord, and suddenly Paul saw that.  He said “Who are you Lord?” Jesus answered, “I’m Jesus, Who you are persecuting.” That revelation changed the whole direction of Paul’s life.  He never forgot it. And here he prayed for this to happen to others!
Paul also prayed that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened.  He knew something about that, too.  After he saw Jesus on the Damascus Road, he was temporarily blind physically.  Ananias, a servant of God, was sent to pray for him.  When he prayed, it was like scales fell from Paul’s eyes and he could see again.  It happened spiritually, too.  Paul had a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and his eyes were opened to see Jesus in the Scriptures. He gained spiritual enlightenment instead of just a head knowledge of the facts.
We need a revelation of Jesus Christ.  It’s not enough just to know some facts about Him.  We can have an ongoing revelation of Jesus as we follow Him through the various circumstances in our lives. We can come to know Him personally and experientially as our Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Provider and Lord. But we need to begin to pray this prayer for ourselves and one another.
Here’s another prayer from Paul. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged - consecrated to Him - set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 - Amplified Bible)
            Paul prayed that they would be set apart. This same Spirit of power, wisdom and revelation will draw us away from the things of this world (of the flesh) to the things of God’s Spirit.  (See Galatians 5:16-21.)
            Jesus prayed this same prayer of separation for all His followers in John 17.  “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but that You keep them and protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth.” (Amplified Bible)  If we want to know Truth, we will read God’s Word and ask His Spirit to show us what it means to us.  He will enlighten the eyes of our understanding when we do, and we can begin to work it out in our lives.
            In Acts 4, we read another type of prayer.  Peter and John healed a lame man at the Temple gate. They healed Him in the name and authority of Jesus.  So, when a crowd gathered, Peter and John preached Jesus to them. The chief priests and religious rulers came and arrested them. It frustrated and infuriated them to hear anyone preaching and healing in Jesus’ name.  They had just recently had Jesus crucified and thought it was all over. 
The religious rulers interrogated the apostles and commanded them not to preach in Jesus’ name anymore.  Then they threatened them and let them go, because the whole crowd had seen the man healed at the gate and they couldn’t deny it.
            Peter and John went to where the believers were gathered together and told them everything that had happened.  They told them how they had been commanded not to preach anymore in Jesus’ name.  But they all knew Jesus had commanded them to preach in His name.  So they prayed like this: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”  Acts 4:29-31
            They didn’t pray that the persecution would stop. Jesus had already told them to expect it. They understood they were in the world. They also understood they were not of the world. They were set apart. They understood the power at work against them in the world, and they understood the power at work in and through them by the Spirit. They prayed for power to stand and continue to boldly do the work of the Lord. And God gave it to them.
            Think about most of the prayers we pray.  Most are defensive.  Our backs are against the wall and we need God’s help.  And He is more than willing to help us, but God also wants us on the offensive.  He wants to do much more than just help us get by. 
He wants to:
·         Enlighten the eyes of our understanding – make the Scripture alive in our hearts
·         Give us a fresh revelation of Jesus and a spirit of wisdom
·         Set us apart for His purposes
·         Give us boldness to speak

If we begin to pray these prayers for ourselves and one another, I believe we will see dramatic changes in ourselves, others, our churches, our communities, our nation, and the world.


“The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

THE SECRET OF THE LORD

Who do you share the secrets of your heart with? Most of us save our secrets for those closest to us, not strangers or causal friends. We tell them to people who really know us and understand where we are coming from even if we get the words wrong, because they know our heart.
That’s who God shares His secrets with, too. Strangers and casual Christians will misunderstand what He is saying, but those who know Him will have understanding.
Proverbs 3:32 says, “For the perverse are an abomination…to the Lord; but His confidential communion and secret counsel are with the [uncompromisingly] righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with Him). (Amplified Bible) 
It is God’s desire to open the depth of His Word to us. “Whosoever will” can come to know His “confidential communion” and “secret counsel”. He wants us to know His secrets, the deep things of God, but He cannot trust them to those who are casual Christians.
Jesus shared the secret things with those disciples who were closest to Him. He shared things with them that others would not be able to comprehend. In Mark 4:11 He said, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.” It took the disciples awhile before they understood what Jesus was saying, because they had to get to know Him.
Progressively, we come to really know Him and learn to live in the kingdom of God.  But it comes on a spiritual level, not a natural one. We need to open our hearts to have spiritual encounters with God. It happens as we follow Jesus over a course of time, seeking His kingdom first. The disciples encountered Jesus’ healings, life choices, His character, and His teachings firsthand for three years.  Those encounters changed them into Christians – “little Christs.”
Immediately after Jesus called His disciples, He began to teach them. He taught them throughout His whole ministry. After His death and resurrection, He continued to teach them the things of the kingdom of God until He ascended into heaven. Then He sent the Holy Spirit to teach them ‘all things’. He is still teaching those who are teachable, who want to learn.  We can’t follow Him in physical form, but we can read of His miracles, character, life choices and teachings in the New Testament and allow His Word to transform us.
Spiritual encounters with God make a lasting change in us. Regardless of whether they seem insignificant or dramatic at the time, they will be life-changing because they are on a spiritual level, not a soulish one.
Our soul was given to us by God. Because of the fall, it is bent toward sin.  It is made up of three essential parts: (1) Our mind - how we think and reason things out, (2) Our will - our determination and the power we have to make reasoned out choices, and (3) Our emotions - how we feel and how those feelings cause us to react to things around us. Our emotions are volatile and change with circumstances.
Our mind, will and emotions can be for us or against us. They cannot always be trusted because they are fleshly, but God’s Spirit can be trusted. Jesus wants to take us beyond the soulish part. He wants us to rise above the natural and enter a depth where only his Spirit can take us. We cannot reason, determine or feel enough to get there.
Anytime we have a true spiritual encounter with Jesus, something changes in us for the good. Isaiah saw God in His glory in the temple. That was a spectacular encounter! And he was never the same. Several things happened during that encounter.  He saw his sin for what it was and knew he was doomed! He admitted it out loud. He received cleansing. He was called to be God’s spokesman. His life took a dramatic turn.
Every encounter may not be that dramatic, but it will be just as important. There were other times when Isaiah heard from God and delivered God’s message in a less dramatic way. It is always a turning-point when we experience God, even if it is as seemingly small as having a Scripture verse come alive in us during our time with Him. So when we have an encounter with God, something will change. He may show us our sinfulness so we can have it out in the open and finally deal with it. He may offer cleansing, breaking an obstacle that has been in the way of us going through with Him. He may encourage us and give us confidence so that we can go forward instead of sitting still. He may call us to a specific work. But whatever we experience in His presence will take us up another level. Soulish experiences are temporary, but spiritual encounters with Jesus are life-changing. He continues to call us to “come up higher”.
There are times we have to silence our soul so our spirit can hear the still, small voice of God’s Spirit speaking to us. We have to silence our minds from trying to reason everything out in our limited knowledge – His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We have to silence our will from choosing its own way – His ways are higher than our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) We have to quiet our emotions so we won’t act out of how we feel rather than according to what God’s Spirit is saying. 
All through His life on this earth, Jesus called people to Himself. And Jesus still calls us today to come. And there are a lot of secrets we can learn if we come when He calls.
He calls out, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  This is the secret of ceasing to strive to make things happen on our own and learning to rest in Him. But we must take the time to learn from Him. We may know it in an intellectual way, but we don’t have the secret of that truth until we come to Jesus and let Him help us walk it out.
He calls out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) That is the secret of being empowered, refreshed and satisfied by His Spirit. Once again, we know that on paper. But we need to come and drink deeply and often if we want to experience it. Many never learn the secret and live their whole lives looking for something to satisfy them.  Some say they “tried Jesus” and it just isn’t for them. But we can’t “try Him” on our level.  We have to move up to His.
He called out to Peter to come out of the boat and walk on the water…in the middle of a storm. It’s the secret of stepping out in faith and not drawing back in fear. He gives us boldness and authority. Not arrogance, but boldness that moves out with confidence in Christ. But we won’t trust Him enough to step out until we know Him.
He calls out, “Come and follow me.”  (Matthew 19:21) It’s the secret of choosing the path to life and following in His footsteps. Trusting His wisdom and His way over ours. Not accomplishing our goals but His.
He calls out, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”  (Mark 1:17)  In coming after Him we discover the secret of letting Him change our purpose from the earthly to the heavenly; from the temporary to the eternal. We can be benefactors to people who need this world’s goods, but unless we also give them the message of Jesus, it is only temporary. He wants our giving and our accomplishments to be on a much higher level than anything else this world has to offer.  Will we come?
Psalm 25:14 says, “The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.” (Amplified Bible) We have lost our reverence of God and His presence. We need to learn to “be still” in His presence and listen…to reverence Him and esteem His presence in our lives above everything else. We try to make that mystical and sensational, but it is not. It is a deep spiritual thing that comes progressively as we seek after Him. Those in Jesus’ innermost circle have that “sweet, satisfying companionship of the Lord”.
Along with that companionship comes a revealing of the deep meaning of God’s Word. “and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.” While we are lingering in His presence, He opens the treasure chest and begins pulling out the treasures in there. He shows us things that are hidden from the world and explains their purpose and meaning.
Have you ever had someone show you what was in their cedar chest? When they open the lid, it looks like a bunch of old junk. But they start pulling out items from their past and the pasts of their parents and grandparents, and they tell you the story of each one. They are no longer just old articles, but experiences. They come alive and have significant meaning. Have you ever been reading a passage from the Bible that you have read over and over again, but suddenly the words came alive in your spirit? That’s when God is taking those things out of the treasure chest and showing them to you. They take on new life and you begin to see things you’ve never seen before. You are drawing closer and closer to Him…getting to really know Him.
Psalm 9:10 says, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
The Hebrew word for seek means to “beat a path to, or to frequent a place.” We need to have our own beaten path into the presence of God. Trample down the weeds that have grown up between us and the presence of God and enter frequently. That is where we get to know Him, when we are alone with Him. 
We need church meetings, but there is no way we can get all we need there or from somebody else. Some things we have to get straight from Jesus. We need one-on-one time with Him. The more areas of our lives we allow Him in, the more deeply we become acquainted with Him and the more like Him we become.
In speaking to Cyrus, the king who God used to bring back Israel to their land, He said: “And I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, Who summons you by name.” (Isaiah 45:3)
He will do the same for us.
We can really know Him, and we will never be the same.
If we search for God’s hidden treasures, we will find them.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

IS THERE STILL TIME?


Second Chronicles 34 tells us part of the story of King Josiah. His kingly heritage included Hezekiah, a great grandfather who had a heart after God. Next was his grandfather Manasseh who was a cruel, evil king. He so thoroughly led the nation of Judah into wickedness that when he repented and turned to God, he was not able to turn the nation around. Then there was Josiah’s father Amon who was equally as evil and was eventually murdered by his own servants.  It was then the people made Josiah king of Judah.  He was eight years old.
Josiah broke the chain of evil and its consequences.  His young heart turned toward Jehovah and he eventually led the whole nation in that direction…something his grandfather was not able to do. We don’t have to follow the course set before us by our predecessors.  We can change the pattern of destructive behavior, just like Josiah did.  This is how it happened.
            When Josiah was 16 years old, he began to actively seek after God.  Someone in his life must have taught him about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and made a profound difference.  At the age of twenty, he “began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, the carved images, and the molten images.”  And he “cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.”
            Josiah got rid of all the idols and the places where the people were worshiping them.   He had such a passion to rid the nation of evil that he went out to oversee it himself.  When he finished the job, he returned to Jerusalem.
            Do we have that kind of passion to see our nation cleansed from evil, or for our hearts to be cleansed for that matter? It requires a zeal that is active, that is “hands on”. The Holy Spirit stirs our hearts, but we too often lack the passion that moves us to action, that compels us to abandon our comfortable lives to follow Christ.  So we settle back down in the course set by those who went before us walking in spiritual darkness.  We don’t have to do that.  But we have to change if we want to see change around us.
            There are times when a nation, a church body, or an individual needs to uproot idols and the places where they are worshiped; to rise up in holy zeal to destroy sin and the instruments of sin. It’s not a physical battle, but a spiritual one. It’s is not enough just to get rid of evil. We must rebuild within us that which is good and embrace Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
            When all the shrines, temples, groves and idols were brought down and destroyed, Josiah began to repair the house of the Lord his God.  While they were cleaning out the temple, Hilkiah, the priest, found a book of the law that was given by the Lord to Moses.  He gave it to Shaphan the scribe.  When he went to report that the work was completed, Shaphan took it to Josiah and read it to him.
            Josiah tore his clothes as a sign of his anguish and mourning, and he acted immediately. He commanded Hilkiah, Shaphan and two other men to “Go, enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book.”
            He saw the gravity of the situation for him personally and the whole nation.  He knew they had been sinning against God just as their fathers before them. After all the changes he had made, they were still far from following God. They needed more than a rebuilt temple.  They needed the God of that temple. They needed to keep their covenant with God. It was time to face the truth and remove themselves from the path of destruction their ancestors had set them on.
            If we will open-mindedly re-acquaint ourselves with the book of God, the Bible, we will see how far we are from following Jesus. Have we realized the sin of our own lives or our nation?  Will we do something about it, or continue in the same destructive path of unrighteous that leads us to worship idols of our own making instead of God?  There comes a time to make a decision to reorder our lives, break from the sins of the past, and walk in truth…according to His book.  It’s actually simple to read Jesus’ teachings and follow them once we are saved and have the Spirit of God inside us. We don’t have to answer for the sins of our progenitors, but we will answer for our own. 
            Josiah acknowledged his sin and the sins of the nation.  He had already come so far. But they were not keeping the law God had given to His people, and Judah was set for destruction. 
            The men Josiah sent to enquire of the Lord went to Huldah, a prophetess, who told them the nation would indeed be destroyed for their wickedness and willful defiance of the law of God.  But then she added these words. 
            “And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the Lord, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.
            God blesses those who seek after Him, who turn from sin. He honors those who honor Him.  Josiah’s heart was tender. It was open to receive God’s Word, and it changed him and all Judah.  Once we step out to do what we know is right, God will give us greater revelation.  That revelation seemed to be too late, but God ordered a reprieve, an extension of grace, because Josiah the king had a heart after God.
            Josiah didn’t rest on what he had already done and stop seeking God. He had God’s promise that judgment would not come in his lifetime, so he could have just breathed a sigh of relief and stopped there.  The reason he went farther is because he loved God with all his heart and soul. He was willing to surrender his all to Him.
            Josiah took the next step.  He went to the house of the Lord and everyone in Judah gathered there.  Then he read all the words in the book of God’s covenant so they could hear them.  He made a covenant before God “to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book… And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.”  (2 Chronicles 34:31-32)
            So Josiah freed the nation from idol worship and taught them to serve the Lord God.  And for as long as Josiah lived, they did not depart “from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”
            Is there still time for our nation? I believe so, if the people called by His name will stop following the pagan ways of those who have undermined the worship and ways of the One True God.  If we will get rid of all our idols and tear down the shrines where we worship them.  If our hearts will seek God above all else. I do not believe sports, social media, and some forms of entertainment are sinful.  But, sometimes I am amazed to see thousands of people at sports arenas, spending millions of dollars and praising their teams or at entertainment venues nearly worshiping the ones offering their talents. I am shocked by what professing Christians entertain themselves with, what they post on social media and how they openly live outside the teachings of Jesus.  Neutral things that are not sins in themselves, quickly become sinful when we put them above God. Even so, we may receive an extension of grace if we seek God with all of our hearts and follow His Word, destroying the idol temples and rebuilding the temple of God, inviting in the holy God of that temple.  We are His temple, both individually and corporately, but so many are defiled that God’s glory is not seen clearly in us.  His manifest presence in the earth is clouded by our sin.
            Is there still time for us as individuals? Yes. If we have a tender heart to seek God and are willing to lay down everything for Him. If we love His Word and follow Jesus’ teachings. But we cannot continue in sin, spurning the Word of God, and receive the grace of God.
Proverbs 13:13 says, “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.” [shall be in peace].  Josiah loved the Word of God and he and his nation were rewarded to live in peace.  But there came a time when Josiah died and the people returned to idol worship, leaving their worship of God behind yet again. The first part of Huldah’s prophecy was then fulfilled.
“Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” (2 Chronicles 36:14-16) They ran out of time.
Hearing the Word of God yet despising it and turning from it is dangerous to any nation or individual. Their destruction will be without remedy. The time will come when no one can step in to save them. It may seem now that God will not judge sin, but His waiting is because of His love and compassion for us. There will be a day when all sin and all sinners will be judged before a righteous God.  And the sentence will be just.  Only those who have been saved through the blood of Jesus Christ and live a life surrendered to Him and His Word will receive eternal life.

When there is no more time, there will be no remedy.

God is waiting.

The clock is ticking. 


Thursday, April 21, 2016

FINDING YOUR “ALL”

    
         When I need to get a message to a lot of people, it's easiest to send a group text or email. Before I send it, I check and recheck to make sure every person who needs the message is on the list. I don't want to miss anybody.  I need to get the message to all of them.       
        In Mark 16:15 we read, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Those are Jesus’ words. That’s a big commandment. So big it seems impossible to accomplish. When you consider that the word “all” means the whole quantity of something, the entire thing in totality, leaving nothing out, it really seems impossible.
            This world is a very big place, and “all the world” is every nook and cranny, every tribe, every nation, every island…all of it! Yet Jesus tells us to go there.
            My cousin lives in Colorado, but goes out from there to countries around the world, training them in the Word so they can continue teaching others after he returns home.  He also leaves books in their own languages that he has written to further teach them the Word of God. That extends his reach. He can’t be everywhere, but he can reach those the Lord opens the door for him to reach, then they can take the gospel to others. Can he fulfill the great commission by himself? No…and neither can we.
            We can’t all go to all the nations and to all the people. So we need to find out what part of that “all” is ours as an individual. God will show us step by step, and we must follow step by step.
If we are of the mindset that only those who are ordained ministers of a denomination are called to share the gospel, we conveniently dismiss ourselves from Jesus’ commandment. But He gave it to all of us. Every born again believer is called to share the gospel. No one is called to just sit on the sidelines.
Jesus’ commandment to ‘go’ is no different for you and me than it is for an evangelist or missionary. Where we go and how we go, is where we are all different. We can’t be everywhere, but we can be somewhere. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We need to find our somewhere and something and get busy doing God’s work before it’s too late.
            Jesus said He would equip us to carry out His plan to reach the world.  In Acts 1:8 He said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That was not just for His disciples on that day. But that is a promise and a command for every disciple from that day forward, which includes us!
The Holy Spirit empowers us to do the work, so He can certainly let us know what we are supposed to do. He did it for the disciples in the early church and He will do it for us if we will listen. For example, Phillip was in Samaria in a great revival. The Lord was using him mightily there.  Many were being saved, healed, discipled, and signs and wonders being seen.  In the middle of it all, the Lord told him to go out to a certain road in the desert.  He told Phillip the exact place. That doesn’t seem to make sense!  Why should he leave a wonderful revival to go to the desert?  How many of us would follow the Spirit’s leading?
Thankfully, Phillip did.  When he got there, he saw an Ethiopian in a chariot reading the Old Testament Scriptures that foretold Jesus’ coming. The Spirit told Phillip to join the man. Phillip obeyed, and asked him if he understood what he was reading.  The man didn’t, so Phillip explained that what he was reading in the Scripture had been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  He told him about salvation through Jesus and the man believed and was baptized.
It just so happened that this Ethiopian man had great authority in Ethiopia and was a court official of Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. He was in charge of all her treasure. After he had received the gospel and was baptized, he went back to Ethiopia. Can you guess what he took with him?  The Spirit of God and the gospel message. Now God’s leading makes perfect sense! Phillip was in Samaria and that’s good. But someone needed to share the message in Ethiopia. Phillip was chosen to start that process. Sometimes our words may go to the uttermost part of the earth even if our bodies don’t. The words of the gospel spoken by Phillip went to Ethiopia through a brand new convert.
Here’s another example. On one occasion Paul was “forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia”. Then when he wanted to go to Bithynia, the Spirit told him not to go there. That night Paul had a dream about a man from Macedonia asking him to “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” He knew then where he was supposed to go and share the gospel.
First, we have to listen, then make the decision to follow Jesus. Sometimes we don’t hear Him because we are not listening. Sometimes we don’t follow because we are scared. It can be frightening to leave our comfort zone to follow the direction God leads us. Each of us has to make our own decision to “go” and fulfill our “all”. That’s how the big, all-encompassing “all” can be achieved; each person doing their specific part.
Jesus has called us to work alongside Him in the work of HIS Kingdom. Not our own work. Not our little kingdom. Not for our own notoriety. But to the glory of God and for the salvation of others.
The disciples’ ministry was in Jerusalem for the most part, because that’s where they were when the Holy Ghost was poured out. That’s where the church began with 3000 salvations on the first day. But there was also a Judaea, Samaria and uttermost part of the earth that needed to hear the gospel. God was about to disperse them to the other areas.
In Acts 8, we are told, “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles…Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
When we experience the best of times, the church tends to get comfortable and become more of a social organization rather than the vibrant, living organism God designed us to be. We all need one another, and we need to come together for encouragement, teaching and worship.  But the church wasn’t called just to group together and enjoy one another’s company, but to “go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel.” Persecution of the church dispersed them to various places rather than all being clustered in Jerusalem. But they took the Spirit of God and the Word of God with them wherever they went. So the church grew and the Word spread.
Sometimes God makes us uncomfortable where we are so we will move to our next assignment instead of settling down in comfort and propagating our own agenda instead of His. In these last days, the winds of persecution may scatter us across the world. But the wind of God’s Spirit will carry His people and place them in strategic places by His direction.
We need to begin asking God in earnest, “What do You want me to do now? What is my part in this “all”? Being anchored to Jesus is a must. If you are a “casual Christian”, you won’t step out and do your part. But this “go ye into all the world” was spoken to you and me as surely as it was to those who heard the voice of Jesus that day.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.”An ambassador is a diplomatic official of the highest rank sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, but ambassadors to this world. We have been sent by God to live in this world and represent Him. We have no business becoming part of this world, because we don’t represent this world. We represent the King of kings and Lord of lords. That’s why we should represent Him well. We are to represent the Father the same way Jesus did when He was in the world. The Father’s will took priority over everything else. Proclaiming the gospel took precedence over His earthly comforts. He came to show us the Father and glorify the Father. He came to give His life to bring us salvation. We should have the same priorities.
The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of God on His throne. Then he heard the Lord ask, “Whom shall I send and who will go for me?” Isaiah answered, “Here am I Lord; send me.” Do you hear God asking? It’s time to release the things we’re holding onto and the dreams that revolve around us and ask God what He has for us to do. When He tells us, it’s time to obey.
In Ephesians 4:1 we read these words from the apostle Paul. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” Our vocation is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Paul had been faithful to do his “all”, and was in prison because of it. Yet he still counted himself blessed to be able to serve Jesus and obey His command to ‘go’.

Have you found your part in this commandment of Jesus to go into all the world?


Have you received the promise of power that accompanies the command?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

CHANGED? OR CHAINED?

  
In John 8, Jesus was talking to some of the Jews who had believed on Him.  He said, "If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free."
Jesus’ words sounded strange to them, so they reminded Him who they were.  They said, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been in bondage to anybody. What are You talking about when You say, you will be set free?” Free from what???
Jesus said, “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.”  These men were thinking about the physical. Jesus was talking about the spiritual.
No one can truthfully say, “I have never sinned”, because we are all born with a sin nature that makes us capable of committing every type of sin. To make the problem more complex, we can’t save ourselves from this sin nature. We need a Savior and there is only one - Jesus Christ. We can be reborn in the image of Jesus and be free from the taskmaster of sin. That is good news!
When I was eleven years old, I walked down an aisle at youth camp, knelt at an altar and surrendered my life to Jesus.  Nobody had to tell me something major had taken place in my life.  I felt like a weight had been lifted off me.  What kind of weight could an eleven year old girl be carrying, you might ask.  It was the weight of a sin nature that we are all carry. But now I felt brand new.  I was brand new.  I had experienced 1 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The old sin nature had passed away and the Spirit of God had made me a new creature.  I had been born into the Kingdom of God.
Not everyone will be saved through the same circumstances that I was. But there is one thing that will be the same no matter who you are.  We will all experience the same change. If there has not been a radical change, there has been no salvation. There is no way the Spirit of the Living God can enter into a life and that person be unchanged. There may be an emotional experience with God, but that is not salvation. We are not saved because we were raised in a Christian home and taught Christian morals. Or because we have always gone to church and are active members. Salvation is much more than an emotional experience or the way we were brought up. It is being changed from the inside out through Jesus Christ.
The change that occurs is immediate, just like a baby being born into this world. It’s ‘world’ is instantly changed. But growing and adjusting to our new life is a process. We can’t do it on our own. We can only do it by having our conduct controlled by the Spirit of God instead of the godless human nature we were born with. We have to learn to live in the freedom Jesus has given us.
When a prisoner is set free, he doesn't keep reporting back to the officers at the prison, saying, “okay, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. What time do I go to bed?  What time to I get up?” He is no longer under the authority of the prison. If he meets one of the officers on the street and that officer orders him to return to the prison, he can rightfully say, “I am no longer under your rule.  I have been set free.”
He no longer has to eat their food, follow their commands or be confined to one place. Why? Because he’s free. However, if he wants to stay free, he can’t go back to the actions that put him in prison in the first place. He has to change his prison mindset, and adjust to the life of a responsible, free man.
If we want to live as free people, we have to let God change who we are. Stop obeying the old nature. Stop eating its food…watching and listening to things that put the shackles of sin back on. Stop going to the same places and doing the same things and hanging around with the same people that you know will bring you down instead of lift you up.
Start eating the Word of God, following the leadership of the Holy Spirit and fellowshipping with God’s people. When the old thoughts, actions or reactions come up, say, “I don’t have to go there.  I am free from that!”
When the old taskmaster of sin tries to rise up, remember he is dead through the power of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus accomplished for us when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. He conquered those enemies – the former tyrant masters of sin, death and hell. His victory over them is effective now, in this life, not just when we get to heaven. Sin can no longer rule over us unless we give it permission. We can live in freedom from sin if that’s what we choose.
In Romans 6:11-13 and 16, we see how to implement his principle by putting off the old and putting on the new.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (We can’t be dead to sin if we are not alive to God!) “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” (that tells us it’s up to us) “that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (lust is a longing for what is forbidden, and the old nature pulls us toward those things.) “Neither yield ye your members” (body) “as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
It follows the law of displacement.  Two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. One has to go to make room for the other. We displace sin by allowing God to rule in us.  This law applied spiritually is “putting off” and “putting on”.  Instead of yielding to the impulses of the old man, yield to the impulses of the Holy Spirit.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” We learn to do that step by step…submitting to the nature of God within us. When we put off the old, we are to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
We renew our minds by reading the Word [it is the truth that sets us free] and ask God to enlighten your mind to understand what it means to you. He will renew our minds to know His Truth so we can learn to adjust to living according to our new nature.  Ephesians 4:25-29 gives us specific examples of putting off and putting on.
Verse 25 says, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”  We are to stop lying and or having anything to do with what is false or deceptive and replace it with the truth.  Some people phrase their words to say the truth but with an emphasis to make it sound like something else. They do that to get around telling the truth, and they think that isn’t lying.  For example, if I told you my husband has been in prison for three years, that would make you think he had committed a crime and was a prisoner.  But the truth is he works there. Instead of trying to find clever ways to tell a lie, we need to replace it with the truth, even if the truth is hard to own.  I’ve heard if you catch yourself saying something that is false, stop right then and there and correct it.  As children of God, we are to love truth.
Verse 26 – “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” If something or someone makes you angry, you might be used to acting and speaking out of that anger. Now learn to stop yourself and say, “I don’t have to go there; I’m free from that nature!” You no longer have to be ruled by anger!  The “put on” in this instance is to go before God and deal with your anger before the day is done.  Don't let it stay inside of you and build up. That will give the devil a foothold into your spirit and allow the old nature to rule there.
            Verse 28 – “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” This new man doesn't steal, because he is motivated by the Spirit of God. Those who steal want something for themselves. Taking something that doesn’t belong to us is a selfish, thoughtless act. But this new man works, not just to supply his needs, but so he can give to others in need. He puts off taking and puts on giving!

Verse 29 – Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Corrupt communication is anything that is foul language or evil speaking. It is speech that will bring death instead of life. Ephesians 5:4 breaks it down a little more. "Let there be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse [obscene or vulgar] joking, because such things are not appropriate [for believers]; but instead speak of your thankfulness [to God]." [Amplified Bible]
Corrupt communication also includes worthless words. "But I tell you, on the day of judgment people will have to give an accounting of every careless or useless word they speak." Matthew 12:36 (Amplified Bible) We are to speak words to build up one another, words that will bring God glory! Sometimes speaking the truth is difficult, but if we speak the truth with love and grace, those words will strengthen the believers.
This “put off, put on” through the Spirit of God in us works in every area of our lives.
Are we free from sin? Or are we still wearing its chains in our everyday lifestyle? The question is, do we really want to be free from sin? We live far beneath our privileges in Christ. It’s time to rise up and stop letting the old nature rule over us.

By God’s Spirit, we have the power to put off the old and put on the new.

We have the power to be free indeed!

Monday, March 14, 2016

UNCHANGING

            We live in a frenzied, hurry-up world.  I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that.  But sometimes I feel like I’m on the spin cycle of a washing machine – going ‘round and ‘round and finally stumbling out feeling dizzy as everything moves in different directions!
            There is so much turmoil around us – sickness, families tearing apart, road-rage, wounds from friends and enemies, murders, fires, riots, wars, massacres.  I have a list of prayer requests that is mounting up every day.  They represent heartbreaking circumstances, real circumstances endured by real people who are desperate for relief. 
When we are in the middle of a life-shattering situation, it seems unreal that the sun actually comes up in the morning making the world look normal, as if nothing is wrong.  But, the fact is, it does come up again.  The sun and moon take their turns displaying their light in a comforting rhythm of stability.  Fresh, new days continue to dawn and night continues to silently overshadow our world in their methodic patterns.
            Even more unchanging than the sun and moon is their Creator.  God will never change.  He is still able to mend broken hearts, to set the captive free, to bring peace, to restore confidence to the disappointed, to work miracles and to comfort those who sorrow.  He still loves us and still extends His grace to us.  In fact, when we come into His presence, it is as if all is well…and it is.  He can sustain us through the most horrific circumstances of our lives and carry us safely to the other side.
God tells us in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”  That’s easy to forget when everything around us is in a state of chaos, but drawing ourselves into His presence will keep us established on the Rock that never changes.

            Take heart in our unchanging Lord.  He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  And regardless of the changes in our world, Jesus is always the same…forever!