Monday, April 2, 2018

THE prince OF THIS WORLD



A little girl was baptized on her seventh birthday.  A couple of days later, she was having breakfast with her younger sister and their mother.  The younger sister asked if she could have a bite of her cereal, but there was no answer.  So, their mother answered, “sure you can have a bite.”  The little girl sat quietly for a few seconds, then said, "Satan is telling me to pour the bowl of cereal over her head, but I have been baptized, and I am telling Satan ‘No’!” 
When I heard that story, I had to laugh.  Then I thought about the spiritual aspect of that little encounter.  The girl knew it wasn’t God’s voice telling her to pour the bowl of cereal over her sister’s head.  She was aware that those thoughts came from the enemy.  She also knew her position in Christ.  She did not have to obey Satan’s voice. Jesus would not be pleased if she did.  So, she refused to listen to the voice of Satan.  Oh, if we would all take authority over our thoughts and actions as simply as that when we are tempted by the devil!  As the people of God, we have the power and authority in Christ to say “no!”
If Adam and Eve had said ‘no’ to Satan, sin would not have entered the world.  They were placed in the Garden of Eden by God Who gave them dominion over the creatures and instructed them to keep the Garden.  The Hebrew word for ‘keep’ here means to protect, be a watchman, be on one’s guard.  Adam and Eve failed to keep their charge and brought a curse on the whole creation. With just a few words and innuendoes from Satan, they dropped their guard and handed their authority over to him.  Satan still skillfully twists the words of God to turn aside unguarded souls from the truth. 
On our own, we are no match for Satan. “For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.  His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate.  On earth is not his equal.” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God)  In several passages of Scripture Satan is referred to as “the prince of this world” or “god of this world”.  Jesus Himself referred to him as “the prince of this world”. Matthew Henry said, “It is the devil that is here called the prince of this world, because… he is the ruler of the darkness of this world…of those in it that walk in darkness.”  It was the devil (Lucifer, Satan) who wanted worship for himself, whose ambition was to sit in God’s place and be worshipped.  It was Lucifer that staged a coup in heaven and took one third of the angels with him in his rebellion.  It was Lucifer who tempted Eve and caused sin to come into this world.  It is Lucifer who brought darkness to the earth.  But it is Lucifer whom Jesus defeated once and for all.
Because of Satan’s seizure of authority, there was a time when the whole world was in darkness, but Jesus broke the darkness and brought light to those who would receive it.  He gave us power to become the sons and daughters of God and no longer serve under the power and authority of Satan. Jesus told Paul He had called him “to open their [spiritual] eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness and release from their sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified (set apart, made holy) by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:16-18, Amplified Bible)  That is the gospel, the good news.  That is the truth.
 Now, each of us has been given the same choice as Adam and Eve.  Our choices are eternal life or eternal death, blessing or cursing, darkness or light, truth or lies.  We cannot be neutral in this cosmic battle.  We are fully on one side or the other.
Only through Jesus Christ can we have power over Satan and sin.  Verse two of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is He.  Lord Sabaoth His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.”  Through Christ our darkened minds and spirits can be enlightened to the course of God’s kingdom instead of the course of this world.   We can live in the same spiritual light and understanding Adam and Eve had before the fall.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” (2:1-2) What came alive?  God made our spirits alive. We were born of the Spirit to new life in Christ because Jesus destroyed the works of the devil.
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)  God does that by cleansing us with Jesus’ blood, then placing His Holy Spirit inside us.  We receive the seed of God within us, changing our spiritual genetic code, renewing us to spiritual life, the life and spiritual awareness that Satan stole from us in the garden.  So the spiritual life we were intended to have all along becomes ours now through Christ.  Yet we still live in this world and have physical bodies that remain under the curse.  We now have eternal life, but Jesus also gives us the power and authority in this life to be able to say ‘no’ to Satan’s lies. God’s Spirit gives us spiritual discernment, the ability to differentiate between what is right and wrong.  That way we can have the knowledge and power to make right choices.
In these last days, we are experiencing the perilous times the Bible warns about.  We see the outward signs of persecution, wars, hatred, perversion and chaos, but we need to look deeper than the surface to the source of the troubles.  Satan is at the core of it all.  He is keenly aware that his time is short.  (See Revelation 12:12.)  He is working feverishly to wear down and deceive the people of God.  His goal is to retain his authority over this world, but Jesus already has the title deed.  Jesus has already given His followers power over Satan.  And in God’s time, all the works of the devil will be destroyed once and for all, and the whole creation will be redeemed.
In this span called time, Satan preys on our minds and emotions.  He knows if he can cause us to feel afraid, feel hopeless, feel doubtful; then he has a good chance of wearing us down to believe it and act on it.  Satan is not trying just to destroy our bodies.  They are only temporary.  He wants to destroy our souls.  It is a war against us in the spiritual realm.  He doesn’t want us to take our position in Christ.  That is why it is imperative to bring every thought into subjection to Christ.  Don’t let your mind wander and be an open field for the devil to inhabit. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 tells us, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
If the devil sees an empty place, he will try to fill it with his propaganda.  So, fill your mind with God’s Word. The only way we can win battles is to keep the mind of Christ and refuse to entertain the words of the devil.  When he comes to tell us we are failures in our ministry, our family members will never be saved, that God doesn’t care about the difficulties that are pressing against us or that God cannot use us, we need to combat Satan’s lies with God’s truth.  When we let our mind imagine all kinds of scenarios that will probably never happen, we are giving Satan a foothold into our lives. And he doesn’t miss a chance.  Satan’s thoughts are usually pressed upon us with a certain fear factor attached.  His lies do not bring peace to our hearts, but turmoil and confusion.  God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
How can we bring our thoughts out of captivity to the “prince of this world” and into submission to the “Prince of Peace”?  We do it my meditating on God’s Word.  Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”  The word ‘stayed’ means to lay the hand on to gain support, to be braced by.  In this case, we are resting our mind on the Lord to be sustained and braced by Him.  If you want peace in your heart, trust in God and keep your mind on Him.  Then you will have HIS everlasting strength to overcome the enemy.  Our strength may falter, but God’s never will.
Psalm 119:23-24 gives us a powerful example to follow.  Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.”  Even when the “prince of this world” comes and speaks against us, we can meditate and be stayed on the truth of God’s Word and receive His counsel.
We have power and authority to overcome the world and the “prince of this world” through Jesus Christ.  But when we become distant from Him, we are weakened and become vulnerable to the wiles of the devil.  It takes more than a quick devotional time every day.  That may be better than nothing, but it will not arm you for warfare. Do you delight in the Word of God, or do you read it out of duty?  Learn to love Him and His Word.  It will bring life and light to your soul.
 Fill your mind with the Word of God.  If you don’t, Satan will fill it for you.  No one can live a victorious Christian life in their own power and outside the commandments of Christ.  We need to keep our souls, guard them, be on watch and protect them from infiltration from the enemy. We need to frequently examine our hearts and watch for anything that is not pleasing to God.  We must stay close to Jesus.  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (James 4:7)  Don’t give the devil an inroad into your life.  If you do, he will seduce you like he did Eve.
 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:8-9)  In other words, Satan wants to destroy you.  But know that these battles are not just against you.  Every surrendered Christian faces them.  Every godly person will suffer persecution.  But you can overcome through Christ Jesus. 

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.”
(A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Verse 3)


Monday, March 12, 2018

GRACE AND GLORY


Our son used to do repairs, yard work and other odd jobs for one of our neighbors.  As I was standing on her porch talking one day, I noticed she was looking at me rather intently.  When I stopped talking, she told me that my comment sounded just like something our son would say, and his mannerisms were so much like mine. She was right. It comes from spending time together and being part of the family.
Oh, how I hope others see my heavenly Father’s mannerisms in me, and hear me saying things that are exactly what He would say.  That comes from spending time together and being part of the family.  How can we be part of God’s family and live in such a way that people see Jesus in us?  Only by His grace. 
Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
            “God is a sun” simply means He shines His brilliance on us as the rays of the sun.  In the Hebrew, the word ‘sun’ means “in the presence of the sun, with the sun, as it were, looking on.”  That brings up a mental picture of God standing close enough to us that the rays of His glory are illuminating us, just as the moon is illuminated by the sun.  The closer the sun is to the moon, the brighter the moon shines. The closer we are to Jesus, the brighter we will shine.  We can be constantly in His presence if we will draw near to Him.  We can experience a life of grace and glory that far exceeds anything this world has to offer.
            He gives us His grace and glory as He shines on us, in us and through us.  The two go hand in hand, because without His marvelous grace, we do not have His light in our hearts.  We may think of grace as being docile and passive, God’s favor on whatever we choose to do whether good or bad.  But God’s grace is powerful and imparts that power to us enabling us to live a Christian life – a “Christ-like” life.  We are saved by grace, changed by grace, kept by grace, empowered by grace.  Not to continue to live in the same condition we were in before grace was extended to us.  Jesus invites us to come to Him just as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.
Grace goes beyond the forgiveness of our sins. Being born again is just the beginning of a life in the Spirit that leads us to greater depths into the love and power of God.  My favorite definition of grace is found in Strong’s Concordance.  And I have shared it often.  Grace is “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”  Another source breaks it down to show us the distinctive components of His grace.  It is His good will, loving-kindness and favor. But it also includes “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”  The grace of God is a powerful source that is deposited in us by God.  Our lives are governed by the powerful influence of His grace in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  As we grow in grace, we grow in His glory.  Without grace, there is no glory.  The more we grow in grace, the more of Jesus’ glory will be seen through us.  It doesn’t stop with us, but shines through us.
 “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18) Growing in grace means the Spirit of God within us increases, and we decrease. Knowledge without the grace to work it out in our lives will keep His glory from being shown to others through us. By His grace, God places in us the influence of His Spirit and the power to change our lives and ultimately the lives of others.  His glory is seen in us as we are consistently changed by this grace.
If we are not careful to submit to the influence of God in our hearts, we will be led away from what is right and holy.  Studying the Word of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to show us His truths enable us to incorporate them into our lives more and more every day.
Our union with Jesus by His Spirit will cause us to grow more into His image, in knowledge and in grace.  Oswald Chambers said, “You always know when a man has been beholding the glory of the Lord, you feel in your inner spirit that he is the mirror of the Lord’s own character.”  We will take on His character, and our own will fade away as we look into His glory.  We will meld into one with Him, just as Jesus prayed we would.  His glory is seen in His Word as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.  His glory in us increases when we enter into His presence.
            When Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God for forty days, his face was still shining with God’s glory when he returned to the people.  They asked him to put a veil over his face because they couldn’t bear the light.  Stephen had the same shining glory on his face when he was stoned to death for his faith. As Stephen was dying, he saw the glory of God and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”  Yet the religious leaders were so angry with him for preaching the gospel that they went into a rage and killed him.  There will be some who don’t want to see the glory of God.  There are others who are hungry for it.  Don’t let those who fight against God or reject Him keep you from showing them His glory.  Whether we are rejected or accepted, we are called to shine the light of God’s glory.  Just like Jesus.  We are called to be made into the image of Christ. 
            “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV)  There is no veil between us and God.  We can see Him clearly in the Spirit and be formed into His image from one degree of glory to another degree of glory by His grace.  In His presence we will experience His love, the understanding of His Word, the correction we need to adjust our lives into His likeness, and a joy that never ends.
            The influence of God’s grace will lead us step by step closer to Jesus.  One degree of glory is only one step.  There is another ahead if we will keep our focus on Him and follow even when we don’t understand. Every time His Word speaks to our hearts and every time we come into His presence, we step into another degree of His glory.
            Why have we been given this grace and glory?  To reveal the glory of God to others.  Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14, 16)  We have been given His influence in our hearts so we can show His light and glory through our works and our character…the works and character of Jesus.
So, we continue to grow “in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  We can be constantly stepping from glory to glory as we follow the example of Jesus.  He was constantly praying to the Father and keeping in communion with Him.  Molding into His image is not a one-time experience that transfers this glory to us.  It is a lifetime of being connected to Jesus by His grace, of continually looking into His face. Sincere prayer and opening our lives up for God to examine us will keep our hearts pure and renewed in His Spirit.  We need to surrender to Him daily and allow Him to use us for His glory.  Don’t let anything get in the way of that oneness with Christ. 
            “The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God.  We have to maintain ourselves in the place of beholding, keeping the life spiritual all through.  Let other things come and go as they may, let other people criticize as they will, but never let anything obscure the life that is hid with Christ in God.” (Oswald Chambers)
            So many have never seen or experienced His glory.  But it is up to those of us who have received His grace and are increasing from one degree of glory to another, to show them.  That is our responsibility.  Their responsibility is to make the choice whether to accept or reject the Son of God.

To grow in grace and glory, we need “an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth and an immense broadening of all our interests in God.”  Oswald Chambers


Monday, February 5, 2018

THE GLORY

            I remember a time when there was a hunger among the people of God.  Although we were Christians and active church members, we felt there was something missing.  Our spirits were longing. For what?  We didn’t know exactly, but we knew there was something deeper than what we were experiencing.  We began to ask God, and doors started opening for us to hear His Word as we had never heard it before.  It was the same Bible, the same words, but suddenly they radiated Spirit and Life that was not only filling the void in us, but energizing our souls. It was as if a light had been turned on in our spirits and we could see clearly the Word of God.  We were aware of the working of His Spirit in us and around us as never before.
The Word is alive, because the Word is Jesus.  The first chapter of John tells us that.  It also tells us that Jesus is God, and nothing was created without Him.  Then it says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  That light is His glory, His presence displayed for us to see and experience.  In the light of His glory, we began to thrive and grow in the Word.  We were excited and celebrating the light Jesus had brought to us.  We realized the Word could be applied to our lives, and would change us.
This revelation of God’s Word and His Spirit came in answer to many desperate prayers from many people across our nation. The answer came because we were hungry and thirsty for more of Christ.  Do you have a soul hunger that has not been satisfied?  Are you doing the same rituals over and over and still feel empty?  If so, you are in the right position for a spiritual revolution, because Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
If you are hungry for more, ask of God.  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9)  Those are not just calming words to encourage us when we are down.  They are powerful words of promise spoken from the same God who said “Let there be light: and there was light”. These words carry that same power and will bring light to your soul.  We are not waiting for God.  He is waiting for us to ask, seek and knock…and it shall be.
            My grandmother was born in the late 1800’s, and she used to tell us about a revival that took place in the early 1900’s.  Her mother would take her along as she went up to Paris Mountain to pray with other believers.  She said there were woods on both sides of the road and the men would pray on one side and the women on the other.  She told us you could hear those prayers long before you ever got to them. The people were consumed with seeking God.  He consumed their thoughts, their desires, their lives and their time.  My grandmother vividly remembered the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit that followed.  She recounted many miracles that she witnessed.  This outpouring was about the same time as the Azusa Street revival on the west coast.  They were very similar in their origins, because the revival they experienced on Paris Mountain began among regular people who were tenaciously passionate to know more of God.
God is waiting for us to ask and really mean it.  He will move again if we pray like that and if we are truly hungry and thirsty for Him.  He will show us His glory.  He will impart to us His Spirit.  Our part is to lay aside other things and seek Him.  He will make us into His image during those times of prayer.  He will do a work in us, but He also wants to do a work through us, one that will reach the nations. Until we are emptied of self and filled with Him, He cannot do that.
Too many professing Christians are content with just enough ‘religion’ to soothe their consciences, with church as usual and a surface relationship with Jesus. Yet, all along it is God’s desire to fill us all with His Spirit and let His Word come alive in us.  He wants His glory to be seen in us.
            I was recently part of a prayer service where we did just that – we prayed.  The presence of God was very palpable to me.  I sensed He was right there with me, hearing the cries of my heart. I know He heard them because He has renewed something within me.  Why is it that
Christians seldom come together like that to pray?  We have some organized prayer vigils where someone offers up prayers for us on specific subjects and that is alright, but this prayer from the heart is anything but organized.  It comes from the depth of individual hearts and is heard individually by the Father.  It is the spoken desire of every longing heart being lifted up to heaven with no filter, just completely abandoned to God. It brings the very presence of God into our lives.  And that presence cannot be contained within us, so it spills out to those around us.
Satan would like to keep us from such prayers that change the world.  He knows how powerful our prayers are.  He knows the damage it does to his evil kingdom.  The early church prayed together and saw wonders and miracles.  They had power and authority in their ministries and thousands came to Christ.  They were real Christ followers, many giving their lives for the gospel.
What do you want in life?  What is your greatest desire?  Is it for the things of this world or do you long to walk with God?  When we crave the presence of God, He will come and do a work in us that cannot be stopped and cannot be explained with words.  It is a transfer of His power and glory to us.  Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples (and us) before His crucifixion, and asked the Father to make His followers one with Him.  He said, “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”  (John 17:22-23)
This glory is placed within us through the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to the world, not to showcase our talents or build a career. The moment we take credit for His glory and receive the honor that belongs to God alone, that is the moment when His glory will depart.  God chose to reveal this glory through Jesus when He was on earth. Jesus was the manifest presence of God in human flesh. Now He has chosen to reveal Himself through us.  But first, we must be filled with His Spirit.  Just as Jesus was totally united with and submitted to the Father, we must be totally united with and submitted to Jesus.  We cannot do the work of God’s kingdom without being made into the image of Jesus, without His manifest presence being seen in us.  That is why Jesus gives us the same glory He received from the Father.  He gives us the “power to become sons of God.”  He gives us the “Holy Ghost and power” to be witnesses.  We are merely vessels to show forth His glory.   It is His glory in us, not our glory.
When Solomon built the Temple, it was a place separate from the natural way of life.  It was holy and was dedicated solely for the glory of God.  Everything in the temple was there for worship to God.  The day Solomon brought the people together to dedicate the Temple, God came in a cloud to show His glory and placed His presence there among them.  Look at what happened next.
“Now it happened that when the priests had come out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the Lord’s house, so that the priests could not stand [in their positions] to minister because of the cloud, for the glory and brilliance of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house (temple).”  (Amplified Bible) 
When we surrender to Jesus Christ, and He places His Spirit in us, we become the temple of the Holy Ghost.  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
            When we are inhabited by the Spirit of God, we are set apart solely for God’s service.  We are not to take the praise and honor that belongs to God to glorify ourselves.  We are only earthen vessels He uses to point the way to Christ.  We cannot continue to stand in our own position and in God’s glory at the same time.  If the priests had continued doing what they were doing, they would have missed what God was doing and would have called attention to themselves rather than God’s presence. 
We may know the ropes and have figured out how to operate in the religious system, but the glory of God (His presence, holiness and power) is not manifest in the parameters of a system or on our terms.  Nor will He allow another to receive His glory, honor and praise.  Jesus said He had given His followers the same glory He had received from the Father, but that glory must shine from a vessel that is submitted to the Father as Jesus was, that shows love with a meek spirit, does not seek its own way, and has the power and authority of Jesus that is controlled by the Holy Spirit.  Those who are led by and walk in the Spirit will show the glory of Jesus Christ to others.  They will not turn the spotlight on themselves.  This Light is His glory, His presence revealed through jars of clay.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)  Do others see the manifest presence of God in you?

“For ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,
which are God's.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Book Release

My new book has been released and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Just a Minute, a Daily Challenge to Change is a devotional book for 366 days (making sure leap years are not neglected). Each devotion includes a challenge to change in an area of our lives, drawing us closer to Jesus.

God bless you in this new year, and may your life be enriched by His Spirit.




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE REVOLUTION


            In the 1960’s and early 70’s there was a revolution that rocked the United Kingdom and United States, then made its way through much of the Western world with its “anti-establishment” trend.  It interrupted the accepted traditions and beliefs, and created a counterculture or subculture whose values and lifestyles were opposed to those of society.  Young people rose up and defied the established authority and the prevalent cultural rules of right and wrong with their protests.  They rebelled against parents, government and God.  Many experimented with drugs and were addicted or died from an overdose.  Morals were thrown to the wind.  It was an age of “if it feels good, do it”.  The consequences were harmful and, in most cases, the new “freedoms” proved to be a greater bondage than the established authorities.  Were they wrong in all their opinions?  Probably not. Were the authorities right about everything?  Probably not.  Was God right about everything?  Absolutely yes!  Turning from Him caused a downslide in morals that entangled people in drugs and illicit relationships.
            But even before this rebellion settled down, there was a new kind of revolution on the horizon, and it would break the chains of bondage brought on by the previous revolution.  It would release every kind of captive.  It would give freedom to whoever wanted it, all ages, races, and social statuses. 
            I was in high school in the 70’s, during this second revolution that overlapped the end of the first one.  This second revolution was an outpouring of God’s Spirit that swept across our nation and through our schools.  I remember the students standing in the courtyard before classes and singing worship songs.  Many were brought into the kingdom of God, and their lives were changed forever.  Yet, at the same time, the other revolution still continued.  As a result of it, I also remember the threat of a riot in our school.  I saw some students who obviously came prepared to carry out that threat. There was an air of fear and apprehension.  I don’t know what caused the tension to escalate to that point, but the school had to cancel classes for the day and send all the students home.  What a stark difference in these two revolutions.
            Just as the 60’s counterculture rocked the lives of so many, the 70’s counterculture brought many to Jesus Christ, the Rock upon which they could build their lives and have a firm foundation of truth, freedom, real peace, and a genuine relationship with Him. 
The second revolution was different from the first in a major way.  These people didn’t revolt against the government or parents or God. It was a spiritual revolution.  It was a revival. 
Andrew Murray said, “A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.”  This revival was certainly one that changed hearts and lives forever.  Thank God, I was part of that revolution!  And it changed me forever.
            A revolution is a breaking away from established authority.  A counterculture is the society that is birthed from this breaking away.  It is a “way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing norm.”  Some call it rebellion, and usually it is.  But that is not always true.  Sometimes it is recapturing what we have lost.  Actually, this world’s culture is in rebellion to God.  When sin came into God’s perfect world, a rebellious counterculture was established and it continues today.  Followers of Jesus Christ are often considered the rebellious counterculture, when technically it’s the other way around.  Jesus came to turn the world back to the original “norm”.  He came to empower us to be free born citizens of His kingdom.
            A revival is a revolution.  It doesn’t come through a series of meetings, emotional stirrings or the determination to turn over a new leaf.  This revolution begins deep down in the soul.  It is the hunger and thirst of a desperate heart with a longing so deep that it refuses to be turned away without receiving more from the Holy Spirit.  This revolution is a breaking away from the world (spiritually) and places us firmly in the kingdom of God, under the rule and authority of Jesus Christ.
            Let’s go back to the quote from Andrew Murray.  What does it mean to cast out the spirit of worldliness?  What does God say about the spirit of this world?  In 1 John 2:15-16, He says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 
            The love of the world will draw us away from God.  It will never lead us to Him, but will entice us to please our flesh, our carnal (sinful) nature.  The lust of the flesh is indulging in the corrupt state and behaviors of the world.  The lust of the eyes is covetousness, always looking for something more, but never being satisfied with any of it.  The pride of life is a hunger and thirst for honor, riches and the applause of men.  We cannot live in both cultures.  We must make a choice. The scripture clearly states that if we are friends of the world, we are the enemies of God.  The spirit of this world is corrupt and in rebellion to the kingdom of God and God’s authority.  Therefore, we are a worldly and selfish people.  But we don’t have to stay that way.  We can be born again of the Spirit, living and walking in the Spirit.
But even as God’s children we can begin to slide back into the ways of the world and the thinking of the world. When we do, it’s easier to try to justify our waywardness by attempting to reinterpret the Word of God so we can feel more comfortable here.  But God will never change, and we only deceive ourselves when we try to alter His Word and the working of His Spirit. It is imperative that we stay filled with His Spirit and immerse ourselves in His Word.  It will keep us strong in the Lord.  We can only keep the worldliness cast out of us by “making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.”  The church cannot do the work of the church until she has made her garments white and is pure and holy before God.  We need to be revived and renewed.
To revive means to “awaken to spiritual concerns, bring to life again, recall to activity from a state of lethargy, recover from a state of neglect, oblivion, obscurity or depression.”  Be honest.  Do you need to be revived?  Do you need to be awakened from a spiritual sleep?  Have you become lethargic, let your guard down and neglected your relationship with Jesus?  It is so easy to slip into the pattern of the world if we are not consistently immersed in His Spirit and Word.
Billy Sunday said, “A revival does two things.  First, it returns the Church from her backsliding and second, it causes the conversion of men and women; and it always includes the conviction of sin on the part of the Church.  What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today!”  Billy Sunday preached in the early 1900’s.  Just imagine if he could see the Church in this day.  We need a revival!  We need Holy Ghost conviction!
My mother told me about a revival that happened at a church in a mill town years ago.  The church people had a renewal and revival swept the entire city.  They had services every night for several weeks.  The people flocked in.  Conviction would come and souls would be saved.  When the services were over at the church, they would gather in homes to pray.  But this revival wasn’t restricted to the church building only.  People were being convicted of their sins in the mill and being saved right on the job.  Their lives were so affected that they served the Lord the rest of their lives.  It wasn’t just a temporary emotional experience.
What kind of influence are we as individuals and as the church?  When is the last time we have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit or have been reproved by the word of God?  Conviction is given in God’s mercy, to show us sin that lurks in our lives and will destroy us and our influence if we don’t heed His call.  If we want to influence those in the world to bring them to Christ, we have to show them the power of God in us.  We cannot do that until we answer the conviction of the Spirit.  The Church of the Lord Jesus needs to be a pure, holy Church.  
What are unbelievers seeing in us?  What are they hearing from us?  Is it the same conversations and interests they have, or are we empowered to share Jesus through our lives and words?  Does our life cause them to be convicted of their sin and want to turn to Jesus?
            If we are to cast out the spirit of worldliness, we cannot resist the conviction of the Word and Spirit of God.  Only when we lay aside everything else to seek after God will we experience the revolution that will change us completely…and change our world. 
            We can experience a personal revival when we shut out the voice of the world and begin to hear and act on the voice of God.

“A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”

Charles Finney

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY"


            Ah! Christmas! It’s a magical time when lights and decorations turn the common into breathtaking displays. Hearts are more open to give.  Family and friends come together to celebrate, and music envelops us with the sweet melodies of Christmas. But the true message of Christmas is that which speaks of Jesus’ birth, and of “peace on earth, good will to men.”
            “Peace on earth.”  Those simple words of hope seem to be a stark contrast to the turmoil, hatred and rebellion prevalent in our world today.  Even our Christmas cheer cannot block out the reality of evil and turmoil all around us.  How can we reconcile such disharmony with the message God sent us?  How can the two fit together?        
            Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was also conflicted with the seeming inconsistency of peace in such a troubled world.  He had felt the knife of sorrow cut through his heart when his wife of 18 years died in a fire.  Shortly thereafter, his son Charles joined the Union Army during the Civil War without his father’s blessing.  Charles was soon promoted to Lieutenant and was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.  His recovery was long and his days as a soldier ended.
            Longfellow had experienced death, heartache and war up close. He could not deny their existence. On Christmas Day in 1863, he wrote a poem called “Christmas Bells.”  It reveals his struggle with the idea of “peace on earth, good-will to men.” We know his poem better as the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” 
           
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

            Yes. That is the message of peace and good will God echoed throughout the world that first Christmas night.  He reached down into a sin-cursed world that was in chaos, and He joyously, boldly spoke of peace.  Peace that would once again join us together with Him. God’s peace is not a temporary peace that is frail and can be easily shattered by circumstances.  It is an enduring, consistent peace that remains intact within us regardless of circumstances.  It is a union of our hearts with God’s heart.  Peace with God is the longing of every soul whether we realize it or not.  And God made it possible.  His peace is the most beautiful, lasting peace we could ever possess.  Nothing can take it from us, because it lies within us. 
            The bells rang out ‘wild and sweet’as a reminder of the angels’ vibrant message to us on that first Christmas when they announced the birth of God’s Son, Emmanuel, God with us, our Savior, Messiah, Lord and King.  All seemed right with the world that night in Bethlehem.

“And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth’, I said;
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”


            Longfellow knew well the pain and turmoil that still remained in the world.  We know it, too.  We see it on a daily basis and groan under the effects of this sin-sick society.  Jesus knows it, too.  He knows the pull of this world against His peace.  His invitation for us is to persevere through the trials of this world with His peace in our hearts.  It is born of and increased through our connection to Him.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  His peace doesn’t necessarily remove the turmoil of the world, but the turmoil in our hearts.  It allows us to live on a higher plane in the midst of chaos.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

            Somehow, the message of the bells, the message of the angels, was more persistent, more prevalent, more compelling than the chaos around them.  The message of peace, even in its tranquility and stillness was louder.  It rose up and prevailed against everything evil, everything that would try to silence it.  Peace may be resisted, but it cannot be vanquished or conquered.  The peace Jesus promised rises up in the middle of turmoil and dispels it.  It persists and prevails over every wrong. It is not fragile, but is a strong, indomitable peace.  It proves the good will God has toward us in spite of our defiance of Him.
            Jesus said,Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Receive that peace.  Jesus offers it freely to us that it may be alive within us here and now.  And at the end of this world’s order, peace will reign uncontested in a new heaven and earth.  All sin, fear, disease and evil with be annihilated.  There will be no more chaos, no more hatred, no more rebellion, no more tribulation.  Finally peace will reign within and without.
The message of Christmas remains as true now as it ever was.

“The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Sunday, November 5, 2017

TO THE MEEK

Meek – humble, submissive, preferring to bear injuries rather than return them, power under control

            We had an aloe plant that we left outside during that last cold snap of the winter and it died – we thought.  We had not meant to mistreat it but were negligent of its care.  Even the part that survived turned brown except for one small tip that was still green.  Aloe plants are wonderful for healing burns, so when I burned my hand, I broke off part of that tip to soothe the pain.  That little broken, mistreated aloe still provided healing for me.  Surprisingly, with a little water and warmer weather, it sprang back to life.
            Are we like that aloe plant?  Are we resilient and return good for evil?  Or do we choose to strike out against those who hurt us? Kindness changes hearts.  That aloe plant taught me a valuable lesson.  Don’t return evil for evil.  Instead, do good to those who hurt you.
            Meekness is listed among the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  This fruit only appears in the life of those who are born of the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.  It is evident in those who cultivate the character of Christ in their lives.  We cannot achieve meekness on our own.  We are certainly not born with meekness. Much to the contrary, we are born in a world that declares survival of the fittest, a “me first” culture. 
In this world of vengeance and hatred, it takes real power to be unmoved from the path the Father places before us.  We only receive that power through the Spirit of God at work in us.  Just as fruit trees have an unseen force at work in them throughout the year making it possible for them to bear fruit in season; we must have the force of the Spirit at work in us every day if we are to be able to develop His fruit in the various seasons of our lives. 
            It takes a heart like Jesus’ heart to heal the wounds of those who have hurt us, to return good for evil and kindness for spiteful actions against us.  Jesus said when we learn meekness from Him, we will find rest for our souls.  That rest doesn’t mean we won’t have battles to face and problems to overcome. It simply means we stay focused and are content in the Father’s will whatever the outward circumstances.  
Jesus never pushed His own agenda as a man, even though He had the power to do it. He possessed the boldness and authority to act, but never used it for the advancement of His humanity.  He used it only for the Father’s purposes.  If persecution was not the Father’s will at that time, He simply walked away from it.  There were occasions when men took up stones to kill Him or sent soldiers to arrest Him, but those attempts on His life were futile until it was God’s timing. There were other times when men tried to force Him to become their earthly king, but He evaded them, too.  Jesus never considered the will of man.  It made no difference, had no bearing on His decisions.  He was set on accomplishing the purposes of the Father only.
            When persecution and death were in God’s timing, Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing what lay ahead of Him. Why?  Because He was meek and submissive to God’s will. He was strong enough to walk into a trap knowingly because He wanted nothing less than God’s will.  We see that so clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed just before His arrest; “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” He had the power to deliver Himself, but He used it instead to press on in the face of death. 
            In the fourth chapter of Acts, we read that Peter and John had healed a lame man at the Temple.  As the man rejoiced and praised God, a crowd gathered wanting to know how this happened.  Peter took that opportunity to preach about Jesus, the One in Whose name the man was healed.  So, Peter and John were arrested, threatened, and commanded by the religious rulers not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus.  Their answer to these leaders was honest and clear.  They said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”  They weren’t defiantly disobeying authority, but they had to answer a Higher Authority, the same Authority these religious leaders claimed to follow.  If the disciples kept the leaders’ command, they would have to disobey Jesus’ command to preach and teach in His name.  They were threatened further and released because the religious rulers were afraid to punish them.  After all, a notable miracle had been done and many of the people saw it, heard their preaching, and believed.
Upon release, Peter and John went to the gathering of believers and told them everything that had happened.  They immediately went to prayer, but their prayer wasn’t one for vengeance.  It wasn’t one for protection or even deliverance.  They prayed, “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.” (Acts 4:29-30)  They asked God to give them boldness in the face of persecution, in the face of the threats that they knew would be carried out if they continued. They knew there would be repercussions and they needed courage.  They needed power to follow the commands of Jesus. 
Meekness is power under control, power to do what is right even when facing evil.  They didn’t ask for boldness to fight the religious people.  They didn’t pray for courage to take up arms, protest or bring down the hierarchy.  They didn’t ask for wisdom to outsmart the enemy. They prayed for boldness to continue doing what Jesus commanded them to do.  They would not be deterred.
These believers had an immediate answer to their prayer.  “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.”  God heard and God answered. 
When is the last time you prayed and chains of fear were broken?  When the words of the enemy against you lost their power because of the Word of God within you?  When your whole world shook and left you with a boldness and power that nothing could shake?  When the Holy Ghost filled you again and empowered you for the task ahead?  If we want an answer to our prayers, we have to pray them!  We have to mean what we pray.
            If we want meekness to prevail in our lives, we must have power, the power of the Holy Spirit.  This power is not to destroy lives, but to build them.  It is not to seek vengeance against those who persecute us, but to seek their salvation.  Jesus forgave those who crucified Him, even in the midst of their murderous act.  They mocked Him and called on Him to come down from the cross if He was the Son of God.  He could have.  He had the power to come down from the cross, wipe them all out, and vindicate Himself.  Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful show of His authority?  Wouldn’t that have shown them the majesty and glory of God?  Yes, it would.  But it would have left us all lost in our sins.  Jesus was more interested in securing our salvation than in a flashy show of power that would last in the memories of maybe one generation.  Jesus was set on finishing what He came to do.  Possessing the power to deliver Himself, He allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured and killed.  It not only bought our pardon, but He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven. 
            Jesus hasn’t called us to show how powerful we are, how gifted, how eloquent or well-known.  He calls us to save the lost, encourage the discouraged, strengthen the weak, care for widows and orphans, preach the gospel and show Jesus to the world.  From time to time we need to examine our motives in our prayers and our service.  We should want nothing less than the will of God.
Jesus still gives boldness and courage to those who ask, to those who follow Him.  He still answers prayers, fills us with the Holy Spirit and gives us the power of meekness.  What are we praying for?  For God to bless our bank account and keep us in a comfortable position?  Or are we praying for the boldness to love our enemies, do good to them that hate us, bless them that curse us, and pray for them that despitefully use us?
Christ calls us to put the will of the Father above our own selfish will.  He calls us to be kind and loving even in the face of evil.  We are to give the message of the cross to those we come in contact with.  We are to show the love of Jesus to the world around us. 
Only through the meekness of Jesus in our lives can we have the power to accomplish His work.  His way is not always easy, but He will give the power to those who ask.


“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

Psalm 37:11