A Spirit – Controlled Imagination

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“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8  (ESV)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  – 2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV)

“A purified and Spirit-controlled imagination is the sacred gift of seeing, the ability to peer beyond the veil. And gaze with astonished wonder upon the beauties and mysteries of things holy and eternal. – A. W. Tozer, Born After Midnight, page 92.

We all need illumination from the Holy Spirit to understand the deep truths of God’s Word. Christian spirituality is lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, many of the Christians that I’ve talked with over the years have had very little understanding of what it means to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. God created us with the capacity to communicate with him, Spirit to spirit. Our imaginations were meant to be God centered – and focused on things above, so that our thought life remains pure. When our minds are “thinking on things above” we tend to talk with God more.

Taking up our crosses to follow Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean selling everything we own and moving to a foreign land, to serve on the mission field. Taking up the cross requires a God – filled imagination. Those who start out believing, and ‘fall away’ from the faith, usually have never experienced the reality of God’s Presence. While the Reformed and various Evangelical groups have focused on knowledge of the Bible (which is good) we’ve often failed to teach people to expect the presence of God in their lives. And that God reveals himself to those who earnestly seek after him – through his Word and his Spirit.

The goal of theological study is to help us grow and enter into the fullness and knowledge of Christ. True spiritual transformation occurs when we are awed by the beauty of Jesus. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit become more than a concept in our lives when we learn to fellowship with God’s Spirit.  Jesus reveals the Father to us and the Spirit points us to Jesus. We must use our minds to focus on the fact that Jesus dwells in us by the Holy Spirit, and has made his power available to us. This relationship (if maintained) requires God’s grace, and some discipline on our part.

Spending time with God is worth the effort, but sadly many times we stop pursuing him before we have a spiritual breakthrough. It takes time in prayer and solitude to build a relationship with God, and that is difficult for most of us. It also requires us to walk out our faith daily with others who are pursuing God.

Prayer: Father help us to turn our thoughts continually towards you. Give use a desire to spend time with You in prayer. And teach us how to fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Amen

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Spiritual Freedom

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“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” –  (John 19:30 ESV)

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – (Ephesians 6:12 KJV)

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” – (Luke 10:19 ESV)

When the allies invaded Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 – it was the beginning of the end for Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror, in Europe. The Nazi threat of world domination would soon come to an end. But, many fierce battles were yet ahead for the allied forces to fight, and there would be many more casualties of war. When America declared its’ independence on July 4, 1776 it was a declaration of freedom, but only the beginning of a  long costly war. On the cross, Jesus’ declaration of Satan’s defeat was final – “it is finished.” But, as the New Testament clearly teaches’ the powers of darkness continue to wreak havoc on our planet.

We are presently wrestling with principalities and powers in heavenly realms. This is close hand to hand spiritual combat with a desperate and defeated foe. Satan can no longer enslave anyone spiritually, unless we allow him to through un-repented sin.  Jesus crushed Satan’s head on the cross to free us so that we can fight the good fight of faith. Our Savior gave us power and authority in his name to combat evil through the proclamation of the Gospel, and prayer, which transforms the human heart. God the Father sent his Son Jesus on a rescue mission to save humanity. And we have been sent out as sheep among wolves to rescue those who are perishing.

Lost In A Strange Land

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“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

Last Summer while visiting Germany, I had the stressful experience of being lost in a foreign country. I took the wrong bus ( there were buses everywhere) and I was dropped off in the wrong part of the city that I was staying in. It was a strange feeling that I hadn’t experienced since the second grade, when I got on the wrong bus at my new elementary school. Even as a second grader I was able to communicate with the bus driver, and after a couple of minutes I was aware that I had gotten on the wrong bus. Needless to say I was glad to find an elderly German lady who actually spoke English at that bus stop.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of relief to find a friendly person in a foreign land who spoke my language.  That stranger (I wonder if she was an angel?) helped me to find my bearings and to get to my intended destination. I think that it’s important for followers of Jesus to reflect back on the time in our lives when we were lost and didn’t know God.  And, to rehearse the same awe and wonder in our minds that we once felt in our new-found relationship with Jesus. He was that friendly person who found us when we were lost. And, Jesus didn’t just point us in the right direction –  he is “the way, the truth and the life.”

Even if you were too young to remember your salvation experience very well – many of us have strayed off the path at some point in our lives. In fact, I’ve had the good Shepherd seek me out and find me many times over the years, as I attempted to ‘do my own thing.’ This doesn’t mean that after we come to really know God, that if we stray away for a season in our lives, that we are eternally lost. It just means that we’ve temporarily lost our way because of disillusionment with life, and our spiritual rebellion.

We see the Father heart of God in the parable of the prodigal son. When his lost son returned from his rebellious journey he had to explain to the prodigal’s older and very religious elder brother that: “He was lost, but now he is found!” (Luke 15:32 NIV)

The point is: we need to know that we are lost in order to be found. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal to us that we are lost and need a Friend (Jesus) to lead us back to the Father. And, that my friends is the beauty of the Trinity. The one God who is made up of three Persons in a divine community of love, that works on our behalf, to take us to our eternal destination, which is ultimately, the new heavens, and the new earth. God is guiding, leading and calling us to co-labor and fellowship with him on our journey (in this foreign land) until we meet him, face to face.

 

 

The Fourth Quarter Of My Life

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… ” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Today is a significant day in my life, I turned 60 years old. Recently, while I was praying I felt compelled to raise up 4 fingers and declare that, “it’s the beginning of the 4th quarter.”  That thought is sobering to me. And, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions, like:  Am I still experiencing spiritual growth? Or, will I ever grow up to become a spiritually mature man? I like to be brutally honest with God and with myself, so, I realize that I’m not the man that I desire to be, yet.

My favorite football team, The Alabama Crimson Tide, emphasizes finishing each game and each season, strong. It doesn’t matter according to their philosophy whether or not they are ahead or behind, just – FINNISH STRONG! The Apostle Paul used sports analogies in his teachings to the Church. And, while Bama’s understanding of finishing strong may be somewhat different than Paul’s – I believe this is a biblical concept.

As I was writing this article, I realized that this will be my 200th post on my Word Press Blog, which I started about 3 years ago.  I first began blogging on a Blogger account in 2005. Strangely enough many years earlier while someone was praying over me, he ask me if I was a writer. He said (spiritually speaking) that he saw me writing.  As I thought about his spiritual perception about me,  I said to myself, “He’s wrong about that!”  Frankly, I wouldn’t identify myself as a  skilled writer, but I came to use writing as part of  my ministry to encourage others, about a decade later.

During the month of December in 2005 a spiritual mentor of mine said, ” just go home and start a blog.”  And I did! He had  encouraged  me often to write the things  down that I was learning, and my spiritual experiences.  So, over an 11 year period I enjoyed interacting with bloggers all over the world, and surprisingly it did well.  This was not mainly a result of my own insights or writing ability,  but, the fact that I posted so many articles by prominent Bible teachers.

In the early days and in my first attempts to encourage people as a personal ministry, I gathered  lots of  resources. I used tracks from Keith Greens’ “Last Days Ministries,” and David Wilkerson. From there I went on to become a distributor of Fullness Magazine and their materials. This was a group of Baptist ministers that had re-discovered spiritual gift’s (Healing, spiritual warfare, prophecy etc.) and embraced the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Around this time is when I started a tape sharing ministry. Over time I began to gather and distribute tapes and literature from  various other ministries, also.

As a result of different ministry opportunities over the years I have attempted to help others make disciples. It’s important that each one of us know our role and ministry as part of the body of Christ. In the 80’s, my friends began to call me “a Barnabas” – which means “son of encouragement.” And during the mid 90’s I had a very detailed dream, and in one part of the dream I was handing out water and encouraging  runners during a race. And that was my confirmation to continue what I was already doing. In fact that sealed the deal so to speak for me.

The Apostle Paul was clear – we each have spiritual gifts, so there is nothing to boast in except “the cross of Christ.” Each member of Christs’ body (his Church) should operate in our various  gifts that God has so graciously given to us, to build up others. We operate in our gifts  and callings according to the level of faith we have. Even thought I’ve had major setbacks in my life – mostly as a result of my own sin – by the grace of God – I’m still standing.  May God help me and you to run our races and finish well.

Musings From The Book Of Ephesians: Paul’s Prayer In Chapter One

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” For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,  I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” – (Ephesians 1:15-17 ESV)

 

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The Spirits’ ministry is supernatural. And He gives us understanding that we cannot obtain by our own study and  natural effort, alone. Our spirits are enlightened by God’s Spirit in our heart’s – which is our innermost being. That’s where all spiritual transformation takes place. Which ultimately results in a change of our outward behavior.

As believers we must ask God to reveal himself to us, so that as the NIV translates it: “you may know him better.” We first come to know him through our initial salvation experience, but that’s only the beginning of our spiritual journey. The knowledge of God is a never ending process for those who pursue him. And, God desires to make the debts of his love, wisdom and power known in ever increasing ways. He’s a holy but very personal God.

We have been set apart by God as his holy people, so that our behavior will be in harmony with his will for our lives.  We are His inheritance. And his will is that we will become  more like Jesus (over time) through the transformation of our character. The theological word for this is sanctification.

As Disciples of Jesus  we are God’s inheritance and we have his resurrection power living inside of us. We must ask (pray) for understanding of the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might,” which is what God has given us in Christ.  For the most part the full extent of this power is untapped in our lives. We overcome the evil impulses of the world, the flesh, and the Devil by allowing the resurrection power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to dominate our thinking. As we discover God’s power in us, we are more effective in supernatural ministry.

The Ephesians understood that the spiritual atmosphere was evil and they were up against dark powers – that controlled unbelievers. Those same dark forces still operate in our world today. The Churches during biblical times understood what they were up against spiritual darkness. But, sadly many in the modern Church don’t have even a basic understanding of spiritual warfare. Paul was reassuring Christians that all these evil entities are under Christ’ feet. We desperately need more understanding of the resurrection power that God has given  us access to today. And this comes to us, in response to our prayers. So let’s keep asking.

Note: The point of the knowledge of him has nothing to do with what God knows, but with what believers are to know (hence, “your…knowledge”). Further, the author’s prayer is that this knowledge of God would increase, not simply be initiated, since he is writing to believers who already know God (hence, “your growing knowledge of him”). NET Bible, bible.org

Musings From The Book Of Ephesians: Blessed In Christ

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Spiritual Blessings in Christ

” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love  he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” – (Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV)

Over the last several months I have found myself returning again and again to the book of Ephesians. The book has always fascinated me. It tells us who we are in Christ and who he is in us, and that we are blessed in Him.  It clearly teaches us that our redemption comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  It also reveals God’s plan of grace to conform us into his image. We see that God chose us and set us apart for himself before the creation of the world. And, that God reveals his master plan to unite all things in his Son. Everything and everyone which was made by Jesus (which is literally everything and everyone) will be summed up and have it’s meaning in Him.

I’m not really into the whole predestination debate anymore. I’m satisfied that God is both sovereign and that humans can make free choices. The ultimate goal of the Apostle Paul’s instruction here; is that we be conformed into the image of Jesus – not to argue how God chooses his elect.

We have been chosen to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be spiritually seated with him in the heavenly realms. We know that only those who are “in Christ” will experience eternal life with Jesus now,  and in his coming Kingdom. God has marked us out and called us as sons and daughters. We are Christ’ inheritance and he has a lot invested in us.

Jesus is the source of our blessing and he delights in his children. The fact that we are seated in “heavenly places” with him should lead us to pursue his heart for all people. Some say we can be “so heavenly minded, that we’re no earthly good.” But, I don’t see that as my problem, or,  an issue with the western Church as a whole. If we would access the “mind of Christ” we would have his perspective on life in this present evil age.  We live in between what theologians call, ‘the now and the not yet of the age to come.’ Our quest should be to discover all that God has for us in this age  “in Christ” as we experience his great grace and the power of the age to come, to some degree now. And, how we can impact people with the love of Christ that we ourselves have experienced.

As I delve more and more into the book of Ephesians, I find a hunger in my heart for a deeper intimacy with God.

Don’t Compromise With The Spirit Of Antichrist

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“Bloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” – (I John 4:1-3 ESV)

God has called his children to be salt and light in the earth. We are to love those who disagree with us and who do not follow Jesus. But we are also called, as followers of Jesus Christ, to defend the teaching of the New Testament as taught by Jesus and his Apostles. Jesus is our King and we are subjects of his kingdom. As loyal subjects we cannot compromise with the spirit of the antichrist that would cast doubt on the person and teaching of Christ.

An alarming number of individual Christians and movements have aliened themselves with this antichrist spirit. They teach universalism (that you can be saved without trusting in Jesus). Many religions acknowledge Jesus as a great prophet, but unless they confess him as the Christ, the anointed and only begotten Son of God, they cannot enter into his eternal kingdom. This teaching is basic Christianity.

Jesus is God. And trusting Him is the only way to Heaven. For me to teach anything else would be to give into the spirit of the antichrist, which is the prevailing spirit of the age we live in. As Christians we must see this as spiritual warfare. This warfare will be waged by those who proclaim the truth of the Gospel, without fear of  those who oppose the Gospel message.

If you are a Christian, don’t allow yourself to fall under the spell of  religious pluralism (all sincere people of other religions will go to Heaven)  that is growing stronger in our culture. Spending time in prayer and deep meditation on the Scripture is the way to strengthen our relationship with God. We must seek to live in the presence of the Holy Spirit, or we will begin to comprise the truth and be lead astray. We must remain spiritually diligent and stay alert.

The Resurrection Of Jesus: Reflections From The Church Fathers

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“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” – (Matthew 28:6 ESV)

A  Prayer
O God, who by your only-begotten Son has overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life, grant us, we ask you, that we who celebrate the solemnities of our Lord’s resurrection may by the renewing of your Spirit arise from the death of the soul; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. [Amen.] –  The Gelasian Sacramentary 

 

Why The Stone Rolled Back?
An angel descended and rolled back the stone. He did not roll back the stone to provide a way of escape for the Lord but to show the world that the Lord had already risen. He rolled back the stone to help his fellow servants believe, not to help the Lord rise from the dead. He rolled back the stone for the sake of faith, because it had been rolled over the tomb for the sake of  unbelief. He rolled back the stone so that he who took death captive might hold the title of Life. Pray, brothers, that the angel would descend now and roll away all the hardness of our hearts and open up our closed senses and declare to our minds that Christ has risen, for just as the heart in which Christ lives and reigns in heaven, so also the heart in which Christ remains dead and buried is a grave. May it be believed that just as he died, so was he  transformed. Christ the man suffered, died and was buried; as God, he lives, reigns, is and will be forever. – Peter Chrysologus, Sermons 75.

A Prayer
“O God, who for redemption have your only – begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection has delivered us from the power of the enemy, Grant us to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him, in the joy of the resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”  – Gregory the Great

The Death Of Jesus: Reflections From The Church Fathers

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“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. ” – (Hebrews 2:9 ESV)

Jesus tasted death so that all who trust in him will never have to taste death. The older I get the more I appreciate His work on the cross. Let us reflect on His death today with those who have gone before us, as we prepare to celebrate his resurrection tomorrow.

Wine Mingled With Gall 
​”When they had come to Golgotha”, the Gospel says, “They gave him vinegar mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he refused to drink.” This event was foretold by David when he wrote, They gave me gall for food, and they gave me vinegar to slake my thirst. ” Take note the mystery revealed here. Long ago, Adam tasted the sweetness of the apple and obtained the bitterness of death for the whole human race. In contrast to this, the Lord tasted the bitterness of gall and obtained our restoration from death’s sting to the sweetness of life. He took on himself the bitterness of gall in order to extinguish in us the bitterness of death.” – Chromatius of Aquileia, Tractate on Matthew 19.7.

He Put Death To Death
“The Word tasted death once on our behalf, the death of the cross.  He went to his death so that by death he might put death to death. The Word, becoming human flesh, did not suffer in his divinity but suffered with humanity.” – Epiphanius The Latin, Ancoratus 92.

He Laid Down His Life 
“When Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, he yielded up the spirit. “This refers to what he had earlier said: “I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it again,” and ” I lay it down of myself. ” So for this cause he cried with the voice, that it might be shown that the act is done by his own power. ” – Chrysostom,  The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 88.1.

The Wilderness: A Quote From Jack Deere

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“God declared his love for and pleasure in his Son, and then immediately sent him into the wilderness, seemingly withdrawing all divine support, and letting the devil test his Son. Sometimes God shows his love by caring and sometimes by preparing. In the wilderness God was preparing his Son for his greatest test, the test that would come at the very end of his ministry.

Jesus resisted the devil, not the wilderness.

The Lord leads us into the wilderness, and he will lead us out. So the fundamental question is not about escaping our wilderness, but how to make the most of it.

One of my favorite movies is Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. It is based on the book by Isak Dinesan. In 1957, a reporter asked her about how she was able to endure all that she suffered in Africa, the unfaithfulness of her husband who gave her an STD, the loss of her plantation, and the loss of her lover in a plane crash. She answered, “All suffering is bearable if it is seen in a story.”

I think that is the clue to our wilderness chapters. They are an essential part of our stories so that when the cross comes, whatever that may be, we will say yes to the cross, and heaven will erupt in praise for our God, and at last, we will have pleased our God.” – Jack Deere