Convergence: A Revival Of Word and Spirit

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I took this picture at a Church alter in Germany.

 

( I posted this back in 2010 on my old blog. I felt I needed to post it again – with a few minor changes.)

I believe most Christians would agree that prayer is a major key to seeing a genuine revival in this country. Some would say that a move of the Spirit through signs and wonders is needed – I would agree with that. We live in a “Christian culture” full of  Christian self-help books, Bibles of every shape, size, and various translations.  But, most Americans are suffering none-the-less from a famine of the hearing of the Word of God. We are dying spiritually in the mist of the information age.

The average American Christian does not know his or her Bible. We read the Scripture but know very little of the original context it was written in. We formulate doctrines based on our own personal experience, often taking verses out of their context. But, I have hope. God is raising up ministers in this Nation that are committed to the exposition of the Scriptures. I am encouraged by the clear teaching I’m hearing on the sovereignty of God, the substitutionary atonement, the feeding of the poor, missions, and the majestic splendor of King Jesus. My heart is to see Christ Church embrace the present day ministry and power of the Holy Spirit. A fresh empowerment or filling of the Holy Spirit is the need of the hour. To reject the spiritual gifts God has given to his Church – is to reject his grace.

God is building something of great theological depth in those that will “study to show themselves approved” and will pour His Spirit out on those who will seek him. I’m certainly not the first to see the connection between the Word and the Spirit. But, the need for this convergence, cannot be overemphasized. Come Holy Spirit!

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Avoiding The Spiritual Cliff and A Quote From Ravi Zacharias

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But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 
(2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV) 

The U.S. and the whole western world is slowly moving to the edge of a spiritual cliff – the love of many seems to be growing cold (Matt.24:12.) We have become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. The sins (and yes I said sins) of pride, materialism, and self-indulgence  have made deep inroads in our nation as well as the Church.  Paganism has become the main philosophy by which much of the media and our entertainers live by. They have become the voice of our culture, replacing the Church. And, it seems that much of organized or politically motivated religion is presently losing the moral high-ground.

There seems to be no end to the loss of innocent lives through terrorist acts, abortion, and families are under relentless attack by dark spiritual forces. Many of us have felt like giving up on our society, but change is not impossible. So, how do we avoid the spiritual cliff? It’s really simple; those of us that consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus  need to seek intimacy with Him. One person, family, and Church at a time can radically transform the culture by living surrendered  lives – through the power of the Holy Spirit. And we must focus on making disciples, not just “church-goers.”

I have hope for a better future. God has raised up young (and some old) pastors in the land who are not afraid to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. While some in the apostate church are casting doubt about the reality of  hell and the value of Christ’ death on the cross and his resurrection,  others are faithfully proclaiming these truths. They are not condemning people for living ungodly lives, but are offering Christ as the answer to the spiritual bondage that so many struggle with. (You don’t have to be a ordained preacher to proclaim the Good News.) Pray that we in the west would turn back to God and avoid the spiritual cliff.

” We all remember the old story of the frog that is gradually boiled to death. When placed in a cauldron of cold water that is gradually heated to boiling, the frog continues to swim in comfort, oblivious to what is happening. If, on the other hand, the same frog is dropped into boiling water, it immediately leaps out for its safety. The gradual change went unnoticed, accommodated beyond reason, while the drastic change met with self-preserving common sense. Undeniably, being part of a culture brings about a level of comfort with the ways and means by which people live. But that familiarity does not guarantee sensitivity or objectivity. Proximity is not synonymous with understanding. Indeed, the very nearness we experience through modern technology may make us more vulnerable to distortion and victimization. The ideas and personalities the media thrust upon our imaginations subtly condition our consciousness in ways that even political totalitarianism cannot accomplish. We are unavoidably beguiled, in this so-called postmodern world, to an unprecedented degree. The constant bombardment of images shapes the perceptions of a whole generation and results in altered beliefs and lifestyles that make even the aberrant seem normal. The double-edged tragedy is not only that we are in such an environment but any warning that we are being molded possibly for the worse is contemptuously mocked as insane.”

Zacharias, Ravi. Deliver Us From Evil (pp. 19-20). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

 

Bathing Prayer and A Quote by J.P. Moreland

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A prayer candle I lit in a church in Oppenheim, Germany.

 

I feel a sense of urgency to grow in my prayer life. Praying on a consistent basis has always been a struggle for me. But, when I break through the resistance that I often feel when I pray, God’s presence is worth the effort.  My goal is to grow stronger each day in my inner man, so that I can pray more effectively for others. Recently my pastor has called our fellowship to a season of focused prayer.  God is looking for those who will labor with him in prayer. We must learn the art of “bathing prayer.” I have been encouraged by the quote below by J. P. Moreland.

“Petitionary prayer is a form co-laboring with God in which I invite God’s attention and direct his power on a problem and work on it with God in the very act of prayer itself. You may think of this as a form of bathing prayer: You bathe the issue in prayer; you soak it with the power and presence of God while you pray. In this sense, prayer becomes a form of spiritual labor with God, and the longer you can stay with God, and the longer you can stay with something, the more you work on it by way of interactive conversation with God himself. This means that continuous, repeated prayer is at the very heart of working something over and constantly or repeatedly directing God’s power toward the problem. Here the issue is not to tell God what you want as much as it is speaking together about the issue. And, as one who stands in the place of God’s kingdom, directing the power of God onto something.” –  J.P. Moreland, The God Question, page 223.

The Deceptive Heart

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“When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.” – Psalm 119:52 (ESV)

 “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; 
 I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.” – Psalm 119:59-60 (ESV)

 

King David didn’t trust his own heart and neither should we. David refused to rely on his own ability to understand the teaching of Scripture and he was acutely aware of his inability to know the condition of his own heart. He ask God for help. Just like David we need the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. How is that accomplished? The same way David did it, by meditating on the age-old instruction of the Lord and pondering the way we are living. David said, “Keep me from lying to myself… for you expand my understanding.” Psalm 119:29,32 (NLT)

The bottom line is I can’t trust myself and we all need God’s instruction (an open Bible in front of us) because it has stood the test of time. The Scriptures are “God breathed” therefore they are the language of the Holy Spirit. One of the greatest and most biblical prayers we can pray is… help, Lord. That prayer of humility will bring enlightenment and discernment by the Holy Spirit, into our present circumstances. We live in a time when “spirituality” is popular. My greatest concern for this generation is that we’ve made a “god” in our own image. And he’s not the God of the Bible. Unless we turn back to Scripture we will live a life of perpetual deception. I’m banking my very life on the truth of Scripture.

Dachau And The Perfect Storm

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I took this picture at Dachau concentration camp this summer.

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” –  Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Dachau concentration camp is an example of man’s inhumanity to man, and the depravity of the human heart. Germany, the land with such a rich Christian history, and the place of the Protestant Reformation, became a place of death, and extreme evil under the Nazis. The conditions in Germany when Hitler came into power where just right for the demonization of much of the society. Even though some in the Church resisted Hitler, many compromised with evil, and some just chose to live in denial of the truth. It was the perfect storm. The political, economic, and social chaos allowed darkness to grow.

The conflict of World War 2, as well as all destructive conflicts, must be understood as spiritual in nature. Only evil principalities and powers, aligned with fallen human nature could conceive of such evil.  It’s as if Germany historically has been both a gate of heaven, and a gate of hell. When religion is not accompanied by the life transforming power of Jesus Christ, it loses its voice and spiritual influence in human government.

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The ovens used to cremate the prisoners.

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer  was one Christian leader who spoke out against the evils of dictators and totalitarian regimes. God always raises up prophetic voices that are often misunderstood, or often ignored in both the Church, and in culture. Jesus warned that wolves would come to seek to devour his people, and also warned the Church about apostasy (falling away.) Many in the American Church are being deceived and lulled into a deep sleep, by refusing to confront the evils of our day and by choosing ignorance versus action. While we in America are not executing Jews, Christians, and those that the Nazis considered undesirables, we have slaughtered millions of innocent babies in the United States through abortion. Late term abortion as a means of birth control is especially gruesome. We must exam our hearts as we rightly judge the Nazis, but receive correction from God for our own sins.

Our own society is presently very fragile. We can see the trends of unrest and lawlessness. Storms clouds appear to be forming on the horizon.  Could the conditions ever become right, or could we ever see a political and economic storm that would cause anarchy on a national level?  Beware of the perfect storm, and pray for God’s Kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as in heaven.

The Counter – Cultural Message Of The Gospel

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“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” – I Corinthians 15:3-4

Christianity is somewhat of a paradoxical religion. It’s exclusive in that Jesus is the only way to heaven and inclusive because everybody is invited into God’s family. The Gospel is good news. What is so good about the Gospel? It’s the fact that the free gift of eternal life is offered to everyone who will put their trust in Jesus. It seems to good to be true, but people of every race, rich or poor, are all invited into God’s family. The Gospel is relevant to people of all ages, ethnic groups, and God is not bound to any particular geographical location.

Believing in Jesus without trusting in him as Lord and Savior is only head knowledge, and mere mental assent will not save anyone, even the demons believe(James 2:19). True salvation requires genuine faith and repentance. To believe the Gospel is to acknowledge that God became a man and came from Heaven to live among the very people he created. And that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and are totally helpless and have no way of saving ourselves. We believe that Jesus lived a sinless life that we couldn’t live and he died on a cross and paid the price for all of our sins that we couldn’t pay. The Gospel message is counter-cultural: Instead of confessing our strength we acknowledge our weakness.

The Resurrection is essential to the Gospel – without the resurrection there would be no salvation. The Gospel message is unique among all world religions. No other religion has a prophet that died for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead.

I challenge anyone who reads this post: Meditate on the Gospel, make the Gospel message a priority in your life. You will never outgrow it. If you really understand the Gospel you will never look down on ‘sinners’ again. Why? Because we are all sinners and we all need a Savior.

The Anvil

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“I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” – (Zechariah 13:9 NLT)

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” – (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)

“Anvil – a heavy steel or iron block with a flat top, concave sides, and typically a pointed end, on which metal can be hammered and shaped.” – Online Dictionary

As I was praying with a group at my church, I had a mental picture of an Anvil. This was a time of intercessory prayer on behalf of our Church, and our community, which is an act of spiritual warfare. This type of persistent prayer pushes back spiritual darkness. I believe God communicates to us through mental pictures, and our thoughts at times to encourage us. I don’t think that every thought and picture that pops in my head is a message from God to the Church! But for me, it seems like a good picture of what many believers need to think about, especially in times of intense spiritual attack. God uses the testing of our faith to strengthen us and forge us into a useful vessel, or tool, in his hands to advance his Kingdom. Without trials and testing, we become weak and spirituality ineffective. All body builders know that growth comes from resistance. So, growing spiritually requires us resisting the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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Fire is a metaphor that is used in various ways in the Bible. God uses the fire of his holiness to purge sin from our lives, by his Word and his Spirit. He also uses our stressful circumstances, and the devil’s attacks against us, to purify our hearts, and to make us battle ready. Our battles are not with people but with worldviews and ideologies that clash with the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament God told Israel to drive out enemies from the land he gave them. Some wonder why He didn’t destroy all of Israel’s enemies for them. But, I believe God wanted his people to grow stronger by obeying his commands, and learning to fight for freedom, based on his covenant commitment to them.

As New Testament believers we still have enemies, but it has been revealed to us that they are actually spiritual in nature. We must be diligent to drive them (demonic strongholds) out of our own lives, as we seek to help others to obtain greater freedom also. The attacks never stop, but the goal for us is to become stronger, and yet even more dependent on God. In a sense we become a weapon forged by the Master’s hand, that he uses to drive out spiritual darkness.

Stand Up To Darkness

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 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20 ESV)

Many of those who I’m walking with spiritually feel a call to enter into deeper communion with God.  As if God is calling us to swim out to the deep, and experience His ocean of love. To cease striving with our fellow-man, and to “know He is God.” We are coming to recognize more fully the “schemes” of the devil. The Lord is raising up wounded warriors to re-enter the cosmic battle, against spiritual darkness. It’s time for those who have fallen to stand up. Those that have been unfruitful can become fruitful once again, as we learn the secret of abiding in Christ. God is extending his hand of grace and mercy to all that will take it. He will deliver us from the pit that we dug for ourselves, when we acknowledge that we were in agreement with, the evil one who led us there. This grace that God gives will not leave us in our sin – but His grace will help us to overcome it. God will gladly crush satan under our feet, so that we can live to fight another day. Peace.

Faith Alone

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Worms, Germany

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
(Romans 5:1-5)

Justification is by faith alone, just as Martin Luther the great Reformer rediscovered. But the Bible is clear; Faith without works is dead (James 2:17.) The person who has been justified by faith in Jesus will have a life characterized by good works.  But, those who seek to perform good works to earn salvation or God’s acceptance are only producing what the Bible calls, dead works. (Hebrews 9:14.) It’s critically important to understand that righteousness or right standing with God has been imputed to our account by God as a free gift. Righteousness is a foreign substance to us just as sin is foreign to Jesus. It must be given to us as a gift.

“It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26) E.S.V.

Jesus took our sin and gave us his righteousness, (The great exchange.) In other words, the Judge declared us guilty and Jesus stepped in and took the punishment for a crime he didn’t commit. Because of my sinful nature, I deserved to die, but because of God’s mercy, Jesus took my place. Since the debt has been taken care of, by Jesus I now have peace with God. The just One justifies the unjust who trust in Him.

For the rest of my life I will stand in God’s grace without fear of losing something I did not earn! As Christians we will suffer, but God will empower us to endure and as a result build character in our lives. How can we do all this? God pours his love into our heart by the Holy Spirit, in other words, it’s by his supernatural power.

Sola Fide

 

Musings From Germany: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

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I took the picture above in Oppenheim, Germany. Tradition says the protestant reformer Martin Luther wrote the famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, there. And it was probable that he was looking at this fortress on a hill, in the small town, during his stay there. It was said that Luther was staying in an Inn in the village, and was invited to the fortress to talk with a Catholic official. Luther was suspicious about the meeting and refused to attend.

Before I visited Oppenheim, I was able to visit the town of Worms where Luther took his famous stand against oppressive spiritual darkness in the Church. He stayed in Worms for ten days and that visit has impacted the world, to this day. The stand he took for the truth of God’s word, was an act of spiritual warfare of cosmic proportions. He felt as if he was battling Satan himself, and I’m sure he was. While I certainly wouldn’t agree on everything Luther taught, I’ve often wondered, where are the Luther’s today? Are we willing to take a stand for the truth against overwhelming opposition?

 

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(A bust of Martin Luther in Worms, Germany.)

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

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.

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.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.