It’s Time: A Prophetic Proclamation

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God is raising up watchmen. Find your place on His wall and proclaim his truth.

 

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)

It’s time to lay down our fears at the foot of the cross. Fear is a stronghold that rules the lives of many in the western Church. Fear is empowered by “serpents and scorpions.” While we may be ridiculed – most of us in the west are not facing martyrdom for our beliefs, at least not at this time. The days of fearing man and what might happen to us for proclaiming the gospel are over. It’s the Fathers will to give his children the Kingdom. We have been given great power and authority. And, we have been strategically placed in American (or whatever country you are in) to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom without fear or hesitation.

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We have been indwelt with the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus’ dead body from the grave. He died for our justification, so we have no excuses, we stand justified before God. He gave us power and authority – but  we have been feeding our souls on carnal things and have lost the reality of resurrection living.

It’s time my believing friends – to take back that part of our lives that we have surrendered to the enemy of our souls.

It’s time to rediscover Kingdom living.

It’s time to give ourselves to prayer and total dependency on God.

It’s time to embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers us and to lead others to this life of freedom also.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – (Luke 12:32 ESV)

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So Rachel Died

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” So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem),  and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.  Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. Genesis 35: 19-21 ESV)

For the main plot of this story read Genesis 27 – 34.

So Rachel died. She was one of Jacob’s wives – in fact his favorite wife and she died in child-birth. As I was meditating on this passage I couldn’t help to reflect on the previous chapters in the book of Genesis going back to Abraham. Abraham’s calling and blessing and the blessings on his children that would ultimately bless the world through Jesus are well documented. And when we get to Jacob’s life we read about his encounters with God at Bethel and Jabbok. The Lord gave him instructions through an all night wrestling match with “a man” in which Jacob proclaimed as seeing God “face to face” and  through dreams. Jacob was clearly being guided by God on his spiritual journey.

I also find the flaws in Jacob’s character and of his forefathers interesting. Doing character studies on these Old Testament saints can be counter-productive! But, what we do see is the all-knowing and caring covenant keeping God in action. The families of the Patriarchs of Israel were dysfunctional to say the least. But, least we be judgmental we must remember that we have the benefit of having the full canon of Scripture to reflect on and learn from. They were learning as they went – the hard way.

So, after Jacob is returning from his exile to the land of his mother Rebekah (as a result of his deception of Esau and his Father Issac over the birth right issue), his wife, Rachel dies while giving birth to his son. This death accrues even though Jacob is being obedient to the clear revelation of God to return back to his homeland.  And, when he reunites with his Father, who had seemly been on his death-bed several years earlier, his Father dies. What struck me so profoundly during my reading is that Isaac must have suffered from blindness for many years (Jacob was gone for a long time) even though the blessing and favor of God was on Issac. And after Jacob who had powerful encounters with the living God and had his name changed to Israel, his favorite wife died.

I’m a strong believer in divine healing, we see it plainly in Scripture and sometimes in our own lives, and through the testimony of others. But, the blessing of God doesn’t exclude suffering in this life. I consider myself  charismatic, I believe that all the spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are still operational today. But, if those who preach on the financial  prosperity of these Patriarchs of the faith as normal to all believers (which is rarely the case) fail to teach on their sufferings, they are misleading their followers. May we all  aggressively pray for the  healing of others and ourselves, but remember in God’s sovereign purposes  he doesn’t always give us what we want. Take courage – when our own spiritual journeys are over, if we belong to God he will show us the real meaning of our own personal stories and how they fit into the bigger picture of the Kingdom of God.

A Violent Kingdom by Fenelon 

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WHOM DO YOU THINK PAUL WAS TALKING TO WHEN he said, “We are fools for the sake of Jesus Christ, and you are wise in Jesus Christ.” To you! Not to the people who do not know God! He is talking to all who think they can work out their own salvation without accepting the folly of the cross of Jesus. No one wants to be humiliated and put down. It is not something to be excited about, but it is the way of God. You cannot give place to the world, to your passions or your laziness. Words are not enough to claim the kingdom of God. It takes strength and courage and violence. You must violently resist the tides of the world. Violently give up all that holds you back from God. Violently turn your will over to God to do His will alone. This violence is what I pray you will come to know, for how else will you know anything of the life of the Lord Jesus? —Fénelon

The Blessed Life – Psalm One: A Word For The New Year

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A Church alter in Germany.

 

 

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.  – (Psalm 1 ESV)

 

What we meditate on shapes our minds, wills and emotions. Our actions are determined by our thought-life. Meditating on God’s word day and night is foundational to the life of the disciple, and there is no Christianity without discipleship. Holy Scripture is “God breathed.” God’s words have creative power – he spoke the world into existence. He raises those who are spiritually dead to life with a word.

King David ask God to create in him a clean heart. God’s creative activity in the human heart never ceases. And just as our Creator created the human race by breathing life into Adam, so he has created a new race called Christians, by giving us his Spirit. We are, spiritually speaking, a new creation in Christ,  whom God has created out of the mist of fallen humanity.

God has given his children access to the blessed life – which actually means true happiness.  A key component to spiritual growth is avoiding the counsel of the wicked, at all cost.  And to avoid the talk and the reasoning of those who scoff at God and his people. This should be our goal, not only for this new year, but for the rest of our lives.

With the right amount of prayer, and meditation on the Word of God – our souls will flourish and prosper. Listening to Hollywood, the media, politicians and the talking heads of popular culture, can lead to spiritual depression. But, listening to God brings a deep sense of joy in the mist of a confused and negative culture.

Finally,  as we learn to think deeply on the written Word we will mature in our thinking with the ultimate goal of having the mind of Christ.

Ambrose on The Incarnation: The Ancient Christian Quotes Series

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I took this picture at an ancient Church in Trier, Germany. Ambrosius Alexandrinus, a Latinization of the name of Ambrose of Alexandria (before 212–c. 250)

 

This quote is the first of  a series of quotes I will be posting from the Church Fathers and other ancient Christians.     

“He was a baby and a child, so that you may be a perfect human. He was wrapped swaddling clothes, so that you may be freed from the snares of death. He was in a manger, so that you may be in the alter. He was on earth that you may be in the stars. He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens. He, being rich, became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich. Therefore his poverty is our inheritance, and the Lord’s weakness is our virtue. He chose to lack for himself, that he may abound for all. The sobs of that appalling infancy cleanse me, those tears wash away my sins. Therefore, Lord Jesus, I owe more to your sufferings because I was redeemed  than I do to works for which I was created….You see that he is in swaddling clothes.  You do not see that he is in heaven. You hear the cries of an infant, but you do not hear the lowering of an ox recognizing its Master, for the ox knows his Owner and the donkey his Master’s crib.” – Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 2:42-42.

Come To Me: Part Two

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Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

We who ‘come to Jesus’ come by divine revelation and believe that he is all, he claims to be. Like children, we are drawn to both His gentleness and humility. Jesus becomes the sanctuary of our souls. He is our life, wisdom, peace, light, and the shelter from life storms, and our hiding place. Jesus’ work of redemption on our behalf was finished on the cross, but he is presently seated at the right had of the Father engaged in the ministry of intercession on our behalf – so that we can enter into his rest.

It seems like a contridiction, but we have to strive against the world, the flesh, and the devil to enter into Christ internal rest, in this present age. When we experience this level of rest we are getting a taste of the age to come. Spiritual growth never comes without a fight – but remember, our fight is His fight.

Christ calls us to a place of childlike faith and dependency and assures us that our anxieties are a waste of time. And, that striving to obtain social status will weigh you down. He taught us that it’s the “Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.” Life lived in the present reality of the Kingdom is what Jesus calls – the abundant life. When we come to him we declare his rightful place as Lord and King over our lives.

Transformed thinking comes from accepting the invitation to abide with Jesus, in the secret place of prayer and Spirit- led meditation upon Scripture. The offer is to all  who are tired of navigating through this life in their own strength, without divine assistance, to draw near to Jesus.

Prayer: Father we desire above all things to “taste and see” that you are good. Would you help us enter into a deeper more meaningful relationship with Jesus? Amen

 

Come To Me: Part One

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“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins and to give them rest for their souls. He offers a yoke to wear on our shoulders, and not just any yoke but His yoke. A yoke was placed on the shoulders of an animal to help them to pull a heavy load. All yokes were designed to make the burden of pulling or plowing less painful. The Jewish Rabbis spoke of the Law as a yoke. And obedience to the law was a requirement to be in right standing with God. But, unlike the Pharisees who added their traditions to the Law and made it difficult to follow,  Jesus came to lift the burden of  attempting  to keep the law in ones’ own strength and to show us a better way.

The “Jesus way” is still a narrow and difficult way and discipleship or apprenticeship to him is costly. But, when we are yoked with Jesus, he provides the Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome impossible situations, humanly speaking. Jesus’ view of being yoked to the law and obedience is the result of a love relationship with God – not just legalistic rule keeping, without the power of his presence. Jesus offers an intimate friendship with God – and  the indwelling of his Spirit so that we can commune with him on a deeply personal level.

This “new and living way” has Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.  Jesus invites us to be empowered by his grace and to live by faith in him, who is the radiance of God ‘s glory and the exact imprint of God’s nature. And He still upholds the  universe with the word of his power (Heb. 1:30.) Why would we not give to our Creator the load we try so hard to carry ourselves on a daily basis?

The call of Jesus to “come to me” is initially for salvation, but it is also an ongoing call to each of  his sheep, who so easily stray away – to come back to him and abide in his presence. We as followers of “the Way” so easily lose our way and begin to take on heavy loads that our shoulders were not designed to carry. The good news is that the carpenter from Nazareth has constructed a yoke that is especially designed for us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please remind me every time that I  try in vain to live the Christian life in my own strength, that it is the pathway to failure. Help me to accept Jesus’ invitation to come to him on a daily basis. Amen

Resisting Shallow Christianity

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I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!  I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!  (Psalm 119:31-32 ESV)

As finite human beings we are limited creatures and it takes an infinite Holy God to enlarge our hearts. We don’t have the capacity to grasp God and all his fullness. We need God by his Spirit to open our hearts to reveal his thoughts and loving intentions that he has for us – to us. This love surpasses human knowledge and understanding – it’s experiential in nature.

When God enlarges the heart our response is spiritual hunger. This hunger can only be satisfied by God’s Word and his presence. To be a people of the Word and not a people of His Presence makes us angry spiritual consumers of knowledge that doesn’t produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

American evangelicals have a right to hold conservative political views but when patriotism and politics becomes the main focus – the cause of Christ suffers. Our lack of spiritual depth in both conservative and liberal Christianity, has become evident for the whole world to see. Both sides use God to push their agendas. America as a whole is morally bankrupt and divided to the point that reconciliation of the right and left seem impossible. Just look at the anger and division on Facebook and Twitter.

Prayer and repentance is our only answer. God resist the proud but gives his grace to the humble. So as a proud, corrupt and political people – God is resisting us. Many of us (not all) have become spiritually shallow and our lack of internal spiritual transformation is being exposed.  Thankfully there are still Christians that are growing during these days and are bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, but in most cases we rarely hear their voices among all the political bickering.

Prayer: God please enlarge our hearts so that we can have the capacity to love you and our neighbor as ourselves. Pour out your Spirit on your people so that we will run after your commandments with humble hearts and demonstrate the love of Jesus to a confused and conflicted culture. – Amen

Conformity To Jesus

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Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, ESV)

These words of the Apostle John are calling Christians to radical devotion and conformity to Jesus. This is a clear call to counter-cultural living and to discipleship. Debating theology can be a good and healthy thing as long as our understanding helps us grow closer to God and to love our neighbor more. All believers should desire to immerse themselves in the truth with the understanding that true knowledge leads to God, himself. But without a genuine love for Jesus and a worldview that seeks to experience the Kingdom of God (God’s sovereign rule) we will become cold and legalistic.

Our lives are like vapor and are much too short to allow ourselves to be conformed to the latest ‘spiritual’ fads and ‘pop theology’ of the world, or carnal preachers. Celebrities are the new ‘priest’ of western culture and most of them have a anti-biblical worldview that doesn’t leave room for conformity to Christ.

Our society values the spiritual  views of entertainers and politicians more than godly theologians. Many television evangelist teach their followers the love of money in the name of Christianity, while those that teach conformity to Jesus are often ignored. God has given us many things in this life to enjoy, but obsession with people, places, and material possessions, will ultimately lead to idolatry.

 What the  skeptical and unbelieving world needs is to see a Church that demonstrates the love of Jesus. When we practice what we preach – we will grow in our conformity to Jesus.

Awe And Wonder And Child-like Faith

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“…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”- (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

There is something special about the lights, cool air and beauty of the Christmas season. I also feel a deep sense of gratitude to God during Thanksgiving, as our family gathers for our delicious meal that my wife prepares. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the reactions of our grandson who is almost two years old. Everything is so new to him and he reacts with priceless expressions of amazement, as he verbally expresses his Awe and Wonder of some new discovery of light, sound, or taste.

Each day that he awakens to a new adventure and he seems to cherish every waking moment and new experience. As I was musing about his reactions while eating my favorite desert of vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, I couldn’t help but pause. It may not be all that healthy but it was gift from God to overtake my senses with delight. I didn’t need it but I found myself eating much slower than usual – I savored it.

We need God and his presence and the illumination that he gives through his Word and Spirit more than anything. The more deeply I thought on the matter – the more I realized that I must recapture that Awe and Amazement that I had as a new follower of Christ. I believe I was born of the Spirit as a boy, but it was in my early 20’s before I began to see God in greater clarity and gain a sense of Awe about the things that his Spirit reveals.

Now that I’m approaching 60 years old I thought, maybe its time to rediscover child-like faith. Not some angry political activist kind of faith. Nor a self-promoting faith. But an Awed inspired faith.

A Prayer: Father restore to us the joy of our salvation and bring back the sense of Awe and Wonder to the lives of your people. And forgive us for being to busy to enjoy just being with you. Help us to pursue the simple pleasures of life as we value your presence and all your good gifts. And help us to cultivate hearts of deep gratitude. – Amen