Tuesday, May 30, 2017


From our introduction to the Beatitudes last week, we learned that these statements are not results – outcomes expected from our actions – things we get if we meet certain criteria or conditions. Instead, they are congratulations for what we have at this very moment, characterizing us as blessed.

O the blessedness of the person who has realized his own utter helplessness [poverty of spirit], and has put his whole trust in God. He has the kingdom of heaven operating in his life, within which, his inheritance as God’s child is assured and all of God’s provisions are guaranteed.

The others follow that same pattern: declaration and congratulations – a position and a benefit we can count on because we’re in that position.

Today’s Beatitude, though, is going to take some explaining: Oh the blessedness of those who mourn…

There are things we ought not say when someone dies:
·         Oh, there just better off now.
·         Heaven got another angel.
·         Guess God needed them there more than we needed them here.
·         All things work together for good.
·         Blessed are those who mourn.

Blessed is the last thing they would ever feel at that time.

What we feel instead: My tears have been my food day and night, while they [my tears] say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. [I am sad because I had a life I no longer have. And my response to that loss is: I am in despair. I am disturbed.] Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. (Ps 42:3-5)

But David saw a completed cycle. Yes, I mourn but someday I will no longer mourn, because of the help of the presence of my God.

Vance Havner – Reading: the Lord doesn’t slumber or sleep. “Lord, if you’re gonna stay up, I’m going to bed.”

David knew that the presence of God brought help which was a generic word for “fill in the blank.” What is my need? What are my issues? They are all covered because I am blessed when God comes into my moment.

Why are those who mourn blessed? Because they will experience the presence of the Lord in a unique and personal way, a way that will bring to them what they need.

 The help of His presence. When Jesus entered into someone’s situation things changed.
·         Healing, Deliverance, Resurrection
·         Blind saw, deaf heard, mute spoke, crippled walked, dead lived, demonized were delivered
·         Weeping turned into joy
·         Infirmity turned into dancing
·         Sorrow was replaced with shouting

When Jesus began His ministry, He quoted from Isaiah 61: the Spirit of the Lord is on Me…to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

By His coming, He brought with Him ultimate comfort for mourners, beauty instead of ashes for those in defeat, joy that counteracts sorrow, praise instead of despair.

What’s He saying? He will not leave us where we are. Nor will He leave us the way He finds us. We will be helped.

Why doesn’t He just take the pain away? Stop the roller coaster and let me get off, or at least catch my breath. If He did we’d miss the blessing part of mourning.

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, "I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isa 57:15)

God allows mourning so we can experience His reviving.
He revives the spirit of the ones in despair.
He revives the heart of the ones humbled by the circumstances of their life.

Revive – bring back to life. Grief can make us think life has stopped. It can drain us of all the juices of life: emotional, physical, spiritual. Reviving is a process by which God refills our depleted life tank. Rarely is that done quick. We can’t handle the full restoration that God intends all at once. He refills us little by little along the journey.

Mourning is a journey that begins with walking through a valley that seems unending.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. [He covers my needs - He provides my help] He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort meSurely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, (Ps 23:1-4)

Within the goodness and mercy of God – God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves – He makes us, leads us, restores us, guides us. He actively shepherds us through our mourning.

It’s a two-part journey.

Part One: O the blessedness of those who mourn…That’s the valley where we learn to recognize and rely on His presence bringing us our help. How long does that take? For some not long. For others quite a while. There’s no timetable. A shepherd moves the flock at the pace of the weakest sheep.

Then when it’s time, part two kicks in: resting in the crook of His staff as He lifts us up into His comfort. O the blessedness of those who mourn for they will be comforted.

Rod and staff are among the shepherd’s equipment. He has more. I hear David saying, “Your equipment brings me comfort.” One very useful piece of equipment is the shepherd’s crook at the top of his staff. To reach sheep who have fallen into crevices where they can’t get out. He uses the crook to hook them and lift them up.

When we’ve fallen into the crevice of loss, darkness like a steep valley overshadows us. It’s hard to climb out so He walks with us through the valley. Along the way He meets our needs. As we walk, we anticipate the day when we will be comforted - when He reaches down and lifts us up. He will not comfort us by leaving us in the crevice. He will ultimately comfort us by lifting us out.

He sets on high those who are lowly [the depressed], and those who mourn are lifted to safety [deliverance]. (Job 5:11)

The blessedness covers both the valley of mourning and the day when He will lift us out of that mourning into His comfort.

There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecc 3:4)

There is a time to walk with God in our sorrow and a time to let Him lift us out of that sorrow. When? When it’s time. What’s He doing in the meantime?

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. (Ps 42:8)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zech 3:17)

Sorrow shows us God as we’ve never seen Him before. It teaches us, that when we’ve been driven to the depths, we will find God there providing exactly what we need.

"I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way, but left me none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with Sorrow, and ne'er a word said she, but, oh, the things I learned from her when Sorrow walked with me!" Robert Browning

There are some things we only learn in the valley.

One of the greatest lessons will be: Oh the blessedness of the ones in the bitterest sorrow that life can bring for they will experience the very presence of God meeting their needs and joy when they discover He has lifted them into His comfort.

O LORD, You have lifted me up…I cried to You for help, and You healed me. You have brought up my soul from the depths; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. I will sing praise to the LORD…and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Ps 30:1-5)

No way of knowing how long that night will last, but count on this: God is with you. And throughout that night, remember the promise remains: morning is coming and with it a shout of joy when He lifts you up into His comfort.

1.       Life is precious and losing it is a bitter sorrow.
2.      To help us process our loss, God lets us mourn.
3.      While we mourn, He walks us through that valley.
4.      At the end of the valley we will experience His comfort restoring our lives.
5.      When everything within you says no, the Spirit of God whispers, “Yes, you can!”

Monday, May 22, 2017

BEATITUDES - Poor in Spirit

On July 16, 1999, John Kennedy, Jr., his wife and sister-in-law were killed when his Piper Saratoga crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by "the pilot’s failure to maintain control of his airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation."

Spatial disorientation is not an uncommon problem with pilots. It happens when a pilot loses his reference point as to where he is in the air. Spatial disorientation is the disagreement between what the pilot thinks is true and what the instruments say is true. That’s when you are supposed to doubt what you think and trust your instruments. Looking out with no horizon, you don’t know if you’re flying straight and level, right side up or upside down. But your instruments do. That’s why a primary lesson in flight training is to learn to trust your instruments.

The Sermon on the Mount introduces us to the truth gauge on our instrument panel. It’s marked, Jesus. 

When He told His disciples who He was, He said, I am the way, the truth and the life. He was defining Himself as the one by whom all opinions could be verified. What He taught was such a contrast to what the people believed, when He finished, Matthew said, “The crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt 7:28-9)

The scribes’ only authority was what was written. Any comments they added were just their opinions. But Jesus spoke as though He was the author of what was written, and was authorized to say what it meant.

Jesus says “I say,” fourteen times in the Sermon on the Mount. Here’s the common opinion, but I say. Here’s what the Pharisees do, but I say. Here’s how the gentiles react, but I say.

He begins with the Beatitudes to give the people some statements that challenge their perspective for how life works. And it was quite a challenge: What I am saying isn’t how you believe or have been taught to believe, so change what you believe to match what I’m saying.

When all you are used to is an opinion of what is true, you are flying by perspective. This teaching is how to live in the opposite direction of what you think (and everyone is saying) is the right direction.

We belong to another world where the rules are different. We can’t rely on our gut feeling about what is right or wrong, up or down. We believe that what God says through His Word is the right way to go. 

Before we get into each of the beatitudes we need some background.

In the beatitudes there is no verb—no “are.” Why? Matthew is writing in Greek, Jesus spoke Aramaic. Aramaic is closer to Hebrew than Greek. Jesus begins each Beatitude with a common Aramaic/Hebrew expression that meant: "O the blessedness of . . ."

Psalm 1 begins in the Hebrew with the same phrase: "O the blessedness of the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly" (Ps.1:1). Not he will become blessed if he stays away from ungodly counsel but because he is blessed he refuses it.

“O the blessedness of” is a descriptive, not a hopeful outcome. Look at his benefits since he is a blessed man.

Matt 5: That’s how Jesus begins each Beatitude: O the blessedness of the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those being persecuted…It’s an exclamation! Since they live in a context of blessedness, here are their benefits. Not they will be blessed and gain these benefits if they meet certain criteria.

The Beatitudes are not hopes of what will be. They are congratulations on what is. Even the ones with future implications, the blessedness is in the bank, now. Heaven will not be my home when I die, it is my home right now. Within our blessedness, we can look forward to, can count on what is coming.

The poor in spirit can count on the Kingdom of Heaven – Living out of the riches of God’s grace, where our inheritance as God’s children is assured and all His provisions are guaranteed.
The beatitudes are saying, "How blessed it is to belong to the Lord! And here are some examples.” They are statements of what is ours to expect within the Life surrendered to the Lord.

Taking an Aramaic statement and putting it into Greek, Matthew uses the word makarios. It is what the Greeks called the Island of Cyprus—The Happy Island because they believed that Cyprus was so beautiful, rich, and fertile that a person would never need to go anywhere else to find a more perfectly happy life.

But happiness is just a surface meaning. Happiness usually depends on the chances and the changes of life, which you can have today and be taken away tomorrow.

But makarios describes the joy which is completely independent of all chance and the changes of life. It is joy that cannot be touched or taken away. "No one," said Jesus, "will take your joy from you" (Jn.16:22). The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (Jn 14:27)

How does the world give: temporarily, conditionally, irrationally.
·         The delight in a new car fades over time.
·         What it takes to be happy is held just out of reach like a dangled carrot.
·         Why do the wicked prosper?

Joy, peace, blessedness aren’t presents from the world. They are gifts from the Lord. Since the world didn’t give them to us, the world can’t take them away.

It is a joy we find in our pain, and sorrow, and loss. It is a peace that settles over us even when storms rage all around. It is a blessedness that accompanies us wherever we go.

The world can make us happy. But the world can as easily take that happiness away. We can make a fortune and lose a fortune. We can have our health then lose our health. We can find success then follow that success with abject failure. We can realize one dream then have the next dream smashed to pieces. Even a change in the weather ruining our plans can cause our happiness to vanish.

Jesus says we need something more stable, unmovable on which to build our lives:  Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall." (Matt 7:24-27)

The world will offer an opinion on everything. Look at the instrument panel. Find the one that says Truth. Check opinion against the God’s Word.

“Make the lie big. Make it simple. Keep saying it. And eventually they will believe it.” Adolph Hitler.

Matt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
There are two words for poor in Scripture. One means a man who works hard and yet struggles for his needs. He has barely enough. He’s considered poor but not destitute. No surplus but no luxuries. Scratching out an existence but getting by.

The other word means to crouch or cower. It describes a poverty that has beaten a person down. This is the one who has nothing at all. He is completely poverty-stricken. Destitute.
Jesus uses the second word for poor, but qualifies the word with spirit. He wants the people to know He’s not talking about finances but being destitute within his spirit.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)

What causes broken-heartedness and what crushes our spirit? The emptiness that results when what we have counted on to fill and satisfy our lives is taken away or doesn’t come through.

Poor in spirit are those who realize the emptiness of going through life sticking square pegs into round holes and losing hope of ever filling the void in their lives.

Follow the progression of the use of this word: (i) It first meant simply poor. (ii) Then went on to mean, because they are poor, they have no influence or power, or help. (iii) Then it meant, because of having no influence, therefore they are down-trodden and oppressed by men. (iv) Being poor then referred to a man who, because he has no earthly resources whatever, must depend on others. Add spirit to poor and it becomes: one who recognizes what he is without God and as a result puts his whole trust in the Lord.
When I realize the world cannot supply the depth of what I need, I am set on a path to blessing, driven by dependency on God.

Like what David said, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Ps 34:6). David saw himself as an humble, helpless man with no resources to deal with his trouble but found his help came from the Lord.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. (Ps 121:1-2)

O the blessedness of the person who has realized his own utter helplessness, and has put his whole trust in God, for that is how the kingdom of heaven operates—by faith in the God of Heaven!

When that happens, a person’s perspective matches what’s true. He no longer counts on what the world offers to supply happiness or security, but learns to rely on God who can bring him help, and hope, and strength. The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized the old way had him so disoriented he was crashing. But now God has set his life straight.

When Katrina hit New Orleans, a cameraman caught a lady wading chest deep in the murky waters. The reporter yelled out to her, “How are you? Where are you going?” She replied very simply. “I got my life and I got my Jesus. The rest don’t matter.” The significance of what she said was lost to the reporter and probably many listening on TV but to Believers, it made perfect sense. If we have faith in a faithful God, everything qualifies as a blessing.

One of the most difficult stories of someone coming to Jesus and leaving without Him is the story of the young rich man. Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:21-26)

The wealth wasn’t the problem. It was the sufficiency he felt because of his wealth that made him reject what Jesus offered. He hadn’t met a need he couldn’t take care of on his own. He trusted in his perception of how secure his life was, not the truth.

Whether it is wealth, intellect, success, talent, ego: we’re trusting in a false hope of our own security. Theologian Karl Barth said: “When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well-supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?”

So what is Jesus saying: The blessed man realizes the emptiness of the misdirected life and places his whole life into God’s hands.

The reality is, we are a blessed people living out the truth of who God is and what He can do. In our poverty, He is rich in mercy, grace and love.

  1. As believers we are blessed.
  2. We are not better than anyone else, only better off.
  3.  Out of the riches of God’s grace, our inheritance as God’s children is assured and all His provisions guaranteed.
  4.  All the promises of God are true and our opinion isn’t the final answer.
  5.  God’s Word is our true and final authority for what is right.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

One of God’s greatest inventions is marriage. Creating a loving environment where two people can find perfect harmony with each other, live free from conflict and drama, produce well-behaved and respectful children who will place no demands on their parents and honor them by taking care of those same parents in their old age, produce grandchildren that are clearly superior to all others in spite of the person our kids chose to marry. Two perfect people finding each other and making a stress-free life together. Marriage is an incredible invention!

Rarely is the person we live with the same person we thought we were marrying when we said “I do.” Everyone changes, everyone settles into a comfort zone, everyone drifts into patterns according to their wiring, their upbringing, their disposition.

A mother was discussing with her daughter about the qualities to look for in a husband. She stressed that a husband and wife should be as much alike as possible in interests and backgrounds. The daughter brought up the point that opposites often attract. “Listen,” the Mom said, “just being a man and a woman is opposite enough.”

Opposites: shampoo, colors [sign in paint store. Men may not select paint color without a note from their wives], what it takes to operate, babies-Mom with baby. Dad.

One of the leading causes of divorce is isolation – ladies used to sit around in the shade shelling peas, talking about the ignorant things their husbands did. Wives today think their husband is the only one who does those things. Older women taught younger women there’s a whole world full of them.

Dad was helping his daughter with homework: "Here is the situation," she said.  "A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of a river, fishing.  He loses his balance, falls in, and begins splashing and yelling for help.  His wife hears the commotion, knows he can't swim, and runs down to the bank. Why do you think she ran to the bank?" The dad answered, "To draw out all his savings before everything goes into probate."

A wife said to her husband, "Go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, buy a dozen." Her husband went to the store. They had eggs. He returned with 12 loaves of bread.

Guy noticed that is father seemed to be losing his hearing, so he mentioned it to his mother, asking if it was presenting any problems. "Things haven’t changed that much," she said. "Only difference is, before, he didn’t listen. Now, he can’t."

Guy talking with his friend: Wow, your wife was really yelling at you. What was going on? She was saying I don’t listen to her. Or something like that.

Women want men to change and they never will.
Men want women not to change and they do, every other day.
I’ve heard moms talking about how they changed from the first child to the last. One said having children had mellowed her out. If the first child even coughed or sneezed, she’d wrap her up and get her to the clinic. But when the third child swallowed a dime, she told him, “That’s coming out of your allowance.”

1st baby: You were determined to make it through delivery with no anesthetic.
2nd baby: You take drugs as soon as the nurse offers them.
3rd baby: You request an epidural when you check in.

1st baby: If the pacifier falls on the floor you put it away until you can go home and disinfect it properly.
2nd baby: When the pacifier falls on the floor you rinse it in a water fountain and put it back in your baby’s mouth.
3rd baby: You wipe it on your shirt and pop it back in.

1st baby: We insisted on brand new clothes for our baby.
2nd baby: We recycled the clothes number one used.
3rd baby: We tried to recycle the same clothes the other two used until number three got old enough to talk and said, “But they’re girls and I’m a boy.”

Words took on new meaning:
Dumbwaiter: Wait staff who asks if the children would like dessert.
Feedback: The inevitable result when the baby doesn't appreciate the strained carrots.
Full Name: What you call your child when you're angry with him.
Grandparents: The people who think their grandkids are wonderful even though they're sure the parents aren’t raising them right.
Show Off: Somebody else’s child or grandchild who is more talented than yours.

My mom used the spit on the handkerchief method of cleaning my face. Didn’t really appreciate it at the time until I read Scientists have proven that a Mom’s spit is the exact chemical composition of Formula 409. Guys, get your wife to spit on a Kleenex – you’ll get rust off the bumper of your car and grass stains off your golf clubs.

Without any competition to prove it, we all felt our mom was the greatest mom. In fact, probably every mom has a card, a t-shirt or coffee mug that says, "World's Greatest Mom."

Dermot McCann felt that way. He forgot his lines in a Sunday school play. Luckily his mother was in the front row to prompt him. She mouthed the words: 'I am the light of the world.' Dermot beamed and with great feeling and a loud clear voice announced, 'My mom is the light of the world!'
Your family is just like Dermot. In their heart there is no Mom greater than their mom. You win hands down.

So, if you are a Mom, or if you had a mom, who holds your rope?

A group of scientists and botanists were exploring remote regions of the Alps in search of new species of flowers. One day they noticed through binoculars a flower of such rarity and beauty that its value to science was incalculable. But it lay deep in a ravine with cliffs on both sides. To get the flower someone had to be lowered over the cliff hanging from a rope. A curious young boy was watching nearby, and the scientists told him they would pay him well if he would agree to be lowered over the cliff to retrieve the flower below. The boy took one long look down the steep, dizzy depths and said, “I’ll be back in a minute.” A short time later he returned, followed by an older man. Approaching the botanist, the boy said, “I’ll go over that cliff and get that flower for you if this man holds the rope. He’s my dad.”

There aren’t many times in life where we physically hang from a rope and someone holds the other side. But we’ve all had someone we’ve felt we could trust with our lives.

But, there is only so far our confidence in another person can take us. When Jan and I were married, I thought I was the one who was to hold her rope. I tried but found I wasn’t adequate. I couldn’t always provide everything she wanted from me.

My strength is limited, my ability can waver, in the middle of a need, I might be taking a nap. Sometimes I wasn’t even around at the time she needed me. I’ll hold on as long as I can but my hands eventually will lose their grip.

So, we need someone else to hold the rope. Someone with superior strength, the strongest grip, the greatest determination, and has promised He will not to let us go. Who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond anything we could ask or think.

Jesus said, “My Father is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch you out of the Father’s hand.” (Jn 10:29)

My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Ps 63:8)

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. (Ps 37:23-24)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. (Ps 46:1-3)

My dad used to say: When you reach the end of your rope, tie and knot and sit on the knot. Because God is holding the other end.

Thomas Dorsey

If you haven’t been where Thomas Dorsey was, you will. We’re either going into a struggle, are in a struggle or coming out of a struggle, or between struggles. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Jn 16:33)

To say God is holding your rope is to know you have placed your life in His hand. If you haven’t, invite Him in to take over. He’s much better equipped to run things than we are.

I invite you today to rest in the arms of Jesus. Casting your cares on Him, for He cares for you.

  1.  Life is too hard to try it on our own.
  2.  “God is with us” is a promise to believers directly from God Himself.
  3.  Trust in the Lord is a command and a promise that He will direct our lives.
  4. We can rest on the rope when we know the One who holds the other end.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Day of the Lord - Manifesting His Filling

The Book of Acts is a history book. It tells us the story of the early church following the Ascension of Jesus up to and concluding with Paul imprisoned in Rome. It is not a doctrinal book. It tells us what happened. Some of what happened may help us know what can happen—what are the possibilities. 

But we cannot lay out any game plan of how God always accomplishes His purposes using the Book of Acts. We build our beliefs on what God promises to do, not on what He did under unique situations with specific individuals.

God never cookie-cuttered His activity. He didn’t want people to restrict Him to a formula. Do these three things and God will respond. Say this phrase and God will work. Posture yourself in this position and you can count on God coming through.

            Men discussing prayer positions. Lineman for the power company.

In the Book of Acts, some had quiet moments of surrender to the Lord while Paul had a blazing light blind him in the middle of a road. Some came with a measure of understanding [like Apollos] then were brought up to speed by others with deeper knowledge [like Aquilla and Priscilla]. Some experienced God with visible signs and wonders – speaking in tongues or prophesying – while others simply believed and were baptized. Some came to the Lord by themselves, others came with a group. Some came doubting. Some came believing.

Some were very old. Some came as children (we assume from a whole household coming to the Lord on two occasions). Some were influential people, others were plain ole folks like us. Some were soldiers, some were doctors, some were laborers, some were business owners, some were politicians. Some were religious, some were pagans. Some came in response to a public message. Some came by direct, one-on-one witness.

But there is a common thread running through each story. Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Then that thread continued so that once they were saved, the Spirit then manifested Himself to and through those individuals according to what He wanted to accomplish in them. Some experienced Him in ways similar to others. Some didn’t. That inconsistency of what the Spirit does in each life is beautifully consistent. His work in each of us is unique.

If we were to build doctrine for how God operates in believers’ lives, we’d need a repeatable pattern. This is the way God always works. Here’s what you can expect. But with the Spirit, He’s like the wind. Jesus said: The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (Jn 3:8)

He may come with gale force winds or a gentle breeze. He may whip up a tornado or hit with a soft southern gust. The Spirit cannot be limited to exact specifications as to how He operates, when, where or why. You don’t grasp a hand full of wind and cram it into a container shaped the way you want it to fit.

Because of that, God gave us a variety of examples in Scripture that we all could identify with, not making any one person’s experience the standard for how He does business in everybody else’s life. How He works in your life may not be how He works in mine.

I’ve read the material, heard sermons, listened to testimonies that have tried to make the case for one size fits all when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Sorry, but the Bible doesn’t teach that.

It is like the Gifts of the Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Cor 12:4-11)

In Corinth the people were judging other’s spirituality by what gift they could manifest, thinking the gift was some reward giving them status rather than a tool by which God could accomplish His work through them. They made the gift about them, not Him.

The Craftsman can create incredible woodwork. He wants the best tools he can get, but it is the skill in his hands that makes the tools useful.

The people wanted the more visible gifts. Forgetting it was the Holy Spirit who determined how He would manifest Himself through them. Their gift was a badge of identity that they proudly wore. And if you didn’t’ have a visible badge like everyone else, you considered yourself inferior.

Tights in Madrigals – I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be like everyone else. My costume looked dingy. I stated my case. I shared my heart. I was replaced. The ecru made me feel inferior. I wanted a badge like everyone else. But I didn’t realize until much later that my role in life was not to be like everyone else. God had unique and specific plans for how He would use me.

Manifesting Himself is God using us to demonstrate His presence in a moment. It is the Spirit’s prerogative. Our responsibility is submitting and yielding access. That’s what the booklet was all about last week.

Submission speaks of flexibility. I get rigid when I want my way. I don’t want to bend. When the Spirit is wanting to manifest Himself in my life, He needs some room to work.That’s why God gave us new hearts, made us new creatures. The old life could not contain the expansive work of the Spirit.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. (Luke 5:37)

We are not to be rigid containers holding the Holy Spirit as a deposit of God within us. We are flesh and blood temples – wineskins – from where the Holy Spirit will manifest the glory of God to the world. When God filled the old Temple the people knew He was there. When God fills His new temples the people know God is here.

Marble – I was in the middle of a break down called burnout. But God used that crisis to help me yield to His control. My counselor there said simply, “God must love you very much.” It melted my heart. I sensed God filling me with more of Himself than I could contain. It took that breaking for me to yield to Him.

When God knows we are living far beneath what He has promised and offered, knowing there is more available just on the other side of surrender, He often provides a breaking moment. Breaking us open to fill us but also to release what He wants to do through us.

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (Jn 12:1-3)

My odor cannot accomplish what the fragrance of God can. When He wants to express His fragrance through my life, and my stubborn lid is stuck and just won’t budge, He may have to break off the top.

How dreadful that God would intentionally hurt us to make us better. Ever had surgery? Every had a knee replaced?

On rare occasions, after someone has had a knee replacement, certain lubricants may have evaporated during surgery. That can cause the joints to dry out and create adhesions that restrict the range of motion. Under severe cases, you may need to be placed under anesthesia so the doctor can manipulate your joints, using specific maneuvers to break up fibrous adhesions around the joint and surrounding tissue. This tears away the binding and frees up the motion. Breaking up what binds us.

It’s like God pulling the reigns out of our hands, pealing our fingers off the steering wheel, prying us away from being in control, breaking us from the habit of leaning on our own understanding so we can yield to Him to direct our lives.

Some get it the first time. For others it may take a second touch: Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)

Jesus wasn’t taking a do-over because the first time didn’t work. This wasn’t an example of sometimes God comes through and sometimes He doesn’t. He was giving us a story that teaches us God may need to take us through steps to change us. Maybe we’re not ready for all God wants to reveal about Himself until later.

I’m not so concerned or interested in how God manifests Himself in your life, only that you allow Him to do so. There is no limit to the ways God may want to use you. Just let Him. Our church needs that. You need that. I need that.

I have heard God speak to me through some of you on occasions. I have seen God touch lives through you. I’ve experienced the comfort, hope and encouragement you give to those struggling to keep going. I’ve watched you touch those who grieve with a hug, a phone call, a meal. I have felt the joy God has given you spill out into our whole church, welcoming new folks, reconnecting with old friends, worshiping in spirit and truth. I regularly trust in God’s outcome when I listen to you pray.

Not me. I don’t know how to do those things. I don’t know what to say or what to do. “I’m not using you because you know what to do or say. But because you carry My fragrance, I’m using you to let others know, through you, I’m in the room. Because you have been comforted, I’m going to comfort others through you. Because you are saved, I’m going to save the lost using your testimony. Because you have been delivered, I’m going to deliver the captives through your example. I will touch them with your hands. I’m going to love them from your heart. Just don’t mess it up by trying to be in charge. Just be there. Let me do My work through you.”

So how do I do that? By continually yielding to His control. By being filled with His Spirit. By giving Him room to work in your life and through your life.

Difference in the Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea. Sea of Galilee receives its water and allows it to flow through it. Dead Sea receives the same water but simply contains it. No outflow. The fresh water dies.

Why does God fill us? He doesn’t fill us to simply contain Him. He fills us to flow His goodness through us to touch the world.

  1. God’s intention in salvation is to fill us with Himself (the Holy Spirit) and flow His purposes through us.
  2. There is no formula for how this works.
  3. The Holy Spirit is infinite and may manifest Himself  however He chooses in our lives.
  4. Our job is to yield complete access to Him.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Day of the Lord - Pentecost

History is full of epochs – moments or sections of time that signal transforming change. You don’t always know you’ve experienced an epoch until you go through it and look back.

·          For Israel
o   The Exodus from Egypt
o   Reconstituting as a nation in 1948
·         For the World
o   The Industrial Revolution
o   The Renaissance
·         For US
o   Signing of the Declaration of Independence
o   Emancipation Proclamation
·         For the Church
o   The Reformation
o   The Great Awakening
·         Our day of salvation
o   Once we were blind but now we see
o   Once we were lost but now we’re found
o   Once we were separated from God but now we have been eternally connected to Him.
We don’t create epochs. We experience them. Epochs are the methods by which God fulfills His plans. They are His Days of the Lord.

It is God who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. (Dan 2:21)

Times and Epochs: Chronological Scheduling and transforming eras or events

After the resurrection…when they had come together, they were asking Him, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; (Acts 1:6-7)

We know them when we look back to what was predicted and connect that prediction with what went on.

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (1 Thess 5:1-2)

Two Days of the Lord were yet on the schedule: Temple destruction and the Second Coming. Guess how many are left? But neither of these could they influence.

Thief: without warning – Predicted but not specific as to when the Day will come.

Last week we talked about The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord – the crucifixion. What seemed strange to us looking back is that none of the people involved seemed to understand what was going on. They passed through that epoch without knowing it.

Jesus death was epochal. It signaled transforming change. His was the ultimate and final sacrifice ever needed through which God would forgive people of their sins and provide access to a direct relationship because of what Jesus did.

Jesus was the truth of what God was doing, the way to what God was providing and the life that made it all possible. Now, the message was very clear: nobody would come to the Father, except by going through Him.

Then, with that accomplished, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord fulfilled, He set up the next Epoch – another life-transforming event. Jesus told the disciples: And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)

Acts 2
Joel calls this epoch the great and awesome day of the LORD. Major change was coming.

Where did God manifest Himself in OT? With His people

"Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people." And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Then he said to Him, "If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?" (Ex 33:13-16)

And in a more visible way, in the Temple

Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40:35)

It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. (1Kings 8:10-11)

Where did God manifest Himself in Gospels? – Jesus

Paul said: God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Cor 5:19)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. (Heb 1:1-3)

The presence of God not only was Jesus, He was in Jesus. Confusing, but realize we’re dealing with God the Son and Jesus the Man. The God part was fully God. The man part was fully man. The man part, to function properly, had to be infused with the Spirit – the power of the God part. To the extent it could be said:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness (Luke 4:1)

Where did God manifest Himself in the NT and now? In His People
Pentecost was an Epoch – a life-transforming event. What was being transformed? The location of God, the point from where He would manifest Himself, from being among, with or upon His people to being in His people.

The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (Jn 14:17)

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Jn 7:37-39)

Among the last things Jesus said was, in preparation for what was coming next: John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:5)

Biblical word that the church has twisted for its own convenience: Baptized, in the true use of the word. The Spirit would immerse Himself into the life of the Christian and the Christian’s life would be immersed into the life of God.

God was with us, now He is in us by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. The life restricted by ritual and sacrifice—dealing with God from the outside—was now released, free to experience every aspect of this life.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor 3:17)

Freedom in worship, freedom in prayer, freedom in serving, freedom in loving, freedom in sharing, freedom in the power to live above our circumstances.

God’s presence in the Temple is gone. Now, He is in His people. There once was a Temple of stone. Now there are temples of flesh and blood.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Cor 6:19)

Pentecost fulfilled God’s intentions. He is now in us, so how are we to respond? We are: To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:19)

Be filled with the Spirit, (Eph 5:18)

Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, [we are to live] to the glory and praise of God. (Phil 1:11)

Which brings up an interesting question: Can you have the Spirit in you but not be filled?

Remember: Filling is not containing. We contain the Holy Spirit. Filling is the result of responding to the influence of what is in us. Being filled is a surrender to the presence of the Spirit within. It is submitting to His power, His purposes. Operating by His gifts. It is allowing Him to control us which only comes when we yield our lives, our circumstances, our crises, our concerns, our confusion, our cares over to Him.

Julius Caesar invaded neighboring countries of Italy. He was in country. He had conquered the people. The people belonged to him. But it was not until the people surrendered their wills to him was he their ruler.

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [is allowed free access to your life] He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom 8:10-11)

The Holy Spirit in us is the outcome of our response to inviting the Lord into our lives. It is the proof we belong to God. He is the seal of God that verifies us as God’s children. Being filled is the result of greater surrender of our lives to Him.

What will that look like? Like fruit identifying its tree. Jesus said: By the fruit we know the tree. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Gal 5:22-23)

The presence of the Spirit may or may not be noticeable. The filling cannot be ignored.

How are we filled: by surrendering more area within our lives to Him. Being filled is the result of making more room for God’s presence to have influence over us. We invite His controlling influence.

We’ll see His peace calm troubled souls. We’ll discover clarity in seeking direction for our lives. We’ll experience strength to resist thoughts, actions and attitudes that destroy us or others. We’ll find the ability to love without restrictions.

  1.  If you have received Jesus as your Savior by accepting God’s invitation to enter into a personal relationship with Him, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you.
  2. Having the Holy Spirit is the proof you belong to God.
  3. But having the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean He is impacting your life as He chooses.
  4.  We must yield control of our lives to God’s Spirit by surrendering our life to Him.

Today could be your epoch day. Your life-transforming moment. My Heart Christ’s Home