Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Greatest Gift

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving.  Much is made however of the materialism that runs rampant during the Christmas holiday season.  Our lust to receive and give material things runs far above what is needed or what we even have the ability to pay for.  But regardless of how out of balance man can be, the idea of giving was not initiated by man.  Giving originated with God.  Giving was not only God’s idea; it is part of His nature, a part of who He is!   “God so loved the world that he gave…”  (John 3:16)   God gives, because God loves; and because God loves He by nature desires to give.   “When he ascended on high, he…gave gifts to men.” (Eph.4:8)

It is easy for us to understand that God has given us certain things.  But we don’t often realize the extent to which god gives unto us.  Psalms 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it, the world and they who dwell in it.”  Not only does the whole earth belong to the Lord, but all the creatures who dwell on the earth, including man, are His as well.  Living in a democratic society we have a hard time understanding the idea of kingdom rule.  In a kingdom “everything” within the kingdom belongs to the king.  That is why Robin Hood and his merry men were wanted for poaching in the “king’s forest.”  Not only did the forest belong to the king, but the animals in the forest were his as well.  Our flesh rebels at the idea of a kingdom society because our only concept of kingdom rule is one governed by “evil” kings who care not for their people.  By contrast the Kingdom of God mentioned in the Bible has a Holy and loving King who governs His Kingdom with “justice, truth, and righteousness.”  A holy and just King desires to give to his subjects all they need because he loves them.

An example of all that God has given to us is found in Joshua chapter 24.  The Lord is recounting to the Israelites the history of what has happened to them as a people and all that He, God, had done for them.  As he retells their history to them, he proclaims all the things that He has given them.  First, referring to Abraham God says, “I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.”   All the seed of Abraham was a gift from God.  Later in verse 8 God tell the Israelites that although they had many enemies who fought against them “I gave them into your hands, that ye might possess their land.”  God reminds them of the multitude of enemies that they faced, and how “He” had defeated them all on their behalf in order to give them the land as a possession.  He exclaims how He used hornets to drive some of the enemy out of the land even before they arrived.  When an enemy king sent Balaam to curse the Israelites, God refused to allow it, and turned the curse intended for their destruction, into a prophetic blessing spoken over them.  God goes on to say in verse 13 that, “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Nothing has changed since God spoke these words to the Israelites; His giving hand is upon us just as it was upon them.  Our children and our families are gifts from God.  Our land, homes, possessions, and even the very food we eat, are gifts from Him.  The trials we have passed through, the enemies we have overcome, and the hedge of protection that keeps us, are all gifts given to us by Gods mighty hand.  There is nothing we have, or have done, or will ever accomplish that we can ever say was of our own doing; for our life, our health, our strength, our every breath, are all given to us as gifts from our loving, gracious, and all powerful King.   God has spoken favor and blessings over us.  He has extended unfathomable grace and mercy to us.  He takes pleasure in giving to us.  “For it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

There are many more things we could talk about that the scriptures say that God gives to us; like wisdom, power, authority, liberty, and even the rain.  But the greatest thing that God has ever given man is announced in 1 Tim. 2:5-6 where it says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.”  Jesus gave himself for us.  The eternal creator God of the universe gave himself for “you!”  “No greater love hath one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  Giving ones’ life for another is a gift to large to comprehend.  But when the giver of this "indescribable gift" is the King of all creation, who humbled Himself to die a cruel crucifixion for “Me,” that is beyond mind boggling.  So regardless of what other marvelous gifts you may give or receive this Christmas, please don’t ignore this greatest gift of all, and leave it unopened at the foot of the “tree.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

“Drawing my life from Jesus…?”

It seems as though our lives are plagued with this constant roller coaster flow of trials and blessings, heart aches and joys.  We can feel we are standing on top of the world one day only to plummet to the bottom of the ravine the next.  So when things are good or I am experiencing spiritual highs, I tend to want to soak up a large reserve of the spiritual closeness and power to hold in store so I can make it through when the next valley comes.  The thing is, God has been showing me that even in my best times of worship, or my greatest times of Biblical revelation, the blessing the Spirit pours out upon me is only intended to fill me up "in that moment" and is not intended to carry me over for days to come.  Like manna God fed the Israelites with while in the wilderness; it only lasted for a day, so it had to be gathered fresh and new each morning.  Yes, unlike manna Jesus is the bread that if we eat of, we will never hunger again. (John 6:35)  But we must feed on him continually, not just once a week, or once a month at special worship services.  We tend to have a "spiritual retirement mentality."  We want to get our needs met, build up storage, and retire. (Sit back and spiritually relax for a while.)  Like the rich fool in the parable in Luke 12:18-19 who said to himself, “This is what I'll do, I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods.  And I'll say to myself, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat drink and be merry."  It is right and good to rest in God’s grace and goodness, and we need times of spiritual rest and rejuvenation; but we are never to retire from our spiritual fervor or stop eating the bread of life, even for a short season.

We see the same idea found in John 4 where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well.  In the course of the conversation, Jesus tells her, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”   Her reply to him was, "Give me this water so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."   Jesus truly is the “spring of living water” that wells up within to bring eternal life so that we will never thirst again.  But Jesus did not tell this woman that she would not have to draw from that spring of water.  He just said it would not be necessary for her to ever be thirsty again.  Although Jesus offered her the gift of eternal life, she, like us, would still need to draw life from Jesus, the source of life, every moment of every day.  Not just once in awhile, or at a special meeting, or even once a day during private devotion time.  We must continually draw our life from him, moment-to-moment.  

In John Eldridge's new book, “Beautiful Outlaw” he makes the following statement. "Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence and life within you."  Go back and read that statement two or three more times and let it soak in....  Jesus has no intention to let us find healing or fulfillment from any other source besides himself.   We must draw our life from him, and him alone, moment-to-moment.  The question then that is purposed before our hearts is this, “Am I truly drawing my life from Jesus and Him alone, or am I drawing life from some other source other than Him?  Am I attempting to find fulfillment, security, joy, or healing from places other than Jesus?” 

The gospels recount the story of a young man that is often dubbed the “rich young ruler,” who is doing just that.  He comes running up to Jesus, kneels before him and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  To which Jesus replies, “You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor you father and mother.”  The young man confident in his religious service replies, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said, “Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven.  Then come and follow me.”  At that the man’s face fell.  He went away sad because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-21)  Jesus didn’t tell this young man to sell his belongings because there was something wrong or evil about having money or being wealthy.  Nor did Jesus ask him to give his money to the poor because that is the only “Godly” use of money.  Jesus requirement for this young man to sell all that he had and give it away, was to “expose” his soul's “true” source of life and security.   The problem this young man had, and the thing he lacked, was not in his actions, but was in his heart.  This young entrepreneur was drawing his life from his wealth and the social position it afforded him.  He was also no doubt drawing his security and his joy from them as well.  He went away sad because if this man were to do as Jesus had asked, he would be giving up his source of life, and that was something he obviously was not yet prepared to do.  His religion had always caused him to live a good life, but to solely draw his life from Jesus, and abandon all other sources of life to go and follow Jesus, was just too much.

What about us?  Are we drawing our life from our possession or social standing?  Are we drawing our life from our careers or even our benevolence?   Is our security and joy tied to money, whether we have any or not.  Is our esteem based in our intellect, or the approval of man?

A loved one of mine was struggling with finding time amongst the hecticness of life to draw from Jesus as she felt she should.  She understood the importance of it and her heart truly desires to do so, but didn’t feel like she was able to find the time.  I have good news for her, and for you.  If we have truly been born again and thus have “the spring of water that well up to eternal life” within us; then drawing our life from Jesus is not as complicated as we might think, or as mystical as “religion” would make it.  Yes, just as Jesus told the aforementioned “rich young ruler,” we must turn our trust away from the earthly things, and turn our trust toward Jesus.  But having done that, we have the “spring of life” within us and can draw from that life at any moment of our day, no matter what we are doing.  --- When you're fixing your car or mowing your lawn, speak to him - "Jesus, I draw my life and my joy from you."  --- When you are preparing dinner or washing the dishes, whisper to him - "Jesus, I draw my life and my healing from you."  --- When you are arguing with your spouse or correcting your children, cry out to him - "Jesus, I draw my life and my wisdom from you." 

Drawing our life from Jesus is not a posture or a work; it does not need to be done at a special building or at a special time.  It is an attitude of the heart, mind, and soul.  It is total dependence upon Jesus for every breath, ever need, every longing.  So what are you waiting for?  Draw from Him!  Cry out to Him!  He has been waiting for you!

"Jesus,  I abandon all I have ever trusted in before!  Jesus, I now draw my life from you… and you alone!"

Friday, October 14, 2011

“Breaking Into Prison”

In the book of Acts chapter 16, we find the apostle Paul and his sidekick Silas caught in the middle of a very riveting tale.  They were out preaching the gospel when they encounter this slave girl who was possessed by a demonic spirit that enables her to fortune-tell.  She followed Paul around for many days shouting after them.  Troubled by the situation, Paul cast the demon spirit out of the girl in the name of Jesus after which, she could no longer fortune-tell.  The owners of the slave girl having lost their source of income became very angry with Paul and Silas and stirred up the city against them causing them to be severely beaten, thrown into the inner prison and their feet fastened in stocks. 

I don’t know about you but if this had happened to me I would probably be sitting in that dungeon cell sulking, asking God “why” he had allowed such a horrible thing to happen to me while I was out doing “His” work.  My prayers would probably be very “ME” focused, pleading for freedom to escape my dreadful situation.  

We find a different spirit in Paul and Silas however as we pick up the story here starting in Acts 16:25, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  In their midnight hour, in the middle of their unjust imprisonment, in the middle of their pain (their backs black and blue, swollen, and bleeding from the rods they had been beaten with) in the middle of being rejected and looked down upon by their peers; we find Paul and Silas singing, worshiping, and lifting up prayers of praise to their God.  Their focus wasn’t upon their wounds or upon their present prison, but their focus was upon Jesus.  Their gaze was upon the one who had come to take their wounds and captivity upon himself at the cross. (Isa.61:1-3)  Their eyes were not upon what they could see or how they felt but were upon the unseen realm of the spirit.  No one, including the most faithful of Jesus followers, gets through this life without wounds and imprisonments but be assured that the other prisoners are listening, watching to see if our response to our problems is pouting or praise, worry or worship. 

The most incredible thing happens next in Acts 16:26, “and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.”  In the middle of their praise and worship God causes a great earthquake; the prison doors were opened and their shackles fall off.   Our immediate thought is that God had come to set them free.  But as you will see in a minute, God had not come so much to break them out of prison, but God had come to “break into their prison.”  He had come to break into their painful circumstances bringing His glory and presence.  Praise and worship in the midst of our pain will capture God's heart and he will come in power to break into our situation, bringing with Him peace, comfort and revelation of His higher purposes. 
“When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened; he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”  (Acts 16:27-28)  The prison doors are opened but Paul and Silas didn’t leave.  If it would have been me, the minute the door popped open and my chains fell off, I would have been out of there.  I would be gone before the guard had a chance to come and shut me back in.  But Paul and Silas weren’t focused upon their freedom, for they must have had a revelation of Jesus that we all need.  In John 10:9 Jesus says of himself, “I am the Door,” and in Revelation.3:7-8 Jesus says He has put before us “an open door that no man can shut.”  Paul and Silas understood that if Jesus is the “door” that no man can shut, they were free men no matter what their physical situation portrayed; all they needed to do was cling to the “Door.”  As the door that no man can shut, Jesus could physically set them free any time He chose.  Therefore they weren’t looking for the escape route but were looking for God’s higher purpose in all that had happened to them.  Because they didn’t go dashing out the first chance they got, as their flesh would want to do, that higher purpose was immediately revealed.

“And he (the jailer) called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” (Acts 16:29-30)  There you have it, the higher purpose.  Paul’s temporary physical prison was for the spiritual freedom of this jailer and his entire family.  How many God encounters do I miss because I am so focused on getting out of my personal pain and prison that I miss the purposes God want to accomplish through me to help set someone else free.  When Paul and Silas praised and worshiped in the mist of their pain and prison, focusing on God's purpose of spiritual freedom being of higher value than their own physical comfort, they were shortly physically set free as well. 

The sooner I can learn to stop sulking over my problems, stop dwelling on the whys, and stop staring at my wounds and prison walls; and instead start staring at Jesus, lifting up praise and worship to Him regardless of how I feel.  When I start diligently seeking to know God’s heart and looking for opportunities to meet God’s highest purpose of setting spiritual captives free, instead of constantly looking for comfort and an escape route; then Jesus will comebreak into my prison” carrying with Him supernatural peace, revelation, and purpose.  As an added benefit, Jesus will unlock my chains and release me from my prison as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

“Who Can Separate Us From The Love Of Christ?”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  For I am persuaded, that neither death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.   Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ the Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

As Christians we read these verses and we shout yes and amen, raise our hands, and do a little happy dance, because we mentally ascend to the fact that nothing can separate us from God’s love.   Yet the reality of life is that the “things” listed in these verses do separate Christians from Christ every day.   When the hardships and troubles of life come upon us, they tend to wear at us, often causing us to question God’s love and faithfulness.  They cause us to lose faith in the power of prayer, and the validity of the promises found in the Word.  It is not that these trials “actually” separate us from Christ’s love, but we allow them to move “us” away from Christ. 

Notice the question that is asked at the beginning of this verse.  Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”   Yet the list is not of “who’s” but of “what’s.”   The “who” wants to use the “what’s” to put a wedge between you and Jesus!  The “who” wants to use the “what’s” to get you to doubt God’s love and faithfulness!  The “who” wants to use the “what’s” to cause you to not trust in the Word!  The “who’s” job is to steal your faith and your peace, and to separate you from your purpose. 

So who is the “who?”  The who is Satan and all his army of fallen angels.  Eph. 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  The word wiles is translated in other versions as “schemes,” “strategies,” “deceits.”  It’s defined as:  tricks, secret plans, plots.  The Strong’s Concordance says the Greek word that is translated as wiles means “to lie in wait.”  So we get this picture of a cat crouched and waiting to pounce on its prey at a moment of vulnerability. When the trials and troubles listed in our key verse above begin to happen to you, Satan will be waiting nearby, scheming and plotting your demise.  Therefore we must, “Be sober and vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) 

Below is a list of the words and their definitions from our key verse. These are tools Satan uses to try to separate us from Christ and His love.  Regardless of the type of difficult situation you are going through; be it a battle with health, finances, disasters, careers, family, or relational, Satan will use it to separate you from Christ “if” you allow him to. 

Tribulations               troubles, afflictions, anguish, burdens     
Distress                     hardship, calamity, narrowness of room    (lack of options)
Persecution                (not just religious, includes things like bullying and prejudice)
Famine                       scarcity of food     (includes a shortage of anything needed)
Nakedness                 complete nakedness   (emotionally naked and vulnerable)
Peril                            danger                        (fear:  real or imagined)
Sword                          judicial punishment
Death                          death                 (loss of something dearly loved)              
Life                              Zoe                   (good fortune: be it ours or others)

Whether your house just burnt down in a fire, you have lost your job, or your business is going bankrupt. Whether you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal disease or your family is in turmoil and falling apart; in these situations the most prominent question in our minds is “Why?”  God, “why” is this happening to me?  God, if you love me, “why” aren’t you helping me?  God, if you care, “why” are you making me go through this?  I’ve been praying, God “why” aren’t you answering?  God, if the promises in your Word are true, “why” aren’t they working? 

God is certainly big enough to handle us asking the “why” questions.  But let’s be honest, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any forth coming answers to why things happen.  Satan’s battle ground is our minds and the longer we entertain the unresolved “why” question, Satan will come to fill our minds with false conclusions like, “God doesn't really love or care about me.”  “Faith doesn’t work.”  “Prayer is a waste of time.”  “The Bible isn’t true.” “You can’t trust God or His promises.”  And lastly these thoughts can lead us to the final question of, “Maybe God isn’t real at all?”   

The Bible says in Romans 8:28 that, “all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  So does that mean that God causes my house to burn down, or gives me a disease for my “good?”  If that’s the case then, “gee thanks God!”  No!  The answer is a thousand times, No!  God does not cause these bad things to happen to us, and people who say or teach sure things are ridiculous.  The trials and troubles that we face each day are a result of living in a fallen and sinful world.  They started in the Garden of Eden and are a consequence of sin and rebellion being released into our world.  God is not saying here that our tribulations and distresses are “good.”  Romans 8:28 is simply saying that God will take every situation that comes into our lives, even the bad things, and He will rearrange them so that “good” will result from them.  When we submit ourselves and our trials to Jesus and trust fully in His Word, expecting a good outcome, God can make good come from “any” situation.  It is never “good” that someone is raped or abused, but many a ministry has been born out of such trials.   It is never “good" that a person is afflicted with disease or has a debilitating accident, but many a life has been spiritually transformed as a result of such distress.  The next verse, Romans 8:29, teaches that God uses these tribulations we suffer so that we will, “be conformed to the likeness of His son.”  In other words, the end result will be that we will be made into the image Jesus.  

Instead of good resulting from our trials, many, many lives and families have also been destroyed by these same painful situations.  Why is that?  As mentioned earlier Satan's purpose is to use them to separate us from God, making us angry and bitter.  His goal is always to steal, kill, and destroy, hoping to conform us into “his” likeness, rather than the likeness of Christ. 

In John 9:1-3 Jesus was asked "why" a man was born blind; was it the result of his sin or the sin of his parents?  Jesus said that it wasn’t either, but that the end result of it would be “that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  I believe that this is what God desires from all of us.  That when trials and tribulation of any flavor come into our lives, instead of them causing us to be separated from God, the end result of them would be that “God’s work would be displayed in us.”  That we would become more and more Christ like, and spend our lives restoring and healing others, just as we have been restored. While the perils of this life are many, they pale in comparison to what awaits us on the other side of the “jelly wall” (the doorway into the kingdom realm.)  We must learn to see through it with the eyes of our faith, being fully “persuaded” that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

“Grave Clothes”

Most of us are very familiar with the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Like all scripture this story was not recorded just as a historical document detailing Jesus life and actions, but was recorded to teach us important truth about God’s character and His relationship with us.  The scriptures are full of types, shadows and analogies; this is the case here also.

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the grave.  It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.  Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.  Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.  Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid…he (Jesus) cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound with a napkin.  Jesus saith unto them, loose him and let him go.  (John 11:38-44)

When Jesus came to the place where Lazarus dead body was laid, he found a stone lay over the grave entrance.  This stone was keeping death in and keeping life out.  So the first thing Jesus did was command those standing nearby to “take away the stone.”  Once the stone was removed, it would open the way for life to be imparted. 

There is a stone that lies in front of our spiritual grave as well.  It is the stone tablets of the law that contain the commandments of God.  The commandments don’t bring us life; rather they reveal to all how dead we actually are, reinforcing our sinful and dead state.  (Rom. 3-19-20)  They keep us in our grave, heaping us over with guilt and shame, bound by their unattainable dictates. The laws huge weight keeps us trapped behind its confines; for we have no power to fulfill the law’s requirements, nor remove ourselves from its grasp, we are chained in our sin.  The stone tablets of the law stands in the way of eternal life that exists on the other side, where Jesus is. (Gal. 3:24)

 Martha, the dead man’s sister protested the idea of Jesus removing the stone from the grave entrance saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” Martha feared that opening the grave of a man who had been dead for such a long time would release a very foul situation.  Likewise, the religious spirit that engulfs many folks is much like Martha’s comments to Jesus, for they fear the consequences of “too much” grace, and of setting a dead sinner free.  This person has been dead (living in sin) a long time, one look at what is written on the stone will tell you how rotten, foul, and stinky he is.  Jesus, are you sure you want to remove the stone of the law from “him?”  Sure a little grace is great, but we don’t want some stinky dead guy running around here!  You have to keep the stone in place to keep the smell in check! 

Jesus’ reply to Martha and us, was in essence saying, “trust me, the stone must be removed, so that the glory of God can truly be revealed.”   After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, the stone of the law was rolled aside.  Jesus didn’t do away with the law, but he overcame it, superseding it by fulfilling its requirements.  Through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a substitutional payment for our sin, we can now be freed from the stone of the law that held us in our spiritual grave. Salvation by grace alone reveals the ultimate glory of God.

Once the stone had been removed from in front of the grave, Jesus spoke life into the dead man, calling him out by name. Immediately Lazarus came to life, exiting from the grave.  His life and flesh restored to perfection; no doubt more alive and more whole than the day he was born.  However he was still wrapped and bound in his grave clothes.  I envision the mummy looking Lazarus hopping out of the grave like a rabbit.  His legs tightly bound together so he could not walk normally.  His arms fixed closely to his side, and his mouth covered so his speech was muffled.  His eyes and ears wrapped so that his vision and hearing were impaired.  

When we are born again our spirits are raised from the dead and are made perfect just like Lazarus’ body.   But like Lazarus, we too are still wrapped in our grave clothes.  We are often still bound by addictions, sinful habits, and worldly thinking.  We carry old wounds, accompanied by anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.  Our face is still covered with the napkin of guilt and shame.  Our hands and feet still bound to our old habits and lifestyles. Our ears cannot yet hear God clearly and our speech often still reeks with death. These things don’t just automatically disappear, though eternal life has been infused into our spirits.  It takes some time and there is a process to our being freed from our burial wrappings.  While our Spirits are made perfect and righteous the instant we are born again, there is a process to having our “minds renewed” (Romans 12:2) and our souls “cleansed by washed with the Word.” (Eph 5:26)  There are instances where people are instantly delivered from soul wounds and old habits, but mostly it is a process that happens over time as we allow the Word to changes our thinking, and gives us understand of God’s grace, love, and power working in us.  God had promised Joshua that every place he put the soles of his feet would be given to Israel to possess.  But Joshua and the Israelites had to cooperate with God to drive the enemy out of their promised land in order to take full possession of it.  If they had stayed at the edge of the Jordan River waiting for God to evict the inhabitants of Jericho before they went into the land, they would still be waiting there to this day.  We cannot in our own efforts remove our own grave clothes.  We need God to do the supernatural in us and though us to be set free, but our part in this process is to believe what the Word says, and cooperate with Spirit’s guidance by doing as He leads. 

After Lazarus had come out of the grave still wrapped in grave clothes, “Jesus saith unto them, loose him and let him go.”   Jesus commanded the people who witnessed life being infused into Lazarus’ body to participate in the miracle by helping to free him from his grave clothes.  It is part of our duty as Christians to help set others free from their grave clothes as well.  Jesus has freed us and healed us so that we can be His hands and feet to a broken and hurting world.  Because of the things that Jesus has brought us through and healed us of, we are able to help others who may be trapped in the same grave clothes that we were once bound in.  We are often afraid to reveal to others our past, because of the vulnerability we feel, and judgment that we fear might come.  But it is our testimony of how and what God has freed us from, that will help set someone else free from similar bondages.  Revelation 12:11 tells us that we overcome Satan by Jesus’ shed blood and by testifying of what His blood has done for us.  “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”

It is the purpose of the body of Christ to help set each other free from our grave clothes, so don’t be afraid to seek out help from other believers who may have been through what you are still struggling with.  Likewise be vulnerable enough to be real, and available enough to be used by God, in order to help free someone else from their grave clothes.  Just like the resurrected Lazarus, we start out still carrying the stench of a dead man, but wind up being the aroma of Christ.

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” (2 Cor.2:15-16)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

“The Year the King Died”

 “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs…and they called to one another, “Holy holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook, and the temple was filled with smoke.  Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:1-5)

As a new year emerges upon us we often ponder the past year and reflect over the highlights and low points of the year.  We resolve to make changes that will potentially improve our lives. Occasionally however, things happen that change us and the course of our life forever. Things so profound that we can never go back to who we use to be; we can never again do what we use to do.

Such was the case for the prophet Isaiah, for in the year the King died he “saw the Lord.”  His life was never the same, because “He” was never the same!  His entire life forever altered by this momentary encounter. 

As this New Year dawns I pray that you will join me and thousands of others who are praying, fasting, and seeking God’s face in this New Year; seeking God for direction, seeking God for a fresh encounter of His glory and presence to move among us and upon us.  I pray that our hunger for God presence will rise to new levels, and that the Spiritual springs of the deep will break forth within us, flooding us over with the Holy Spirit; just as the water of Noah’s day broke forth and cover the face of the entire earth. 

I have been revisiting a study I did a while back on hungering for God, seeking His face, and examining the Biblical accounts of people’s passionate pursuit of God.  As part of this study I came to read Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord found here in Isaiah 6.  There are some amazing analogies hidden here that will help us in our pursuit to see God’s face and to be filled with His glory!  Isaiah notes, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”  In the year that the King “died” Isaiah for the first time, was able to truly “see” the Lord.  Why was that? 

A king represents power and authority.  When a king dies it leaves a void that must be filled by something, by someone, for without an authority structure men feels lost and vulnerable, like a ship without a rudder or sail lost at sea, tossed aimlessly by the whims of the wind.  Men must have a power and authority structure of some sort or chaos will soon erupt.  An existing authority figure must be removed before a new authority can replace it.  The old king must die before a new king can take his place.  In the void left when King Uzziah died, perhaps Isaiah heart looking for stability, was turned upward where he found his true authority and King, seated exalted upon His throne.  God had always been enthroned there, but Isaiah had not been able to fully see Him until now.  Isaiah may have trusted in and exalted his earthly king too much, but in the void left by his absence maybe Isaiah began to seek God’s direction, seek God’s face, and seek God’s glory; which eventually lead him to “see the Lord.”

Moses too was an avid God chaser.  When the Israelites cowered away, standing at a distance from the presence of God, the Word says that, “Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” (Ex.20:21)  In Exodus 33, we find Moses seeking and begging God, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.”  To which God replies “You cannot see my face; for no one may see me and live.”  In essence what God is saying is, “if you want to see my face, you are going to have to die.”  Yet over and over in the scriptures God exhorts us saying, “Seek my face.”  Does God intend we strive after an unattainable goal, or is he bent on trying to kill us???  The latter is the case, but it is not physical death He is after, but the surrender of our souls, (our mind, will, and emotions) the whole of our being relinquished over to His will.   For Jesus clearly states in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whosoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whosoever loses his life for me will save it.” 

So how does all this relate to our scripture about Isaiah and our desire to see the Lord and experience His glory?  Well let me set up the analogy here.  In Revelation 1:6, as well as other places though out scripture, believers are referred to as “kings.”  In the book of Corinthians our body is referred to as the “temple” of God, (for the Spirit dwells there).  In Ezekiel 3:5, as well as other places, the Word says the “glory” of the Lord “filled” the temple, thus the train” of the robe that filled the temple in Isaiah’s encounter is the “glory of God.”  So with that background, let’s read the verse again, the analogy here becomes quite simple.  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”  (With the king being us) In the year that the king died, (died to self rule and authority, surrendering the throne over to the true King) the way is opened for us to See the Lord and to see the temple (our bodies) filled with God’s glory.   In other words, when we die to self rule, and put God on the throne of our life where He belongs, that opens the door for us to see God’s face and to be filled with His glory.  In the year the king died, I saw the Lord…and the train of His robe filled the temple.

Do we truly want to see God, experience his presence, and be filled with His glory?  If so it is time we get diligent about seeking God’s face and putting to death “our” king, so that the “King of Glory may come in.”  

“Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.  Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (Pm. 24:6-8)