THE HARDEST OF ALL LESSONS

January 8, 2017

John 11:4 ¶ When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

If there were never any problems we wouldn’t need God’s intervention in our lives. What stood out so clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus? It was the signs wonders and miracles that set Him apart. God’s love for us and the greatness of His glory are clearly seen in the power of God in the ministry of Jesus Christ. If Jesus never performed miracles we would never have even heard of Him. Today’s verse comes after the death of His friend Lazarus. Jesus clearly says that his death happened to give an opportunity to show forth the glory of God. Actually, this miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, was the last straw. From this day the leaders of Israel determined to kill Jesus. His miracles were just too persuasive. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this miracle.

“The afflictions of the saints are designed for the glory of God, that he may have opportunity of showing them favor; for the sweetest mercies, and the most effecting, are those which are occasioned by trouble. Let this reconcile us to the darkest dispensations of Providence, they are all for the glory of God, this sickness, this loss, or this disappointment, is so; and, if God be glorified, we ought to be satisfied. It was for the glory of God, for it was that the Son of God might be glorified thereby, as it gave him occasion to work that glorious miracle, the raising of him from the dead. As, before, the man was born blind that Christ might have the honor of curing him, so Lazarus must be sick and die, that Christ may be glorified as the Lord of life. Let this comfort those whom Christ loves under all their grievances that the design of them all is that the Son of God may be glorified thereby, his wisdom, power, and goodness, glorified in supporting and relieving them;”
What a turnabout, our greatest problems are just opportunities. They are opportunities for God’s glory to be displayed. What kind of struggle are you burdened with today? Sickness is just an opportunity for healing, poverty an opportunity for provision, and contention an opportunity for restoration. Don’t be dismayed, God’s glory is about to shine.

GOD’S DECREES

January 7, 2017

Rom. 8:28-30 ¶ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s word is powerful. From the opening page of the Bible, throughout the Old Testament prophets, in the ministry of Jesus, and the apostles; God’s word is creative and accomplishes its intended purposes. We see everything in creation formed by God’s spoken word, we see the events of history proclaimed through His prophetic word, we even see signs, wonders, and miracles following the words of Jesus and His apostles. When the Lord speaks it settles everything, it is impossible for His decrees to not come to pass. When the Lord wants to accomplish something in the earth, He moves upon the hearts of man and begins to work in them and through them. The Lord has plans for this generation; when you hear His voice, yield and follow, you can become a channel for the purposes of God. Here is the way Jonathan Edwards describes the decrees of God.

“…when he decrees diligence and industry, he decrees riches and prosperity; when he decrees prudence, he often decrees success; when he decrees striving, then often he decrees the obtaining of the kingdom of heaven; when he decrees the preaching of the gospel, then he decrees the bringing home of souls to Christ; when he decrees good natural faculties, diligence and good advantages, then he decrees learning; when he decrees summer, then he decrees the growing of plants. Thus, when he decrees conformity to his Son, he decrees calling; and when he decrees calling, he decrees justification; and when he decrees justification, he decrees everlasting glory.Thus all the decrees of God are harmonious…”
All of creation responds to God and His word. One of my favorite verse actually shares how Jesus is ruling the universe today.
Heb. 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
If Jesus is really upholding all things by His word, we can take courage, we are also in the grasp of His word, upheld and sustained by Him.

AWAKEN AGAIN

January 6, 2017

Phil. 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

Jesus often spoke of people who had eyes to see but can’t see and ears to hear and can’t hear. Paul talked about being dead in our trespasses and our sins. Until we are awakened we are not aware of our deadness to spiritual things. Awakening effects us on multiple levels. First, our view and perspective of God Himself is radically changed. We see Him as the most amazing of all beings, no one or nothing else is even close. Secondly, our view of life itself and the world we live in changes dramatically. We see His handiwork in creation and in His plans that are visible all around us. Jonathan Edwards spoke powerfully about this spiritual perception that he experienced after his awakening. Enjoy his comments.
“I have many times had a sense of the glory of the third person in the Trinity, in his office of Sanctifier; in his holy operations communicating divine light and life to the soul. God in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul: pouring forth itself in sweet communications, like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life. I have sometimes had an affecting sense of the excellency of the word of God, as a word of life; as the light of life; a sweet, excellent, life-giving word: accompanied with a thirsting after that word, that it might dwell richly in my heart.”
Edwards spoke powerfully in these comments about the two ways the Lord communicates with us. First, he describes the beauty of the person of the Holy Spirit. He describes the Holy Spirit as light and life. By light, he is talking about revelation and understanding that floods our lives by the Spirit. By life he is describing the satisfaction and fulness of life itself that fills our being in the person of the Holy Spirit. Edwards goes on to describe the new awareness of the power and glory seen in the written word. It has obviously become alive to him and strangely attractive as it becomes the very source of our lives. If you seem a little dull in your spiritual life the answer is always the same; the Word and the Spirit. Soak in His word, spend time in reflection and worship; awakening will be the result.

RENEWED

January 5, 2017

Let the people renew their strength.
Isa. 41:1
Renewal is all around us. Our air is renewed by the grass and the trees, the earth is renewed with the four seasons, the water is renewed as it is drawn up into the sky and falls as fresh rain on the earth. All of creation is in a constant state of renewal, this speaks to us about a healthy spiritual life. All of us Christians need daily renewal. How does it come? For me it comes from soaking in God’s word and reading old spiritual books, it comes by worship and prayer, it comes by singing and praying in my heavenly language, it comes by soaking in some good Holy Ghost services and getting in the prayer line. I don’t want to be a dry, dead, crusty old Christian. The good news? I don’t have to be; daily renewal is available for all of us. Jesus said it like this, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Living water is our source of life. Here is how Spurgeon describes renewal.

“All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continueth by itself. Thou renewest the face of the year, was the Psalmist’s utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labour, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth. Neither can man’s life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the waste of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the waste of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances. How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream;”
So, have you had a good drink of living water lately? You can drink right now: open up your Bible, turn on some worship, pray in the Spirit, before you know it you too will be caught up in the streams of renewal.

REVIVAL IS PERSONAL

January 4, 2017

Psa. 85:6 Will You not revive us again,
That Your people may rejoice in You?
I remember praying for revival for years. I prayed privately and publicly that the Lord would send revival to America again. Revival came all right, just not in the way I expected. How did it come? It came for me when it became personal, I was the one that needed to be revived. It is easy to recognize spiritual lethargy or even deadness in others, not so much in us. Isaiah clearly saw the personal nature of revival, he called himself a man of unclean lips when he glimpsed the glory of the Lord. He made it very clear in this verse:
Is. 57:15 For thus says the High and Lofty One

Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,

To revive the spirit of the humble,

And to revive the heart of the contrite ones”.
That’s why revival is personal, it comes when we humble ourselves before the greatness of our God. Here is how Spurgeon describes today’s verse.
“We are dead or dying, faint and feeble, God alone can revive us, he has in other times refreshed his people, he is still the same, he will repeat his love. Will he not? Why should he not? We appeal to him—Wilt thou not? That thy people may rejoice in thee. Those who were revived would rejoice not only in the new life but in the Lord who was the author of it. Joy in the Lord is the ripest fruit of grace, all revivals and renewals lead up to it. By our possession of it we may estimate our spiritual condition, it is a sure gauge of inward prosperity. A genuine revival without joy in the Lord is as impossible as spring without flowers, or daydawn without light. If, either in our own souls or in the hearts of others, we see declension, it becomes us to be much in the use of this prayer, and if on the other hand we are enjoying visitations of the Spirit and bedewings of grace, let us abound in holy joy and make it our constant delight to joy in God.”
So….. are you ready for revival or are you stuck praying for everyone else? Maybe today you will see the Lord high and lifted up and meet Isaiah’s God.

STARTING THE YEAR WITH SONGS OF JOY

January 3, 2017

We will be glad and rejoice in thee.
Song of Solomon 1:4
I often think of how much my life was impacted by joy in 1994. Before that time I can’t say supernatural joy was a major part of my life. Most of what I considered joy up until that time was connected to answered prayers and fulfilled goals. I connected joy to rejoicing in the work of God, not to God Himself. I was really alien to the experience of joy when everything was going wrong. I was so consumed with the technical aspects of Christianity, I must be doing something wrong if all these bad things were happening. That’s when, as C.S. Lewis once said, I was ‘surprised by joy’. Up until 1994 I never saw joy as a person, I looked at joy as the response to the things God had done. Everything changed when I was deeply touched by the Holy Spirit that summer; joy was on me, joy was in me, joy was pulsating in every fiber of my being. For the first time I understood passages like ‘in the presence of the Lord is fulness of joy’, and ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’.

As we start this new year I want to start it off with joy. I have no real idea what awaits me this year but His joy is certain and sufficient in every circumstance. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon about beginning the year with joy.

“We will be glad and rejoice in thee. We will not open the gates of the year to the dolorous notes of the sackbut (a trombone like instrument), but to the sweet strains of the harp of joy, and the high sounding cymbals of gladness. O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation. We, the called and faithful and chosen, we will drive away our griefs, and set up our banners of confidence in the name of God. Let others lament over their troubles, we who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah’s bitter pool, with joy will magnify the Lord.”
Singing is our vent for the joy of the Lord. Look closely at the songs you are singing and listening to. If these songs are not pulsating with joy you may want to sing a new song. Time is too short to sing the sad songs, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

“THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD”

January 2, 2017

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:16
To some of us, closing out 2016 has been a good thing. As in most years, there have been losses, some have seen more. In our little world, Frank’s younger brother and a close friend passed away way too soon, our house also flooded. Despite these unexpected events God’s grace came in such sweet ways through it all.There was also many breakthroughs and joys this year. In the above passage, Jesus went to his home town and his place of worship where he read the ancient prophecies. When he proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord he knew he was right in the middle of God’s will, even though the town tried to kill him. In 2017 we will see a new president and hopefully the United States will find itself pleasantly surprised with fresh opportunities. Instead of “no hope” as Michelle Obama said, we can pick up the scriptures and always find hope. I pray you will find fresh perspective, fresh drive and fresh purpose. Personally as a Christian I will use this “acceptable year of the Lord” for new strength to proclaim the good news, to set the captives free, and bring new sight to the blind. The old is gone, the new is here. We can join Jesus when he said, “the spirit of the Lord is indeed upon us”.

Peter knew the importance of the word of God when he said, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (I Pet.1:2) Will you challenge yourself to read the Bible through this year? Let’s put away the year hurt, anger and gossip. Lets steep ourselves in His precious promises that when the changes, twists and turns come we will have his divine light.

How will this year look to you? I believe the Holy Spirit as our counselor can be the divine guide through the next 365 days. Will you be open to his leading? Do you spend time in prayer praying in the Holy Ghost as Jude instructs us? Are you fulfilling the great commission and giving back your finances to the kingdom? The acceptable year of the Lord is 2017, Peter again challenges us with this scripture: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you practice these things you will never stumble,…” (1 Pet.1:19)
MAY YOU HAVE A PROSPEROUS YEAR IN 2017 WITH CHRIST!

 

SAVED BY HIS LIFE

January 1, 2017

Rom. 5:10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Are you saved? That term may set off different feelings and meanings depending on the history of the hearer. I remember learning a whole new lingo when I first became a Christian. “Saved” was one of those new words that became part of my vocabulary. It’s not really important what others say this word means, what does the Bible mean when the word saved is used? What does it mean in today’s verse. Vine’s Word Book gives us some insight to the Bible meaning of this word.
VINE’S
(a) of material and temporal deliverance from danger, suffering; from sickness, “made… whole”

(b) of the spiritual and eternal salvation granted immediately by God to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,

(c) of the present experiences of God’s power to deliver from the bondage of sin
The way this word is used in the Bible brings the word saved into greater clarity. Salvation includes my physical circumstances; things like poverty, danger, and disease. Salvation also includes my spiritual condition, being brought into a living relationship with God that will last into eternity. Saved also involves being delivered from the bondage of sin and sinful behavior in this life. Salvation deals with my whole life and my present and eternal existence.

Today’s verse also brings out the source of the power of this salvation. Here is how the ESV Study Bible describes it.
“Since Christians are now reconciled to God through Christ’s death, they can be assured that they will be saved on the day to come (here “saved,” Gk. sōzō, includes not only justification at the start of the Christian life but also completed sanctification, glorification, freedom from final condemnation, and future rewards). But here the salvation is based on his life. The reference is to Christ’s resurrection, showing that both the death and resurrection of Christ are necessary for salvation.”
We are saved by the unlimited power of God through the death of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. The same power that raised Christ from the dead has saved us, is saving us, and will save us at His coming. What an amazing verse, I was once an enemy of God but now I have been reconciled and have entered the process of total and complete salvation.

ADJUST AND REPAIR

December 31, 2016

2Cor. 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Let’s face it, we are all pretty goofed up. Why would I say that? First of all we are all born flawed. Our very nature is twisted and distorted as a result of our fallen nature. It just gets worse from there. All our lives have been spent either being victims or victimizing others, both positions have their consequences. What is the solution? Redemption. You see redemption starts with forgiveness but doesn’t stop there. It goes much farther. The Lord is not content with just forgiveness, He wants restoration and wholeness. Here is a brief word study from Dick Mills describing the healing power of God and how it effects our souls.

“complete, katartisis: An improving, equipping, training, disciplining. It includes making the necessary adjustments and repairs. From the word katartizo: To arrange, set in order, equip, adjust, complete what is lacking, make fully ready, repair, prepare. The word is a combination of kata, “down,” and artios, “complete,” “fitted.” It is used for the disciples’ mending their nets and for restoring a fallen brother.”
So from the day we are saved the Lord begins adjusting and repairing. The work happens by the touch of God in our lives through the written word, the spoken word, and the anointing. Adam Clarke describes this in his comments on this verse.
“to fit or adapt, signifies the reducing of a dislocated limb to its proper place; and hence, as Beza says on this passage: “The apostle’s meaning is, that whereas the members of the Church were all, as it were, dislocated and out of joint, they should be joined together in love; and they should endeavor to make perfect what was amiss among them, either in faith or morals. It is a metaphor, also, taken from a building; the several stones and timbers being all put in their proper places and situations, so that the whole building might be complete, and be a proper habitation for the owner.”
The atmosphere for this healing and restoration to take place is the church community. It is in loving one another and applying the word and the Spirit on a personal level to the hurting that this adjusting and repairing begins to take effect. So no matter how goofed up we may be there is recovery and healing in His word and His body.

FROM THE FIRST DAY TO THE LAST DAY OF 2017

December 30, 2016

Deut. 11:12 a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.

I used to love having Dick Mills with us in our church when we ushered in a new year. Today’s verse was one Brother Mills often quoted. In context, this verse is talking about God’s special care over the land of Israel. Dick used to use it to apply to our individual lives. That is a very powerful application and it becomes very personal. Just think about it like this for a moment; the Lord has His eye on every day of your year. He is watching over January 1 all the way to December 31. He is watching over us for protection but also much more than that, He is watching over His promises to guarantee they come to pass in our lives. Jer. 1:12 “Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.” The ESV Study Bible says this about this promise.
“The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it suggests care and protection as well as bounty.”
John Gill says this about this verse.
“A land which the Lord thy God cares for… In a very particular and special manner; otherwise he has a general care of the whole world, and all the parts of it; for as the earth is his, and the fulness thereof, his providential care reaches everywhere; but as this spot was what he had chosen for his own residence, and the place of his worship, and for an habitation for his peculiar people; he exercised a more peculiar care over it, to make it fruitful, commodious, and pleasant; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year”
If the Lord has been faithful to watch over the land of Israel all of these years, how much more will He watch over you? After all, we are His sons and daughters and He is watching over every detail of our lives. As we step into 2017 you can be sure none of it will happen by chance. He has ordered and orchestrated each day for His glory and your good.