MIRACLES IN THE SHADOW

Acts 5:14,15 – And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

For some people this passage is a little to hard to stomach and could even be called embarrassing. For those who have tasted the power of His anointing it is encouraging and quite believable. When you do a little digging we are talking about more than the ordinary shadow of some unsophisticated fisherman from Galilee here. Actually, the word shadow in this passage is a rarely used word that is describing a manifestation of the glory of God. This is how the Passion Bible notes describes this passage.

“The Greek word translated “overshadow” is episkiazo, which is used exclusively for the power of the Almighty “overshadowing,” such as with Mary, who conceived a child supernaturally by God. It is also used for the cloud that overshadowed Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.This was not a natural shadow created by the light of the sun, but the supernatural overshadowing of God’s power coming upon the sick to bring healing.”

If you combine this passage with Psalm 91 you can come to an interesting conclusion. Psalm 91 is filled with promises to those who abide under the shadow of the Almighty. To the Old Testament believer this is describing the place of safety underneath the shadow of the wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. For us today, we have boldness to come into God’s presence by faith in the blood of Jesus. Psalm 57 gives us a glimpse of this idea in the Old Testament.

Ps.57:1 – Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,

for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,

till the storms of destruction pass by.

The sick and suffering recognized the power of God on the apostles in the early days of the church. Today, that power has not abated. We have access to the presence. We can live in that shining glory cloud of God. For those who dwell there, the Lord will keep them from fear, pestilence and plagues, will drive out your enemies, and satisfy and extend your life.

WILLING TO BE WILLING

PSA. 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Have you ever felt like you were trapped? You know what I mean, stuck in your sinful lifestyle. There, I said it. I know we are not supposed to talk about sin but I am tired of pretending there is no elephant in the room. There is a whole herd trampling over our Christian heritage and we are all playing some kind of stupid mind game. The end of the age seems to be closing in on us; its time for us to get serious about our spiritual condition.

In today’s Psalm David, had committed a horrible sin. He was ashamed, afraid, and scared that he would lose everything that had been important to him. He seemed afraid of himself and afraid he would mess up again. He knew he had only one hope. He needed the Lord to help him. He knew he needed forgiveness but he also knew he needed more than that. He needed to be willing to change. He needed more than just human will power. He was in desperate need of God’s power to change. Whether we know it or not we all are. We need to be willing to be willing. Here are Spurgeon’s comments on today’s verse.
“And uphold me with thy free Spirit. Conscious of weakness, mindful of having so lately fallen, he seeks to be kept on his feet by power superior to his own. That royal Spirit, whose holiness is true dignity, is able to make us walk as kings and priests, in all the uprightness of holiness; and he will do so if we seek his gracious upholding. Such influences will not enslave but emancipate us; for holiness is liberty, and the Holy Spirit is a free Spirit. In the roughest and most treacherous ways we are safe with such a Keeper; in the best paths we stumble if left to ourselves. The praying for joy and upholding go well together; it is all over with joy if the foot is not kept; and, on the other hand, joy is a very upholding thing, and greatly aids holiness; meanwhile, the free, noble, royal Spirit is at the bottom of both.”
So maybe you have done things you are ashamed of, maybe even things you never thought you would do. If that is your situation there is a way out. Call on the Lord. He will forgive and He will do even more. He will make us into different kinds of people. What does it take? You must be willing to be willing.

MERCY IS FALLING

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17

The Lord has some really unusual ways to deal with people. He takes our worst traits and uses them to reach out to us in love. I distinctly remember something that happened to me just weeks before I was born again. Someone told me I was self centered and selfish in a conversation we were having. Even though I didn’t let on, the Lord used those words to deeply convict my heart. His Spirit confirmed to me that those words were true. Looking back now, I know the Holy Spirit was using that conversation to convict my heart of sin and prepare me for conversion. I finally realized I was a sinner in need of a Savior. It is the work of the Spirit to keep us broken and contrite. This happens has He continually convinces us of our need for His mercy. Here are some thoughts from Luther on today’s verse.

“We must learn that as Christians we have to live with death all around us, with regret and a trembling conscience—between the teeth of the devil and hell. In spite of all this, we must hang on to the message of God’s grace. Then in all circumstances, we can say, “Lord, you want only the best for me.” In this psalm, we read that God finds no sacrifice more pleasing than a broken heart. The tax collector exemplified this attitude when he said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The tax collector offered the Lord the most desirable sacrifice, a broken heart that trusts in God’s mercy. This is a comforting way to think about God. God’s true nature is to love people who are troubled, have mercy on those who are broken-hearted, forgive those who have fallen, and refresh those who are exhausted. This psalm calls us to trust in God’s mercy and goodness alone. It encourages us to believe that God is on our side even when we feel abandoned and distressed.”

Maybe today you find yourself in one of the categories Luther listed. Are you troubled, His love is there for you. Maybe you have a broken heart, He heals our broken hearts. Maybe you have fallen and are overwhelmed with shame, His mercy is everlasting. Or possibly you are burned out and running on empty, there is refreshing strength that flows from His love. Mercy is falling, let’s humble ourselves and get under the downpour.

BEING BRUTAL WITH YOURSELF

HAPPY SUNDAY-

“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” Ps. 51

Repentance is a beautiful thing. When the light shines in, the roaches begin to scatter. When Jesus walks in the room, let all men be laid low. Having a sorrow over sin because how it grieves God and affects others is a good thing. I will never forget a church member banging on my front door and I am still not sure what they were ashamed at, me finding out about their adultery or the sin itself. When God shines his precious light on us, it means he has our number and its time to dump our heavy load. Pat Robertson says, “its time to be brutal on yourself”.

I love this from Expositors- “Wash me, beat me, tread me down, hammer me with mallets, dash me against stones, do anything to me, if only these foul stains are melted from the texture of my soul. There is no real well founded gladness without the consciousness of divine forgiveness. If we are to stand fast, we must be stayed on God.” Oh thank God for the love of God being shed upon our hearts. Imagine Christ’s blood being poured over that huge mountain of sin, oh precious gift of salvation who can deny it’s power!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1John 1:7 Have you taken the time lately and allowed God to purge you and wash you? Repentance comes before Revival—so many people react out of the hurt or perceived hurt that we have done to them. Seventy times seventy is how much we need to continue to forgive.

Have you felt like the “bones” which had been “crushed” are beginning to reknit, and thrills of gladness to steal through your frame? (Gill) Gods cleansing power to mankind is unexplainable but causes us to change supernaturally. Without God’s love, we are lost and it can just become like any other religion, working our way through the hoops and never coming to the end of our search. Let his love come to the hidden man of the heart. Lord wash us through and through!

Let now only repentance come in to us but revive us again oh Lord! Fill us with the joy of our salvation that will spill unto others in this crazy, mixed up world.

DANGEROUS PRAISE

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.Psalm 51:15

I went to a Bible School near Fresno, California back in the 1970’s. Part of the curriculum at the school was evangelism. Each week there would be an evangelism assignment as part of the course requirements. There were some really unusual assignments designed to get the students out of the arena of fear, some of them were quite bizarre. One of my assignments was to go to a certain bar in Fresno with a tambourine. I was to get everyone’s attention by banging the tambourine and after I got everyone’s attention, sing “What Can Wash Away My Sin”. Actually the event turned out better than I could have imagined. All eyes were on me in the bar that day the moment I began to play the tambourine. After I finished singing the song they all stared at me as if to say “And so…”. I was able to preach just about everything I knew that night. All I can remember was the empty eyes and empty hearts staring out to me at the bar. Overcoming the fear of man is important when it comes to public worship. Check out what Luther had to say about the danger of worship.

“By asking the Lord to open his lips, David showed how difficult it is to offer thanks to God. This is something God demands of us. Talking about the Lord and thanking him publicly require an extreme amount of courage and strength, because the devil is constantly trying to stop us from doing this. If we could see all of Satan’s traps, we would know why David prayed for the Spirit’s strength and asked the Lord himself to open David’s lips. He wanted to tell the devil, the world, kings, princes, and everyone about the Lord. Many things can keep our lips shut: the fear of danger, the hope of gaining something, or even the advice of friends. The devil uses these ways to stop us from offering thanks to God, as I have often experienced in my life. And yet, at important times, when God’s honor was threatened, God stood by me and opened my mouth in spite of the obstacles. The Spirit urges us on—just as Peter says, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”. The Spirit prays to God for us with many groans. Then the Lord opens our lips to announce his praise.”

So go ahead, stir up the gift of God, you may be amazed at the power of God that comes upon you and fills you up with courage. He will open your lips and fill you with His praise.

WHITER THAN SNOW

WHITER THAN SNOW

Psa. 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Today is a strange day, we are actually at home anticipating a winter storm in New Orleans. I can’t decide if this is global warming or some strange prophetic manifestation. As I was imagining how everything would look if it actually snows, my mind began to wander to a cherished childhood memory. My dad used to listen to Tennessee Earnie Ford albums, especially his old hymns. One of those albums was recorded at the prison in San Quentin with the prisoners’ choir. I used to play that album over and over again when I was seven years old. I would lay on the living room floor and just take in the music. I can still hear those prisoners singing my favorite song on that album, “Whiter than snow, whiter than snow; wash me and I will be whiter than snow”. The power of words, eyes specially scripture is quite amazing. That has been over fifty years now and I still hear those famous words from Psalm 51 in my head. Here is a portion of that song the prisoners were singing on that recording.

James L. Nicholson

WHITER THAN SNOW

Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Refrain:
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Lord Jesus, let nothing unholy remain,
Apply Thine own blood and extract every stain;
To get this blest cleansing, I all things forego—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies,
And help me to make a complete sacrifice;
I give up myself, and whatever I know—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet,
By faith for my cleansing, I see thy blood flow—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait;
Come now and within me a new heart create;
To those who have sought Thee Thou never said’st “No”—
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
Oh, glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.

The power of that song was actually the testimony of Jesus. These men had obviously lived a difficult, dark life. In that choir were ex-criminals; thieves, murderers, extortioners, you name it, they had probably done it. They had tasted the power of the blood of Jesus. Though their sins had been like scarlet, Jesus had washed them and they were now whiter than snow.
I don’t know if it will snow today but thinking about it is good enough. Wash me Lord and I will be whiter than snow.

CREATED FROM NOTHING

CREATED FROM NOTHING

Psa. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Man is capable of some pretty horrible stuff. From serial killings to ethnic cleansing, the depravity of man is pretty shocking. History has been filled with Hitlers, Osama Ben Ladens, and Herods. Unfortunately, the list is endless. Just when you think it can’t get worse, someone shows up with a rifle in a kindergarten or a sniper shooting random people on an interstate. How could man who is capable of so much good fall so low? The answer is in the Bible, of course. Our hearts are sick. Jeremiah says they are desperately wicked. It’s not just some of us it’s the entire race. We are all without the ability to change ourselves. We know right from wrong, somehow we get stuck doing the wrong far to often. That’s where the power of the gospel comes in to play. We can’t change ourselves but Christ can. The blessing of Christianity is the ability to change our nature, to create a new heart in us. E. B. Pusey shared some powerful things about this verse.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. This “creation” is from nothing. David uses the same word of our creation which Moses uses of “the creation of the heaven and the earth.” Our creation “in Jesus Christ” is no mere strengthening of our powers, no mere aiding of our natural weakness by the might of the grace of God, it is not a mere amendment, improvement of our moral habits; it is a creation out of nothing, of that which we had not before. There was nothing in us whereof to make it. We were decayed, corrupt, dead in trespasses and sins. What is dead becometh not alive, except by the infusion of what it had not. What is corrupt receiveth not soundness, save by passing away itself and being replaced by a new production. “The old man” passeth not into “the new man”, but is “put off.” It is not the basis of the new life, but a hindrance to it. It must be “put off” and the new man “put on”, “created in Christ Jesus.”

I love that, God creates something new in us. Just as The Lord created the beautiful world we live in, He creates a brand new you when you pray the prayer of David. “Create in me a clean heart Oh God”. All of us are stuck in our own sinful behavior until Christ is formed in us. Instead of stumbling into alcohol and drug induced stupid behavior, we are more than satisfied with the joy we now experience in this new life. Rather than living a life conflicted with deceit and impure motives we are happy living an honest life characterized by integrity. This is the glory of the Christian life, we are not controlled by rules that can never change our nature, we are empowered by this new nature in our hearts.

NEW HEART

NEW HEART

Psa. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

I often think of the homeless man that got a new heart in church. I’m talking about a physical heart, you know, the kind you have thumping in your chest. He got in the prayer line reeking of booze, received prayer, and got a new heart. He actually went into the old Charity Hospital in New Orleans that week for open heart surgery and to the doctor’s great surprise, he didn’t need his operation, he got a new heart. Actually, every time someone is born again they receive a new heart. That is the blessing of Christianity, The Lord gives us all brand new hearts. That is how we change. Our old heart was corrupt, prone to sin. Our new heart is different, our new heart loves God and everything to do with this new life. Henry Smith speaks about today’s verse and this new heart, check this out.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, etc. David prayeth the Lord to create him a new heart, not to correct his old heart, but to create him a new heart; showing that his heart was like an old garment, so rotten and tattered that he could make no good of it by patching or piecing, but even must cut it off, and take a new. Therefore Paul saith, “Cast off the old man; “not pick him and wash him till he be clean, but cast him off and begin anew, as David did. Will ye know what this renewing is? It is the repairing of the image of God, until we be like Adam when he dwelt in Paradise. As there is a whole old man, so there must be a whole new man. The old man must change with the new man, wisdom for wisdom, love for love, fear for fear; his worldly wisdom for heavenly wisdom, his carnal love for spiritual love, his servile fear for Christian fear, his idle thoughts for sanctified works.”

This is the power of the Christian faith. Every religion has high standards and aspirations for man. From Buddhists to Hindus; from Jehovah’s witnesses to Hare Krishnas, all of them want man to live more moral and better lives. The problem with all of them is this, there is no ability to change the heart. This is the source of all of our problems. Like Jeremiah said, our hearts are desperately wicked. We must be born again. When Christ comes into your heart you become a new creation. You actually have a heart transplant.
Thinking about the drunken homeless man I have to laugh. The Lord was using this unexpected miracle to prophesy over all of us. This man need a new organ in his body, all of us need a spiritual heart transplant. So if you have been struggling with sin, pray David’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart oh God”.

DON’T TAKE AWAY YOUR PRESENCE

DON’T TAKE AWAY YOUR PRESENCE

PSA. 51:10-11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

For those who have tasted the Presence of The Lord, nothing else comes close. It is indescribable yet tangible, it is convicting and at the same time comforting, it brings us to the end of ourselves and at the same time starts our life up again. David had known the joy of the presence of The Lord. He remembered the initial rush of power and joy that flooded his soul when Samuel anointed him with oil. David also reflected on that great day of dancing with all his might as he brought the ark into Jerusalem. David loved the countless times he had lingered in the presence of The Lord at the tabernacle he had pitched on Mount Zion, he couldn’t imagine losing this great blessing in his life. God’s presence was not just a part of his life, it was the one thing that defined his life. William Cowper wrote about this passage in David’s psalm, Cowper also reflected on the tragedy of losing this great blessing in our lives.

“But how is it that he prays, Cast me not out from thy presence? May a man be cast any way from it? Saith he not himself, “What way can I flee from thy presence?” This is soon answered by distinguishing his twofold presence — one in mercy, wherewith he refreshes and comforts his own, and this without intermission they enjoy who are in heaven; another, in wrath, whereby he terrifies and torments without intermission the damned in hell. As to them who are upon the earth, certain it is he is displeased with many, who, because they see not his angry face, regard it not, borne out with temporal recreations of the creature, which will fail them; and there are many, again, to whom he looks as a loving father in Christ, and yet they see not his merciful face by reason of many interjected veils; but to them who once have felt the sweetness of his favorable face it is death to want it.”

Cowper actually took a little different approach to this tragic dilemma. He described the tragedy of coming into the presence of The Lord in a sinful state, he even warned about the possibility of being in that sinful state for eternity, being tormented by the presence of The Lord in a sinful condition.
To the redeemed soul nothing could be more terrifying than to lose the access into God’s presence. Cowper describes the passion in the soul of the Christian who has tasted the presence of The Lord. Though others may settle for the temporal pleasures of the world, those who have tasted of His goodness despise the veils that block them from His presence. Like David, their soul cries out to The Lord, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me”.

DON’T HIDE YOUR FACE

DON’T HIDE YOUR FACE

51:11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

William Cowper knew about depression and suicidal tendencies. He had major bouts with suicidal thoughts and actually tried to hang himself which led to his conversion. You may have never heard of Cowper but you probably know his songs . He was pastored by John Newton (author of Amazing Grace) and is known best for his song There is a Fountain Filled with Blood. Cowper knew about conversion and forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness and God’s grace was a theme of his songs and his ministry. Here is a quote from Cowper on his comments on Psalm 51, David’s great psalm of repentance.

“Cast me not away from thy presence. David lamented before that sin had slain him, and made him like a dead man, wanting a heart or quickening spirit; and now he fears lest, as the dead are abhorred by the living, so the Lord should cast him as a dead and abominable thing out of his presence. Whereof we learn this is one of the just punishments of sin; it procures the casting out of a man from the face of God; and it may let us see how dear bought are the pleasures of sin when a man to enjoy the face of the creature deprives himself of the comfortable face of the Creator; as David here, for the carnal love of the face of Bathsheba, puts himself in danger to be cast out forever from the presence of the Lord his God. If a man could remember this in all Satan’s temptations, what it is that the deceiver offers, and what it is again that he seeks, he would be loath to buy the perishing pleasures of sin upon such a price as Satan selleth them, but would answer him as the apostle did Simon Magus, “Thy money, with thyself, go into perdition;” thy gain, thy glory, thy pleasure, and whatever thou wouldst give me to offend the Lord my God, go with thyself into perdition, for what canst thou offer me comparable to that which thou wouldst steal from me?”

Cowper had some interesting insight in this passage, he said David had exchanged a few moments enjoying the face of Bathsheba at the risk of losing his access to the face of God. That is the tragic consequence that is involved with our sinful behavior, the one thing we can’t afford to lose we sacrifice for the fleeting joys of carnal pleasure. This famous song is David’s song of repentance. David cried, “Do not cast me away from your presence…” The word presence in David’s prayer is the hebrew word for face. David was praying,”Lord, don’t turn your face away from me”. David knew the pleasures found in the presence of God, he was painfully aware of the tragedy of losing that joy in his life. David’s repentance has been a model prayer for God’s children for the last 3000 years, maybe you should pray this prayer today.