LIONS, TIGERS, AND GIRAFFES

Ro.8:20,21 – For against its will the universe itself has had to endure the empty futility resulting from the consequences of human sin. But now, with eager expectation, all creation longs for freedom from its slavery to decay and to experience with us the wonderful freedom coming to God’s children.

My wife Parris and I recently went to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about going to zoos. My feelings about zoos got more complicated a number of years ago when my family was able to go to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya while we were on a missions trip to Tanzania and Uganda. To see the African animals in their natural habitat kind of ruined going to zoos. The animals in the wild were alive and excited about life. When I went to zoos after that Africa trip it was never the same. The animals at the zoo seemed to be depressed and aware of their slavery, it just wasn’t the same.

That’s why my recent zoo excursion was so differently exciting. I knew something was up when we went to the lion exhibit. This lion, his name is Arnold, was very active wandering all over his enclosed area eyeing every person that came by. His eyes were intense and exciting, not like the sleepy, depressed lion I was accustomed to. It was as if Arnold was expecting his circumstances to change at any moment. He exhibited a wonderful display of anticipation.

Next we saw the giraffes. There were three males in the exhibit acting in very aggressive ways. They were slamming each other with their horns, swinging their necks at a high velocity. So much for the lazy animals at the zoo, something was up with these animals. Next we were at the elderly elephant area. Two females were entertaining us by climbing in and out of the water, spraying water in the dirt to make mud. Then they would spray themselves with mud. They were enjoying their daily mud bath. That’s when one of these girls let out a tremendous trumpet blast with her trunk. The animals seemed to be talking to us, or maybe the unseen One was speaking through His creation.

Then there was the tiger. He was going from roaring to swimming to attacking his barrel as if it was a prey of some sort. Finally we saw the jaguar, you know the one who made the news not long ago with his late night escapade and rampage as he killed multiple animals in other enclosures. He was ramped up, pacing, growling, and roaring. The animals were all speaking in concert.

What were they saying? Better yet, what is the Lord of creation saying? If you were paying attention you saw it in today’s verse. Creation itself is groaning in prophetic declaration about the coming kingdom and the releasing of the sons and daughters of God from the corruption of the fallen world. If the animals sense something then what about us?

TONGUES, PROPHESY, AND MIRACLES

Acts 19:6,7 – And when Paul laid his hands on each of the twelve, the Holy Spirit manifested and they immediately spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Acts 19:10,11 – Every day for over two years, he taught them in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, which resulted in everyone living in the province of Asia, Jews and non-Jews, hearing the prophetic word of the Lord. God kept releasing a flow of extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul.

The prayer language is seen all throughout the book of Acts. At the birthing of the church in Ephesus Paul lays his hands on twelve men who all began to speak in tongues and prophesy. There is a close connection to the prayer language and the other vocal gifts. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“They spoke tongue by tongue and gushed out prophecies.” The impartation of the Holy Spirit and his gifts are here being transferred from Paul to these believers. Jesus taught that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, it is to impart power for our lives and ministries.”

Paul spent two years teaching these new believers and the growing church in Ephesus. The power and gifts of the Spirit increased through those daily saturation meetings. The whole region was impacted. Here are the Passion Notes on Acts 19:10,11.

“This “school of ministry” exploded as many came to hear Paul and then went out to preach, expanding the reach of the gospel into all the “province of Asia” (Asia Minor). The province of Asia would have covered no less than one-third of Turkey. Many multitudes heard the gospel in the two-year period when Paul taught in Ephesus. The teaching of the apostles resulted in the expansion of God’s kingdom realm.”

I believe an emphasis of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit is desperately needed and I also believe there will be an increased restoration of these gifts in the days ahead. In vs.11 Luke described unusual miracles breaking out in Ephesus. Maybe that is what it will take to break open this generation to the gospel, unusual miracles. I say its time to focus on the power of the Spirit. Speak in tongues for extended times, soak in worship music, meditate on scripture. Before you know it unusual miracles will begin to follow after you.

LORD OF SHINING GLORY

1 Cor.2:8 – None of the rulers of this present world order understood it, for if they had, they never would have crucified the Lord of shining glory.

Have you ever noticed the title Paul gives to the Lord Jesus in this passage? I had never really caught it until I was digging into Corinthians recently preparing for my class. Paul refers to Jesus as the Lord of glory. This is another example of Paul acknowledging the absolute deity of Christ. Paul saw the shining glory of the Lord that day on the Damascus Road. He had been smitten by the radiance of the glory shining out from the Lord. Paul was speaking from experience, He is the Lord of glory. Here is a comment from the Passion Notes on this verse.

“Or a genitive of quality, “the Lord, to whom glory belongs.” This is the only place in the New Testament with the term “Lord of shining glory.” The church father Augustine translated this “the Lord who dispenses glory”.

I love what Augustine said, “He is the Lord Who dispenses glory”. Jesus is the Lord of shining glory. Everywhere He goes is filled with light. He is the light of the world and literally the light of the whole world. Adam Clarke said this about today’s verse.

“Or the glorious Lord, infinitely transcending all the rulers of the universe; whose is eternal glory; who gave that glorious Gospel in which his followers may glory, as it affords them such cause of triumph as the heathens had not, who gloried in their philosophers.”

Think about what Paul is teaching in this letter. He is saying that the gospel has nothing to do with human reason. The gospel is a hidden mystery only revealed by revelation. Revelation flows out from Christ, the light of the world. Jesus is the radiance or outshining of the glory of the Father. This radiance is the very life and power of God. In His light we see light. There is not only revelation but healing power in this light. Remember this last chapter of the Old Testament, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall”.

Draw near to the Lord of shining glory. In His light you will see light; in His light you will be made perfectly whole.

CARRY THE ARK

Josh.3:17 – Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

Everyone wants to carry the ark of God, at least they think they do. That often changes when the cost of carrying the ark becomes clear. In today’s passage the priests were called to walk into death itself to prepare the way for the rest of God’s people to enter the land of promise.

Years ago I was planting tree in Coos Bay, Oregon raising money for our Bible College. I remember one day being discouraged to the point of giving up. I felt like the sacrifices of living in the mountains and planting trees was more than I could bare. The Lord encouraged me that day by these priests in Joshua. I was reading a devotion by Watchman Nee and the Lord strengthened me to finish what I had started. Looking back at that dilemma I was in makes me laugh today. At the time it is was enormous and the Lord met me powerfully. Here is that devotion that I still remember almost fifty years later.

“We must have faith to see all God’s people brought into their inheritance. That is His purpose, and it will be carried through. But as a means to realizing that purpose, God needs those willing to step right into death if need be, and to stand there steadfast until all are safely over. Because that little band of priests did so, holding firm with the ark in the place where death threatened, a whole nation passed dry-shod clean through Jordan. Not one soul remained behind! Of course it was not they but the ark of God that opened the way into a land of promise. Never forget that. But note this too: it was they who took it there and held it there. By their act of faith in standing with the Lord amidst death, others passed into abundant life. Am I ready for this?”

So maybe you feel like throwing in the towel, the sacrifice just doesn’t seem worth it. What does it take to change all that? Just a glimpse of God’s harvest and your connection to it changes everything. Let’s carry the ark down into the rivers of death, supernatural harvest is the sure result.

REAPERS, PLOUGHMEN, AND SOWERS

Amos 9:13 – Sept. – Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when the threshing will overtake the harvest, and grapes will ripen at the time the seed is sown, and the mountains will drip sweetness, and all the hills shall share in it.

I will never forget how fast things happened when we experienced revival outpouring in our church beginning in 1994. We saw the same kinds of things as before but there was a huge acceleration on everything. There was an acceleration in financial provision, souls being saved, and major increases in the area of miracle healings and deliverances. It seemed that things that would take weeks, months, and years would happen in a moment of time. We saw healings of all sorts from blindness, HIV, cancer, heart ailments, and many others. We had seen these things over the years but now there was a distinct acceleration. We saw Beyond the Grave begin with its 20+ years of a surge of souls being saved. We saw Mary’s Song begin with its radical display of supernatural restoration of broken lives and families. That’s what this Amos prophesy is all about, a season of shocking supernatural miracles in every arena of our lives. This last week the Lord has been reminding me of this amazing passage and speaking a word of acceleration of miracles over our lives in 2020. Here is a word from Adam Clarke on this prophesy.

“The ploughman shall overtake the reaper. All the seasons shall succeed in due and natural order: but the crops shall be so copious in the fields and in the vineyards, that a long time shall be employed in gathering and disposing of them; so that the seasons of ploughing, sowing, gathering the grapes, & treading the wine-press shall press on the heels of each other; so vast will be the abundance, and so long the time necessary to gather and cure the grain and fruits.”

I believe there is a surge of miracles, financial provision, and harvest of souls for those engaged in His work in these last days. The only way you can miss it is by putting down your harvesting tool or by stop sowing into His work. The Lord is serious about His church and He will bring unprecedented glory on His bride in fulfillment of the Amos prophesy to close out the age. I am in a state of unprecedented expectancy. Put in the cycle and reap, the ploughman is about to overtake us.

PORTAL TO EXTREME JOY

Acts 2:28 – For you have revealed to me the pathways to life,and seeing your face fills me with euphoria!’

Reading today’s verse in context, Peter is quoting a prophesy from Psalm 16 about the resurrection. It clearly says that Christ would not be abandoned to the grave but He would be raised up into the joy of God’s presence. If you think about it Christ had enjoyed the joy of His Father from eternity; so what is the point? Christ came to earth to rescue sinners like you and me. He became a man, died as a man, was raised from the dead as a man, and entered into the joy of heaven as a man. He did all of that so we too could enter the joy. Peter’s application of this verse in his preaching is astounding. He says that the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh makes this joy available to us. In other words, we don’t have to wait until we die to access this joy. Supernatural joy is available to us now as we drink deeply of His Spirit. This is what the Passion Notes says about this joy.

“This Greek word (euphrosune) occurs only here and in Acts 14:17. It is the spirit of joy, an ecstasy that comes from God. The Aramaic is “You will fill me, O Sweetness, with your presence.”

The joy of the Lord is the Spirit of joy. Praying in the Spirit will transport you into this incredibly happy place. Here is today’s verse from the Message followed by the Amplified version.

“You’ve got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around.”

“You have made known to me the ways of life; You will enrapture me [diffusing my soul with joy] with and in Your presence.”

The Message Bible connects the joy to the face of God. That is exactly right. The Hebrew word for face is the word for presence. As we seek His face, we come into His presence of unspeakable joy.

The Amplified Bible describes being enraptured. Enraptured literally means to be delighted beyond measure ! Wow ! Unmeasured joy is what my soul longs for. The Amplified also uses the word diffusing. Diffusing means “ to spread or cause to spread over a wide area or among a large number of people”. When we begin to tap into this unspeakable joy it fills every part of us and overflows to others. What I think is amazing is that we were created with an enormous appetite and capacity for joy. Tapping into the anointing by praying in the Spirit will bring you there.

FIRE-HEADS

Acts 2:1-3 – On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them.

Fire has always been a picture of the Holy Spirit. The author of Hebrews actually said, “For our God is a holy, devouring fire!” Heb.12:29. On the Day of Pentecost there was an actual physical manifestation of the fire of God appearing as a tongue, or pillar, of fire upon each of those gathered in the upper room. Reminiscent of the pillar of fire in the Old Testament or the fire that fell at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, this fire was falling on the followers of Jesus. This would change everything. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“This was the pillar of fire that led Israel from bondage into the promised land. The same pillar of fire manifested here to initiate a new beginning from dead religious structures into the powerful life of the Spirit. Each believer received an overpowering flame of fire, signified by the shaft of light that engulfed them. It was as though each one received his own personal pillar of fire that would empower him and lead him throughout his life. This was the promise Jesus gave to his disciples of “the one like me”, who would be sent by the Father and never leave them. Today every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. This was the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ.”

The fire of God speaks to us about several functions of the Holy Spirit. His fire purifies us. The more we are effected by the anointing the more His holiness permeates our lives. The fire speaks of God’s power. Like Jesus said, we would be filled with power after the Holy Spirit comes upon us. The fire of the Spirit empowers us to do the works of the Spirit. Fire also illuminates. The Holy Spirit fire begins to bring new revelation into our lives. Fire also warms our hearts filling us with passion for the Lord and a passion for souls.

Send your fire Lord!!! Light us up like pillars of fire to penetrate the darkness.

GUSHING AND SPLASHING

Acts 2:15-17 – These people are not drunk like you think they are, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. This is the fulfillment of what was prophesied through the prophet Joel, for God says:

‘This is what I will do in the last days —I will pour out my Spirit on everybody and cause your sons and daughters to prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will experience dreams from God.

God’s word is very descriptive and can often be seen as we focus in on key words in the scripture. In this passage the phrase “pour out” is very descriptive and and gives us a glimpse into the way the Holy Spirit works as He falls on us in fresh outpourings. Here is how the Passion Notes describe this phrase.

“Or “gush forth,” or “run greedily.” The Aramaic can be translated “I will be splashing my Spirit-Wind over all flesh” (humanity).”

So this phrase describes the Holy Spirit as gushing and splashing over all flesh. This awakens pictures of a dam that has been breached and is flooding over everything in its path. It also causes pictures of the splashing of the Spirit, everyone who gets close will end up getting wet.

The Kittel Word Book adds some more insight into this passage.

“Lavishing divine gifts or powers in fulfillment of Joel 3:1-2 is the point in Acts 2:16. As in the OT the outpouring of the Spirit means both ecstatic inspiration and inner renewal, so the same word occurs both for the giving of tongues (Acts 10:45) and the granting of the Spirit in baptism (Tit. 3:5). In Rom. 5:5-6 the overflowing love of God shown in Christ’s death brings us constant assurance by the Holy Spirit.”

I love this connection to the Old Testament. Kittel says that the Old Testament outpouring on the prophets would cause ecstatic inspiration and inner renewal. That’s exactly what we are in need of today. I need daily renewal by the Spirit to keep me satisfied, filled, and walking in the ways of the Lord. We need inspiration by the Spirit to walk in His plan for our lives as well as to have a message to impact our world. That’s exactly what the Spirit does; He gushes and splashes all over us that we may have inspiration and renewal.

BEGINNING GOD’S NEW DAY

1 Cor.15:20,21 – But the truth is, Christ is risen from the dead, as the firstfruit of a great resurrection harvest of those who have died. For since death came through a man, Adam, it is fitting that the resurrection of the dead has also come through a man, Christ.

The resurrection of Christ marked the beginning of God’s new day. Since the first day of the fall and its horrific effect on God’s creation the Lord has been orchestrating the events of our world to prepare for His glorious new day. The resurrection of Christ is the firsfruits of God’s glorious plan of renewal in a brand new world. This is a quote from the Passion Notes on this verse.

“The first part of the harvest is called the firstfruits. Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruit of those who will be raised in resurrection power, never to die again.“

As we start a new calendar year my thoughts turn to spiritual renewal. When Christ returns we will be like Him, transformed in the twinkling of an eye. In the meantime we experience continual renewal by the word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Again, Christ’s resurrection marked the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s amazing plan. Here is a quote from Gordon Fee on today’s passage.

“Christ’s resurrection marks the turning of the ages; the subsequent gift of the eschatological Spirit (last day Spirit) is certain evidence that the End has begun. But the fact that we still live in bodies subject to decay, and that there is yet a future Parousia of the Lord (coming of the Lord) with a subsequent resurrection is also clear evidence that what has begun has not yet been fully brought to consummation. Thus for Paul, believers are thoroughly eschatological (end time) people, determined and conditioned by the reality of the future that has already begun, but still awaiting the final glory. We are therefore both “already” and “not yet.”

So as we begin a new year I think its time to press in to the Holy Spirit. The mark of God’s end time people is the power and the presence of the Lord. Our world is being dominated by spiritual darkness, confusion, and fear. The power of His presence and the evidence of His renewal in our lives has a major and lasting impact on our society. Don’t underestimate the power and influence of Christ in you. Your world needs Christ to be unleashed in and through your life.

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

Acts 1:1-4 – On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them. They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned!

I love praying for people to be filled with the Spirit or to experience renewal or fresh fillings with the Spirit. The laying on of hands is more than symbolic or even a point of contact, it is a time of impartation of the wonderful anointing of the Holy Spirit. Often times while praying for people in the prayer lines I can hear the Holy Spirit clearly saying, “Inside and outside”. I love this, the work of the Spirit effects our whole being. He changes us on the inside, restores and makes whole our outward circumstances, and also equips us with powerful ministry giftings. Here is some interesting insight from the Passion Notes.

“There are two Greek words used here for “filled.” In v. 2, it is pleroo, which means “filled inwardly.” In v. 4 it is pletho, which means “filled outwardly” or “furnished and equipped.” This was the anointing of the Spirit for ministry. Every believer needs the filling of the Spirit both inwardly for life and outwardly for ministry.”

It is easy for us to get fixated on our outward circumstances because that is the world we are comfortable with. Just trying to change our outward behavior will only prove to be a short term solution to whatever we are facing. Our outward circumstances and our outward actions are a reflection of what is happening on the inside of us. Being filled with the Spirit initiates the needed changes. Being continually filled helps us to walk in the needed changes in our lives. Everything from poverty, addictive lifestyle behavior, depression, and even physical sickness is effected by the anointing of the Spirit.

As we begin this new year and we all think about change, determine to stay filled with the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit often and worship the Lord as a lifestyle. Also, don’t forget to get into a prayer line and let Him do something fresh in you. As we start the year I say “Lord touch my life inside and outside”.