THE POWER OF THE KINGDOM

1 Cor.4:20 – For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.

It’s funny how humans want to tamper with the work of God. It seems we seem to think that the Lord somehow needs our help. Really?! This verse today really points to the very heart of this dilemma, the power of God vs. human wisdom and strategy. Paul taught that the power of God was the mark or sign of God’s favor. To him, it was unthinkable to have a ministry without supernatural power. The gifts of the Spirit were inseparable from the church. A church without power was a church without God. Here is a quote from Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“The religion of the Lord Jesus is not in word-in human eloquence, excellence of speech, or even in doctrines; but in power, in the mighty energy of the Holy Spirit; enlightening, quickening, converting, and sanctifying believers; and all his genuine apostles are enabled, on all necessary occasions, to demonstrate the truth of their calling by miracles; for this the original word often means.”

Clarke believed that the very power of God was involved with conversion itself. Without the power of God there is no way for us to change. After all, God’s power is involved with changing us into new creations. Albert Barnes also believed the power of God was essential to our Christian faith. Here are some comments from Barnes.

“(1.) In the miraculous power by which the church was established—the power of the Savior and of the apostles in working miracles. (2.) In the power of the Holy Ghost in the gift of tongues, and in his influence on the heart in converting men. (3.) In the continual power which is needful to protect, defend, and govern the church. Unless teachers showed that they had such power, they were not qualified for their office.”

It sometimes seems today that the modern pastor feels a need to protect people from God’s power. Somehow many are afraid that the power of God would prove to be offensive to modern man. Herein lies the problem, Paul was saying that the power of God proved the authenticity of the ministry. It’s not eloquent speech, organized church programs, great choirs or special ministries for various people groups that change people’s lives. It is the very power of God. Could it be that God’s power is the essential missing ingredient from much of what we call church today? After all, “the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power”.

THE WEAK BECOME STRONG

Heb.11:34 – “Out weakness were made strong.”

This is a great description of God’s glory being displayed in weak human vessels. Paul spoke about the Lord calling the lowly to humble the power brokers of the world. The disciples were not exactly candidates to change the world (but they did). David’s band of scalawags and rascals weren’t likely to start a kingdom (but they did). George Whitefield and Evan Roberts were too young, William Seymore was blind in one eye and the son of a slave, Kathryn Kuhlman was a woman, Peter was a fisherman, and Paul was a murderer. I think the Lord loves to take unlikely people and unlikely circumstances to show His power. What’s your excuse? Our excuses become God’s testimony of displaying His power in weakness. Here are some thoughts from Dick Mills on man’s weakness and God’s power.

“What a graphic study in contrasts! Bottom line: It’s man’s weakness impacted and empowered by God’s indwelling strength. Weakness is from the Greek Word asthenia. It traces to a word meaning strength-less. In the four gospels and in Acts, asthenia describes the people who came to Jesus and the disciples for healing, having infirmity, disability in health; and lacking in strength. From the book of Romans onward, asthenia was used mostly to describe man’s frail nature when contrasted with God’s power. Paul uses the word infirmities when describing human nature. In Romans 6:19 and 8:26, he declares that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and assists us in fleshly weakness or infirmity. I think asthenia can be used to describe man without God, trying to make it in life without divine go-power. Someone said, “Man without God ain’t going nowhere”.

The ministry of Jesus was all about power being displayed through weakness. He was born as a baby in a manger and now reigns at the right hand of God in heaven. He was raised as the son of a carpenter but astounded the professors and priests with His wisdom. He casts out demons with His word, healed the sick and raised the dead with the touch of His hand. He was arrested, beaten and crucified in weakness and was raised from the dead by the power of God.

Whatever circumstance you are facing, no matter how weak and improbable change looks to you, your weakness and lack is just a set up for the Lord to display His power. Out of your weakness God’s strength is being displayed.

BOATLOAD OF FISH

Lk.5:8 – But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Everyone responds differently to miracles or the power of God. Peter saw the incredible, unexplainable harvest of fish in this story and he was thunderstruck. He suddenly realized just exactly who was standing on his boat. This was the Holy One of Israel. This evokes pictures of Isaiah and the temple when he saw the Lord and was convicted of his sin. Isaiah cried out, “I am a man of unclean lips”. Peter, like Isaiah, began to see the depth of his sinfulness in the light of the Lord’s holiness. This place of conviction of sin is painfully sweet. This is the place where revelation begins, this is the first ‘open door’ we enter through. Peter’s spiritual journey was just beginning. He saw it for himself, it wasn’t about the fish, it was all about Jesus. Here are some thoughts from Albert Barnes from today’s verse.

“This is an expression of Peter’s humility, and of his consciousness of his unworthiness. It was not from want of love to Jesus; it did not show that he would not be pleased with his favor and presence; but it was the result of being convinced that Jesus was a messenger from God—a high and holy being; and he felt that he was unworthy to be in his presence. In his deep consciousness of sin, therefore, he requested that Jesus would depart from him and his little vessel. …We are not worthy to be with him, to be reckoned among his friends, or to dwell in heaven with him; but he came to seek the lost and to save the impure. He graciously condescends to dwell with those who are humble and contrite, though they are conscious that they are not worthy of his presence; and we may therefore come boldly to him, and ask him to receive us to his home—to an eternal dwelling with him in the heavens.”

Have you experienced the bitter sweetness of conviction of sin? Have you seen Jesus as your Savior? Many are stuck on the miracle worker part and miss the greatest miracle of all; new life that comes from forgiveness of our sins. Let Jesus step on your boat; if you do, you will get a whole lot more than a boatload of fish.

WORKING WITH THE ENERGY OF GOD

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Col. 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Sometimes Christianity seems to be in conflict with itself. Paul’s life is a great example of what I mean. We see in Paul’s life someone eaten up with zeal and vision for his ministry; obviously Paul holds nothing back. At the same time we see the transforming, supernatural power of God working powerfully in and through the Apostle Paul. This conflict is at the heart of all Christian endeavors. Was Paul’s success all Paul or all God? We see the dilemma in today’s verse, Paul says he is struggling or agonizing with the very energy and power of God. This is how Adam Clarke describes this conflict.

“Whereunto I also labour. In order to accomplish this end, I labour with the utmost zeal and earnestness; and with all that strength with which God has most powerfully furnished me. Whoever considers the original words, will find that no verbal translation can convey their sense. God worked energetically in St. Paul, and he wrought energetically with God; and all this was in reference to the salvation of mankind.”

So is it Paul or is it God. It seems as if the revelation of God awakened Paul’s passion and drive and at the same time empowered him in unprecedented ways. Albert Barnes also talks about this strange convergence of human and divine energy.

“Striving. Gr., agonizing, he taxed all his energies to accomplish this, as the wrestlers strove for the mastery in the Grecian games. According to his working. Not by my own strength, but by the power which God alone can give.”

Was Paul striving ? The answer is yes but not the striving in the flesh we normally associate with striving. He was striving together with the Lord to see all mankind effected with this divine power that had changed his life. So there was supernatural power involved, not just the will power of a driven man. Wuest also talks about this divine energy at work in Paul’s life.

“Our word “energy” is derived from this word. “Mightily” is Dunamis, “power” in the sense of natural, inherent ability. Expositors says; “The struggle is carried on in proportion, not to his natural powers, but to the mightily working energy of Christ within him.”

The good news about all of this is this; this power is working in whosoever will. Rather than doing nothing and waiting on the Lord or taking matters into your own hands; we can yield our hands, all of our strength and talents, into His hands. Learning to yield to the conflict will bring you into the place where you too can say, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me”.

CONTINUING GOD’S PRESENCE

Ezek. 39:28,29 – then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.

The Great Awakening had its start in a church in Northampton, Massachusetts under the leadership of Jonathan Edwards. The first wave of revival began in Northampton in the fall of 1734 and lasted about eighteen months. It seemed as if the whole city was mightily effected by the outpouring. Edwards said that just about every family in town had someone who had been converted during that season. He wrote a sermon several years later called CONTINUING GOD’S PRESENCE. It seems that the church had lost the fire they once had and Edwards was preaching messages trying to light the fire again. He said that in order to continue to see the lost come in they needed to continue in revival. Here is a portion of that sermon.

“A people don’t only stand in need of enjoying this blessing for a time, but they need it at all times. They don’t only need to have it once bestowed, but they need to have it continued. They need to have God always thus dwelling among them. They need it for the carrying on the work of conversion. If God withdraws, there are many will be like to perish eternally. And they stand in continual need of it for the upholding and building up of saints; for the saints are every moment dependent on the Spirit of God for all spiritual good, and can’t do without it. The once giving, the Spirit of God won’t answer the necessities of a people, but they need to have it continued.”
Edwards believed that we need the Lord on a continual basis. Getting touched once in the past wasn’t nearly enough, we needed to continue in the presence of the Lord if we want to impact our world. Thankfully Edwards prayers were answered. In 1740 the Lord visited the church in Northampton once again. This time it spread throughout the colonies and thus the Great Awakening began. Thousands of farmers, and shopkeepers, and students gave their lives to Christ in the early 1740’s. Our country was birthed and our world has never been the same.

ACCORDING TO HIS POWER IN US

According to the power that worketh in us —Ephesians 3:20

Do you believe that you have the Lord actually living inside of you? I mean really, not just a philosophical or doctrinal belief, but the living Christ living powerfully within you. If you really have the Lord, the Creator of all things and the restorer of broken lives, in your life, I believe He effects every part of you. How could it be possible to have that kind of power in you and it not make a significant difference in every part of your life? He effects your intelligence because He is the wisdom of God. He effects your conscience because He is the High Priest who forgives all of our sins. He effects your health because He is the very source of all life and the healing power of God. Your emotional condition is absolutely transformed because He is the Wonderful Counselor. Our ineptness and lack of power is totally transformed because He is the very power of God. He absolutely changes everything when He lives in our hearts. Here are some thoughts from A.B. Simpson on today’s verse.

“When we reach the place of union with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we come into the inheritance of external blessing and enter upon the land of our possession. Then our health and physical strength come to us through the power of our interior life. Then the prayer is fulfilled that we shall be in health and prosper as our soul prospers. Then, with the kingdom of God and His righteousness within us all things are added unto us. God’s external working always keeps pace with the power that works in us. When God is enthroned in a human soul, the devil and the world soon find it out. We do not need to advertise our power. Jesus could not be hid, and a soul filled with divine power and purity should become the center of attraction to hungry hearts and Suffering lives.

Let us receive Him and recognize Him in His indwelling glory, and then will we appropriate all that it means for our life in all its fullness.”
So let me ask you again, is Jesus in your life? He is bigger and more dynamic than we can ever know. Our world is changed in proportion, or as today’s scripture says, “according to the power that works within us”. If Christ is in you, then you are more than a match for whatever challenges you are facing in life.

GOODNESS AND POWER

2Chr. 5:13 indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying:
‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud,’
Every time I remember this powerful scene, the dedication of Solomon’s temple, I immediately think of the birth of the church on the Day of Pentecost. As the priests acknowledged the goodness of God, His glory began to fill the temple and overwhelm the priests. On the Day of Pentecost we see the disciples and remnant of Christ’s closest followers gathered for prayer and worship and they too were overwhelmed with the presence of the Lord. This was the dedication of the true temple of God. Solomon’s temple was only a shadow of the real. The church was the ultimate plan of God. This brings us to today; should we be satisfied with just a doctrinal belief that we are the temple of God or should there be more? Maybe we should have a similar sense of His overwhelming presence when we gather in His name. What are we missing? Maybe it’s the sense of why we exist, to magnify His goodness and to live in His presence. Here is how Spurgeon describes the goodness of God.
“How generous, forgiving, and tender is this patient Spirit of God. He is good operatively. All his works are good in the most eminent degree: he suggests good thoughts, prompts good actions, reveals good truths, applies good promises, assists in good attainments, and leads to good results. There is no spiritual good in all the world of which he is not the author and sustainer, and heaven itself will owe the perfect character of its redeemed inhabitants to his work. He is good officially; whether as Comforter, Instructor, Guide, Sanctifier, Quickener, or Intercessor, he fulfills his office well, and each work is fraught with the highest good to the church of God. They who yield to his influences become good, they who obey his impulses do good, they who live under his power receive good.”
If you follow what happened in the church after that initial outpouring, they continued in the power of His presence as individuals. They would gather for corporate worship and teaching and turned the world upside down with the power of His presence. There is going to be a change in His church, there has to be. Great music, helpful instruction and motivation, and efficient programs will never address the problems of our culture, it is in meltdown. We need His power and His goodness on full display.

THE LORD IS GOD

Psa. 100:3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Psa. 100:5 For the LORD is good;

His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.
For many years now I have read from the book of Psalms almost everyday. Most are written by David and are still permeated with his love and pursuit of the presence of God. In today’s two verses from Psalm 100 we see an incredible revelation of our God. Here are some comments from Matthew Henry on this amazing Person and some of my observations following Henry’s quotes. Enjoy!

“That the Lord he is God, the only living and true God; that he is a being infinitely perfect, self-existent, and self-sufficient, and the fountain of all being.”
Wow! We are sustained and satisfied by this unspeakable person.

2. “That he is our Creator: It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. We do not, we could not make ourselves; it is God’s prerogative to be his own cause; our being is derived and depending.”
This is why we are totally dependent on the Lord.

3. That therefore he is our rightful owner. The Masorites, by altering one letter in the Hebrew, read it, “He made us, and his we are, “or, “to him we belong.” Put both the readings together, and we learn, that because God “made us, and not we ourselves, “therefore we are not our own but his.
The fact that He created us gives Him ownership. What a place of safety, owned by God.

4. That he is our sovereign Ruler. We are his people, or subjects, and he is our prince, our rector or governor, that gives laws to us as moral agents, and will call us to an account for what we do.
He rules all things, this too is a place of safety and assurance in times of trouble.

5. That he is our bountiful Benefactor;we are not only his sheep whom he is entitled to, but the sheep of his pasture, whom he takes care of.
No one can touch me, I live in the Shepherd’s hand.

6. That he is a God of infinite mercy and good; The Lord is good, and therefore doth good; his mercy his everlasting.
His presence is a manifestation of these qualities, mercy and goodness.

7. That he is a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness; His truth endureth to all generations, and no word of his shall fall to the ground as antiquated or revoked.
His words are guaranteed, I can base my life on His written word.

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huperekperissou! (The exhaustless, over and above, more than necessary God)
MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-
“I pray that you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Eph 3:18-20
Paul prays for us “that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height”, the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.” His love passes knowledge but we should hunger for it. When we embark on such a journey it will give us a sense of God’s greatness, a confidence before the world and our troubles would evaporate. It’s as if God would say to all of us, “we have yet to tap into His attributes”. Years ago, Christina Weidner was in from China, ministering to the Marysong girls on the glory of His name. (Christina grew up at our church as a homeschooled little girl with a dream to open an orphanage in China someday.) Not only did she accomplish that but she speaks fluent Chinese, runs a school and church along with her husband Jamie. Christ is begging us to walk on the water with him. We can either breathe in the love of God or else breathe in myself which isn’t a good thing. How does one describe the the dimensions of His love? Take the breadth . . . length . . . depth . . . height? The “breadth” implies Christ’s world-wide love, embracing all men: the “length,” its being extended through all ages (Eph 3:21); the “depth,” its profound wisdom which no creature can fathom (Ro 11:33); the “height,” its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us (Eph 4:8) [BENGEL]. “The dimensions of redeeming love are admirable. By enumerating these dimensions, the apostle designs to signify the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea, Job xi. 8, 9. Being “filled even unto all the fulness of God” (this is the grand goal), is “filled according to your capacity, with the divine wisdom, knowledge, and love; “even as God is full,” and as Christ who dwells in your hearts, for “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily” (Col 2:9). Matthew Henry

God is able to do for us and answer our prayers according to the efficiency, richness, and power of the working of the Spirit in our lives. His love overshadows us and begins to dictate every move we make in our lives. It is when we lose sight of His love, that we begin to see the world through our own glasses. I pray he will color your world!

BLESS HIS HOLY NAME

Psa. 103:1 ¶ Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!
Solomon said that the name of the Lord was like fragrant ointment poured out. Have you ever sensed the sweetness of the glory of the Lord? His glory is closely associated with His name. In the Old Testament, the glory of the Lord was unapproachable, only the high priest could go before the Lord on our behalf. Because of Jesus, we all now have access into His presence. There is a sweetness about the Name of Jesus that is like no other. We can actually experience the glory of His presence because of the preciousness of His name. Here is how Jonathan Edwards connects the glory of the Lord to His beautiful name.
“And the same illustrious brightness and effulgence in the pillar of cloud that appeared in the wilderness, and dwelt above the mercy-seat in the tabernacle and temple, so often called the glory of the LORD, is also often called the name of the LORD. Because God’s glory was to dwell in the tabernacle, therefore he promises, Exodus 29:43: “There will I meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.” And the temple was called the house of God’s glory, Isaiah 60:7. In like manner, the name of God is said to dwell in the sanctuary. Thus we often read of the place that God chose, to put his name there: or, as it is in the Hebrew, to cause his NAME to inhabit there. So it is sometimes rendered by our translators, as Deuteronomy 12:11. “Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there.” And the temple is often spoken of as built for God’s name. And in Psalm 74:7, the temple is called the dwelling-place of God’s name. The mercy-seat in the temple was called the throne of God’s name or glory, Jeremiah 14:21. “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake do not disgrace the throne of thy glory.” Here God’s name and his glory seem to be spoken of as the same.”
In the Old Testament the name of the Lord was so holy no one dared to utter His name. Today we can call on the Name of Jesus. There is no other name given to man for his salvation. The name of Jesus is like fragrant oil poured out. Shout His name, whisper His name, worship His powerful name.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!”