GOD’S GLORY AND MY JOY

GOD GETS THE GLORY, I GET THE JOY

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Jn.14:13,14
And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
Jn.16:23,24

These two passages are part of Jesus’s teaching on prayer. If you look carefully at these passages, they give us an incredible look into the dynamics of prayer. Notice the two results that the Lord said are attributed to prayer, God is glorified and we are filled with joy. This is a great picture of what prayer is, a recognition of God’s incredible wealth and our tremendous lack. His wealth meets our need which results in the overflow of joy in our lives. This is the heart of the message taught by Pastor John Piper.

“The most precious truth in the Bible is that God’s greatest interest is to glorify the wealth of His grace by making sinners happy in Him- IN HIM!!”
John Piper

Prayer is a hungry heart calling out to the “more than enough” God. Prayer is a thirsty soul discovering the fountain of Living Water. Prayer is a hungry homeless man blessed with an “all you can eat buffet”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about all the wonderful gifts of provision that the Lord so richly distributes, I am talking about Him. I am talking about discovering the greatest of all treasures, Christ Himself.
There are two discoveries in our life that will awaken our souls to this kind of prayer. First, the recognition of the lack and need in our lives, we are empty and thirsty and most of us never see it. Secondly, we must sense the incredible reservoir of spiritual life found in Christ, He is an overflowing fountain of life itself. Once these truths become real in our hearts, we begin our journey down the greatest of all paths. We soon find ourselves realizing and fulfilling our ultimate purpose in life. And, what would that be, to glorify God by enjoying our fellowship with Him.

HELP

HELP

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Rom.8:26

This has always been one of my favorite verses in the scriptures. I guess I love the joining together of the spiritual and the practical. The Lord uses our vocal cords to pray, to actually pray for us and to bring divine help our way. Of course, this verse describes one of the most intimate relationships available to us. The Holy Spirit, who lives inside of every Christian, begins to express Himself in us and through us through these heavenly groanings. This passage teaches us about help, real help, in the areas we need it the most. The Spirit “helps us” in our weaknesses. This word help is very descriptive in the original text. Paul used the greek word sunantilambanomai. Wow, what an unusual word. Here is the definition of this word from Strong’s and Thayer’s word books.

Strong’s definition
Help-Likewise the Spirit also helpeth * sunantilambanomai -to take hold of opposite together, that is, co-operate (assist): – help
Thayer Definition:
1) to lay hold along with, to strive to obtain with others, help in obtaining
2) to take hold with another

What this passage says is that this unusual person, the Holy Spirit joins together with us against our weaknesses. What a powerful help, there is no situation we have to face alone, no battle we need to fight in our own strength, the HELPER is there to join with us in all of our weaknesses.
What kind of weakness are you dealing with? Are you trying to win that battle in your own strength? Maybe you are struggling with old habits, He can provide real strength to live free from those old addictions. Maybe you are facing weakness, or sickness in your body, the Holy Spirit is an awesome healer and is able to bring wholeness to your body. Maybe you are involved in ministry and the obstacles in your way seem insurmountable; be encouraged, He will provide all of the strength and help you need to accomplish the work He has called you to fulfill.
How can you access this strength; by praying in the Spirit. In this place of powerful intimacy we begin to experience His incredible help. This help is real, unlimited, and available today for each of us.

LOOKING UPON GOD

QUICKENED

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Rom.8:11 KJV

I love that word, quickened. It is not part of our contemporary language, it is more of a “King James” word. Sometimes the old words just say it better. Thayer’s Lexicon describes that word like this:

1) to produce alive, begat or bear living young
2) to cause to live, make alive, give life
2a) by spiritual power to arouse and invigorate
2b) to restore to life
2c) to give increase of life: thus of physical life
2d) of the spirit, quickening as respects the spirit, endued with new and greater powers of life
3) metaphorically, of seeds quickened into life, i.e. germinating, springing up, growing

Have you ever been quickened by the Spirit of God? Actually His quickening power is available to us everyday. Our spirit can be quickened while we are reading the scriptures or even when we receive a word of prophesy. Our body can be quickened by the Spirit in worship or through the laying on of hands. Even our mind can be quickened as we receive God’s word implanted in our hearts. The power of the Holy Spirit is real and changes everything He touches.
Where do you need His touch today? Maybe your family needs a touch of His resurrection power, or maybe you are suffering physically, His touch will bring life to your physical body. Maybe your financial condition is stagnant, everything He touches comes alive. The picture Paul painted for us in this scripture was the most hopeless of all, Jesus’s lifeless, dead body was lying in the dark tomb, all hope was lost. That is when it happened, the Holy Spirit quickened the dead body of Jesus. At that moment, all mankind was being represented, Jesus was being quickened for me. Today His power is available to us all, if the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead swells in you, He that raised Christ up from the dead will quicken your mortal body.

LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP

LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP

Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Lk.5:3,4

It was just an ordinary day, just another boring day at work, that is until Jesus stepped onto the boat. Everyday is ordinary until Christ breaks onto the scene. Has He visited you lately?
That particular day was more than boring, all that work and effort and no fish, it was quite aggravating. The bills were piling up, that never changes, but no fish meant no money, maybe tomorrow would be a better day. Sound familiar, all of us have days like that, for some of us, our whole life is like that, better luck tomorrow.
That’s when Jesus stepped onto Peter’s boat. After teaching the word for awhile, He spoke directly to Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” It sounded all wrong, Peter knew the conditions were not right to catch fish, but those words, somehow they were strangely compelling. We all know the rest of the story; the boatloads of fish and Peter beginning to follow Jesus. But I want to hesitate here for a minute, I think the Master is speaking again today, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” What could that mean? He means press into places you have never been before. Launch out deeper into His Word. Launch out deeper in prayer, especially praying in the Spirit. Launch out in your stewardship, bring your tithes and offerings into your local church. Press into God and as you do, let down your nets, tell others what the Lord has done for you.
This is the Word the Lord spoke to me in 1999 when He led us to start Beyond the Grave. That has been eleven years at this writing, and over 60,000 decisions have been made for Christ. Maybe Jesus wants to step onto your boat today, when He does, do what He says. His commands are many times unconventional and out of step with others, but there will be a “boatload of fish”. Peter never regretted his decision, he may have looked foolish to the other fishermen, and many times following the Lord will be misunderstood by “natural men”, but we follow anyway. “Launch out into the deep”, I hear that the fish are running again.

ONE

ONE HOPE, ONE SPIRIT, ONE CALLING

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Eph.4:4-6

Everytime I read this passage of scripture, I remember the prayer Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. John tells us in John 17 that Jesus prayed that His followers would be one as He and His Father are one. What could this possibly mean? How can we experience oneness with the Father and His Son and also experience oneness with His people? We see the answer in today’s passage from Ephesians. The oneness Jesus spoke of is spiritual in nature and does not come about by human effort or planning. We don’t experience this oneness by trying harder. No, this is the work of the Spirit of God. When someone is born again, the Spirit of God enters into their life, oneness is produced by the Holy Spirit. How can this be, it is because each member of His church is drinking of the same Spirit. Just as the spirit of a man brings life to his body, the Holy Spirit brings spiritual life to us and connects us to God and also to His body. Since we now share the same nature with the Father, His Son Jesus, and with the church, the result is what Jesus called oneness. As we grow in grace and yield our lives to the Holy Spirit, this oneness begins to be lived out in our daily experience. As a result, we begin to flow together with His church, evidenced by our relationship to the local church He has placed us in.
Then we begin to see it, we see the hope that He has called us to. We begin to discover His master plan to reveal His Glory to the world. And then comes the best part, we are part of this plan. The life of God in His church is the difference between the church and other human organizations. He is the difference maker. Each one of us has an incredible role to play. How can you discover your part in the Master’s plan? There is only one way, it is realized in your life through the life of the body. As you draw near to the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit, your life will become more and more connected to His church. In that place of oneness your true identity will be revealed. As this happens, God will be glorified and we will be more than satisfied. We will find ourselves joining together with Paul and the great congregation singing, ” One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Spiritual Harmony

18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again I say* to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Matt 18:18,19
Jesus is describing a supernatural unity in this passage of scripture. He says that if we agree, He is there in the midst of us. The word agree is a powerful word in the original language. It is the word sumphoneo where we get the word symphony. Jesus is describing a spiritual unity that resembles a beautiful musical performance. In a symphony each person has a role to play, each person is complementing the part each other instrument plays. All of us have heard the casual comment , “Will you agree with me in prayer?” The Lord is not talking about that, He is describing something more intimate. He is describing Christians flowing together in spiritual harmony, He is describing submitting ourselves together, and functioning together in a local church. Are you organically connected to a local church. Are you committed to a body of believers flowing together in the Spirit? The greatest enjoyment and benefit of the christian life comes from moving in spiritual harmony in a local church. This is where spiritual harmony takes place and where Jesus is. He lives in that place of agreement, that place of spiritual harmony.

Words From the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Recently, I have been reflecting on the incredible price Christ paid for our salvation. His death on the cross is His demonstration of His love for us.  The physical suffering from the beating and the crucifixion were horrendous in their own right, but Christ suffered also an incredible agony from the spiritual implications of Calvary. We can learn about and see His love and His suffering in His words that He spoke from the cross.  These are eternal words that can change everything about our lives.

His first statement is recorded in Luke 23:43, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  The immediate focus of His prayer was the Roman soldiers who were actually performing the crucifixion.  But after reflection, we can see the far reaching effects of this prayer.  The prayer reached through the authority of the Roman army all the way to Pilate. This prayer also reached out to the Jewish leaders who demanded His death. Finally, His prayer reached out to you and to me today.  Actually, it was not the soldiers, or Pilate, or even the Jewish priests who were responsible for His death.  I am responsible.   Christ died to save sinners.   It was my sins and your sins that nailed Him to the cross.  Christ’s prayer, “Father, forgive them” has been answered thousands, actually millions of times as sinners call upon the name of Jesus and experience salvation through the death of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Jesus answered the request of the thief on the cross.  This man had lived a sinful life and was being executed for his crimes.  He was judged and found guilty by the Roman courts and was headed toward eternal judgment. By God’s grace and providential plan the thief found Himself dying next to the Saviour.  He cried out in desperation, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  Jesus responded, “Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:43

What an incredible word.  Salvation based not on this man’s deeds or accomplishments in life.  This salvation came only by His faith in the dying Saviour by grace through faith. After all, this is the only way a man can be saved. We must come to Christ hopeless, and helpless trusting only in His ability to save us.

Third, Jesus addressed His mother, Mary and his disciple John.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, Behold your son,” and to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26, 27

We hear the tenderness and love that Jesus had for His mother, He cared for her even in His last last dying moments. In these words, we see something about family and love that we are looking for.  Christ has provided for us a family that is closer than even flesh and blood.  He has joined us together by our common testimony.  When we are born again, the spirit of sonship enters into our hearts. God becomes our Father and every member of the body becomes our brother and sister.  We enter into a spiritual family that comes from this new nature that we have received. Not only are we joined together with Christians from all over the world and from every generation; we are also joined together by the Lord to a local church.  We are placed there by the Lord. He actually gives us a spiritual family on earth.  In these relationships, we begin to discover the commandment, “love one another”. This love, His love is the substance that holds us together and makes us one.

At about noon on the day Jesus was executed, the whole earth became dark. The sun and creation itself were affected by the treatment Jesus was receiving in Jerusalem.  The sun refused to shine as Christ became an offering for our sin.  We hear the cry of Jesus, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Christ was now experiencing the worst of His sufferings. He was taking upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind.   As Isaiah said, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him”. What an amazing miracle. Christ became sin that I might become the righteous of God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  II Cor. 5:21

This is how we can now approach God. God’s anger toward sin was satisfied, judgment had been accomplished and mercy was now offered to all mankind.

Fifthly, Jesus cried out, “I thirst”, John 19:28. Thirst, incredible thirst, results from the blood loss during crucifixion.  Jesus experiences an incredible natural thirst. He also was experiencing another kind of thirst.  He was thirsting for souls, after all that is why he came. He was thirsty for Peter to be converted and Paul to experience His love and He was thirsty for you and thirsty for me. We are why he came, and He longed for the fulfillment of His work.  He also had had another incredible thirst. He was thirsty for  His return to that place of intimacy that He had enjoyed with His Father from eternity. He longed for His Father and He was crying out desperately for satisfaction.

It seems as if Jesus was strengthened as He faced His death. He cried out His victory shout, “It is Finished”, John 19:30.

The plans of God from eternity were complete. The prophecies of the Old Testament had been fulfilled. Redemption for man had been accomplished.  It is finished.  Because of that we can enter into a rest that comes from the work of Christ on the cross.  All our debts are settled, our sins have been paid for righteousness has been fulfilled, we are at peace with God. It is finished.

Finally, Jesus prayed His last prayer.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  Luke 23:46

Jesus yielded up His spirit to the Father. His work had been done, He could now return home. He could return to the right hand of the father as His beloved Son.  The Son of God was now also the Son of man. Not only did the second person of the trinity take His rightful place at the Father’s right hand. Also my representative, Jesus my heavenly high priest took His place in heaven. Today, He represents man to the Father. The resurrected Son of God and yes, Son of Man is ruling all things by the Word of His power.

As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ again this year, let the words of Christ from the cross effect your heart and change your life.  After all we have a faithful High Priest who saves to the uttermost praying for us in heaven.

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL

Our world is in a constant state of change, and regretfully many of these secular changes gradually but steadily affect the church. Regretfully we are losing our moorings, our connection to the heritage of our Christian faith.

Over the past fifteen years I have been on a spiritual safari, searching for the reality of God in my life and in His church. This journey inevitably leads me to the past, to the men and women who have gone before us. I find myself drinking from the ancient wells of our fathers. The wells of Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and many others keep attracting me and calling me to drink. The more I drink; I am convinced of two things. First, I am a Protestant Christian. The message that birthed Western civilization penned by the Apostle Paul “The just shall live by faith,” and echoed by Martin Luther 15 centuries later is still the foundation of Western Civilization today, the undergirding of His church and the anchor of my soul.

Martin Luther was lost in the snare of human effort and a system of religious works until one day he read those words from Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” Those words brought freedom to his soul and began the revolution that drug Europe from the shadows of the dark ages. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

As a monk, Luther later wrote, he was tormented by the thoughts of damnation for sins, saying that he “hated this God who punched sinners, if not with silent blasphemies at least with huge murmurings. I was indignant against God. As if it were not enough that miserable sinners, eternally ruined by original sin, should be crushed…through the Law of the Ten Commandments…and so I raged with a savaged and confounded conscience.” He therefore turned to the Bible. The Catholic Church had always taught that grace was active, in the sense that it came into force at the Day of Judgment when the righteous would be separated from the damned. As he read Romans 1, Luther became convinced that the grace of which Paul wrote was passive, hence available to everyone. This led to his conclusion that salvation came not through penance and repentance, nor through the intercession of saints and martyrs or the prayers of the church, but by faith alone. It was an entirely new idea. As Luther re-read Romans 1:16-17, he wrote, I felt myself straightaway born afresh and to have entered through the open gates into paradise.” This led to the further belief that the Bible was the sole authority. In 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg University.

Luther also taught us a second great lesson, the priesthood of the Christian believer. In I Peter 2:9 we are called a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” This teaching birthed a great revolution in the souls of those experiencing this new faith. No longer did they need an earthly mediator; they had a mediator in heaven, the man Christ Jesus. We all have direct access into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. We are all priests unto God.
Luther also taught us the importance of the Word of God. He proceeded to translate the Bible into German for the people in his churches. As these new believers began to search the scriptures in their own language everything changed. Today we have access to many great translation, commentaries and word study books. Dig into the word of God; it is food for our soul.

Our Protestant fathers also taught us the importance of the local church. The ministries of the ministers flow out of the local church and become the centerpiece of our Christian lives.

In the revival of 1734-1735 in Northampton, Mass, the local church became the hub of everything. This is where our instruction, our relationships, and even our business found its protection. The local church is critical to our way of life in our western culture.

Ephesians 2:17-22 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Secondly, I am a Pentecostal, Protestant Christian. When Jesus left His disciples to return to heaven and told them to wait for the “Promise of the Father” [Acts 1:4]. This is a promise the Father made to Jesus in eternity. Father and Son entered an eternal covenant. If Christ would become a man and sacrifice his life for fallen man all those who believed upon Him would receive the Promise, the awesome baptism in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Spirit is the purchase possession obtained by Christ on the cross.

Secondly I want to honor the heavenly ministry of Jesus. John prophesied that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mark 1:8,9). When Jesus ascended into heaven His heavenly ministry as our heavenly High Priest began. This heavenly ministry is the ministry of immersion in the person of the Holy Spirit. We see the first occurrence of this on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Today His heavenly ministry continues. The modern church, many times, does not recognize or honor Jesus and His heavenly ministry. Many times we want to rewrite the emphasis of church and Christian life. To honor the heavenly ministry of Jesus we must be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, we need supernatural power. Our world is become more dangerous everyday. It is becoming harder and harder for Christians to live a godly life in this dark, wicked world. We need the power of God, the tangible power that comes upon us when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. To live Holy in this perverse world we need His power.

We also need this power for effective ministry. Jesus told us this in Acts 1:8. He said we would receive power (dunamis-supernatural power) when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We are dealing with addictions, illnesses, and all kinds of bondages when ministering to this generation. Christian slogans are not good enough, we must have power.

Finally, I am a Pentecostal because of the blessing given to me by the supernatural language of prayer. Speaking in tongues is the doorway to the world of the supernatural.

Paul said we are edified, built up spiritually (1 Corinthians 14:2,4) when we pray in tongues. He said the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses when we pray in the Spirit (Romans 8:26). He taught about our intercessory anointing that sometimes comes when we pray in tongues (Romans 8:27). He also taught about the prophetic nature of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).

The prayer language is not an after thought, or an unimportant extra. The prayer language is foundational to the supernatural Christian life.

We live in perilous times (II Timothy 3:1). We need to return to the faith of our fathers. We have drifted toward a seeker sensitive, Christian light faith for far to long. We must return to our Protestant and our Pentecostal roots. The future of our families our cities and our nation are on the line. Join with me on my spiritual safari, we are sojourning to the city, the city that has a foundation whose builder and maker is God.