SIGNS, WONDERS, AND MIRACLES

Acts 5:12-16 – The apostles performed many signs, wonders, and miracles among the people. And the believers were wonderfully united as they met regularly in the temple courts in the area known as Solomon’s Porch. No one dared harm them, for everyone held them in high regard.

Continually more and more people believed in the Lord and were added to their number—great crowds of both men and women. In fact, when people knew Peter was going to walk by, they carried the sick out to the streets and laid them down on cots and mats, knowing the incredible power emanating from him would overshadow them and heal them. Great numbers of people swarmed into Jerusalem from the nearby villages. They brought with them the sick and those troubled by demons—and everyone was healed!

Signs, wonders, and miracles were at the very heart of the success the early church had. They were not dependent on creeds and philosophies; their message was supported and confirmed by the power of signs and wonders. From the tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost to the building trembling under the power of God at the prayer meeting in Acts 4; the fear of God was falling on the entire population. It seems as if there was an ever increasing intensity of power in Jerusalem until the streets were lined with the bodies of the sick and the afflicted in Acts 5. Even Peter’s shadow was carrying the anointing. Here are some thoughts from the Passion Notes from today’s 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.”

Our world today is generally skeptical when it comes to the power of God. Anyone with an anointing is accused of charlatanism, occultism, or just being plain wacky. I think a return to the supernatural church is imperative and possibly imminent. It won’t be for the faint of heart, persecution won’t be far behind. Just make a decision, are you satisfied with a powerless church or are you desperate for the power of God?

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”.

THE REVIVAL THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Acts 11:21 – And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

None of us have any idea of the lasting impact of the ministry that we perform by the power of the Holy Spirit. This church in Antioch was never meant to be the church that changed the world; but it was. What started as a result of exiled Christians from Jerusalem that landed in Antioch ended up changing the world as we know it. First, this was the first gentile Christian church. Think about the power of that statement with the millions of gentile Christians in heaven and on earth today. Secondly, the Apostle to the gentiles, none other than the Apostle Paul himself, was launched into ministry from this church. Paul and Barnabus preached here in Antioch for one year. This is where Paul’s vision for the church was birthed, this is where church as we know it today got its start. Here is how Maclaren describes this phenomenon.

“How little any of us know what will become of our poor work, under His fostering care! How little these men knew that they were laying the foundations of the great change which was to transform the Christian community from a Jewish sect into a world-embracing Church! So is it ever. We know not what we do when simply and humbly we speak His name. The far-reaching results escape our eyes. Then, sow the seed, and He will ‘give it a body as it pleases Him.’ On earth we may never know the fruits of our labors. They will be among the surprises of heaven, where many a solitary worker shall exclaim with wonder, as he looks on the hitherto unknown children whom God hath given him, ‘Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?’ Then, though our names may have perished from earthly memories, like those of the simple fugitives of Cyprus and Cyrene, who ‘were the first that ever burst’ into the night of heathendom with the torch of the Gospel in their hands, they will be written in the Lamb’s book of life, and He will confess them in the presence of His Father in heaven.”

So maybe your unnoticed work is not unnoticed at all. Who knows the world changer that may have read that tract that you passed out, or maybe the pastor that came to the Lord as a result of your witness. Who knows who that person was that you shared with after they answered the altar call. Antioch was not that significant until the Lord put His hand on some folks, your insignificant work may not be that insignificant at all, in the hand of the Lord insignificance becomes supernatural.

SMACK YOUR LIPS

Eph.1:14 – Amp. – That [Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it—to the praise of His glory.

Nothing like some good home cooking. Last week there was an impromptu Mary’s Song Banquet for ladies involved with Rodan and Fields. There was several thousand women from Rodan and Fields in New Orleans for a convention. Because of a friend of a friend being in leadership with that company, a request was made for a banquet with the Mary’s Song girls to “give back” in light of all the Lord has given us. It was an awesome night of testimonies and giving but that is not why I brought this all up. The meal was cooked by the Mary’s Song girls under the direction of Tyren George.The ladies at my table were raving over the “home cooking”. They also said it was the best meal they had eaten all week; pretty good with the amazing restaurants they all went to in the French Quarter. I guess you just can’t beat home cooked meals.

Now this brings me to the whole point of all of this, today’s verse says that the Holy Spirit is the foretaste of all the Lord has prepared for us. That first taste, or sampling of the food before a meal, tastes awfully good. It actually increases our anticipation for the coming feast. In Psalm 63 David was enjoying feasting on the Lord. He was enjoying the feast of God’s presence, enjoying what he was receiving, but smacking his lips in anticipation of more. Here is how it reads in the Message Bible.

Psa.63:3-5 The Message

In your generous love I am really living at last!

My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath;

My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;

I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!

The good meal at our banquet for our out of town guests last week was really only the foretaste. The real meal was when Parris, Ali Spitsbergen (the lady with Rodan and Fields), and the girls from Mary’s Song began to share what the Lord had done in their lives. The testimony of Jesus was our taste of the coming heavenly banquet. So I think I’m going to join David and smack my lips, if this first taste is this good it’s hard to imagine what the whole meal will be like.

THE ALL SUFFICIENT GOD

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” 2 Cor. 12:9

Last week Frank and I were invited to a charity fund raiser in the Northwest. While he golfed and enjoyed fellowship with other pastors, I decided to do some exploring on my own after reading about a hill next to the resort that boasted of a 2.5 mile hike. The next morning I found myself in a forest of evergreen trees of verdant green against a backdrop of glacier lakes and mountains as far as the eye could see. The Lord even had it where I came across two fawns grazing in the rocks, ospreys feeding their young and little chipmunks running around. Talk about his abundance! He is the all sufficient one reminding us everyday that he has everything we need and more. More than what I saw, He was there bringing refreshment in overflowing proportions! Spurgeon says, “There is something in every Name of God which may breed faith in our souls. Whether we know him as Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai, or Lord, or by whatsoever other name he has been pleased to manifest himself, that title becomes the ground of our confidence, and is the means of fostering faith in his people’s minds, when they come to understand its meaning. To a trembling people the Lord enlarges on his wonderful names. I think he also does it to excite our wonder and our gratitude. He that loves us so much is Jehovah: he that can create and destroy; he that is the self-existent God; he, even he, has set his heart upon his people, and loves them and counts them precious in his sight. It is a marvelous thing. The more one thinks of it, the more shall he be overwhelmed with astonishment, that he who is everything should love us who are less than nothing. It is the Holy One who has deigned to choose, and to love unholy men, and to look upon them in grace, and save them from their sins. That you may bow low in loving gratitude, God lets you see who He is.”

God is always showing us different angles of his glory and his love. He doesn’t want to go unnoticed nor be buried in the everyday. He waits to be needed, for someone to push away from life and reach upward. Way too many of us miss those special moments of his touch and it doesn’t have to be on some mountain. He comes in the everyday we just need to participate. To learn to move beyond the stuff that pulls away our attention and clamors to be heard. God is forever roaring as the All Sufficient One!

THE SPIRIT WHO HEALS

Lk.6:19 – And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

The healing power of Jesus reminds me of one of the last Old Testament prophecies, Mal.4:2 – “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings;”

The healing rays of His anointing are like the rays of the sun, they are everywhere and effect everyone. During His earthly ministry His anointing flowed out from Him and healed all who came to Him. Today His power hasn’t diminished, if anything it is increasing. This anointing shines out from Him like the beams of the sun touching and healing all who come in faith. Here is a powerful statement from a Catholic charismatic, Raniero Cantalamessa, on the healing power of His anointing.

“This power, which is the Holy Spirit, still now comes out of Jesus. Now that He is resurrected and is “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness”, that power comes forth from Him even more truly and more powerfully, if we can say that, than when He walked the earth. This power heals everybody. This is the decisive point we need to understand and to believe right now. We should say, as Jesus did in the synagogue at Nazareth, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled!”. The Holy Spirit does not have problems with numbers. A human doctor in front of a crowd of people with many and varied ailments would throw up his arms and say he was unable to heal everybody. But not the Holy Spirit. Just as the sun can bring light to one person or to a billion people, so too the Holy Spirit can do the same in the spiritual realm.”

Do you believe this is true? The healing power of the Holy Spirit is unlimited. He is everywhere and moving in the power of healing to all who come to Him in faith. He is literally being poured out on all mankind in these last days. Are you in need of a healing miracle? Step into His anointing. If you are having trouble receiving get into an atmosphere where His Spirit is welcomed and moving. Allow believers to pray for you. You too can experience the healing power of His anointing.

TEST THE SPIRITS

1John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Most people judge a church service by the way things appear on the outside. They like a certain type of music, a certain length of service, and of course the right emphasis (according to them) in the preaching. Some people will judge a service based on people crying out, clapping, dancing, or jumping in a service. Our church has been criticized because many people fall under the power or make noises in the services. The problem with all these observations is just that; they are just observations. Outward manifestations are no indication of what is actually happening in someone’s heart. Jonathan Edwards dealt with these issues during the Great Awakening. He actually wrote a book that would help in understanding some of the outward things going on. One of his points was that we should judge not by what we see on the outside but if the individual in question is actually changing and coming out from worldly influence. Here is how Edwards said it.

“And therefore if we see persons made sensible of the dreadful nature of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it, and of their own miserable condition as they are in themselves, by reason of sin, and earnestly concerned for their eternal salvation, and sensible of their need of God’s pity and help, and engaged to seek it in the use of the means that God has appointed, we may certainly conclude that it is from the Spirit of God, whatever effects this concern has on their bodies; though it causes them to cry out aloud, or to shriek, or to faint, or though it throws them into convulsions, or whatever other way the blood and spirits are moved.

The influence of the Spirit of God is yet more abundantly manifest, if persons have their hearts drawn off from the world, and weaned from the objects of their worldly lusts, and taken off from worldly pursuits, by the sense they have of the excellency of divine things, and the affection they have to those spiritual enjoyments of another world, that are promised in the Gospel.”

At the end of the day its not noises or lack of noises that determine whether a service is spiritual. What we should look at are the results. Are the individuals involved becoming more Christlike? Are they reading their Bibles and are they excited about spiritual things? Be careful what you judge, you may be judging the very work of God.

EFFECTED BY THE SPIRIT

2 Cor.12:3,4 – And I know how such a man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows — was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

Today’s church seems to want to reinvent God and Christianity into the image of the age. It’s not really just today’s church, historically that is exactly what man has done. Somehow we think we are advancing as a civilization and want to improve on God’s plan. In today’s verse Paul is describing being caught up into a place of ecstasy in the presence of God. That kind of talk is frowned on and treated as weirdly some kind of fringe version of Christianity. Paul was not a flake. He spoke in tongues (a lot), he experienced trances, for three days he was blinded by the brightness of the glory, he cast out demons, prophesied, and had visions and dreams. Today, we are satisfied with a slick message on being a better version of you with a few nice songs (nothing too intimate), and if there ever was a noise in service it is dealt with immediately. Here are some thoughts about the effects of the Spirit from Jonathan Edwards in the Great Awakening.

“If it may well be accounted for, that persons under a true sense of the glorious and wonderful greatness and excellency of divine things, and soul-ravishing views of the beauty and love of Christ, should have the strength of nature overpowered…’Tis no wonder that when the thoughts are so fixed, and the affections so strong, and the whole soul so engaged and ravished and swallowed up, that all other parts of the body are so affected as to be deprived of their strength, and the whole frame ready to dissolve; I say, ’tis no wonder that in such a case, the brain in particular which is a part of the body which we know is nextly and most especially affected by intense contemplations and exercises of mind, should be overborne and affected, so that its strength and spirits should for a season be diverted..”

So when was the last time you were in a really good, messy service? When the Holy Spirit actually moves into a congregation, good luck with keeping people quiet. There will be shouts of joy, cries and sobbing in repentance, and maybe some prophesying, or shrieking as demons come out. I love those messy services; at least I know that something is happening when people are being effected by the Spirit.

MIRACLE WORKER

Matt.15:30,31 – And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

It’s easy to read passages like this and dismiss it to irrelevant things that happened a long time ago in a place far, far away. It’s important to take a few moments and imagine the great scene Matthew was describing in this short passage. How many lame were healed in this one meeting? What was their response to being able to walk, some for the first time in their lives? How did the blind respond to the light and the colors that suddenly flooded their dark lives? They were surely looking at everything, from ladybugs to butterflies, it was all spectacular and glorious to them. And then there were the crippled. These could have been amputees and paraplegics. What was the response when there was a foot where there had never been a foot? What about twisted and deformed limbs that were suddenly strong and healthy? This was a shock for the patients, family and friends, as well as all of the observers. The healing power of God flowing through Jesus was stunning and demanded our worship. Here are Spurgeon’s thoughts on todays passage.

“What a list of patients ! What a gathering of miseries in one spot! The expectation of the people remains at flood-tide; they have the sick with them, and they cast them down at Jesus feet: leaving them with him in full confidence. The healing power continues to flow in full force: that one sentence is a grand summary of his marvelous cures: “He healed them”. This time is a greater degree of wonder among the crowd, attended by a gracious savor of praise to Israel’s God: “They glorified the God of Israel”. It was evident to them that Jehovah had remembered and visited his people, and was healing their sicknesses, and so for the moment they gave him glory. What must it have been to be an eyewitness of such a great scene of healing and of worship! What an education for the apostles! What stay for their faith in trying days after their Master was taken from them!”

So maybe you just kind of pass over the miracles in the Bible; if so, maybe its time to stop and ponder. Look again at the miracles of Jesus and hold fast to this promise. “Jesus Christ is the same; yesterday, today, and forever

GOD’S POWER IN ME

Col. 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,
It seems life is getting more and more complicated. Without supernatural help on a continual basis there is not really much chance to survive as a Christian. We deal with temptations from our own flesh, attacks from the enemy, ridicule and mockery from the world, and more recently even out right persecution. This was the advantage the first century church had; it was birthed by the power of God. It’s very existence was supernatural. Without the continually help of the Holy Spirit the church would have not lasted even a few weeks. The fact that it survived and even prospered in that most difficult time is explained only one way; it was saturated, empowered and sustained by the power of God. If we are to live a different kind of life with different standards than our corrupt society we absolutely need the power of God. Here are some comments on today’s verse from the Wuest word book.
“In the expression “strengthened with all might,” the verb is dunamoō, the noun, dunamis. The reader will observe that both words have the same stem, which means that intrinsically they have the same meaning. Dunamis, the noun, has the following meanings, “strength, ability, power, inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, power which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.” The verb dunamai means “to be able, to have power.” Thus, it is easy to see that these words speak of inherent power which gives one the ability to do something. Dunamoō, which is used here, means “to make strong, to strengthen.” One could translate, “by every enabling power being constantly strengthened.” The word “power” is kratos, “relative and manifested power.” The Greek has it, “according to the manifested power of His glory.” Light-foot says: “The glory here, as frequently, stands for the majesty or the power or the goodness of God, as manifested to men. The doxa (glory), the bright light over the mercy-seat (Rom. 9:4), was a symbol of such manifestations. God’s revelation of Himself to us, however this revelation may be made, is the one source of all our highest strength.”
Man was made to live in and by the glory of God. Nothing less will do. We have been satisfied for far too long with an anemic form of religion when our souls hunger and thirst for the real. Today, determine to press in until… until you too are ‘strengthened with all power according to His glorious might’.