WHILE HE WAS SPEAKING

Matt.17:5 – But while Peter was still speaking, a radiant cloud composed of light spread over them, enveloping them all. And God’s voice suddenly spoke from the cloud, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, the constant focus of my delight. Listen to him!”

Sometimes we need to be interrupted. Our preconceived opinions, especially about the Lord, often get in the way. We tend to judge spiritual experiences by our own past experience or our own doctrinal biases. That is exactly what Peter is doing in this passage. He was stuck in all he knew, the Old Testament. He had no knowledge of the new wine and new wine skins Jesus came to introduce. That’s when the story took a humorous turn. Peter was busy spouting off his ideas when the glory of the Lord rolled in. The light and the heaviness of the glory shut Peter up. That was when the Father began to speak. “This is my dearly loved Son, listen to Him”. In other words, we don’t need Elijah or Moses when Jesus is standing right in front of us. This is how Charles Spurgeon describes this passage.

“While he yet spake.” Such wild talk might well be interrupted. What a blessed interruption! We may often thank the Lord for stopping our babbling. “A bright cloud overshadowed them.” It was bright, and cast a shadow. They felt that they were entering it, and feared as they did so….Do we not know what it is to get shadow out of brightness, and “a voice out of the cloud”? This is after the frequent manner of the Lord in dealing with his favored ones. The voice was clear and distinct. First came the divine attestation of the Sonship of our Lord, “This is my beloved Son,” and the Father’s declaration of delight in him, “in whom I am well pleased.” What happiness for us that Jehovah is well pleased in Christ, and with all who are in him! Then followed the consequent divine requirement, “Hear ye him.” It is better to hear the Son of God than to see saints, or to build tabernacles.”

Glorious interruption! I wish all our services would be interrupted by the light and the glory. When God moves in it is time for us to lay low and be still. We can learn more in a moment of God’s interruption than in hours of humans talking. Visit us again Oh Lord!!!

CHRIST IS OUR MESSAGE

Col.1:28,29 – Christ is our message! We preach to awaken hearts and bring every person into the full understanding of truth. It has become my inspiration and passion in ministry to labor with a tireless intensity, with his power flowing through me, to present to every believer the revelation of being his perfect one in Jesus Christ.

I often talk about how I was changed by a Holy Spirit visitation in the 1990’s. One of the things that changed for me was my preaching. I felt it was my duty as a pastor to be an expert on virtually all topics. I would preach on finances, marriage, child raising, healing, church growth and even dabbled a little in the political world. My subject changed drastically shortly after my 1994 encounter with the Holy Spirit. Rather than preaching topics my message became Christ. Christ as Savior, as Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Provider, Deliverer, Healer, and soon coming King. The Lord said that He had called me to be an artist. He said to paint pictures of Jesus with my words. Here is how Wolfgang Musculus responded to the preachers and priests do his day, his answer was to preach Christ.

“Do they not also proclaim Christ? They proclaim Christ, we confess, but what kind? The only begotten of God, true God, of one substance with the Father, and true man, as he is according to the Gospel stories? I confess that truly in this they fall short because they do not proclaim  Christ as our only righteousness and only mediator, but in the matter of justification and our salvation they add in intercessions, different merits, offerings of oil and roses and our good works.”

As we magnify Christ with our words while we are preaching or testifying, the Holy Spirit always comes. I often think of how Peter’s message was the message of Christ. In Acts 10 when he was preaching to a gathering of gentiles at a Roman officer’s home the Holy Spirit actually interrupted Peter’s preaching. Sometimes interrupted preaching is a good thing. What kind of message does God Himself interrupt? Part of what Peter preached was this “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Peter started rehearsing what he had seen and heard Jesus do and the room was suddenly filled with the glory of His presence. Let Christ be your message, anything else tends to bring us back into a works mentality or worse.

THE GREATNESS OF MARY’S SON

Lk.1:31,32 – And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,

This young teenager had to be totally overwhelmed by the events that day. First, angelic visitation? How could she deal with that? Then she hears that she would have a baby as a virgin! Unthinkable! Next, she would become pregnant before her marriage? Scandalous! To top things off, the most amazing news of all. This child would be great, the very Son of God. Hear is how Adam Clarke explains the greatness of Mary’s Son.

“He shall be great. Behold the greatness of the man Christ Jesus: 1st. Because that human nature that should be born of the virgin was to be united with the Divine nature. 2dly. In consequence of this, that human nature should be called in a peculiar sense the SON of the most high God; because God would produce it in her womb without the intervention of man. 3. He shall be the everlasting Head and Sovereign of his Church. 4thly. His government and kingdom shall be eternal. Revolutions may destroy the kingdoms of the earth, but the powers and gates of hell and death shall never be able to destroy or injure the kingdom of Christ. His is the only dominion that shall never have an end.The kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory form the endless government of Christ.”

Clarke shares four reasons for the greatness of Mary’s Son. First, He would be fully man and fully God at the same time. This has offended everyone from the Pharisees to the modern day Muslims. This is truly the mystery of God; God Himself clothed as a human. Secondly, the most unimaginable concept, He would be born of a virgin. This is impossible without the direct intervention of God Himself. That is exactly what happened, Mary conceived in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. Next, He would be the head of His church. Today, He is known as our chief Shepherd, He leads His church in all nations. Finally, His kingdom will last forever; it is not like any other kingdom. His kingdom is not something that can be seen with human eyes. It does not consist of buildings or organizations. His kingdom is the secret, unseen kingdom characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

SUDDENLY – A DIFFERENT WORLD

Act 2:1,2 – When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

God’s ways are not our ways. Isaiah said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. Just when you think you have everything sorted out the Lord sends His Holy Ghost fast ball. It comes out of nowhere and your whole world literally shifts in a day. Parris and I have spent the last week ministering in Adelaide, Australia for David and Donna Hall. We have known them for many years and watched them labor from a rented facility with not much growth for years. Just like today’s verse says, their world has suddenly changed. In a matter of months they became pastors of several churches in several locations with facilities that have been paid off. Rather than struggling, now these churches are bursting with life as several hundred new people have come in in the last few months. One of the churches is in a town of 2800 people in the middle of farm country. That church has become a revival hub with people traveling from many miles away to this regional church. The church in Adelaide is teeming with life with hundreds of Christians lit up about the Lord and their new church. Things changed suddenly for Life-point Church in South Australia. Here is what Albert Barnes and Matthew Henry say about today’s verse.

BARNES

“It burst upon them at once. Though they were waiting for the descent of the Spirit, yet it is not probable that they expected it in this manner. As this was an important event, and one on which the welfare of the church depended, it was proper that the gift of the Holy Spirit should take place in some striking and sensible manner, so as to convince their own minds that the promise was fulfilled, and so as deeply to impress others with the greatness and importance of the event.”

HENRY

“That it came suddenly, did not rise gradually, as common winds do, but was at the height immediately. It came sooner than they expected, and startled even those that were now together waiting, and probably employed in some religious exercises.”

So maybe you feel like you are spinning in circles and getting nowhere fast. Don’t be surprised if you too get a sudden change. The Lord seems to like the shock value of His sudden visitations. They are often so sudden and powerful that their is no doubt that it came from the Lord.

THE SHOCKING WORK OF GOD

Mk.5:15 – They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.

I have been attracted to the Great Awakening for many years now. This awakening was closely connected to the birth of our nation in 1776, maybe it will be connected to this season we are currently in. We need another national awakening desperately. Jonathan Edwards and his congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts were closely connected to the birth of the Great Awakening. His account of its beginning told of some shocking conversions. Here is one of those accounts.

“And then it was in the latter part of December that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work among us; so that there were, very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons that were to all appearance savingly converted; and some of them wrought upon in a remarkable manner. Among these, I was surprised with the relation of a young woman that had been one of the greatest company-keepers in the whole town, in whom there appeared evident a glorious work of God’s infinite power and sovereign grace; a new and truly broken, sanctified heart. Yet I was filled with concern about the effect it might have on others, and was ready to conclude (though too rashly) that some would be hardened by it in carelessness and looseness of life, and would take occasion to reproach religion; but the event was the reverse to a wonderful degree. God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening others, of anything that ever came to pass in the town. I have had abundant opportunity to know the effect it had, by my private conversation with many. The news of it seemed as a flash of lightning upon the hearts, both of young people and others… The noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder. All other talk but about spiritual and eternal things was thrown by. All the conversation in all companies, and upon all occasions, was upon these things only; except so much as was necessary for people’s carrying on their ordinary secular business.”

The woman who was a “company keeper” was probably the least likely candidate in Northampton to be a catalyst for revival. Her life was scandalous but the grace of God apparently made her conversion a sign and a wonder to her town. Who knows, maybe you too can become a sign and wonder to upend your community. What does it take? A life touched by God is where it all starts. From there, it seems to spread like a fire in a dry land. Before long, your whole community can become a raging fire.

DIVINE INTERRUPTION

Acts 10:44 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.

I think some services need to be interrupted. All of us remember those horrible church services as a child. It had to be the longest hour of the week. You have to really try hard to make our magnificent God boring but somehow we seem to manage to do it quite well. Even as a child we all knew very well about the elephant in the room (or in the church): NO ONE WANTED TO BE THERE!!! Why were they there? Somehow it was what we needed to do so God would kind of like us. What a mess! That’s why it seems so disturbing to me when formerly Spirit filled churches have surrendered to the short edition of church. I guess if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to move among us there is really no reason to be there, might as well just watch the online version. I think we are really in need of another season of divine interruption. You know, when God comes down and no one wants to pontificate, no one needs to when He fills the room. Here is how Jonathan Edwards described God interruptions in his day.

“Some object against it as great confusion, when there is a number together in such circumstances, making a noise; and say, God can’t be the author of it, because he is the God of order, not of confusion….. But if God is pleased to convince the consciences of persons, so that they can’t avoid great outward manifestations, even to the interrupting and breaking off those public means they were attending, I don’t think this is confusion, or an unhappy interruption, any more than if a company should meet on the field to pray for rain, and should be broken off from their exercise by a plentiful shower. Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off from their public exercises with such confusion as this the next Sabbath day! We need not be sorry for the breaking the order of the means, by obtaining the end to which that order is directed: he that is going a journey to fetch a treasure, need not be sorry that he is stopped by meeting the treasure in the midst of his journey.”

Would to God that all of the services in America would be interrupted by heavenly showers this Sunday. I think something that dramatic is necessary and actually inevitable in light of the current spiritual condition of our land. Come Lord and visit us again.

UNUSUAL VISITATION

Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

It seems like everybody knows we need an awakening and many are calling for a Third Great Awakening in our land; I’m not sure everyone knows what they are asking for. Revival often gets quite messy, it never comes the way we think, and many times not in the way we want. The First Great Awakening found great resistance in the American colonies in the 1700’s. Jonathan Edwards published an account of its early beginning in his church called A FAITHFUL NARRATIVE. The folks in Northampton were quite surprised at the way many were effected when that revival began. Here is a glimpse into one woman’s experience.

“There is a pious woman in this town that is a very modest bashful person, that was moved by what she heard of the experiences of others earnestly to seek to God to give her more clear manifestations of himself, and evidences of her own good estate, and God answered her request, gradually gave her more and more of a sense of his glory and love, which she had with intermissions for several days, till one morning the week before last she had it to a more than ordinary degree, and it prevailed more and more till towards the middle of the day, till her nature began to sink under it, as she was alone in the house; but there came somebody into the house, and found her in an unusual, extraordinary frame. She expressed what she saw and felt to him; it came to that at last that they raised the neighbors, [for] they were afraid she would die; I went up to see her and found her perfectly sober and in the exercise of her reason, but having her nature seemingly overborne and sinking, and when she could speak expressing in a manner that can’t be described the sense she had of the glory of God, and particularly of such and such perfections, and her own unworthiness, her longing to lie in the dust, sometimes her longing to go to be with Christ, and crying out of the excellency of Christ, and the wonderfulness of his dying love; and so she continued for hours together, though not always in the same degree.”

What is being described in this account is what often happens when humans come in contact with divine glory; it is just too much to bare. Maybe a dose of this glory would help us move from man centered seeker sensitive services, into meetings where the glory of the Lord is welcomed. Do it again Lord.

COOPERATING WITH VISITATION

1 Peter 2:12 – Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Peter has an interesting approach to criticism and persecution. He has obviously been effected deeply by the reality of life beyond this world. His response smells of heaven. Peter says that we are to respond to our attackers in such a way that when the Lord comes near in visitation they will willingly yield their lives to the Lord. I wonder if Peter was thinking of Steven and Paul when he said this? Steven had no idea that Paul’s day of visitation was imminent when Paul led an attack on Steven that brought about Steven’s death. Steven was caught up in a vision of heaven at his death. He was doing exactly what Peter said, Steven prayed for the Lord to forgive His attackers even as he stepped into heaven. Not long after Steven’s death Paul had his visitation on the Damascus Road. I wonder if he thought of Steven as he yielded himself to the Lord? I doubt that Steven had any idea the way his testimony would change the world. You could say Steven’s response to persecution brought a visitation that changed everything. Here are some thoughts from the UBC.

“The promise of divine visitation appears constantly in the OT and suggests God’s intervention in support of his people in mercy and in judgment. Peter’s words may be taken as meaning that on that climactic day unbelievers will be won over by acknowledging the beauty of the Christians’ lives. The eyes of opponents will be opened to the rightness of the believers’ conduct and thus to the glory of the God whom Christians honor.”

We are surrounded every day with lost people drawing close to their day of visitation. The thing you may not realize, they are all watching you. I mean they are really watching you. This is how we win. Let the love of God fill you on a daily basis. Let this filling govern your life. Seeing Christ in you is the hope of the lost community. What causes us to respond properly in times of persecution? Of course its our own visitation that helps us to see what really matters in life.

VISIT US LORD

Lk.7:14-16 – Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

This is an amazing story to me. The Lord obviously answered this poor woman’s cry but more than a boy being raised from the dead was happening here. The Lord was giving this city a special supernatural visitation. If we are not careful, it is easy to miss what is really happening when the Lord comes down and answers our prayers. Yes, Jesus obviously brings dead things back to life but He also does much more. For this widow from Nain, her son, and all the people from that region, they could never go back to life the way life was before Jesus visited their town. The Son of God had visited them, His presence not only brought the dead boy back to life, He brought the whole city back to life. That’s what happens when we get a visit from the Lord. Here are some words from Dick Mills on God’s visitation.

“The word visitation has always been associated with great revivals occurring in church history. This includes the reformation in the days of Martin Luther. It also includes the revivals during the time of George Whitefield and John Wesley. The unusual outpourings of the Spirit during Jonathan Edwards’ day was known as the Great Awakening. In Lk.7:16, when Jesus stopped a funeral procession, and brought a young man back from the dead those seeing it had a most powerful response, “He who’s is dead sat up and began to speak. Jesus presented him to his mother. The fear seized them all. They glorified God saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us’ and ‘God has visited His people”. The greek word for visit means far more than to visit. It means to go to the help of someone.”

I love that, when the Lord visits us His very visit brings care and help into every arena of our lives. What kind of help are you needing today? Maybe something in your life has died. One visit from the Lord can change that. Suddenly every part of your life is overflowing with life itself.

FAVOR AND VISITATION

Job 10:12 KJV – Thou hast granted me life and favor, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.

Job recognized the source of His prosperity in life. He attributed it to the favor and visitation of the Lord. There are some very important things we can learn from this short verse of scripture that can help us in every arena of our lives. First, recognizing the significance of the favor of God. Favor is closely associated with grace. The favor of God rested mightily upon the sons and daughters of God by faith in Christ Jesus. It is because of the forgiveness we find through His blood that we have access to this favor of God. We also see the importance of looking to the Lord rather than to our own talents and resources for our success in this life. The Lord is the creator, possessor, and distributor of all things. Look to Him and experience his favor. Next, Job acknowledged God’s visitation in His life. Visitations center us. When God comes down in our lives, we see His greatness and our need for Him. Times of visitation are essential in all of our lives. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“Thou hast granted me life and favor. Thou hast brought me from my mother’s womb; given me an actual existence among men; by thy favor or mercy thou hast provided me with the means of life; and thy visitation-thy continual providential care, has preserved me in life-has given me the air I breathe, and furnished me with those powers which enable me to respire it as an agent and preserver of life. It is by God’s continued visitation or influence that the life of any man is preserved; in him we live, move, and have our being.”

The favor of God on our lives produces two major things. First, it glorifies the Lord. When we experience unusual favor and blessing on our family, business, and ministry people take notice. As we point them to the Lord His name is exalted. Secondly, we taste His goodness and experience unspeakable joy and satisfaction in our lives. Experiencing the favor and blessing of God is why we are created, discovering this finally brings us to a place of rest and contentment. What a blessing to be able to say with Job, “Thou hast granted me life and favor, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit”.