THE RIVER OUTPOURING

Ps.46:4 – God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams

bring joy and delight to his people.

His river flows right through the city of God Most High,

into his holy dwelling places.

I have told this story probably hundreds of times in the last twenty five years but it is impossible to tire of reiterating the same story again and again. The testimony of the move of God lives in the telling of the story. In 1994 I was dissatisfied and unappreciative of the things of God and with the church I pastor in New Orleans. Saying that again today brings me under conviction. I was dry and lukewarm in my spiritual life. Now don’t misunderstand, I was not living a secret life of sin, I was faithful to my marriage and was walking in a pure, Christian life. Something just wasn’t right. Somehow I was trying to get my satisfaction and identity from the size and influence of my church but it was never big enough or good enough. I had fallen into the despair of professional Christianity.

When I first heard rumors of the outpouring of the Spirit I was disinterested at best and critical at worst. I reluctantly went to some revival meetings near Dallas, Texas and that’s when I got more than I bargained for. The services were worse or better (depending on your perspective) than I could have imagined. There were worship times that would go on for two hours, offering teachings that seemed endless, and services that would often last beyond midnight. There were people littering the floor, their bodies, having been overcome by the Spirit. There was mass intoxication by the Spirit and then there was the laughter. Hundreds of people laughing and laughing at the same time.

The outward appearance of all those things would unnerve just about anyone except…. The longer I stayed in that atmosphere the more undeniable it became. What do I mean? The presence of the Lord was unmistakable, undeniable, and stronger than I had ever begun to experience. That’s what got me; the familiar presence that drew me to Christ so many years before was reeling me in to the River.

After several days in those services I went up for prayer. Needless to say God rocked my world. I was filled with a supernatural joy that tasted to me like heaven itself. My joy was restored, my first love for the Lord was restored, and my love for His church was restored. Twenty five years later I am still enjoying the fruit of that outpouring. All I can say is do it again Lord.

ALL INCLUSIVE LOVE

Eph.3:18,19 – Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

Ever since the beginning of our fallen race there has been discord and division among the people of the world. In Genesis there was Cain killing Abel and then the scattering of the nations at Babel. We have been dealing with division and racial strife since the beginning of mankind. Some think it is based on color but history proves otherwise. In Burundi we were horrified as the Hutu and Tutsi tribes decimating each other. In Europe there was the Croatians and the Serbians. Today, the Sunni and the Shia in the Islamic world are at each other’s throats.

The strife amongst people is spiritual. We are not only alienated from God as a result of the fall of man, we are alienated from one another. The answer lies not in war or in peace talks. The solution to this strife is the love of God poured on us and in us. Only a change in our nature can finally solve this problem.

I have seen the fruit of the outpouring of the love of God with my own eyes as the Lord has allowed me to visit the nations of the world preaching the gospel of Jesus. In Korea, I have seen thousands of South Korean Christians praying for hours for the restoration of their country. In Japan I have seen ancient hatred between the Koreans and the Japanese disappear in the presence of the Lord. In Russia, I witnessed hundreds of Americans preaching to the Russians as the walls of distrust vanished in the atmosphere of His love as Russians streamed into the kingdom of God. In Africa, I have seen Christians and pastors from many different tribes come together and worship the Lord and share the communion that flows from the cross. I have seen the Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans dancing together in the joy of the Lord. But my greatest experience of this love that knows no bounds is the privilege of pastoring a multi-racial church in New Orleans. “How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into us until we are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!”

DROPS OF MERCY

Eph.3:18,19 – Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

This is one of the most amazing prayers in the Bible. Paul is praying that each one of us would have a revelation of God’s unending love. In tasting His love for ourselves we are filled to overflowing with His presence. This is the Expositor’s Commentary on these two verses.

“That love, exemplified in Christ’s magnanimity to the Gentiles, is too large to be confined by any geometrical measurements. It is “wide” enough to reach the whole world and beyond. It is “long” enough to stretch from eternity to eternity. It is “high” enough to raise both Gentiles and Jews to heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is “deep” enough to rescue people from sin’s degradation and even from the grip of Satan himself. The love of Christ is the love he has for the church as a united body and for those who trust in him as individuals.”

I love this explanation of Paul’s prayer. God’s love is wide enough to reach the whole world. There is no culture or ethnic group that is excluded. The Father’s love embraces everyone. His love is long enough to reach from eternity to eternity. His love was there for us when we were born, carries us through all of our challenges and adventures in this life, and will be with us on our final day to usher us into our heavenly reward. It is high enough to raise all of us into heavenly places. His love takes us into heavenly realms now, not just when we die. His presence, the manifestation of His love, carries us away into places of heavenly encounter. His love is the fountain of all visions and dreams, the unfolding of His plan of love for our lives. His love is deep enough to reach into the depths of depravity that sin could take you to. There is no sin too great or hole too deep to keep you from the love of our Heavenly Father. Today His love is falling on all of us, it is fall like great drops of mercy on all who call on His name.

GET READY

Lk.21:34-36 – Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.

I have been reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke in preparing for my gospels class. The last several days I have been focusing on the chapters in these gospels that include the prophecies Jesus made about the last days. His whole point was not to give specifics on the events and how these events unfold before His return but to caution us to be prepared. In Matthew 25 Jesus gave three parables that focused specifically on checking ourselves to see that we are prepared.

The first parable was the parable of the ten virgins. The story describes five wise and five foolish virgins at the appearance of the bridegroom for His marriage. The wise virgins had oil in their lamps and the foolish had none. The oil is a picture of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The lesson of the first parable? We must walk intimately with the Lord and stay filled with the Spirit.

The second parable is the parable of the talents. A man went on a journey and left his workers with talents; One with five, one with two, and one with one. A talent was worth about $800,000. The story is about fruitfulness and being faithful with the resources the Lord leaves us with. Of course the lesson is that we will be evaluated of our stewardship with the Lord’s resources at His return.

The third story was about how we treated the hurting and the oppressed. This is the famous quote from the parable, ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

In this story the Lord teaches that we will also be judged by the way we treat the poor and the oppressed.

Jesus is coming like a thief in the night, keep those lamps trimmed and burning.

“Burn me beautiful”

MERRY TUESDAY BY PARRIS

“The Kingdom of the Heavens is like treasure buried in the open country, which a man finds, but buries again, and, in his joy about it, goes and sells all he has and buys that piece of ground.” Matt. 13:44

Jesus spoke an amazing parable about how a man sells all he has because he has found the treasure of treasure. He is speaking of the kingdom of God. Have you too sold out to buy that one field? Life changes when Christ walks into the room. Now we leave family parties, rearrange our weekends for church, and say no to late night office parties. To most of us all the above was never really a sacrifice in light of the love, life, peace that we obtained through the love of God. But there is always a deeper sacrifice somewhere along the line.

Edwards speaks of a true strength that overtakes a Christian, “The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.”

When we meet Christ, he burns us beautiful. Along the pilgrim way there will be difficulties, tests, setbacks and disappointments. Christ warned us of these things and told us to fear not. Edwards writes of this sorrow as beauty when he says, “True virtue never appears so lovely as when it is most oppressed; and the divine excellency of real Christianity is never exhibited with such advantage as when under the greatest trials; then it is that true faith appears much more precious than gold, and upon this account is “found to praise and honour and glory.”

Rom. 8:24 says, “We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Each step of our journey we are becoming beautified as we are engaged in our joyful anticipation of our union with him. Again Edwards says, “And as grace increases, the field opens more and more to a distant view, until the soul is swallowed up with the vastness of the object, and the person is astonished to think how much it becomes him to love this God and this glorious Redeemer that has so loved man, and how little he does love.”

I’m pretty sure you will have no regrets following the steps of the Master picking up our cross and being made beautiful adorning the robes of righteousness. After all does not our hearts burn within?

EYES OPENED BY LOVE

Matt.20:34 – Jesus was deeply moved with compassion toward them. So he touched their eyes, and instantly they could see! Jesus said to them, “Your faith has healed you.” And all the people praised God because of this miracle. And the two men became his followers from that day onward.

The humanity of Christ is shocking to me. The Creator became one of us. How is that even possible? Why did He stoop so low and enter His creation? The answer is clearly seen in this passage, He “was deeply moved with compassion”. He saw us groping in darkness, helplessly and hopelessly trying to find our way. He became one of us because of our blindness. One of the frequent miracles in the ministry of Jesus was healing blind eyes. Like everything the Lord does, the physical miracle was just pointing to even greater miracles. It was pointing to the blindness of our souls and the reason Jesus became a man. We were all born with that horrible spiritual blindness until the day His love flooded our whole being with light and we too became followers of this One who loves us into the light of His new day. Here is how Spurgeon described this miracle.

“He touched their eyes. What hands were those which undertook such lowly fellowship with human flesh, and wrought such deeds of power! Immediately their eyes received sight. Only a touch and light entered….Oh, that the reader, if he be spiritually blind, may ask for the touch of Jesus, and receive it at once, for immediately he will receive sight! An inward light will in an instant shine forth upon the soul, and the spiritual world will become apparent to the enlightened mind….If the reader fears that he, too, is spiritually blind, let him cry unto the Lord at this very instant, and he will see what he shall see, and he will for ever bless the hand which gave sight to the eyes of his soul.”

The only way a blind person knows he is blind is because others tell them of this amazing gift of sight that they enjoy. How can you tell if you are spiritually blinded? Listen carefully to what others are saying about the Lord, their story of the beauty of Christ may show you there is a beautiful world of light that you are missing.

SHEEP WITHOUT SHEPHERDS

Matt.9:36 – When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.

Lam.3:22,23 –

Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

The mercies and compassions of the Lord are endless and, according to Jeremiah, they never fail. Jesus is the personification of these mercies and compassions. That is why this verse always astounded me. All of these wounded, suffering sheep that were in the meetings of the Lord were apparently still weary and helpless. The compassion of the Lord was crying out for shepherd laborers to minister to His distraught sheep. Nothing has changed today. The Lord is still calling laborers to care for His sheep. You may be thinking that this is talking about calling out more professional ministers. Of course that is part of the equation but the main thrust of His appeal is for all Christians to take on the role of being a shepherd in the sense of being a disciple maker. The Lord does minister to the weary and helpless, He just wants to do it through you.

“A great crowd is a demand upon compassion, for it suggests so much sin and need. In this case, the great want was instruction: “they fainted” for want of comfort; they “were scattered abroad” for lack of guidance. They were eager to learn, but they had no fit teachers. “Sheep having no shepherd” are in an ill plight. Unfed, unfolded, unguarded, what will become of them? Our Lord was stirred with a feeling which agitated his inmost soul. “He was moved with compassion.” What he saw affected not his eye only, but his heart. He was overcome by sympathy. His whole frame was stirred with an emotion which put every faculty into forceful movement. He is even now affected towards our people in the same manner. He is moved with compassion if we are not.”

Maybe you are in a place of distress or maybe just worn out; that’s okay, the Lord is here now to teach and encourage each one of us. Like Jeremiah said, it is because of the Lord’s daily mercies and compassions that we are not consumed. They are new and plentiful every day. Today, His compassions are headed straight toward you.

THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL

Acts 15:16-18 – And the prophet’s words are fulfilled:

‘After these things I will return to you

and raise up the tabernacle of David

that has fallen into ruin.

I will restore and rebuild what David experienced

so that all of humanity will be able to encounter the Lord

including the gentiles whom I have called

to be my very own,’ says the Lord.

‘For I have made known my works from eternity!’

I was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit in August of 1973. Thousands of others across the world at that time were having a similar experience. The Charismatic Renewal and an off shoot of that movement known as the Jesus Movement was in full swing. I ended up in a Bible College/Jesus Community in California called God’s Army. Those were some of the sweetest and special days of my life. We worshipped together, studied together, worked together, and lived together in extended households. Worship was a huge part of our lives. Jesus music (spiritual rock) was just in its infancy. Worship was the air that we breathed. A huge part of our corporate worship experience was singing spontaneously together songs in our heavenly language. Heaven would come down in those meetings and carry us into the heavenly realm. My life was changed in those precious moments. The restoration of Spirit empowered worship was a huge part of the Charismatic movement. Singing the Psalms of David put to music was the bulk of our singing. Here is a quote from Theopedia describing the Charismatic movement.

“Virtually all Charismatic Christians believe that the presence of God can be experienced in a supernatural way by believers, usually during times of intense spiritual reflection (such as during a worship service, a small group meeting or personal prayer). The singing of praise songs is an important element in this belief.

Nevertheless, there are two primary beliefs which define the charismatic movement. The first is the belief that the “charismatic gifts” of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy, and miraculous healing, are still in effect today. Charismatics also hold that sometimes Bible passages are misinterpreted in order to declare that charismatic gift are not valid for today’s believers.”

Those early years of worship left a lasting impact on everyone who was involved in that movement. Our church worship today reflects the influence of the Charismatic Renewal. Today’s verse speaks of the restoration of the Tabernacle of David in the last days. I believe the exuberant and spontaneous worship we experience in our services is exactly that.

THE WELSH REVIVAL

Ps.40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD

I love reading about the glorious visitations of God from the past. I know that we can never reproduce what happened in another time and other cultures but the similarities in the outpouring of the Spirit throughout history produces an expectancy in my heart for God’s “new thing” for this generation. There is something very special and unique about the Welsh Revival that began in 1904. As a student in Bible School I heard about Wales and the young revival leader, Evan Roberts, and I longed to be part of a great move of God in our generation. As of this writing I am grateful to have participated in two such outpourings of the Spirit. I was born again and filled with the Spirit in the Charismatic Renewal and was also swept up in the outpouring I call “The River” in 1994. I am in full expectancy mode for another outpouring to effect our world. Check this testimony from the book “THE WELSH REVIVAL” for a glimpse into that great outpouring.

“It was a meeting characterized by a perpetual series of interruptions and disorderliness. It was a meeting characterized by a great continuity and an absolute order. You say, “How do you reconcile these things?” I do not reconcile them. They are both there. If you put a man into the midst of one of these meetings who knows nothing of the language of the Spirit, and nothing of the life of the Spirit, one of two things will happen to him. He will either pass out saying, “These men are drunk,” or he himself will be swept up by the fire into the kingdom of God. If you put a man down who knows the language of the Spirit, he will be struck by this most peculiar thing. I have never seen anything like it in my life; while a man praying is disturbed by the breaking out of song, there is no sense of disorder, and the prayer merges into song, and back into testimony, and back again into song for hour after hour, without guidance. These are the three occupations—singing, prayer, testimony.”

I love this description of God’s outpouring. To the casual observer the meetings seemed disorderly. To those awakened by the Spirit, a supernatural heavenly order was on full display. Once you taste this “heavenly order” church as usual will just never do.

HEALING LOVE

Matt.14:14 – So when Jesus landed he had a huge crowd waiting for him. Seeing so many people, his heart was deeply moved with compassion toward them, so he healed all the sick who were in the crowd.

This phrase, moved with compassion, is often used in the gospels when referring to Christ observing and ministering to hurting people. The phrase means to be moved in your inner organs. In other words, it is the strongest possible description of feeling the pain someone else was going through. Jesus felt the pain of human suffering in the depths of His being. As a man Jesus understood what suffering felt like. He became one of us in order to effectively help us. In this instance the Lord is moved with compassion for those who were physically sick in the crowd. The word sick in this passage is quite descriptive. It is the Greek word arrostos. It means weak, sick, invalid, or having a lingering ailment: really sick and worn out. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this scene.

“The sight of a great multitude may justly move compassion. To see a great multitude, and to think how many precious, immortal souls here are, the greatest part of which, we have reason to fear, are neglected and ready to perish, would grieve one to the heart. None like Christ for pity to souls; his compassions fails not. He did not only pity them, but he helped them; many of them were sick, and he, in compassion to them, healed them; for he came into the world to be the great Healer. After awhile, they were all hungry, and he, in compassion to them, fed them.”

His compassion could not stay bottled up, it was released in a flood of healing. The power of God flowing through the Lord is the anointing which is the love of God which heals the sick.

But what about today? Maybe you or someone you know is suffering today. Maybe you can identify with the people in the crowd that day. Maybe you are weak, sick, invalid, or have a lingering ailment. The good news is this; Jesus is still a man. Today, He sits at the Father’s right hand as our Heavenly High Priest. He is touched deeply by the feeling of your sickness and suffering. His compassion cannot stay bottled up. Look to Him for healing. Before you know it you too will be wrapped in His healing arms of love.