Posted in Galatians, John, Romans

The Orphan Spirit

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16

As I was preparing a sermon on the prodigal son returning home, I remembered a family in Minnesota who had adopted three siblings from Guatemala. The three came from an orphanage where there was never enough into a family where provision was abundant.

All three children had trouble grasping their new identity. They used to hide food and lie about it when confronted by their new parents. I couldn’t help wondering how long it took for them to be totally free of the orphan spirit, so I found a phone number and had an opportunity to chat with the mom. (She gave me permission to share their story.)

“How long,” I asked her, “did it take for the kids to stop hiding food?”

“Two years,” was her sober response. Think about it.  Adopted into a home, loved and favored by their new parents, abundance surrounding them, yet it took two years to actually believe that they didn’t have to be afraid of not having enough to eat.

“When do you think they were completely free of the orphan spirit?” was my second question.

There was a long pause. Finally she replied, “That spirit’s a bugger. Two of them have been able to find their identity in Christ, but I don’t know if any of them are completely free in all areas of their lives.”

Our heavenly Father has chosen to adopt us and to give us the full inheritance and privileges of the children of God. (Galatians 4:5-7) He has given us the best robe (the righteousness of Christ), put sandals on our feet (removing shame), put a ring on our finger (access to heaven’s resources), and has thrown a party for us (the Father’s joy in having us home).

Only eternity will reveal all this entails, but for now He wants each of us to know we don’t have to live in fear. We’re home, we’re accepted, there’s always going to be enough, and He will never abandon us!

Posted in Luke, Psalms

Seeing Jesus

“Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. Herod said, ‘I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?’ And he kept trying to see Him.” Luke 9:7-9

Herod Antipas was a “somebody.” After his father died, he was made a tetrarch in Israel (tetrarch means one fourth) and given the region of Galilee to rule. Why couldn’t he see Jesus who was from his own region?

In the chapter before the text above, a woman with an issue of blood saw Him. While Herod was curious, she was desperate. She had no options left because she had spent her life savings on doctors and had only become worse. She told herself that if she could get to Jesus, she would be healed. She pressed through the crowds until she found Him and when she did, was immediately healed. It’s not the curious who see Jesus apparently, it’s the desperate.

Herod Anitpas wanted to see Jesus but he was a busy man, maybe there wasn’t ever a convenient time for the two of them to meet? Yet Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, saw Him. His only daughter was at the point of death and he knew the only One on earth who could help was Jesus. All of a sudden, this official had only one thing on his schedule: seeing Jesus. Maybe that’s why he found Him and Herod didn’t? Maybe Jesus can’t be seen unless He’s our top priority?

When Herod finally does see Jesus, he puts him on trial and asks for a miracle to be done in front of him. (Luke 23:8) Jesus came to serve mankind, not perform for us. Human pride puts God on trial and demands Him to prove Himself so we will believe, but Jesus didn’t submit to Herod’s request. In fact, He wouldn’t speak to him at all. (Luke 23:9) “The proud He knows from afar, but He is close to the humble of heart.” (Psalm 138:6) If we want to see Jesus, we must humble ourselves like children and ask Him to reveal Himself in whatever way He desires. “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to children. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Luke 10:21)

Posted in Luke

God Healing Through Us

“And He sent them (the twelve) out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing….Whatever city you (the seventy) enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 9:2; 10:8-9

Are you willing to have God heal through you even if you haven’t experienced God’s healing to you? This message from Jesus to His disciples wasn’t about their healing, but about the importance of healing in advancing the kingdom of God. Healing was to be a key to let people know the kingdom of God had drawn near, it’s God’s calling card. Mark 16:20 says that the disciples “preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” God wants to do things only He can do to help people know the gospel is true.

One day I went to breakfast with a friend and noticed that the man who took us to our table was limping. When he faced us I could see his hand and wrist were bound with some type of bandage, so I asked him what happened. He told me he had an accident on his bike the Monday before.

Now what. Maybe God wants to heal him right there so I should pray for him, but how awkward will it be in front of everyone? “Before leaving today, I’d really like to pray for you,” is what I said, and then tried to measure his reaction. All during breakfast I tried to envision how I would go about praying for him, or if I should. Maybe he was hiding in the kitchen waiting for me to leave for all I knew.

It turned out he was the one who checked us out and there was no line behind us, so I asked if he would come over to a private corner to be prayed for. He came, and I prayed a brief prayer of healing over him and then told him God loved him. He said thanks and went his way while we left the restaurant.

Did God heal him? I don’t know. What I do know is that I tried to love him with God’s love and tried to give God an opportunity to do something only He can do. Was I pushing too hard to get God to do something He didn’t want to do? According to the text above, I don’t think so. The bottom line is I don’t want to live a safe, comfortable, sheltered faith; I want to be on the front lines bringing the kingdom of God everywhere I go, even if I’m not that good at it yet. How about you?

Posted in Isaiah, Judges

A Minivan With Wings

“When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, ‘Behold, I had a dream, a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down so the tent lay flat.’ His friend replied, ‘This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon… God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.” Judges 7:13-14

Three hundred Israelites were facing an army of 135,000 Midianites (Judges 8:10) when God told Gideon to go to the enemy’s camp and hear what they were saying. The dream related in the text above encouraged Gideon and led to a mighty victory for Israel. What was it about this dream that instilled such confidence?

Think for a moment of the pressure that weighed upon these three hundred men. The army had started with 32,000, and God Himself had chosen only these three hundred to fight in the battle, a battle whose outcome would determine the future of all Israel. What if they blew it? What if they weren’t up to the high calling required of them?

Then this dream comes. A loaf of barley bread tumbling into the camp. God was going to use something very ordinary in a very haphazard way to accomplish His purpose. It wasn’t about them or their clever strategy; God was going to do something great through them, but in a way where He would get all the glory. They didn’t have to be great; they just had to be willing.

One day my wife, and I were invited to attend a Connect Group from our church and at the end of the night, the group prayed for us. While praying one of the young mom’s said God was giving her a vision of a minivan with wings. She said she didn’t know why it was a minivan, but prayed that God would give us wings like eagles to soar with Him. (Isaiah 40:31)

It was the word I needed to hear. I don’t think I can be a Cadillac or a limousine but I can be a minivan. If the plan is that God can only use super Christians then I’m disqualified, but if He can give a minivan wings, I’m all in! How about you?

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Matthew, Revelation

The Open Floodgates

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

A few years ago I was part of a region-wide worship night and we were singing, “Let it Rain.” As the congregation sang: “Open the floodgates of heaven,” the worship leader kept singing, “The floodgates of heaven are open.” She had the words wrong.

Then it hit me. She was the one who had the words right. Sometimes the songs we sing are a reflection of the theology we are currently believing and not how it really is. I am familiar with the: “Open the floodgates”, theology; let me explain.

God wants to pour out His Spirit, in this view of things, but He can’t. If the church was repentant enough, prayerful enough, worshipful enough, and desperate enough, He then would open the floodgates of heaven and there would be a revival. This is a heavy message and produces Christians who strive harder and harder only to fail again and again. I know, I’ve been that Christian.

Now let’s look at what is true. “Let it rain, let it rain; the floodgates of heaven are open, let it rain.” We still must value and ask for the rain of God’s presence because He wants to be wanted and will allow us to do church without Him if we think we don’t need Him. (See Revelation 3:15-20) But we don’t need Him to open the floodgates of heaven, He already has. Jesus’ blood opened heaven for us, the veil has been torn down. (See Matthew 27:51)

God pouring out His Spirit in and through us is not a difficult thing; it’s the normal Christian life. As His favored sons and daughters, we have easy access to all the riches of His table and can easily drink from His river of delights, if we’ll only believe. The floodgates are open, and it’s His express purpose to pour out His Spirit on all flesh that we may speak of the glory of God as those who encounter Him regularly. (Acts 2:17-19)

This describes  the type of Christians we’re increasingly becoming.  Favored children, carrying His very presence, and reflecting His glory wherever we go. What a great adventure to be on!

Posted in Leviticus, Mark

The Healing Presence

“‘If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” Mark 5:28-29

In the Old Covenant, the immediate presence of a holy God was something to be feared by sinful humanity. God warned people to not get too close and those who were called to draw near had to be very careful or they could die.

Yet in Christ, the presence of God became a healing presence. So much so that this woman disregards the ceremonial law which demanded she stay separate from all around her. (Leviticus 15:25-31) Anyone she touched became unclean according to God’s law, yet she instinctively knew that if she touched Jesus she would be healed instead of Him becoming unclean.

In the Savior, the Holy Spirit is a healing presence. In 1997 I did a workshop for our youth camp in Minnesota on the topic of the Holy Spirit. When I was finished speaking, I asked any who wanted a fresh touch of the Spirit to stand. Although I went around and touched the head of each student while praying for them, I wasn’t aware of anything special happening.

Three days later, we were in our final evening service and were giving testimonies of what God had done. A ninth grade student from Duluth pulled me into a private room off the sanctuary to tell me what happened to him. He said he was too shy to speak in front of everyone but thought someone should know.

A few years earlier he had fallen down some stairs and hurt his back, but because his mom was so poor he never asked to have a doctor look at it. He had just suffered in silence and learned to live with the pain. “I was the first person you prayed for on Monday,” he told me, “and when you touched my head something went through me that took away all my pain. I’ve tested it for three days and the pain hasn’t returned. God healed me.”

He was now crying, and so was I. He hadn’t asked for healing and I hadn’t prayed for healing. Jesus just wanted to heal him, and in a way that he would know for the rest of his life that God is real.

Posted in 1Corinthians, John

Understanding the Anointing

“He who is thirsty let him come to Me and drink…and out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

I once heard the late German evangelist, Reinhart Bonnke, tell a story that made a great impression on him when he was a boy. A barge had become stranded on the beach when the tide went out and he and his friends contemplated how impossible it would be for anyone to move it. Yet when the tide came back in, he found he could move this massive rig all by himself. He realized that the laws all change when the tide comes in.

The first crusade he led in Africa was in a city named Gaborone. He only had one pastor join him, yet Reinhart had rented a stadium. The pastor questioned this, “If my whole church came, we would only have 40 people.  Why have you rented this stadium?” The answer was, “Because God told me to.” The first night, 100 people attended, but while he was preaching the blind began to see, crippled people came off their mats, and the deaf began to hear. Reinhart said the stadium was filled the next night. The success he had in Africa since that time is one of the greatest miracles of our time. There were over 73 million recorded conversions; 58 million since the year 2000.

Jesus wants us to do more than our best for the people around us. He wants us to come and drink of Him, so that He can do His best for them. Paul said to “pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” (1Corinthians 14:1) This world needs more than our love; it needs to experience heaven’s love and in a way that they know God is alive.

Posted in 1Samuel, Luke, Mark, Revelation

Hear, and be Healed

“A great number of people from all over Judea came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all.” Luke 6:17-19

Health care is a problem today. As we age there are more pains and blockages as well as the risk of external parts and internal organs wearing down and no longer functioning as they should. The medical community can help, and they do what they can, but for many things there is only a pill to treat symptoms and no real promise of healing.

Jesus is a healer. He can and does use doctors, but sometimes He acts apart from them, like in the text above. Two things grip me in this passage – one relates to humanity; the other to Divinity.

The people came to “hear Him and be healed.” There is a great tendency in our culture to want to be healed from God without listening to God. The idea that God might want to correct me is offensive in a culture which insists that any correction is being “judgmental.” God loves us and wants us to be healed but to Him the heart, the inner person, is more important than the body. When He sees us He looks through the outward appearance to what’s really going on inside. (1Samuel 16:7) He wants to speak to us. Jesus’ last recorded words are found in the book of Revelation where seven times He repeats the same phrase: “He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.” (See Revelation 2 and 3)

The second thing about this text that amazes me is the Divine generosity. Divine power flowed from Jesus and it was “healing them all.” When Jesus is free to be who He is in our midst, healing power to restore and deliver is available to all. Oftentimes we restrict what He is able to do by our unbelief (Mark 6:5-6), or by our busy schedule which distracts us from ever stopping long enough to hear, or be healed.

Posted in 1Corinthians, Galatians

Should We Expect Miracles?

“Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you have heard?” Galatians 3:5

The early church was “filled with awe” because of the “many wonders and miraculous signs” done in their midst. (Acts 2:43) From the text above, we can see that miracles continued in the midst of the local church, even in the church at Galatia which was struggling to stay true to the gospel.

A miracle can be defined as an intervention of the immediate presence of God that changes the natural course of things in such a way that transcends human explanation. It is understandable that awe, wonder, and surprise would be the human response to this level of grace. Does God really still want to move in this way today?

If we take the Bible seriously, there’s nothing in it that suggests that somehow the Holy Spirit would stop working in these ways in the future, or would in any way change who He is and how He acts. If this is true, why don’t we see more? I’m reminded of the old song: “Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” God is moving today by His grace in ways which we need to celebrate, but I am convinced we also need to contend for more. The Bible tells us to “pursue love, and desire earnestly spiritual gifts.” (1Corinthians 14:1) Maybe we don’t see more because we haven’t earnestly desired more?

Posted in 2Corinthians, John

The Need to Drink

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39

I want to share two dreams I received in March of 2013. In the first one, I’m in a discussion group where we are talking about the things of God and a man comes up to the group with an empty cup in his hand and is excited. He says to us, “I know what the problem is – we’re like this empty cup. We’re trying to give people a drink but we’re empty so there’s nothing to refresh them. The cup itself has to drink (be poured into) before it can give anyone else a drink.”

Over a week later I had another dream around the same theme. Two women, one middle aged and one older were receiving prayer and I was watching. Suddenly I knew what God wanted to say to them so I put my hand gently on the head of one and said, “This is the word of the Lord. The enemy’s strategy has been to wear you out over a long period of time. The Lord’s strategy is now to refresh you over a long period of time; first, by teaching you how to drink, and then by causing you to become addicted to His presence.”

I then looked up and she was on the floor basking in the presence of God. I looked over at the older lady and she was beginning to fall, so I caught her and eased her to the floor where she too was enjoying God’s tangible presence.

After I woke up I realized that what had happened to those women was just a fresh drink of the Spirit. But the plan was not about one drink; it was about a lifestyle of drinking. Think about this: every other addiction binds and restricts a life, but “where the Spirit of the Lord is (and only there) there is freedom.” (2Corinthians 3:17) May the Father teach us how to drink and then cause us to be addicted to His presence.