Posted in 1Corinthians, 2Corinthians, Psalms

Beholding the Glory of God

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

Whatever we behold we eventually become. If you behold, or “keep before your eyes,” your worries, you will become anxious. If you keep anger before your eyes, you will become bitter. If you keep pornography before your eyes, you will become lustful. But if you and I keep the glory of the Lord before us, we will be transformed from one level of glory to the next. It sounds easy but there are a few problems.

“As in a mirror” is a problem. The mirrors back then were made of brass and the image they gave was very dim. Paul says earlier in Corinthians, “we see in a mirror dimly.” (1Corinthians 13:12) Even though we have nothing between us and God (unveiled faces), in this current time we live more by faith than sight. Yet even now a glimpse of His glory will transform us. Are we willing to behold Him even if it isn’t always powerful or instantly rewarding? Are we willing to spend time in His Word and prayer seeking to behold Him even when it seems like He’s hiding Himself? Will we prioritize church over a thousand other things we could do on the weekend even though it’s kind of boring to us? The more we behold Him, the more others will be able to behold Him through us.

The other problem is the abundance of other things to look at. Hollywood and the internet are filled with images that you can easily behold without doing any work at all; excitement and entertainment at the click of a button. We were made to behold and our hearts will always behold something. Even as a Christian, the only way you and I will behold the Lord is if we make it our priority. The man after God’s own heart said, “One thing have I desired and that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) It isn’t enough to desire, we must act on that desire by actively seeking or something else will easily creep in.

Am I saying that it’s wrong to enjoy a movie, a game, or other legitimate pleasures? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that when we make beholding the Lord our first priority, everything else takes its proper place and won’t become an idol.

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 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 1Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Hebrews, Romans

Walking in the Spirit

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1Corinthians 2:14-16

Beware of one facet of the carnal nature in you Scripture calls, “the natural man.” The natural man wants to believe and obey only what he understands completely. He won’t do anything until he knows that he won’t look stupid or foolish in front of others, therefore our natural man is incapable of living by faith and cannot please God. (See Hebrews 11:6; Romans 8:8)

It is easy to be born of the Spirit at some point in the past, but not walk in the Spirit today. When that happens we are miserable as Christians, kind of like fish out of water. Our proper habitat is the spirit realm, so when we go back to living like those in the world we become spiritually choked.

Signs of a Christian living in the natural man include anxiety, joylessness, cynicism, discouragement, and feeling spiritually drained all the time.  The answer is not complicated; put off the old man and walk in the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:22-23; Galatians 5:25) Start by asking God to forgive you for trying to live the Christian life by the natural man, then remember that your rightful breath is the Holy Spirit, your proper food is the Word of God, and your sure hope for eternity is heaven no matter what happens down here. You have only God to please, so it doesn’t matter whether others approve of you or not.

The language of the Spirit does not contradict our minds, but it does transcend it. His many ways of whispering to us must be spiritually appraised, so we must stay alert to the spirit realm. God is in charge of planning, protecting, providing, and guiding.  We are in charge of trusting and obeying. It’s a nice arrangement when we do our part and don’t question His!

Posted in 1Corinthians, 1Kings

The Spirit of Revelation

“The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” 1Corinthians 2:11b-12

In all of our seeking of God we must always remember that any progress we make is not because we’re good seekers, but because God is a generous, and merciful revealer. If we don’t keep this posture of deep humility, spiritual growth will stop simply because God resists the proud, even if they are His children.

We need to develop a close friendship with the Holy Spirit if we want to seek God in a way that we will find Him. When you fully trust Christ for salvation the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your Spirit. You are, according to the Bible, born again. You have a capacity to know God, hear His voice, and experience His love that an unbeliever doesn’t have. But the key is learning to live more and more by, and with, the Person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.

He will speak to you through the Scriptures, so devote time each day to reading. He will speak through circumstances if you will only listen. He will speak through whoever’s speaking and church friends, so make church a priority. He can also speak in a number of supernatural ways according to the Bible, including: dreams, visions, trances, and through angelic visitations.

Many people wish God would speak louder, but that is not usually His way. When Elijah was waiting to hear God a tornado came, but the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then an earthquake came, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. Then a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in the fire. It was in a still small voice, a whisper, that God spoke to him. (See 1Kings 19)

If a person yells they can communicate to you from far away. But if they whisper, you have to come very close or you won’t hear them. That’s what God wants more than anything else, you and I to draw near to Him.

Posted in 1Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians

Grace

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

The Christian life is not difficult, it’s impossible. No one can produce what God desires in us other than God Himself. Religion of man may do a great deal of work and have impressive spiritual disciplines, but for all of its efforts, it cannot please God.

True Christianity is about grace through faith in Christ that produces both desire and power within a believer to do the will of God. It leaves no boast in the mouth of the believer except: “I am what I am by the grace of God.” (1Corinthians 15:10) In the way of grace, the believer stops “trying” to do good and learns to yield to the goodness of God inside of them.

The verse before the text quoted above reads: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (Philippians 2:12b) The recognition that God Himself is in us means that our “work” is learning how to yield to, and release, His wonderful grace within us. If we reflect more on what this means, there will be a greater sense of awe (fear and trembling) in our ordinary lives. Think of it: the uncreated God of eternity; the God who created the entire universe – lives in me. Wow!

We don’t read our Bibles, pray, worship, go to church, or do good works to gain intimacy with God. Intimacy is His gift to us through the cross. Our part is to accept this gift daily, and to learn how to “do” all spiritual things from the place of freely given grace instead of by a performance mentality of works.

Rejoice in the grace given to you by personalizing the following verse: “In love He predestined us (me) to be adopted as His children (child), in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace which He has freely given us (me) in the One (Christ) He loves.” (Ephesians 1:4b-6)

Posted in 1Corinthians

Resting and Working in Grace

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” 1Corinthians 15:10

Can you feel Paul’s liberty in this passage? He’s not trying to impress people, or be better than anyone else. He is happy to be himself in the grace of God, “I am what I am.” It kind of sounds like God’s revelation of Himself to Moses, “I am who I am.” While God is self existent, relying on no one else to bring Him into being or to sustain His being; Paul’s identity is entirely wrapped up in who God is making him by grace. But grace doesn’t just affect who Paul is, it’s also the engine for all he does: “I labored…, yet not I, but …grace…”

Are we as conscious as Paul was of God’s grace for our being and doing? Am I performing to gain God’s favor, or because I already have His favor by grace? Am I performing to gain self worth, or have I accepted myself as God accepts me in Christ? Can I say with complete self acceptance, “I am what I am by the grace of God?” If I’m resting in grace, no person’s opinion can threaten my identity. If I’m working in grace there is no pride of achievement, or fear of underachievement that comes from comparing myself to others.

Whenever we have communion at church and are reminded that it’s ultimately not about what we do for God, but what He has done for us through Christ. His body was given, and His blood was poured out, so that we might be forgiven and be able to feast on His grace all of our days.

Posted in 1Corinthians

The Beauty of the Church – Part Two

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” 1Corinthians 12:27

One reason that people don’t take their place in the body of Christ is rejection (yesterday); another is pride.

Paul addresses this pride in 1Corinthians 12:21: “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” It is a temptation for those who are gifted and used by God to feel a little better than those who are not so used. I don’t know if there is anything as ugly or as blinding as spiritual pride. Whole churches can feel that they are more important than other churches and look down their noses at those who are not as “spiritual” as they are. This attitude has caused many unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ and has made it hard for the world to believe that the church is any different than they are. God has made us dependent on Him which all Christians believe, but He’s also made us interdependent on one another. Many believers today seem to believe that they can be a fulfilled Christian without being part of a local church. This is just another form of spiritual pride.

One of my favorite illustrations of our interdependence is a bird called the Pacific Golden Plover. The PGP has two homes, one in Hawaii, and one in Alaska. They have their children in Alaska during the summer and then take the 90 hour, non-stop flight, to their winter home in Hawaii. Remarkably, the children leave for Hawaii a few weeks later than the adults, making a journey they have never made before. Only God in heaven could direct them to a little dot called Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But they’re not just dependent on God, they were also created to be interdependent on one another. Engineers have figured out that the young Pacific Golden Plovers only have body fat (which is their fuel) to make a 70 hour flight. They make up the other 20 hours by flying together in a V, rotating the lead bird to cut down on wind resistance. Without each other they would be 20 hours short of Hawaii and drown in the Pacific. No one of them could ever make it all the way to Hawaii on their own.

Like it or not, you and I have not only been created completely dependent on God (we can’t even draw a breath without Him), we have been created to be interdependent on people. You will never completely fulfill your destiny on earth without embracing your part in the body of Christ. Don’t drown, humble yourself, and we’ll make it to Hawaii together.

Posted in 1Corinthians

The Beauty of the Church – Part One

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” 1 Corinthians 12:12

The  church is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Everyone is a piece, and when each person does their part a beautiful picture is made. When one or two pieces are gone from a puzzle my family is putting together we never say, “oh well, at least most of them are here.” No, there is a frantic search for the missing piece, because the picture will not be complete without it. In fact, if we can’t find what’s missing, we will end up throwing the whole puzzle away because it can never be finished. Each piece, however small, is vital to the whole.

The apostle Paul, in a similar way, says the church is like a body. Each part is very different in looks and function but essential to the whole. He points out two attitudes that can slip into the body of Christ and undermine the unity that God is trying to bring about: rejection and pride (we’ll cover pride tomorrow).

First, he deals with rejection which is very prevalent in today’s church. “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.” (1Corinthians 12:15-16) It is very easy to look around at other people’s gifts and feel like yours is inferior. The temptation is to “bury your talent” in a spirit of rejection, because you don’t feel like you’re “important” anyway.

Rejection can often be the byproduct of jealousy. The jealous ear might be overheard saying something like this: “Oh, how I wish I was an eye. Everyone’s always commenting on the beautiful blue eyes, and people look into one another’s eyes. Why can’t I be an eye? No one comments on ears. No one notices them unless they’re too big. Why do I have to be stuck being an ear?” Paul gives the answer of why you were given the part you’ve been given, “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” (1Corinthians 12:18) You can either rebel against who you are and be upset and unhappy, or accept your position, serve in it, and experience the joy of the Lord. Joy doesn’t come from being important in people’s eyes, it comes from being loved and used by God.

Posted in 1Corinthians, Exodus, Matthew

Foreshadows of His Sacrifice

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians’” Exodus 6:6-7 

God’s plan from the beginning was to call out a people who would walk with Him in time and for all eternity. He knew before He made us about sin, so His plan all along was redemption – our walk with Him would only be on the terms of His first delivering us. The exodus from Egypt and the journey to the promised land foreshadow our redemption from sin and journey into the promised life we have in Christ. Today I want to reflect on the way Israel was delivered.

There were ten plagues that visited Egypt, but only the tenth set God’s people free.  The final plague was the death of the first-born male in every house throughout the land unless each home did what God commanded the Israelites to do. Every family was to find a male lamb a year old that had no blemish (Exodus 12:5) and sacrifice it on the 14th day of the month (Exodus 12:6) which was to be their first month from now on. (The Israelites call the month: “Nisan.”) Then they were to apply the blood of the lamb to the top and sides of their doors and were to eat the lamb so they would have strength for their journey. That night the final plague would come, but every home that was covered by the blood of the lamb would be passed over. (Exodus 12:13)

On the Friday before Passover in 33 AD, Jesus of Nazareth was inspected early in the morning by Pilate’s court. He was found to be innocent and without blemish. Even his accuser declared him innocent when he gave back the money he received from betraying him. (Matthew 27:4)

That afternoon, just as the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple, Jesus died on the cross. John the Baptist had said: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Paul says that “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1Corinthians 5:7)