Posted in Acts, Haggai, Psalms

Embracing God’s Priorities

“Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries…I would feed you with the finest of the wheat; and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:13-14,16

I believe God’s ways are His priorities. To walk in His ways is to change our priorities so that they line up with His. In the book of Haggai the Lord asks His people to examine the way they’re living their lives: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes. This is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways.” (Haggai 1:5-7)

He tells them that He was the One controlling this to try to get their attention. They had put their houses, before His house; their plans, before His plan and were experiencing the discipline of the Lord. He was trying to get their attention, so that they would make the necessary changes to have His full blessing again.

I received a call at church from a lady who needed financial help. She described at length how the situation had occurred and why there was nowhere else to turn to for this emergency need. The church was in a position to help, so I told her what we would do and she was relieved. Before hanging up I asked her where she went to church, to which she replied, “no where.” I told her that I thought the financial gift was only a band-aid while the long term solution would require a rearranging of life so that she could respond to God, and not just to her needs. She said she agreed.

Maybe as you read this you wonder if God is trying to speak to you about your own life? Maybe you’ve been putting band-aids on your finances and relationships for so long that you’re getting weary of it? Maybe you’re tired, as Saul of Tarsus was, of “kicking against the goads?” (Acts 26:16) Maybe you’re ready for the radical solution of changing your priorities to line up with God’s?

The Jewish people were ready. They listened to Haggai and started putting God’s things first by working on the house of the Lord. After three months of this change in their lives the Lord declared: “From this day on I will bless you.” (Haggai 2:19) I think He’s waiting to bless you and me as well!

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 Acts, John, Mark

The Authority of the Believer

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”  John 14:12-14

One Monday morning I needed to meet someone for an early appointment, but I couldn’t leave without my cell phone and it was lost. I looked in all the usual places, but it wasn’t there. Everyone else was still sleeping and I certainly didn’t want to wake them up, but I could see no other alternative than calling my own number and letting it ring until I found it. I was stunned when after dialing l felt a vibration and heard a ring coming out of my own left pocket. 

Almost immediately after finding the “lost” phone in my pocket, I sensed the Lord whispering something in my thoughts: “This is how believers are with authority.” Think about it. We as believers are often looking for someone else who can pray for us. or deliver us or who can hear God for us, yet the authority to pray powerfully is already in us. Every believer already has the equipment connecting them to God’s voice and power in their hearts, it is God’s gift to us in Christ, but it doesn’t do much good if we don’t recognize that we have it.

God’s plan was that those who believe in Jesus would walk in the same authority as He did by using His Name. Jesus gave the first sign of those who believe: “In My Name they will cast out demons…” (Mark 16:17) Not the first sign following apostles, or pastors, or those who have walked with the Lord for at least 30 years; but the first sign following those who “believe.” The right to use Jesus’ Name is a privilege every one who believes in Him has been given.

Peter was very conscious of this authority when he replied to the lame man who begged him for money: “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” (Acts 3:6) Are you conscious that you possess the authority of Jesus Name, or are you still looking around the kingdom to find someone else who has it?

Posted in 1Thessalonians, Acts

Judging Prophecy 

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” 1Thessalonians 5:19-21

When we despise prophecy we quench the Holy Spirit. Prophecy is God speaking today directly into our lives and situations, so why would people who love God ever despise Him speaking to them?

Some people despise prophecy because they don’t think God speaks any more in that way. Today, they reason, God only speaks to us through the Bible so anybody who claims to hear God directly comes under suspicion. The problem with this is that the book of Acts is the New Testament church in action and God speaks directly all the time through visions, dreams, impressions, angels, and prophets. There are no Scriptures which indicate this type of prophetic activity would ever be withdrawn from the church except for a few verses that people quote horribly out of context. People that don’t believe God speaks today are arguing from their experience, or rather lack of experience, and not from the Bible.

Others despise prophecy because they have been burned by it. They’ve seen people use the phrase, “God told me,” to enforce their own agenda or to validate their own opinion in such a way that they are deeply suspicious of any prophetic experience. Some have been damaged by following a so-called “prophetic word” when it turned out to only be a person trying to be prophetic, and not God speaking at all. When you’ve been hurt in that way it is easy to harden your heart. 

My opinion is that if you don’t feel free to judge the prophetic you will end up despising it. Paul says to “examine everything carefully…” In the Old Testament prophecy came externally to those God appointed and the penalty for being wrong was death. New Testament prophecy, on the other hand, comes from the inside of a believer (where the Holy Spirit lives) and through our yet imperfect souls. Because of this reality we have to be discerning, but should never allow ourselves to become cynical. After Paul tells us to examine everything carefully, he tells us to “hold fast to that which is good.”

God loves us and He wants to speak to us. I pray we embrace the potential of hearing God today, and the freedom to exercise discernment so we don’t get trapped by anything that is not from the Spirit.

Posted in 1Peter, Acts, John

Thirsty for God

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37

Are you thirsty for God? Not thirsty for knowledge about God; not thirsty for God to do something for you; but thirsty for God Himself? The reward for drinking the very presence of God into your spirit is that “rivers of living water” will flow out of your innermost being in blessing to those around you. (John 7:38) Ministry is more than what we do, it is whose strength we do it in. Peter says, “whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies.” (1Peter 4:11)

Serving God in our own power will quickly burn us out and leave a chip on our shoulder that says subconsciously, “I did this for God, so now He owes me.” We become dry and eventually bitter if we work without drinking. Make no mistake about it – what God gets out of this relationship is not the work we do for Him. Listen to Acts 17:24-25 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything.” God doesn’t need us, He’s in it for the fellowship we give Him while serving Him.

Several years ago I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord in a time of personal worship and kept saying, “I will do anything for you, I will do anything for you…”, when I had a clear stream of thoughts interrupt my prayer that went something like this: “I don’t want you to do anything for Me; everything I’m calling you to do, I’m calling you to do with Me.” Since that time I’ve tried to remember that God delights in relationship and that I must always drink of Him while working for Him. Make sure you take time to drink today.

Posted in Acts, Ephesians

Grieving the Holy Spirit

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

You and I can make the sweet Spirit of God feel sad about how we’re living. Although all people can resist Him, no one can bring grief to Him like the children of God He indwells. In a similar way, no can hurt you as much as those who you are closest to. How and when do we grieve the Holy Spirit?

One way is by allowing hatred to fill our hearts, and slander to fill our mouths. The verse immediately after the one quoted above says: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31) God loves, and Jesus died for every person you know and don’t know. When we treat others harshly it hurts God and He takes it personally. Jesus said, “whatever you do to the least of these, you are doing to Me.” When we accuse and tear down each other we are actually doing the devil’s work for him. He is called the “accuser of the brethren,” who accuses people to God day and night. When we do the same we are participating in darkness, even if in our opinion the accusations are true. God alone has the right and the purity to pass judgment on others. If you want the Holy Spirit to hang out near you, then learn to be loving and kind in your words. Seek to find the best in others and try to encourage them.

We also grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore Him or limit what we think He can or should do. Jesus said to His disciples: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…” (Acts 1:8) In Acts 2 we have the initial pouring out of the Spirit and then the rest of Acts tells how they changed the world through the Spirit’s power. Many Christians today seem to be slightly afraid of the Holy Spirit because they’ve heard of the experiences of others that sound scary. Yet God’s plan today is the same as then. He wants to partner with ordinary people to do extraordinary things through the power of His Spirit. God wants to speak through us, heal through us, and bring His gifts through us today. When we say “no” to Him, or try to dictate to Him what He can and can’t do through our lives, we grieve the Spirit.

Search your heart and ask God how you may have grieved the Holy Spirit. If you have, ask for the forgiveness He offers us through Jesus, and tell Him you want to walk close to Him again.

Posted in Acts, Isaiah, Mark, Matthew, Philippians, Proverbs, Romans, Titus

Getting Back on the Wall

“No longer will they call you Deserted, or name you Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her)…for the Lord will take delight in you.” Isaiah 62:4

Yesterday we gave several ways those God genuinely sets on the wall (in a place of authority to pray) fall off of it. Today we look at how to get back on it. “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16)

  1. Accept your calling. Romans 11:29 tells us that God’s “gifts and call are irrevocable.” Just because you don’t like the place God has given you, or feel like you’ve failed at it, doesn’t mean you get a new call. Our lives won’t work until we embrace God’s plan and flow with it. “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)
  2. Forgive as you stand praying. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25) If we insist on justice, eventually God will have to give us the justice we want for others. (See Matthew 7:1-4) We don’t need someone to be sorry for us to forgive them. If we do, forgiveness will always be difficult. Here’s why – let’s say someone does say they’re sorry for the way they’ve treated you. How will you know if they’re really sorry? And even if they appear to be sorry, are they sorry enough? If they’re sorry enough, will that for sure mean they’ll never do it again? All we need to forgive is to remember that the greatest injustice didn’t happen to me; it happened to Jesus. The truly innocent Lamb of God died in my place – that’s injustice. Part of my worship is to lay my injustices at the foot of the cross and freely forgive those who hurt me. This is part of what it means to know Jesus “in the fellowship of His suffering.” (Philippians 3:10)
  3. Embrace your identity. The strength to stay on the wall is not in seeing your prayers answered; it’s in the fact that God’s delight is in you. We are favored sons and daughters not because of our works, but because of His great mercy toward us in Christ. (Titus 3:5-6) We don’t gain favor by praying; we pray from His favor. Our great reward is not in what He does for us, but in our relationship with Him. Until we grasp this reality it will always be hard to stay on the wall.
Posted in 1Samuel, 2Timothy, Acts

The Samuel Generation

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17

A few years ago the pastors of our region decided together to have teens and young adults lead some of our monthly worship gatherings.  Why young people?  I believe we will never have the fullness of God’s presence without the generations coming together. God blesses everything as much as He can and we praise Him for all He’s currently doing, but there is a longing in many of our hearts for more.

I am convinced young people need to honor the older generation and value their covering, but am equally convinced that the older generation needs to release their sons and daughters to prophecy. What if they say something that’s wrong?  What if they become filled with pride? Then we are here to guide them and teach them, but God wants them to speak now, and not just when they’re “mature.”

In January of 2014 I had the privilege of speaking to our youth group. I told them the church is stuck without them. They are not the “church of tomorrow;” today’s church needs them to rise up and grab ahold of God.

In Eli’s day there were two types of young people: Hophni and Phineas were one; Samuel the other. So it is today. Hophni and Phineas represent those who are “ungrateful, disobedient to parents,… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” (2Timothy 3:1-4) while Samuel represents a whole generation of young people who love the presence of God (1Samuel 3:3), begin to hear His voice (1 Samuel 3:10), and speak to their culture with great authority. (1Samuel 3:19-20)

We must encourage our young people to become all God desires them to be to have His full blessing in the days to come.

Posted in Acts, Ephesians, Matthew

The Secret Weapon

“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:18-20

The secret weapon is a game changer. When Popeye is down and out, when all hope seems to be lost and Bluto is certainly going to defeat him, we all wait for the secret weapon – his spinach. The spinach changes everything; once it is eaten, the victory is secured.

Aladdin is trapped in a cave left to die. He tries to escape but it’s hopeless until he discovers a lamp. The lamp is a game changer because using it gives access to a genie who can transcend all human limitations.

The church has a secret weapon that changes everything: the Father’s response to agreeing prayer. We see it in Acts 2:  The church had been in unified prayer for ten days until the Father responded with “a mighty rushing wind” and “tongues of fire” which so empowered the early church that 3,000 were saved in one day.

We see it in Acts 4:  The persecuted church gathered and in agreeing prayer asked the Father to “do signs and wonders by Your holy Servant, Jesus.” The response: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) Abundant grace was released and signs and wonders were performed (Acts 5:12) while multitudes were saved. (Acts 5:14) Heaven invaded earth in response to agreeing prayer by the church.

But my favorite example of the secret weapon is found in Acts 16. Paul and Silas were put in prison and at the midnight hour began to pray and worship together. Here’s the Father’s response, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” (Acts 16:26)  Natural earthquakes destroy, they don’t open doors and release people from chains. Were Paul and Silas asking the Father for everyone’s chains to fall off? Unlikely. This is about the extravagance of a God who is able “to do above and beyond all we can think” (Ephesians 3:20) in response to agreeing prayer.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Ephesians, Galatians, Matthew, Psalms, Titus

Four Marks of a Godly Life

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14

More than clever, gifted, or successful, I want to be godly. We live in such a secular society that many people may not even know what that means. Here are four marks of a godly life from the text above:

  1. The godly live close to God. Jesus loves us and gave Himself for us so we could be forgiven and live close to God, in fact, in union with God every day. The godly don’t endure God; they make Him their greatest delight. (Psalm 37:4)
  2. The godly say “No” to all that is in them that would take them away from God. We have a sin nature that must be put off or died to every day. The sin nature is at war with the Spirit but the Spirit gives us power to overcome it. (Galatians 5:16-17)
  3. The godly are eager to do good. Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed. (Acts 10:38) The truly godly aren’t known for what they’re against, but for the good works they do. (Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 5:16) Their willingness to serve those in need gives people a taste of the goodness of God in this present age.
  4. The godly know the best is yet to come. Every problem will not be solved this side of heaven, and every pain will not be removed, but a better day is coming. Jesus will appear one day to take His bride and we will then be with Him forever. This is the living hope which burns in the godly and gives them strength for the journey. They are convinced that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2Corinthians 4:17)