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 Matthew

Healing and the Kingdom of God

“And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of sickness…And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:1; 7-8

Several years ago, while living in Montevideo, Minnesota, I had a vivid dream about Divine healing. I was in Walmart (in the dream) when I recognized a woman from our church who was walking with another woman who had one leg that was injured. The woman from our church was a brilliant light for Christ and filled with faith as to what God could do, and I knew if she saw me she would ask me to pray for her friend.

I wasn’t in the mood. So instead of going toward her I was planning a get away, so she wouldn’t see me. Too late. She saw me and immediately came toward me with a big smile on her face. “Would you pray for my friend?” she asked. After agreeing to do so, we went into a room that was right off one of the side aisles (remember, this is a dream), and I began to pray.

This is where things got interesting. I started to pray for her leg and I was filled with the love of God for this person. I could feel the anointing of God go through my hands and knew she was healed but that wasn’t what gripped me. It was God’s intimate love for people in pain. I woke up with the presence of the Lord still resting on me.

What does this dream mean? I felt like the Lord was saying two things:

  1. His end game is not the healing presence of God in our sanctuaries but in the streets. We need to encounter God at church and learn how to minister in church, but He wants us to have a much bigger vision because most of the people He wants to reach don’t currently go to church.
  2. Healing is not about His power but about His love. Jesus wants to reveal His intimate love for people by touching them in very tangible ways. His healings are not just going to make those who are healed fall in love with Him – they are going to make those who are used to bring the healing fall more in love with Him than ever before.

Let’s draw near to the King so we can learn to carry the kingdom everywhere we go!

Posted in Luke, Matthew

The New Wine

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17

God was not able to pour out His Spirit in fullness under the Old Covenant. In fact, He put a veil between His manifest glory and mankind because of their sin. If sinners got too close to His holiness, judgment would break out as it did many times when they were under the cloud of His presence in the wilderness.

God didn’t love His people any less under the Old Covenant, but His touch of blessing was limited to people’s obedience to the law. The law was the old wineskin and the wine it held was limited to a few people (kings, priests, and prophets) and was only poured out while they performed their functions.

In our text, Jesus is answering a question the Pharisees had. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples weren’t keeping the fasts they kept. Jesus announced that a change had taken place with His coming. After He was gone His disciples would fast again, He explained, but it would be for a different reason. Under the Old Covenant one fasted in hopes of receiving favor; under the new covenant a person can fast as one who already has favor.

The new wineskin is the new covenant Jesus made with the Father. He died in our place so that we can be forgiven and be adopted as the very children of God. The new wine can be abundantly poured on anyone who believes in Jesus because His shed blood removes the judgment our sin would have automatically triggered under the Old Covenant.

Jesus’ death and resurrection frees His Father to pour out the Holy Spirit and allows us to receive more of Him as often as we ask. Jesus said: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (and continue to ask) Him.” (Luke 11:13)

Own your identity as a child of God and use this favored position to ask for more of heaven’s wine. This wine is key to lasting joy and healing unlike the stuff that can only give a short buzz and is often followed by a hangover.

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 Isaiah, Matthew, Psalms

Set on the Wall

“I have set watchmen on your walls, oh Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” Isaiah 62:6-7

Why does God set people on the wall to ask Him to do what He already said He wants to do? He wants His church to agree on earth with His purposes as free moral agents, so that we share with Him in every victory that is won. We cannot bring His kingdom without Him, and He won’t bring His kingdom without us wanting it, and asking for it.

In this heaven and hell are alike: both seek agreement on earth from human beings so they can bring their purposes to pass on the earth. “I thought God was sovereign,” you may argue. He absolutely is. The only reason it is like this is because He planned it to be this way. “Our God is in heaven, He does whatever pleases Him.” (Psalm 115:3) This necessary agreement by earth is what pleases Him.

If hell can get people to live in fear, anger, pride, greed, and lust then this darkness will be increased by demons who will dwell in these strongholds. The Father allows it because He has chosen to not force Himself, or His ways on us.

But listen to the promise heaven gives: “I tell you that if two of you agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in My Name, there I am.” (Matthew 18:19-20) When we agree together for the beauty and purposes of heaven to be manifested and ask the Father for this, Jesus Himself will come and establish on earth what we have agreed on.

Our text makes it clear we must persist in our asking and expect a progressive answer as we “give Him no rest” until He has done all He has promised. Some of the greatest heroes of the church are the prayer warriors. Their primary labor is not horizontal but vertical, where God has set them on the wall for this purpose. Without prayer, what we do horizontally as a church will have little lasting effect.

Posted in 2Corinthians, John, Matthew, Psalms, Romans

Satisfaction in God

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Jesus knew what it was to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and the deep satisfaction that came when He did the next right thing the Father was calling Him to do. When He was at a well talking to a woman, the disciples offered Him food, but Jesus told them He had food they didn’t know about. When they asked about this, He replied, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34) When He was tempted in the desert, He told Satan that man lives on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) The will of God and the word of God are how Jesus walked in righteousness and it’s how we experience the sustenance and life God gives today.

When natural hunger and thirst is satisfied by a delightful meal and beverage, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never be hungry and thirsty again. So it is with the will of God, the more you do it, the more satisfaction you have in it, and the more hungry and thirsty you are to have more of that which satisfies in the future.

But to do righteousness, you first have to be righteous. When we believe the gospel, God makes us right with Himself in Christ. He calls it the gift of righteousness. (See 2Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:17) From this place of right standing with God, we can now hunger and thirst to do righteousness.

The good Shepherd promises to guide us “in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) He will always lead us to do the right thing (righteousness simply means doing what’s right) no matter what the circumstance. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death or find ourselves in the very presence of our enemies, we never have to fear; all we have to do is choose to do what is right. If we will be led by righteousness, God promises that “goodness and mercy” will follow us all of our days. Jesus said something similar, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

We aren’t driven by fear that we won’t have the things we need; we are confident that we only need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and God’s abundant provision will follow us. Yet our satisfaction transcends our bills being paid, and our mouths being fed; we get to experience the joy of knowing God and doing His will.

Posted in John, Luke, Matthew

Is there a Fire in You?

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.” Luke 12:35

We are called to carry a fire in us, the very light of life. (John 1:3) It is a fire of grace, meaning that only God can produce it and sustain it, yet we play an important part. Jesus commands all disciples: “keep your lamps burning.”

God’s revealed presence serves as the spark and lighter fluid to get the fire going. The Word of God in us serves as the kindling (the milk of the Word) and the large logs (the meat of the Word) which brings the fire to a blaze and makes a way for it to keep burning.

Jesus said, “If you abide in Me (His presence), and My word abides in you, you will ask whatever you wish and it will be done.” (John 15:7) When the fire of grace is burning in our hearts, our desires become purified to the point that they are unified with what God desires. When this happens there is great authority to bring the kingdom on this earth; our sin nature loses its hold without us having to try hard to fight it; and our lives bring others light and warmth in an effortless way. If you keep your lamp burning, everything else will kind of take care of itself!

So why do so few Christians today seem to have a fire burning in their hearts? Some love the presence of the Spirit but neglect the word. Their hearts are like pouring lighter fluid on a little kindling, lighting it, and watching it burn impressively for a brief period of time. When the fire goes out, they have to look for another meeting where the “Spirit’s moving,” and so eventually become disillusioned.

Others only want the word and neglect the importance of the presence of God. They presume, like the Pharisees, that because they diligently seek the Scriptures they are close to God. (John 5:39) This is like having a big log in your fireplace that is unlit. It may have great potential, but it can’t warm or purify anyone because there’s no fire.

Building a good fire is an art; keeping it going is a discipline. Jesus said He would not put out a smoldering wick (Matthew 12:20), so if we acknowledge our need He will bring us His flame again. John the Baptist said He came to “baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)

Posted in Galatians, John, Matthew

The Root of all Fruit

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

The problem with this passage is that God allows people to do a lot apart from Him. People are busy everywhere promoting themselves and their ambitions, building their little mini-kingdoms, and constructing towers that reach to heaven just like Babylon of old. And God allows it all, for a time. When Jesus says, “…apart from Me you can do nothing,” He means nothing that is born of God, nothing that is beautiful, and nothing that will last. The fruit He would give those who allowed His life to live through them, He promised, would remain, not just through time, but for all eternity. (John 15:16)

The root of this fruit is a humility which agrees with God that we can do nothing truly good apart from Him. Without this agreement our Christianity amounts to sincere people trying to look like Jesus by their own commitment and constantly failing, instead of fully surrendered lives which allow Christ to live His powerful life through them. The gospel doesn’t just call us to do good, it shows us the way. We must die to our old selfish nature, not dress it up with the appearance of good, and then we must allow Christ to live through us by the new nature He has given us. Paul, one of the most fruitful Christians who ever lived, said it this way: “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Jesus gave in the first beatitude the secret to all the other ones, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1) When we agree that we have no righteousness of our own, we are able to embrace His. When we embrace our poverty apart from Him, all of heaven’s resources become ours. Four times in the gospels Jesus says the words, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Benjamin Franklin, a deist who never embraced Christianity, sought with all his power to master the virtues. He claimed that after many years of seeking perfection there was only one virtue that escaped him: humility. The difficulty was that whenever he did a good job being humble he found he was proud about it. The pride in a human heart can only be conquered by the Savior.

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)

Posted in John, Matthew, Revelation

Twice His

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in…” Revelation 3:20

A boy and his father carved out a toy sailboat from a block of wood. The boy had great delight in his creation so he put his initials on the bottom, and the toy became almost like a friend to him. He carried it with him during the day and kept it by his side when he slept at night.

One day a tragic thing happened. While the son was playing with his boat in the river behind the house, it got away from him. He ran to the house to tell his father and together, they searched downstream to no avail. But months later they attended an auction at a neighboring town farther down the river, and the son saw that a toy sailboat was being auctioned. Could it be? He ran over to it, turned it over, and was overjoyed when he saw his initials. He put it back on the shelf and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would own that boat again. Whatever this toy was worth to someone else, it was worth more to him. He would gladly give all he had to own his boat again.

After winning the auction, we could say that the boat belonged to the boy a twice over – once on the basis of creation and a second time on the basis of redemption. God feels the same way about you and me. In great love, the Father and the Son created us by the Spirit and the mark of their design is all over us. Your brain, eyes, skin, muscles, and internal organs are all proof that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. But sin has taken us down the river from a holy God removing us from His presence, but not from His thoughts. He planned our redemption and paid for it when He gave His life for our sins.

He has already paid for our redemption but refuses to make us go with Him. He calls (Matthew 22:14), enlightens (John 1:9), draws (John 12:32), and knocks (Revelation 3:20), but He won’t push, grab, force, or manipulate. The part of our salvation He delights in is us saying, “yes,” in response to His grace, with our own free will. It doesn’t matter how far down the river of sin you are. It doesn’t matter how deep your doubts, how evil your thoughts, or how blasphemous your words have been. He still loves you and in His mind you belong to Him twice.