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 Isaiah, James, Philippians, Psalms

Willing and Obedient

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

What God has worked in us, we now need to work out in our everyday lives. By grace He is in us to create both the desire and the ability to do His will. When we cooperate with His grace by being willing and obedient, grace flows freely in and through us. Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” I don’t know about you but I want God’s best. The key is to be willing and obedient.

Sometimes we are willing, but not obedient. We love God, we worship God, we say “yes” to God when someone’s preaching, but we don’t do what He says to do. We won’t forgive, we won’t throw the porn away, we won’t cut off the destructive relationship, we won’t give money He’s asked us to give, we won’t check our speech, we won’t lay down our judgments on others, etc. Being willing but not obedient leads to self deception which is why James said, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22) Worship must be more than a song or a prayer to touch God’s heart; it has to include costly obedience.

Others are obedient, but not willing. This person says, “I do the right things but have no joy or love in doing them any more.” If this applies, you need to return to your first love and ask God for a new grace to make you willing. Just going through the motions leaves you and I very vulnerable to sin and the schemes of the enemy. After David sinned horribly he prayed to God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12) Notice he didn’t just ask for forgiveness, but prayed for a change of attitude so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Check your life right now. Are you willing, or do you spend most of your time complaining to God? Are you obedient, or has your life become one compromise after another? God wants His very best for you. If something is off ask Him now to pour out more grace, so you can make it right.

Posted in 2Chronicles, Revelation

Pray For America

“If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:14

God tells us here that the future of our nation lies in the hands of His people. Sometimes as Christians we think that worldly people are the reason our nation is going down hill. We think God’s eyes are on the sins of the world and that He is planning judgment on America because of it.

The truth is that God’s eyes are on His church. Yes, if the church does nothing then America will receive the judgment of God because of all its sins. But what if the people who are called by God’s own name (Christians) humble themselves before God and repent on behalf of the church and the country? What if we sincerely ask Him for a revival in our country and welcome Him to start with us? Could God give, in this critical hour, undeserved mercy instead of deserved judgment and save this nation? Absolutely.

So let’s purpose to repent:

  1. For the pride in our hearts and the pride of the church that has said in its heart, “I need nothing.” (Revelation 3:17) Let’s humble ourselves and acknowledge our desperate need for God personally and corporately.
  2. For the prayerlessness that has come out of our pride. Let’s start praying more often and for longer times. Let’s ask Jesus like His disciples did, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
  3. For seeking God’s hand (what He can do for us) instead of His face (who He is and what ways bring Him pleasure). We’ve often wanted to use God for our ends instead of submitting to God for His ends. Dear Lord, forgive us.
  4. For our wicked ways. Everything that we do that God has already said is wrong in His word: immorality, lying, stealing, contentiousness, selfish ambition, slandering fellow human beings, etc. Ask for forgiveness for these things and then purpose to stop doing them.

Now as you pray for America, believe that He wants to hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land.

Posted in 2Chronicles, Ezekiel

America: Judgment or Mercy?

The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 22:29-31

Because of failed leadership and a population that only sought its own interest, Israel was on the brink of judgment. Yet the wrath that eventually came on them was not only because of their sin; it came because God couldn’t find anyone to stand in the gap before Him. Even with Israel fully deserving wrath, God’s heart was still mercy, but He needed someone on earth to confess these sins; to agree with His right to judge; and then to ask for mercy instead. He actually searched for someone to do this for Him but couldn’t find anyone. What a tragedy!

America is in trouble today. We have many signs of present discipline and indications that things are going to get worse if something doesn’t change. Instead of trembling at His word we have often ignored it, and in some cases publicly contradicted it at the highest levels. Instead of caring for the poor, we have often made the rich, richer, and created a system where the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is ever increasing.

When a nation gets in danger of judgment God doesn’t look for the heathen to change things, He looks to His own people. We are the key! “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (2Chronicles 7:14) Lord, let there be a revival and let it start with me.

Posted in Genesis, Hebrews

Shake To Wake

“’Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…” Hebrews 12:26-28

Have you ever been driving along and before you know it you realize that drowsiness is beginning to overtake you? Immediately you become awake and fear grips you because of the possible consequences of falling asleep at the wheel. Not only would you and anyone in your car be at risk, but also innocent people in other cars who hadn’t fallen asleep. When I know I’m a bit sleep deprived on a long trip I make sure that I’ve got caffeine and somebody to talk to who keeps me properly alert.

God is shaking America right now. We have gone our own way and done our own thing, yet He is calling out to us. I don’t believe He is shaking us to punish us as much as He is shaking us to wake us up. Some people feel like God would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if He didn’t send His wrath on America. I disagree. Scripture is clear that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because of how evil the worldly people were, but because God couldn’t find a remnant of His people to preserve it. As Abraham sought God’s face for mercy, the Lord promised him that if He could find a remnant of just ten, He would spare the whole city. (Genesis 18:32)

Well God has a huge remnant in America; people that love God, serve God, and seek God day in and day out. His heart is for this remnant to wake up from the spiritual sleeping pills this culture has given us through compromise and idolatry. As Hebrews says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

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 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 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 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 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.