Just Stand

Bible - openedOn Wednesday, God made it very clear to me that for our (or any) church to be the church that God commissioned it to be, we were going to have to make the choice to stand. Now, I know that this seems like an obvious thing, but unfortunately it is something that is often lacking in churches and among God’s people these days.

In order to stand, we must consider three things:

  1. Who God really is. In other words, we must have a right vision of God. When Moses gained a right vision of God, he worshiped. When Isaiah gained a right vision of God, he repented. When Peter gained a right vision of God, he wept bitterly. When Paul gained a right vision of God, he said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” In every case a right vision of God led to a lifetime of faithful service to the God they knew.
  2. What we stand for. No one can be asked to stand, if they don’t know what it is that they stand for. We need to become students of the word. Not students so that we can be intellectually smart, but students who are also active disciples of the word. Knowing the word of God allows us access to his exceeding great and precious promises that allow us to be partakers of the divine nature. That is what the knowledge of God does for the genuine disciple of Christ.
  3. How we relate to those without. The word of God tells us clearly that we are to preach the word, stand against the wiles of the Devil, and to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered. While these things are true, the same word tells us to make sure that our “speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt” and that we speak “the truth in love.” How we present the message is critical as to how it is received and with what power the Spirit can drive it home!

As we seek the wisdom, power, and mercy to simply stand, God will bless and empower us to fulfill his will for our lives individually and collectively as the members of His New Testament Church.

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If My People – Summer Revival

Revival Logo - 2013On Sunday we are going to begin our first “Revival Meeting” since I became the Pastor at Crossroads. I am so excited that I can hardly wait for Sunday to get here!

The theme for the revival meeting this year is “If my people …” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The thought behind this theme is threefold:

  1. God, throughout Scripture makes his wisdom known to his people and then provides them with the choice to either follow him and his plan or reject his wisdom and live unto themselves.
  2. God the Spirit was given to the believer to guide us “into all truth …” (John 16:13). This said we have no excuse as to what God’s desire for we, his children.
  3. God has, in his sovereign plan, allowed for us to make the choice of yielding to his wisdom and guidance or to reject it and wander in the darkness of our own thinking. Thus the statement in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people …”

Genuine and lasting revival comes when God’s people hear the voice of God and respond in a humble yielding to his wisdom and guidance for our lives. To choose this life is to live in a perpetual state of revival.

Will you make that choice or will you choose darkness and human wisdom instead. The choice is yours!!

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Preparing for Revival

horsehead nebulaI am excited about what is being perceived throughout nearly all Christian circles these days as a need for revival among God’s people. For there to be genuine and lasting revival three things must happen:

  1. The movement of the Holy Spirit on the lives of God’s people. Without the work of the Spirit, anything claiming to be revival will be short lived and useless for eternity.
  2. The return of God to first place in each of our lives, not just for eternity but also in the day to day. It’s easy to speak of the God who blesses in eternity, but what about our every day?
  3. The return from the wilderness of those who have lived the life of the prodigal. So, many people have been saved over the years but for some reason have abandoned that faith. Genuine revival includes the return of these prodigals to the Father’s house!

In order for these three things to take place, God’s people are going to have to be prepared as individuals as well as collectively as churches. In order to be ready, we are going to need to understand five things:

  • Prayer is essential – Acts 1:12-14.
  • We need to consider our relationship with God rather than that of someone else – 2 Corinthians 10:12-18.
  • We need to be yielded to the power of the Spirit – John 16:7-15.
  • We need to approach this revival meeting as a unified body – 1 Corinthians 12:13-27.
  • We need to remember that being revived is a choice – Joshua 24:14-22.

Only when we seek the face of our God with our whole heart will we know true and lasting revival. Will you make yourself ready?

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Where is Your Hope Built?

I can easily close my eyes and envision churches all across the country yesterday morning singing the powereagleful hymn whose first line is, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness …” Yet, I can also picture that in every one of those congregations stood people singing away, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand” while they themselves are in fact living life on the sinking sand.

These folks are over-burdened by the struggles of life. Family issues abound, lives lived in the flesh rather than in the Spirit, children abandoning the faith, husbands and wives straining to maintain their relationships. Jobs, school, paying the bills, and the constant bombardment from Satan and his minions, all combine to make this “solid rock” thing seem like a fairytale rather than the life we have been given to live in Christ.

I had the privilege to preach last night from Psalm 27. A psalm in which David declares to God and those that would read later what he had written, that God was his light, his salvation and the strength of his life, and then asked the probing questions, “whom shall I fear?” and “of whom shall I be afraid?”

The answer to this one question (asked two ways) will declare the answer to the title of this post, “Where is your hope built?”

You see, the definition of both the words fear and afraid have two meanings: 1. to be afraid and 2. to be in awe, to reverence. So, if you cower when the enemy comes. If you look for a place to hid. If you surrender to the desires of the enemy to spare yourself from harm, your hope is not in Christ.

Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Paul tells Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;” (2 Timothy 1:7-8)

David said it this way in Psalm 27, ” When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident … For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.” (vs. 2-3, 5-6)

In stead of focusing on the burden, the problem, the enemy, or the darkness, David turned to the one in whom he should fear, the Lord who is his light, salvation and the strength of his life. David makes this most clear in verse four where he says, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I 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 enquire in his temple.”

No matter what the enemy threw at him, no matter the burden, no matter the cares of this life, David’s fear was in the Lord and his hope was built on his relationship with God. This is a powerful lesson today for all who will hear. I know that the cares of this life can be overwhelming and that struggle seems to be the way of it all, but David declared that even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death that he would fear no evil. The reason for his courage: “… for thou art with me …” It was then and is now the presence of the God of heaven (and our proper fear of him) that allows us to plow right on through, knowing that God is always good, and that he will always protect us in the way.

So, the question for you today is: “Where is your hope built?”

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On a Mission

Hayling Island Sunset - Edited by Peter Ribbeck
Photo credit: Daniel CJ Lee

Have you ever had something that just gnawed at you day and night and would not let you go no matter what? You know what I mean. That thought, that dream, that desire of spirit that controlled every waken moment and then took over even your dreams.

I am under the power of such a thought right now and I can’t get away from it. I fee like Peter when he said, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” I feel the same way Peter did and have no way out but to speak the things God has laid on my heart.

I believe this to be a mission from God. To help to open the eyes of God’s people (as he has opened mine) to the truth about the person of the Holy Spirit. So much has been said, so much has been written, so much has been wrongly attributed to the Holy Spirit, that for the most part people are numb to it all.

That said there are three basic truths we must all understand about the Holy Spirit of God:

1. He is the third person of the Godhead. This means that he IS God and should be loved, worshiped, and reverenced as such.

2. He is the earnest of the inheritance of all believers. He dwells in his fulness in all believers, fills those who are willing to empty themselves of sin and self, and guides his people into all truth.

3. His ministry in this life is to reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We are the vessels of that reproof. Only when the world sees people living life “in the Spirit” will they understand the truth of their own sinful condition and their need of the Saviour.

The Holy Spirit does not speak of himself, rather he points people to the Father through faith in the Son. This should be the action seen in all of us as we seek to live filled with the Spirit of Holy God. Will you take the stand necessary to join in this effort? As the young giant killer David once said, “Is there not a cause?”

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Walk in the Spirit

j0438373As I have often said, I am a simple thinker. To me God is not complicated nor is he looking for ways to confuse us as we live in this life and strive for masteries. God’s word boils the complexities of life down into simple thoughts that are easily understood.

Paul speaks of life in this way, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Jesus said it this way, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:31-35)

The problem with such simple truths is that, left to ourselves, these truths cannot be easily lived. Our sinful nature, at war with our spirit, creates conflicts that make these simple truths impossible to mastery in our own flesh. God knew this and so he provided each believer with the gift of his Spirit to make his “simple, easy.”

Galatians 5:16 “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” and in verse 25 we read, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Again, simple truths with powerful results. The phrasing of these statements tells the story when it comes to successfully implementing them. Both indicate a choice. Choice is the key. Everything God teaches us about the life we are supposed to live and the way to be successful requires us to make choices. The choice is to yield to the clear teaching of Scripture and be led in life by the Spirit or to wander through life trying to make the flesh conform to the desires of the Spirit in your own strength.

If God is true and every man a liar, the first choice works and the second does not!! So, like every time the Lord teaches us we are left to choose. Are you going to choose simple truth lived in the power of the Spirit or are you going to allow Satan, sin, and the flesh to confuse the issue and live a life struggling at best and defeated at worse?

The choice is yours!!

 

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Who or What Do You Love More?

English: The Lambs Lie Down Sheltering from th...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week I have been struck by the thought of the immensity of God’s love for his children. Yet in understanding that thought, I have been saddened by the lack of reciprocity I see among God’s children for all that God has done for them. (I include myself in that number more than I care to acknowledge!)

I am reminded of Jesus’ conversation with Peter where the Bible says, “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Now I know that there is pleasure in sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25) but I also know that Moses chose the reproach of God’s people over those pleasures for a season. You see, Moses understood that the love of God and its short and long term benefits were more important and more valuable than any momentary pleasure he could receive in this life. So he chose momentary reproach and God’s glory over the pleasures of sin for a season.

Real revival comes when we see the sinfulness of our lives and the drift away from God that it causes and then plead with God to return to that place of fellowship lost by the drifting of our lives. I think that it is time for God’s people to call out to him, receiving his loving forgiveness, and committing ourselves again to the life that he has for us.

Will you join me on this quest? A quest not powered by the will of man, but by the Spirit of Holy God? A quest to return to the Father’s house and to allow his wisdom to be our own? A quest to make the years remaining in our lives to be ones in which God is glorified above measure? Who/What do you love more?

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Presented to God

horsehead nebulaI have for a long time struggled (wait, I’m not supposed to admit that) with the immensity of God and the simplicity of his designs on us. It seems to me that a God whose greatness can only begin to be understood by the vastness of the universe, would say to us something as simple as, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Just come? With him I can find rest for my soul? WOW!!

Now I know what the Bible says about repentance and faith, about sin and salvation, but here Jesus himself just says “Come unto me ….” These words are spoken from the lips of the incarnation of God himself. The one whose whole purpose for taking on the cloak of flesh was to die for my sins so that I could come unto him. WOW!!

Then, once we have come, we are told something else extraordinarily simple, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” This equally amazing and consistently simple statement tells us how to live our new life in Jesus Christ.

The key to this thought is found in the phrase, “that ye present your bodies …” This phrase means, “to place a person or thing at one’s disposal.” In this verse (Romans 12:1) we see three things:

  1. This presentation is a sacrifice to the Lord who saved us. A sacrifice is something that is given to God as an act of worship and cannot, once given, be reclaimed by the giver.
  2. This presentation is to be done in a way that is holy, and acceptable to God. In other words, we do not get to decide how this is to be done or how it is to work. God sets both the standard and the direction of this sacrifice.
  3. This presentation is understood to be a reasonable action. When considering the blessing of salvation, the price God paid, and the power of the Spirit provided to each believer, it is only reasonable to think that they would place themselves at God’s disposal.

None of this whole “living your life for Christ” is at all complicated. It is however not easy. The complications come in when we seek the desires of our hearts ahead of the desires of God. If we would simply come unto him, take his yoke upon us, and place ourselves at God’s disposal, he (God) would empower us to live and grow for his honor and glory! There’s no better life than that!!

I am the Bread of Life!

Jesus
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Jesus uses the phrase “I am” seven times in the book of John to describe seven aspects of his person/character. In considering each thought separately, we find out some amazing things about the relationship Christ has with mankind. When we combine them together to see the whole nature of Christ’s relationship with mankind, we can be in no other condition but that of awe, wonder, and worship!

I am more amazed every day by the simplicity that is the true worship. Fellowship with God through Jesus Christ is not supposed to be a complicated event. In John 6, where he declares himself to be the bread of life, he was trying to get a group of Jews to understand that the work necessary to have a relationship/fellowship with God the Father was simply believe on him who was sent from the Father. Pretty simple stuff!!

Then Jesus went on to say three things about that relationship:

  1. Since he is the bread of life, those who come to him will never hunger!
  2. Since he is also the one who provides for the thirsty, those who come to him will never thirst!
  3. Since he is eternal in his nature and the scope of his work, those who come to him will never be cast out!

O, that we would be able to make such a simple explanation of the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. To cause his message to go forth with such simple clarity would make many who live in darkness comprehend the light. While we are not that bread, just as the disciples were commanded to feed the 5,000 so are we commanded to share the bread of life with those starving for the bread which is from heaven!!

If we simply believe and then live our lives in the midst of that belief, we will be able to bring the message of a risen Saviour to a sin ravaged world!!

 

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Seven Acts of God

LeafI had a great opportunity yesterday morning to be alone with my thoughts. During that time I was listening to music and asking God for direction for Sunday’s messages. As I worked/thought I listened to a song entitled, “It Was an Act of God” my focus/direction for this Sunday changed.

I think that we sometimes we spend so much time being religious that we forget what it means to know God and to surrender our lives to him. This song reminded me again that life and all that we have in it is no accident, rather it is an act of God!

As God began to draw my thoughts in this area, I realized that there were seven (at least) specific acts of God that give us both insight into the character of God and also into the great need of mankind to understand and walk in God’s ways!

  • Creation – (Psalm 8:3-9, Psalm 19:1-3, Romans 1:1-20) God’s holiness, majesty, and power are on display and those who reject it are without excuse.
  • Curse – (Genesis 3) God declares his righteous judgment and his serious view of sin. We also see that even in judgment is the love and mercy of God shown!
  • Condemnation – (Genesis 6-8, Matthew 24:37-39) We understand that there is an end to God’s patience with sinful man.
  • Calling – (Genesis 12:1-5) Even among the sinful there are those who will follow.
  • Chastisement – (Numbers 14:1-45 [26-35], Numbers 15:1-4) Once among the called, God is ever the teacher of righteousness and true holiness.
  • Christ’s Birth – (Luke 2:1-20, John 1:20-36) This is where the greatness of holy God intersects the neediness of sinful man!
  • Coming of Christ – (Romans 15:51-58; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12) Are you ready if it where today?

These seven “actions” of God declare his Majesty, his Holiness, his Wisdom, his Power, his Love, his Mercy, and his Grace.

  • He is God and there are no accidents.
  • He knows you and has planned great things for your life.
  • He requires your faith-filled surrender to make those things real.

Are you willing to respond to God’s Seven Acts in your life?