Monday, August 13, 2018

I Can Hope, Can't I

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13) Much time has been spent on understanding faith and love, but Paul shows us that hope is also valid and necessary in the believers life. Paul tells us to "abide" in these three, which means to remain and or continue in. In this verse it denotes remaining in a place or in a state or condition of not changing. In other words, when the other things pass away, such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, (1 Corinthians 13:8), the sense here is that faith, hope, and love will always remain and of course the greatest and most important of these three is love.

Looking deeper at this verse, notice that faith and hope are quite distinct. Faith is the substance, here and now in your heart, of things that you are hoping for in the future. It is a sure persuasion and non-negotiable conviction concerning the reality of things not seen, which things are what God says in His Word. The Apostle Paul tells us, "But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) We see that faith and hope are located in different areas. The breastplate, being in the realm of the heart, reveals faith is from the heart, whereas, the helmet the hope, covers the head, shows us that hope is of the mind.

With that said, it is crucial for us to understand the difference between faith and hope, knowing that hope is important to round out the Christian life. Again, the difference between faith and hope is, faith is something that you have right now and hope is directed toward the future. Faith is being fully convinced "now" of the Truth, God's Word, while hope is the confident mental expectation of something good in the "future." This is why the position for the believer is to "guard our heart and mind." Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45) The Apostle Paul tells us, " renewed in the spirit of your mind." (Ephesians 4:23)  Therefore, believers are to have hope in their mind for the future, and faith in their heart in the integrity of God's Word for the here and now.

Looking closer at faith and hope, we also see a spiritual connection between these two spiritual realities. The Apostle Paul reveals the connection through the life of Abraham, "Who, (Abraham) contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, so shall your descendants be." (Romans 4:18) Abraham believed, and, as a result, he hoped. Notice that believing, that is, faith, came first, and hoping, or hope, was the product, or the outcome of what he believed. We see this as revealed by the writer of Hebrews, "Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]." (Hebrews 11:1 AMPC)

We can say that faith is the full assurance on which hope is supported and therefore, faith, produces
hope. Again, faith is in the heart, while hope is in the mind. Faith is in the now, while hope is for the future. Both are essential, but we must have them in the right place and in the right relationship. Next, notice, "
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13) God is not only the God of power, of righteousness, grace, promises, blessings, etc., but also, the God who inspires or produces hope in the believer through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul reveal a sobering verse of scripture concerning hope and the unsaved, "that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12)

This verse show us that the unsaved are without three things; without Christ, without hope, and without God the Father. When you are without hope, you are without Christ and without God the Father. It is very sad when we consider this, especially when considering people who we know, who are not born again. However, on the other side of the coin, "the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27) We see here that the gospel centers on this great and wonderful revelation that was kept secret from ages past, but is now revealed to believers, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. When we were lost, we were without Christ, and without hope. But when we have Christ in us, we have the hope of glory, that is, hope for the future as well as hope of eternal life.

The one who has Christ in him/her has hope for a glorious, radiant, confident expectation of eternal glory with almighty God, the holy angels, and the redeemed of all ages. That is what a person has when they have Christ. So, yes, hope has and important part to play in the believers life, but let us not confuse it with faith. Finally, although there is much to say about love, I leave you with this, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

It Is Settled

Although faith is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life, I have found that it is one of the least taught subjects in most church circles. The word faith appears in the King James Version of the Bible 243 times; two times in the Old Testament; 241 times in the New Testament; with 29 times in the Gospels; and 210 times after the Day of Pentecost. We would think that it is a very important word that should be investigated, taught and understood. In fact, one is not born again without it, "For by grace you have been saved through faith..." (Ephesians 2:8). Because faith is absolutely essential to the believer, I would like to focus on four basic truths about the nature of faith.

We begin by looking at a phrase used four times in the Bible, "The just shall live by faith."   (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) First of all, faith is individual. The righteous person lives by his/her own faith. They do not live by the faith of someone else, but must live by their own faith. This is the responsibility of every believer. Although God will honor the faith of another believer praying for you as a temporary substitute, He expects everyone of His children to acquire and live by their own, personal faith.

Second, we need to discover how all inclusive the statement, "The just shall live by his faith" truly is. Living includes everything about us, such as, breathing, thinking, eating, talking, walking, working, praying, everything. However, for the believer, faith is the only acceptable basis to God for any kind of activity. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "...for whatever is not from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) This includes all activities, not simply religious ones. The Holy Spirit through the writer of Hebrews tells us, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) All the works that believers can do, if it is without faith, it is simply that, works, and it will not please God.

Third, we need to see that the life of faith is progressive. It is not static, it is not to ever plateau, nor is it some condition that believers can take or leave. Misunderstanding this aspect of faith is the greatest snare of the majority of Christians. Many believers often feel they can come to a place where they are able to say, in a sense, "this is it, I really do not need to go or grow any more in faith." This is what is referred to as, cruse control Christianity. It is the place where believers see no need to have greater faith, because they feel as though they have acquired enough. Yet this is not what the Bible teaches. Like natural life, maturing from infant to adult, the spiritual life or the life of faith is also something that is progressive, it never stands still. The writer of Hebrews reproves believers for staying in an infantile state, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Hebrews 5:12)    

Although in the natural, people do have an element of faith, however, it is not the faith that is required to receive salvation and live in the power of God. The natural kind of faith is solely based upon what the five senses, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, can understand and assimilate in the mind. However, if one of these senses is removed or severely altered, it becomes a difficult task at best to understand and live, because this kind of faith relies on physical evidence alone. Natural faith gives birth to many achievements in the natural, but is a poor substitute for true faith, that is revelation faith. This brings us to point number four. 

The fourth thing we need to see about faith is that it is based solely and exclusively on the Bible, the Word of God, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) Faith comes by hearing the Word, understanding the Word and having the Word become a part of us. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle James tells us, "...receive with meekness (humility) the implanted (grafted in) word, which is able to save your souls (mind, will and emotions)." (James 1:21) Faith also comes by knowing that God's Word, like He Himself, does not change, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89) "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8), because He and His Word are One, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." (1 John 5:7) 

Observing these four things should bring us to understand that our faith is not based on circumstances, emotions, or symptoms. It must be based simply and solely on the Word of God apprehended without the five senses and then acted upon. "Nay, some one will say, "You have faith, I have actions: prove to me your faith apart from corresponding actions and I will prove mine to you by my actions." (James 2:18 WEY) As we see, saying I have faith without corresponding actions is not the kind of faith that pleases God. Faith then is the result of God's Word, not simply committed to memory, but dwelling in us, lived and practiced. As we think deeply in it and feed on it, it becomes a very part of ourselves, building in us confidence and assurance knowing, "...that what God had (has) promised He was (is) also able to perform." (Romans 4:21)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Bearing Fruit

The born again nature does not need to strive to produce righteousness. All it has to do is be or stay united with Christ. So, the Christian life is to be a life of yielding, not struggling; union, not effort. Jesus reveals a beautiful analogy during His final instruction to the disciple before His returned to the Father, He says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." (John 15:1) He tells us that He Himself is the true vine. The word "true," here, is used in the sense of real, genuine. From Him, as with a natural vine, comes all the proper nourishment to all the branches, whether large or small. Therefore, Jesus is the real, genuine source of all strength, ability and grace to all, especially believers. 

Next, He tells us, "My Father is the vinedresser." The vinedresser is the one who has the care of a vineyard. Taking care of the vineyard entails nurturing, trimming, and protecting the vines to insure their proper growth and welfare. In this analogy, we see that the Father gave, or appointed his Son Jesus, to be, the one and only source of all blessings to man and for believers, those who are united to Him by faith, He gives the ability to bear much fruit. Jesus goes on to say, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:2-5)

Branches are the fruit-bearing part that need very careful pruning. If the branches are not pruned, and are not pruned at the right time and in the right way, they will cease to bring forth fruit. The same life that is in the vine flows through the branches and the life in the branches brings forth the appropriate kind of fruit. Jesus also gave us a warning that is very important. He tells us that we have to expect to be pruned. With that, let's look at some real life scenarios in the lives of believers. Some believers have problems because they are not bearing fruit. They struggle with situations that are the results of their bad decisions and or actions. On the other hand, other believers experience problems because they are bearing fruit. The reality is, those believers who are experiencing problems while bearing fruit are simply being pruned. If you have ever seen a vine pruned, the process seems almost ruthless. The branches are cut back so far, you would think the vine would not be able to produce branches that would ever bear fruit again. But the next year there is more fruit than the year before. 

Another notable thing that we see in this analogy, is the work of the entire Godhead. We see that the Father is the vinedresser, Jesus is the vine, but also the Holy Spirit as the One that flows through the vine and into the branches. The life of the Spirit flowing through the vine into the branches is what brings forth fruit. Keep in mind that this is not the fruit of our best efforts, nor the fruit of religion, but the fruit of the Spirit. When the Father is pruning us, we must not give up in the midst of the process, but remember our oneness with the vine, Jesus; the purpose of the Father's pruning, to bear more fruit; and the work of the Holy Spirit, feeding the branch with the nutrients to bear more fruit. This process comes by us recognizing that we must abide in, that is, remain united to Jesus by faith and live our Christian life completely dependent on Him. 

In every area of the Christian life we are not to rely on our natural ability of doing what God requires. Let's be honest, most believers live according to the natural realm trying to do things on their own, yet, Jesus tells us, "for without Me you can do nothing." He tells us this because He is "the (only) way, the (only) truth and the (only) life." (John 14:6) So, let us come to the place in our lives (if we are not there yet) to, "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 AMPC), or as Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (John 15:7-8) Amen...

Monday, July 23, 2018

What a Character

The exact etymology of the word character is uncertain. However, leading linguists consider the word to be most probably from Greek. The Latin "ch" spelling of the word was added in the 1500s. Character is defined as, the sum of qualities or habits that define a person or thing and distinguish it from another; the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. A habit is defined as, a settled or regular tendency or practice that influences one decisions. Therefore, we can say that a persons character, is the sum total of their habits, and their habits are produced by the sum total of their decisions.

Thinking about it from this perspective, every time you make a right decision, you are strengthening a right habit. Every time you strengthen a right habit, you are building a right character. However, on the other hand, every time you make a wrong decision, you are building a wrong habit, and out of that wrong habit, you are building a wrong character. Therefore, in order to build good habits you must make good decision. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:12-13) 

So, every time you make a decision to do the wrong thing, you become more and more a debtor, a slave, to the flesh, but every time you make a decision to do the right thing, you become more and more the slave of righteousness. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17-18) Paul goes on in Romans 8, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Romans 8:14) In order to become a child of God, you must be born again. (John 1:12) To receive the power to be an effective witness, you must be baptized in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) But to live as a son (child) of God, you must be daily led by the Holy Spirit.

Some teach that you have to be super-spiritual first, or reach a level of sinless perfection and then you will emerge as a son of God. But this idea is in direct conflict with what we saw in Romans 8:14, which says all who are led (regularly) by the Holy Spirit are the sons of God. A level of maturity is implied. Oft times many people have the attitude, "When I'm perfect, the Holy Spirit will come in." That essentially used to be a teaching in certain Christian circles. That would be like attending a university and the professors coming in and saying, "When you graduate, we will start to teach you." The fact is, when you graduate, you do not need the professors, but you do need them to graduate. So, when do you need the Holy Spirit? Right now, in order to become mature. The Holy Spirit does not come to you because you are perfect. He comes to you because you have confessed Christ, He is a gift from God and the reality is, we need Him.

Jesus said it this way, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you...I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He [c]will take of Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:7, 12-15) In other words, Jesus is saying, "As long as I am here, the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Comforter will not come. But if I leave, I will be free to send Him to you. You will be better off with Me in heaven and the Holy Spirit on earth. I have completed all I can do. When the Holy Spirit comes, He will finish the job that I have started and will do it through you and all who believe." 

Not only does the Holy Spirit work through believers to continue the supernatural ministry of Jesus on earth (see Mark 16:17-18; John 14:12), but He is also the One who builds the character of Christ in us. "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 by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) The Father's desire is to build the very likeness of Jesus in us, which transforms our character.  

The transforming work of the Holy Spirit naturally begins in the inner person, "Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16) Some of the things the Holy Spirit does in us are; He enables us to grow in our knowledge of God. (Ephesians 1:17-18) He brings about changes in our wills, emotions, attitudes and perspectives, which also builds Godly character. (Matthew 5 - 7) He develops within us the fruit of the Spirit. 
(Galatians 5:22-23) He empowers us to live through faith being bold witnesses for Him. (Acts 1:8) He also provides both the ability and desire to successfully do what the Lord calls us to do (Philippians 2:13). 

If you are struggling with your walk with Christ in the area of your character being transformed into the image of Christ, Jesus gives us a beautiful invitation, followed by a tremendous challenge, in regard to yielding to Him, the Holy Spirit and being transformed, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) This passage suggests a process by which we yield to the Lord and learn His ways. First, we lay down our heavy burdens and have rest. We must become disciples by taking Christ's yoke and learning from Him. Next, we  follow Jesus' example of being gentle and lowly in heart, because God teaches the gentle and lowly but resists the proud. (James 4:6)  Simply put, let go of you, take hold of Jesus and live in the fullness of the redemption that He has freely provided. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all...

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's Your Decision

Without a doubt, the Book of Romans is the greatest legal document ever given to man. Not only does it reveal the condition of every person who does not know God, but it also gives a clear, concise description of the legal and vital position of everyone who confesses the Lordship of Jesus Christ and receives Him as Savior. However, once confession is made unto salvation, every person becomes responsible to act in faith and receive all that God has provided through Jesus Christ. In other words,  understanding the difference between living by law and living by grace. The reality is, many people who have been filled with the Holy Spirit, and who say that the Holy Spirit dwells in them, do not actually live in the Spirit, but live according to the flesh much of the time.

We need to see that on the cross, Jesus, by the Father's will, made Himself one with man's fallen, satanic nature, and through His death as man's substitute, had in fact executed man's fallen nature. God never had, nor does He have, any plan for the rehabilitation of man's fallen nature. In every sense of the word, God's plan for man's old fallen nature is execution. He can do nothing with man's old nature except to kill it. Therefore, our rebellious, fallen, satanic nature was executed when Christ died on the cross so that it should no longer have the power to dominate and control us.

God forgives our past sinful acts when we come to Him in Christ, but this is only the beginning. He deals with the old nature, and He brings forth a new nature in its place, which is called the new creation,  (2 Corinthians 5:17), the new man. (Ephesians 4:20-24) This is actually the nature of Jesus Christ reproduced in us by faith through the Word of God. (James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23) The agent who produces the new birth is the Holy Spirit, who also transforms the believer into the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2)

The Apostle Paul assumed that everyone born again is living in the grace of God, and is dead to sin, so he is saying, "If you continue to live in sin, you are contradicting yourself. If you are dead to sin, you shouldn't talk about living in sin." Paul continues, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:3-7)

Our old man was crucified with Christ! The tense here signifies that this is an actual historical event that took place in the past. When Jesus died on the cross, our old man died in Him. It happened nearly twenty centuries ago. Why was this done?  "...that the body of sin might be done away with..." not renovated, not fixed up, but done away with, rendered ineffective, no longer able to control and dominate us, "...that we should no longer be slaves of sin." PTL!!! Next, Paul tells us, "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Romans 6:11-13)

Now it becomes the believers responsibility to accept by faith and act upon these wonderful liberating Words. You must refuse to accept the dominion of sin over you and the members of your physical body, but instead yield yourself, your soul (mind, will and emotions) and your body to the Holy Spirit. Although not the conclusion of the whole matter, Paul tells us, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:14) Do you believe that? If you do not believe it, you will not experience it. If you believe that you are going to continue sinning, you will continue sinning. However, if you do believe that, then you understand the last part of this verse, "...for you are not under law but under grace." Knowing this to be true, you will indeed walk in the Spirit, be led by the Spirit not fulfilling the works of the flesh.  

Every believer must come to the place of a firm personal decision to no longer give into the flesh, but yield to the Holy Spirit, to be led by Him. He is the way of escape from continuing in the slavery of sin. Consider this; what good is it to have your past sinful nature and acts forgiven, if you are still controlled by the old fallen, satanic nature? The Holy Spirit will help every believer if you set your will to yielding to Him. He will not force you, it's your decision. Think about this way, every time you make a decision to do the wrong thing, you become more and more the slave of sin, but, every time you make a decision to do the right thing, you become more and more the slave of righteousness and live in the freedom that the Father has provided humanity through Jesus Christ. 

Finally, God made a proposal to Israel which I believe applies today for all believers, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days..." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) Jesus said it this way, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you...

Monday, July 9, 2018

How is the Atmosphere

For our uses of the word, the word "atmosphere" is define as, the pervading tone or mood of a place or situation; the dominant mood or emotional tone.What is the atmosphere of your time in the worship of the Lord? Let's look at some things to challenge us in creating and atmosphere in our services for the Lords presence to be in our midst. True worship reveals the existence of God, that is, no one can know or experience genuine worship apart from the one true God because He alone can reveal it to us. True worship is beyond the realm of natural knowledge. Whenever true worship occurs, God will manifest Himself to us. Therefore, true worship reveals the living God; it testifies of
His existence. The Psalmist says it this way, "The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory." (Psalm 97:6)

Another aspect is, true worship focuses on God, not self. Sadly, in many Christian circles today, genuine worship has been replaced with songs with lyrics such as, touch me; bless me; heal me; deliver me, which do not exalt the Lord and His majesty. Songs like these are out of purpose and focus. Some people create these songs so their music can be commercialized, but they don't realize that, in doing so, they are setting God aside and turning the needs of people into an idol. Now I know this may offend some, but true worship is about God alone, what He has done; who He is. If we truly know God's Word and exercised faith, believers would know that He already has and continues to, touch us, bless us, heal us, delivers us. We simply appropriate these things by grace through faith, that is, believing that what God said was, is and will be, period!

True worship brings the presence of God. The primary purpose of worship is to bring the presence of
God in the midst of His people. If the worship leader and or worship team or band (whatever term you use to describe the singers and musicians) loses this objective, we can expect nice songs, nice music and a switch of focus from God, to self. This type of situation will prevent believers from experiencing God's presence, which should be the only thing that we should desire in our corporate worship times. This is why I firmly believe that our purpose in worship is to create an atmosphere that invites God's presence to descend. Only in His presence will we be transformed so that we can take the same power of transformation to others.

True worship exalts the name of Jesus and the Word of God. Today, many worship songs used in churches or played in various Christian circles lack power because they are not based on the Word of God. We must write scriptural songs that exalt and magnify the Lord. Songs that truly minister as to what God has done and who God is. Many of David's psalms are such. Therefore, true worship is also based on the Word of God and flows from an understanding, a revelation, of His Word.

True worship transforms the believer. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "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 by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18) Although this does not specifically refer to worship, nevertheless, the Lord wants to transform us into His image. Pressing into His presence in worship is one of the ways He can do this. As believers, we do not just worship at a church service. Worship is a lifestyle. As we die to self and offer God love, reverence, and honor, we will experience transformation.

True worship creates intimacy with God. This leads us to our final and perhaps greatest revelation
of worship. Jesus tells us, "I am the vine, you are the branches...." (John 15:5) In this perfect oneness with the Lord we become one with His heart, His plans, His sufferings, His vision, His struggle, and His victory. This is why worship cannot be quick or mechanical. When God's presence does not manifest, it is usually because we have not created an atmosphere where He is welcomed, honored, adored and exalted. The Psalmist tells us,  "But You are holy, enthroned (Inhabits) in the praises of Israel" (His people). (Psalm 22:3) Inhabits is defined as, to dwell; to remain; to sit; to abide. The word enthroned is define as, to exalt to an elevated place or seat.

When we enter into true worship, the Lord touches us, He will dwell with us; He remains with us; as we worship and exalt Him to an elevated place or seat. Through true worship, His presence will
manifest among us, but how can we expect His presence to manifest when we offer Him something mechanical, that is, simply going through the motions of worship or singing self focused songs? I believe the day is coming and in some places is here when worship will not be merely a service
starter in our churches but the most important part of the service because it is what brings God's presence. If we want to live in His presence, we will always have a new song in the spirit playing inside of us. Corporate worship in churches will also become the longest part of the service because the people will enter into His presence and stay there. God will speak to His people, to each person, as a son or daughter. Then the transformations of the heart will accelerate, and, among other things, it will not take years for believers to develop spiritual maturity.

I believe we will see unusual miracles, signs, wonders, and transformations that have never before been seen as the presence of God, in an atmosphere created by praise and worship, through believers who will not settle for less than His presence in their midst. God is ready and anxious to manifest Himself, and all He needs is for us to build the throne. We must give God and His worship top priority. We must take all the time we need to worship Him until His presence manifests, regardless of how long it takes. For many today, it will take the putting away of our agenda's; the turning away from religion; putting a stop to church as usual; and mostly, the dying of self. So, let us pull out the stops, the inhibitions, the limitations, and church as usual mindset and let us create an atmosphere of true worship where God can arise in the midst of His people.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Praying Through

The most incredible and most moving prayer spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane. After celebrating the Passover, Jesus and His disciples, minus Judas Iscariot, sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30) Jesus' earthly ministry as the Son of Man is winding down. He knew why He had come from God and He knows what is about to happen. He takes His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, which He did often. He then takes Peter, John and James a little further into the garden to pray and says to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." (Matthew 26:38) Jesus then leaves Peter, John and James, goes a little farther into the garden, falls on His face and begins to pray. These men have seen Jesus pray many times but something was different. They must have noticed the sorrow and distress that was upon Him. What they didn’t know, was Jesus was facing the fact that He would soon be made sin. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Next, "Jesus came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?  Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:40-41)  He warns them to watch, literally, to abstain from sleep; to be vigilant, to guard against danger, and pray that they do not enter into temptation. He knew the danger that was coming and how the flesh might possibly give in to temptation. He knew that He was about to take the place of every human being and endure the punishment that was required to meet man’s greatest need, redemption.

In the incarnation, deity and humanity coming together, Jesus was not mortal or immortal, but a perfect human being as Adam was before the fall. However, as man’s substitute, He would become mortal the moment sin was placed upon Him in the same way that Adam became mortal when he sinned. Jesus knew that the moment He would be made sin, He would experience what Adam experience when he himself sinned. He would spiritually die, be forsaken by the Father and then physically die. He knew that as Adam’s sin made him subject to Satan, it would be the same for Him. He knew that He would suffer in hell until the entire debt that humanity owed justice was paid in full.

Some may have trouble comprehending these things, but they are facts, "And they made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand." (Isaiah 53:9-10) The word death is plural in the original Hebrew and like Adam, Jesus died twice, spiritually and physically. Isaiah also tells us, "He has put Him to grief…" The word grief here means, to make sick, to be diseased, to afflict. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.)" (Galatians 3:13) We see that Jesus was made sin with our sin, was made sick with our sicknesses and a curse.

This should gives us a greater understanding as to what Jesus was going through in the Garden. "Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:43-44)  He alone must pay the penalty for humanity or humanity would be eternally lost. Did you ever notice that angels never came and ministered to Him while He was on the cross. I believe there was more spiritual agony here, than there was on the cross. Three times He prayed a prayer of dedication and consecration, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:42) A more literal rendering would be, “If it be possible, take this cup from Me, not my will, but yours be carried through to completion and save humanity.”

After Jesus finishes praying, "He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand." (Matthew 26:45-46) As Jesus emerged from prayer He had already won the the first part of the battle. He was no longer in sorrow and distress, but He was the Conqueror. He was ready for the trial; He was ready for the scourging; He was ready for the cross; He was ready to conquer sin and death; He was ready to redeem humanity from the hands of the enemy; He was ready to destroy sin, disease, poverty and everything that was set against humanity by Satan all due to Adam's transgression. Jesus emerged from prayer as the righteous, conquering King of kings and Lord of lords.

The apostle Paul tells us, "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37) As conquerors our prayer is to be one that is rooted in the Word of God. It is based on the believer knowing that their faith in Christ has already given them the victory over the circumstances that life may bring. It is one that is conceived within the believer that gives them the confidence that in Christ they are independent of their circumstances and, in a personal sense, "can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) It is the assured confidence that God is able to do what He said He would do. (Numbers 23:19) So, let us pray like Jesus our Conqueror, especially when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable circumstance, knowing that we can, "Cast the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully." (1 Peter 5:7)