Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Weakness Of A Cross - Driven Life

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26 -31 NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.( John 15:15 NIV)
Real, Holy Spirit, Christian power is found and experienced in weakness. Followers of Jesus are called to embrace the weakness that he himself walked in while on the earth. While the world values charismatic personalities, money and prestige, God values humility. Charismatic personalities and materialism can actually be a hindrance to real spiritual power in the Church. God doesn’t use many of the rich and powerful of this world. He is most glorified when he takes the lowly, and uses them as his instruments of salvation, and to bring healing to the broken. The power to restore humanity can only be found in embracing the One who died in weakness, but was raised in power. And we can partake of that power.
To follow Jesus is to embrace a life of humility. Jesus did not come to start a political movement or to use an army to advance his kingdom. Christians should influence governments and society in a positive way, but real change in behavior can only come from changed hearts. And hearts are changed by believing the gospel and following Jesus. While earthly rulers stay in power by using military force. Jesus depended on his Father, and was empowered by the Spirit, to fulfill his calling and ministry. As followers of “the Jesus way” we aren’t called to die for the sins of the world, but we are called to embrace the cross, and die to our own selfish way of life. This cross driven life helps others to see Jesus in us, and to bring others into his Kingdom. This is a life that has been filled by the Holy Spirit, and outwardly appears foolish to those who are perishing.
We must die to our selfish way of life to experience true power. The power that comes from above, is demonstrated by our love of God and neighbor. The power that comes from below is earthly natural and demonic and is built on pride and self-centeredness. The Holy Spirit enables us to reject illegitimate sinful ways of living, so that we can testify to the overcoming power of the living God. We can only overcome our sinful tendencies and do the work of God by acknowledging our total inability, and lack of power within ourselves. When sinful hindrances are removed, we can be used more effectively by God. Our appetite for sin decreases as we experience the unhindered presence of the Spirit, in our lives. When we fall short of God’s best for us (and we do) we confess and turn from our sins, and pursue Christ as our supreme treasure. A cross empower life is the key to the transformative power of God.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Walking In The Way Of Jesus: Habits Of The Heart

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work,  to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.  For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. (Titus 3 :1-3 ESV)
“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” (1) – Abraham Kyper
As disciples of Jesus we are called to walk in the way of “non-violent resistance.”   I’m not talking about issues such as, fighting in a just war, or defending your family during a home invasion from criminals. I’m referring to how we relate to the Church, and surrounding culture, as non-violent people of peace who are called to be change agents in the earth. Walking in  “the Jesus way” is to make peace as much as we possibly can. We are to seek unity, racial reconciliation in the Church, and to be ambassadors of peace, and justice in society. In short we bring the gospel of the Kingdom into the world.
The Church must be careful to follow the tactics of Jesus, and not Satan’s. Christians can easily be influenced by the powers of darkness, if we’re not operating in love, and discernment. We can easily fall into that trap of carnal, or worldly techniques to bring about political change, and racial reconciliation. When we do this, we are being influenced by evil powers, as opposed to the power of God. To walk out the Kingdom of God in our culture, we must develop new, “habits of the heart: patience, humility , honesty and recollection.”(2)  Satan’s way is to bring change through strong armed, and hate filled rhetoric, and actions. He is the master of division,  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
There is no place for racism or division in the Kingdom of God. All ethnic groups are one in Christ, we all have this in common, for he is the cornerstone of our faith. Nor is there a place for political infighting.  We are called as those who have been redeemed by Christ, and reconciled to God, to be ministers of reconciliation in the Church, and in all spheres of society. Truth is found in Christ, and we must never compromise it for the sake of false peace. Jesus’ words (truth) are divisive and his claims of divinity are exclusive.  Followers of Jesus must never, “keep the peace at the cost of truth.”(3)  Jesus was the most compassionate man on earth, and he spoke the truth in love. The truth is divisive enough without our trying to force it on others in our own strength. When we speak the truth, and live the truth, the Holy Spirit will bear witness to those whose hearts are open. To others we will be seen as hateful.
Source: All quotes above are from, The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The Lamb,  by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel. I would encourage everyone to buy and read this excellent book.
  1. Abraham Kyper, Page 208.
  2. Page 206.
  3. Page 208

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Supernatural Power Of The Holy Spirit

The Western church is presently in a crisis. Many of our church leaders have been so saturated with an anti-supernatural worldview that they seem afraid of the present day work of the Holy Spirit. This type of unbelief has been fueled by the Enlightenment and excesses in the Charismatic/ Pentecostal movements. We Evangelicals in the Western world need a fresh encounter with the God who inspired the Bible we cherish so much. The naturalistic or strictly scientific worldview that many in the west have embraced is dying. We are all spiritual beings, so we can never ultimately be satisfied with a natural explanation of the meaning of life. If the Church doesn’t step up and help spiritually hungry people, the Neural Buddhist/New Age types will seek to fill the void, according to Dr. Gary Habermas. Neural Buddhism is a mixture of science and Buddhism.
Dr. Craig Keener makes an excellent point in his commentary on Romans, “Western Christendom today has imbibed the radical Enlightenment’s skepticism of the supernatural, suspicious of miracles and other divine interventions. For Paul, however, the genuine Christian life is “supernatural” (i.e. , divinely empowered) from start to finish, a life by God’s own Spirit. Apart from acknowledging and embracing the Spirit, the best imitations of Pauline religion are  just “flesh.”
But suddenly, ‘after four months the anointing came.  It came upon me as I was walking in the streets of New York.’  The Holy Spirit came upon Moody in great force while he was walking down Wall Street.  All of a sudden nothing was important except to be alone with the Lord.  He went as fast as he could to the residence of a New York friend and asked for a room to pray in.
‘Ah, what a day!  I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name.  Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years.  I can only say God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand.’” Lyle W. Dorsett, A Passion For Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody (Chicago, 1997), page 156.
Some popular Bible teachers still refuse to acknowledge the fact that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operative today. And the fact that people are still  experiencing healings, and real power encounters with the Holy Spirit. Some of these teachers accuse Charismatics/Pentecostals of basing their doctrine of The Holy Spirit on personal experiences. But, they ignore sound biblical exegesis, and base their on views on their lack of  experiences with the Spirit. As always the Scripture should be our final authority, not our experiences, or lack of them.  While it’s well documented that miracles are on the increase in South America, Asia and Africa. It is also important to know that they have occurred  throughout Church History, not just in the book of Acts. The  quotes below came from Craig S Keener’s excellent and scholarly book, Miracles.
“A miracle that happened at Milan while I was there, when a blind man had his sight restored, succeeded, in becoming more widely known because Milan is an important city….In contrast with this, there are surely only a very few at Carthage who know about the healing of Innocentius, sometime counselor of the vice-prefecture. But I was present as an eyewitness.” – Augustine of Hippo
“I have been concerned that such accounts should be published because I saw that signs of divine power like those of older days were frequently occurring in modern times too…It is not yet two years since the shrine we have been speaking of was established at Hippo and, to my certain knowledge, many miracles have occurred there which are not recorded in the published documents; and nearly seventy of these documents have been produced, at the time of writing.” – Augustine of Hippo
Keener writes, “Augustine’s many examples of miracles of which he was certain include dramatic cases like healing of long-term paralytics; he freely cites eyewitnesses. Sometimes he expresses his annoyance when someone healed had not yet publicly given testimony to what God had done, because they were acting as if the healing were only for their private edification and not also for God’s glory. He recounts a less dramatic recovery of his own that he regards as miraculous. He reports his own suffering for several days from tooth pain so severe (perhaps due to abscess, in the days before root canals) that eventually he could not speak. No sooner had his friends prayed for him than it vanished (Confessions. 9.4.12).” Craig Keener, Miracles, page 359,365, Volume 1.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Daily Rhythms

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
“God has designed a way of renewing the mind to transform ours heart and our character” – John Piper

(Transformed) “That word is used one time in all the gospels, namely, about Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration (the mountain of “transformation” — same word, metemorphōthē): “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:2Mark 9:2). (1)
(rhythm – a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.)

God has made a way through Jesus to enter his presence, so that we can worship him unhindered, and be changed by his power. Our minds are the daily target of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Giving into negative thinking that’s not informed by Gods’ word, is destructive to our souls. Departing from the path that God has for us to renew our minds, disturbs the rhythm, and design he has for our lives. We must practice the presence of God by coming to him daily. Idolatry is placing anything in the path between us and God. Minds that have not been renewed will focus on worldly success, and mind numbing entertainment. And slip into patterns of carnal thinking.
Life is about rhythms: The Sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. The tide goes in and out. The planets revolve around the sun and seasons come and go. So it is vitally important to establish a daily rhythm in our prayer lives – just like going to sleep at night, and waking up each morning. I find it helpful to start the day and end it in prayer. I’m not great at this, and some days are easier than others, but the bottom line for me is: Will I allow idols that compete for my affection for God everyday, cause a disruption in my time with him?
We must guard ourselves from those things that seek to displace Jesus from the throne of our hearts and this can only be accomplished by the renewing of our minds, daily.
(1) John Piper, The Renewed Mind and How To Have It. Sermon, August 15, 2004.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Well Ordered Spiritual Life

“But reject those myths  fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness.  For “physical exercise   has some value  but godliness is valuable in every wayIt holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NET Bible)  

 Spiritual growth in the Christian life never comes through passivity. It involves persistent effort. Grace empowered effort. Some would call those that seek to have a daily routine or ordered spiritual life, legalistic. And we must be careful not to allow legalism into our devotional lives before God. But, if we are to escape the snares of mass market religion, and  distractions in our lives, we need a plan. “God is not the author of confusion” so taking steps to guard our hearts from the pressure of our daily lives is helpful.  A well ordered spiritual life is a means by which 
God chooses to bless you. A spiritually disciplined person plans spiritual activities. It’s an intentional life that includes  times set apart during each day for just seeking  God. And secret acts of service and giving from time to time.
We often need to be reminded that we should expect to experience God in our ordinary and daily mundane lives. This kind of life is also open to those “burning bush” extraordinary experiences of the Holy Spirit. All of life is holy to the spiritual person.  A spiritually disciplined life is a life of freedom. Holy habits can be developed through daily prayer, Bible reading, and times of solitude, and silence. These habits in and of themselves cannot form us in a holy way, but they open us up to the One who can. Scheduling these times for our mornings and evenings, creates a holy rhythm  in our lives.
Our desire should be to see Christ fully formed in ourselves, and our spiritual community for more effective ministry. This happens as we embrace and engage in these holy habits, and allow the Spirit to fill us. Growth comes from a consistent walk of obedience. The goal of this kind of life is not mystical experiences. Even though we might have those, we come before God just to be with him. We should seek communion  with the Father , Son, and Holy Spirit. During these times,  we should ask God to reveal the condition of, and motives of our hearts. We also place ourselves in a position for God to reveal more of himself, through his word and presence.