December 30th, 2013

Encounter And Experience

God loves us and has given us Himself and His Word to both experience His love and encounter His saving grace. His salvation gift is not a ‘concept’ to be intellectually comprehended; rather it is a product of a relationship with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We enjoy a state of well being as we freely receive and celebrate His mercy and grace. His truth is tangible as we ‘taste and see’ that the Lord is good. Our trust defines our blessedness and we are happy, fortunate and to be envied for the unmerited favor that God bestows upon us.

Psalm 34:8

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

God is a real person, not an impersonal force for good, and as such, relates to us in intensely personal ways. He is also personable – the ‘friend of sinners’ seeking them out to offer His gift of eternal life in Christ. When you think about it, life is really all about relationships: our relationship with God, our fellow man and the material and spiritual worlds in which we find ourselves.

God has revealed His person, nature, character and will so that all mankind can enjoy Him for eternity. At His core, He is both ‘love’ and ‘light’ (1 John 1:5 / 1 John 4:8). Of course, He possesses many other attributes and qualities like being holy, perfectly just, patient, merciful and strong to name but a few.

He is also given many names that speak of His nature and character: ‘Elohim’, ‘Yahweh’, ‘Jah’, ‘Jehovah’, and ‘Adonai’ are a few Hebrew names of God revealed to us in the Old Testament record. Each speaks of His relationship to creation in general and mankind in particular (See a later chapter for more details on the names of God).

God’s uniqueness and essential nature is revealed by two key references in the New Testament:

I John 1:5

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

I John 4:8

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

(Emphasis added).

God is both light and love and brings spiritual illumination and life-changing love: two key areas of need in the heart of all men.

 

How The Unseen God Has Revealed Himself To Mankind

Many struggle to believe in an unseen God. I did too. Growing up I was conditioned to relate to the world through my 5 physical senses, only later to be introduced to the realm of the spirit. God has to be revealed to us. Revelation involves the ‘uncovering or unveiling of something hidden’. Historically God has initiated revelation of His person, nature, ways and deeds through various means. The first three are general and common to all mankind:

1.Nature: creation points to God, the creator.                    

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

2. Inner conscience or self-awareness: even if it is flawed.                      

Romans 2:14-15               

… for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things In the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them …

3. History: nations created to seek and find Him.

Acts 17:26-30

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

The next five are first specifically revealed to persons and / or groups, and then by extension through the Biblical record to all mankind as God’s people serve them in witness:

4. Miracles: Eg. Moses miracles: plagues in Egypt / splitting the Red Sea; Jesus miracles…

John 20:30-31

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

5. Prophecy: Eg. The fall of Babylon foretold; Coming of Christ foretold.

Matthew 1:20-21

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, ” which is translated, “God with us.”

6. In Christ: Jesus perfectly reveals the Father to us.

Hebrews 1:1-3

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person …

7. Scripture: Jesus used Scripture to reveal Himself to two disciples.

Luke 24:25-27

Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!

Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

8. Personal experience and testimony: Eg. Enoch, Noah, Paul and many others personally knew and ‘walked’ with God.

Genesis 5:22

Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.

Today, when someone claims to have a personal experience with God we can test the validity of such claims against scriptural precedent. This is necessary, not because we are skeptical about anything new or different, but because there are unfortunately deceivers in the world who can and do take advantage of the unsuspecting.

 

An Introductory Word About The Holy Spirit and Scripture

Elsewhere we will see that the scripture is inerrant (without error and reliable) because it is inspired (God breathed) through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16a

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, …

The Holy Spirit not only reveals God and His will through the inerrant Word, but also illuminates it to our Spirits, making the historical Word of God pertinent to our time, circumstance and need.

This process of ‘enlightenment’ goes beyond the mental realm of mere facts or data. (That is why some theologians schooled in the facts who are not born again from above (John 3:3) can arrive at some odd conclusions. They simply do not have experiential knowledge of God. They may have plenty of ‘head’ knowledge through mental reasoning but not ‘revelation’ knowledge through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:11-14

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (Emphasis added).

God wants us to know what He has freely given us, but we must yield to the Holy Spirit who knows the things of God. The ‘natural’ or sense ruled man concludes that the things of God are foolishness, and cannot even begin to know Him without turning from that foolishness.

The Holy Spirit always works with the written and preached Word.

Mark 16:20

And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

He is the ‘Spirit of Truth’ (John 14:17) working with the ‘Word of Truth’ (Ephesians 1:13). In the book of Acts several accounts are given of the Holy Spirit working with the preached Word.

-Peter used the word (with the HS) on Pentecost – Acts 2:14-41

-Stephen used the word (with the HS) – Acts 7:2-60

-Philip used the word in his witness to the Eunuch – Acts 8:29-40

-Peter used the word (HS and Cornelius’ household) – Acts 10:44.

                                   

The Two Key Purposes Of The Word Of God

There are two key purposes for the Word of God. First, to bring conviction to the sinner thus bringing them to repentance (change of mind and heart).

Acts 2:37

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter had just got through preaching from the Old Testament as it applied to the audience and the moment. The Holy Spirit was upon Him in a tangible way and conviction fell on the people who were listening to Him.

The second key purpose the Word is given is to bring the believer to fruitful maturity through 4 key ways according to 2 Tim 3:16-17:                             

-To simply show or teach you something: doctrine.

-To reprove or rebuke you when you have knowingly done wrong.

-To correct something that you believe which is simply wrong.

-To instruct you in the practical how to’s of living righteously.

It becomes important to be able to ascribe which scripture that best applies to whom: believer and unbeliever. It is no use trying to convince the unbeliever of their need for Jesus as savior by using scriptures that delve into the details of how a believer is to live their lives in the church community for example. The Holy Spirit will direct you into focusing on preaching (proclaiming) ‘Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). The gospel or ‘good news’ is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:6) – Jesus has come, and through His death, burial and resurrection has dealt sin a death blow, leaving us free to receive His forgiveness and partake of His righteousness.

 

At The Outset: Some Bible Vital Statistics

The Bible (a library collection of 66 books in one) was written by almost 40 inspired authors in 3 languages over a 1400-year time span, and is marked by miraculous unity, continuity and harmony of truth. God chose to use fallible man to bring to us infallible truth about His plan to seek and save mankind from itself (sin) through the Jewish Messiah Jesus.

He chose the Jewish people to be the carriers of His revelation not for their size or even inherent qualities as their history amply shows (Deuteronomy 7:6-8), but in order to highlight His unmerited grace and mercy through them to the world as His plan unfolded. Most of the Old Testament deals with the history of the Jewish people whom He called to be a witness of His goodness to the world at that time. The Old Testament may be divided up into:

  • Law – as recorded by Moses
  • History – of primarily the Jewish nation in the world
  • Poetry & Wisdom Literature – Psalms of Praise, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
  • Major and Minor Prophets – who spoke God’s plan for His people and the coming Kingdom and Messiah.

The New Testament in turn focuses on the person and work of Jesus, the prophesied and promised Messiah, and also the church, His ‘called our ones’. The New Testament is divided up into:

  • Gospels – accounts of Jesus life and ministry on earth
  • Acts – a history of the early church and its expansion
  • Letters – written to Christ followers to teach & guide them in the ways of the New Covenant
  • Revelation – prophetic insights into the future, which many believe has begun unfolding even before our eyes in these ‘end times’.

Jesus Christ, the Messiah came in fulfillment of the covenants made with the Jewish people beginning with Abraham the ‘father of the faith’. In short, it may be said that the Old Testament prepares us for the coming / appearing of Christ; the Gospels present Him to us; and the letters and Revelation praise Him for what He has accomplished. Of course the Bible has much more to say about every aspect of life, but its focus is always on a revelation of God Himself primarily through the God-man Jesus Christ.

 

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October 11th, 2013

Understanding God’s Ways

He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel. Psalm 103:7

Introduction.

When I was in high school I always wanted to know how the particular math problem I was grappling with fitted into the ‘big picture’. I never had the reasons behind the operations explained to me, at least that I remember, and consequently my understanding was limited. Do you feel that way with the things that happen to you as a Christian? Where do all the dealings of God fit in? Where is all this leading?
In this article we examine some of the ways of God with a view to learning how to cooperate with the Lord in what He is trying to do in our lives in any particular season. If we do not recognize what He is trying to do, we may be found resisting His purposes in ignorance and miss out on His ultimate blessings and purpose. God is the God of purpose, working all that he does according to a strategy and timetable. The secret is to learn what He is doing at any particular time, and not tire ourselves trying to get Him to fit into and bless what we are doing!

The call, the fall and the recall!

Mankind was called to rule and reign on the earth as God’s under regent, having dominion over the creation (Gen 1:26). However when Adam yielded to temptation, mankind fell and so the great recall to dominion status was set in motion by God to restore us back to our rightful and intended position in Him. This process has lasted at least six thousand years and will see its final outworking when Christ returns and the final ‘wrap up’ to this episode of human history occurs. What God is doing on the micro-scale in our individual lives fits into His grand macro-scheme of restoring mankind back to have dominion on this planet under His loving guidance and governorship (Acts 3:21). In case you are not convinced about the call to rule and reign check out the word in Matt 16:19 / Psalm 8:6-8 / Psalm 115:16 and Rom 5:17. They all point to the fact that God has ordained for us to rule and reign.

The question becomes then, over what or whom, when and how?
Unfortunately we see all around us how sinful man perverts this mandate. When God’s purposes are not understood, abuse is inevitable. People are being dominated by others all the time, instead of serving one another. We are to have dominion over sin, selfish appetites and the devil, but never over one another.
Christ came amongst other things to teach us to serve rather than manipulate and dominate. It is in serving that we learn the key to ruling and reigning. All things belong to God to whom we have to give an account. There is going to be an end to all things where God will judge everything we have done according His measurements and not ours. Once again life is not trying to get God to fit into our scheme of things but rather discovering where we fit into His scheme of things. If we serve ourselves then the benefit is short-lived. If we serve God, the rewards are eternal.
Remember God builds from small to large. If we show ourselves faithful to serve in small things, then we can go to the next level. As a wise master teacher, God will not graduate us to the next level before we master the level we are on. He is not into statistics, but committed to producing Christlikeness in His subjects.
All that happens to us fits into the framework of producing conformity to the image of Christ. Of course we have to qualify by our love for Him. We cannot expect difficult circumstances to work out when we are not cooperating with God according to His plans and purposes.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28-29

Four key elements.

In the process of restoring us back to ruler ship God uses a training and preparation time that involves four key elements:

Relationship,
Character building through testing,
Gifting and empowerment,
Reproduction and fruitfulness.

At any one point in time God may be focusing on one or more of these aspects. Our responses to His dealings will either help or hinder the fulfillment of our destiny. God expects us to respond in faith to His friendly advances towards us. We must also remain committed to His essential goodness if we are to avoid questioning Him when we come under pressure in times of testing.
So God begins with relationship. He invites us into a deeper and deeper relationship with Him. First of all we have to accept Christ as savior and Lord. Then through continuing fellowship with Him we grow in our experiential knowledge of Him. This takes place in regular study of the word, prayer and worship, whilst joining together with other Christians in common kingdom endeavor.
God is ever speaking to us to ‘come up hither’ to where He is. When in His presence we partake of His nature, are transformed as we gaze on Him, and empowered to go back ‘out’ and serve our fellow man in need. Being properly related to God through Christ is no guarantee that we will manifest His nature at all times especially when under pressure. It is in times of testing that we have our faith refined and proved genuine. It takes both the pressure of the convicting word and circumstance to stamp His image on our hearts.
A word of wisdom. We need to discern whether we, or the devil have generated a particular storm of circumstance. In both these cases we are called upon to do something about it. Either repent or take authority over the enemy in the name of Jesus. If we don’t, we can languish under a heavy burden. However, if we are in place of proving that is in God’s overall training program, we have to discern what it’s all about and learn the lesson and pass the test. If we fight it, we could be blowing bubbles into a proverbial thunderstorm!

Working in us to work through us.

Before God can work through us He has to work in us. That is why He develops relationship through both nurturing and feeding as well as allowing us to get into situations where this relationship will be tested. In circumstances like these we may feel that God is far, but if we are to learn to stand in faith and be faithful to His purposes, we have to learn not to trust in our feelings and what we see in the natural realm. The God-kind of faith does not rely on circumstance to chart its course. It relies only on the word of God. The word working in our lives will bring about the necessary change that will open our capacity for God to deposit more of His ability to function according to His purposes.
Character enables us to ‘contain’ God’s gifting for proper use. His gifts are like weapons that can either damage the enemy, or us. Character will ensure that the power of God is always properly directed at the enemy. God’s nature and gifting is imparted to us through relationship. (2 Pet 1:2-4 / 2 Cor 3:18). His gifts are given without repentance. He doesn’t take them away from us the moment we slip up. However the fact that we get to keep the gifts is no guarantee that we won’t misuse them.
Take being filled with the Spirit for example. A person trusts God and is filled with the Spirit and begins to enjoy the newfound power in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the course of time he may yield to some form of pride in the use of his gifts and hurt others in the process. Does God take the gift away? No. However pride lands the individual in trouble with his fellow members and God is presented with an opportunity to build Christ likeness into his character. If the individual responds to God’s correction positively, he will partake more of God’s nature and power. This process will further equip the individual to reproduce after his own kind. This time his fruit will be that much sweeter having learnt the painful lesson on the way.
Zeal can often be misplaced. The zeal we have to use our gifts and talents to change others, ought first to be directed on ourselves. When we are changed then we can reach out and touch others and give them such as we have received. In this way we impart life and not legalistic formulas. Knowledge gained from our own experience has a greater capacity for changing others than mere intellectual assent. When God wants to impact our public ministry, He works in our private lives, giving us the opportunity to put it into practice at home what we need to minister in public.
Our function is to develop and maintain a consistent ministry to the Lord, one another and to the lost. We have to gain dominion over our own flesh first before we can seriously expect others to gain it over theirs. The principle: ‘you reproduce after your own kind’ is God’s idea. He is endeavoring to develop a Christ like character in our lives first, so that our witness consistently brings glory to Him.

Christ and Israel as examples.

At the tender age of twelve, God had already established an enduring relationship with His Son as a caring and providing Father. He then developed character in Him as Jesus (in His humanity) learnt to submit to the imperfect authority of Mary and Joseph. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit later followed as God released Jesus into fruitful ministry but not before he was tested in the wilderness. He then set about establishing a relationship with his own disciples, later developing character in them, empowering them for service and then releasing to go into all the world to reproduce after their own kind. Of course there were some bumpy moments in that process, what with the disciples’ misunderstandings, doubts, and betrayals. Jesus patience, love and commitment ensured that God’s purposes were ultimately fulfilled. All things did work out for Jesus! This can happen for us too, if we submit to His dealings and yield to the training that is needed to bring us to a place of great fruitfulness.
God’s invitation remains firm: be like me! But there’s much water that has to flow under the bridge before we can walk in the authority we are called to. ‘Between the call and the commission comes the college of life.’
The history of Israel as they were led out of Egypt provides another example of this pattern. God first reestablished a covenant relationship with His people teaching them to see Him as a caring provider as they marched towards the Promised Land. The manna, water from the rock, cloud by day, fire by night, all proved His love for them. The problem arose when they came under pressure to possess the land. They failed to meet the character test as they refused to move forward on the word only. Instead they yielded to doubt and questioned God’s intentions saying that He had brought them this far only to kill them! Far from it. God remained committed to training up His covenant people to fulfill their call to rule and reign over their own fleshly appetites, doubts, fears and inadequacies. They were supposed to go straight into the land of promise. Instead, the first generation only knew His miraculous works of provision and protection, but not His ways of increase and fruitfulness! Fortunately, the second generation under Joshua did receive God’s power to take the land. Under Joshua’s leadership they fulfilled their destiny and became fruitful in their occupation of the Promised Land.

Conclusion.

Understanding God’s ways equips us to cooperate with Him in the seasons he has established for growth. To establish a ministry of excellence, know that spiritual growth need not be haphazard or accidental. God has a plan. Know it, recognize His dealings and cooperate with Him.

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June 3rd, 2013

Amazing Grace

Romans 6:10-12
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Emphasis added).

Hebrews 7:26-27
26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (Emphasis added).

The phrase ‘once and for all’ should settle things about the grace of God as it is contrasted with our efforts to earn favor and acceptance with God. What Jesus did at the cross, He did once and for all. In God’s eyes there is nothing more to do but believe and receive. Anything that comes after this in our Christian lives is fruit of an already established relationship. If we reckon that there is more to do in making us acceptable in our approach to God, then we negate the ‘once and for all’ sacrifice at the cross. When Jesus died for us, we died to sin and came alive to God at the same time. All that we need to do now is to ‘see’ this truth, and apply it to our lives. For some this is ‘too good to be true’ (where is that in the Bible) and they slip into some sort of blend between Law and Grace, not fully enjoying the benefits of either.

Right believing leads to right behavior. If your heart is in tune with God’s heart as revealed in his Word, then your actions will line up. Your behavior – what you do – will be the fruit of an ongoing relationship with Jesus (John 15) and not the product of a set of religious rules you follow or even some set of vain attempts to reach up to God with your own efforts or works.

Jesus, as our High Priest of the New Covenant of grace, offered Himself once and for all, unlike the priests (and High Priest) of the Old Testament who year after year repeatedly slaughtered the sacrificial animals. It was a continual and unending process that served a type of the great ‘once and for all’ sacrifice of God’s own Son’s blood as The Lamb of God.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul comments that we are now reconciled to God through Jesus blood on the cross. We are now holy, blameless and above reproach, not by what we have done are doing or ever will do in the future (our sacrifices), but by what He has already done! The focus ought to shift off our efforts to His effort.

Colossians 1:19-23
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard,

Our ‘response to His ability’ (responsibility) is to continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast in the glorious good news that the price for our redemption has already been paid. There is nothing more to do! If we add anything to what He has done, we negate what He has done. In effect we take matters back into our hands and exclude His grace, putting us back into the realm of ‘works’ and the law which condemns us.

Holiness is something God imputes to us as His gift. He attaches no blame to us at all, and steers way from all reproach (disgrace, defamation or disparagement for sin). When we are grounded in this liberating truth, and not moved from this hope of the Gospel, no devil can lie to us about our walk with the Lord, accusing us that we are not good enough or not living up to God’s standards. We are secure in Christ, and He has met God’s righteous standards on our behalf. We now serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear ‘because we have grace’.

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

God’s kingdom in us is unshakeable, and when we keep our eyes on Jesus and His finished work, we have all that we need to live a life of holiness. We serve God by His enabling grace, and by grace alone.

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March 14th, 2013

To have sight without vision is to listen without hearing. You need the Holy Spirit to reveal what is not obvious to the natural eye and ear. Only He can give you divine perspective on things that happen. God can even be in the midst of your circumstances and yet you cannot perceive Him. Jesus told Nicodemus that he could only see the kingdom of God after he was ‘born again.’

John 3:3
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Being born again is the gateway to spiritual revelation or ‘seeing’ into the realms of God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of revelation who reveals things that are hidden.

The Spirit of Revelation

1 Corinthians 2:9-13
9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

Our natural senses cannot always ‘see’ spiritual things even though they are happening right in front of us. God’s Word has to penetrate or gain entrance into our spirits by ‘getting past’ our unrenewed way of thinking (Psalm 119:130). We need to pray for a ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ to reveal to us the things God has prepared for those who love Him.

Ephesians 1:17-19
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…

The Emmaus Road Example

Jesus had repeatedly told his disciples that He was the Messiah, was to be betrayed, crucified and rise again from the dead. When it all actually happened they did not believe it, at first. Even two of His disciples head out from Jerusalem on the Road to Emmaus, a few miles walk away. (Read the account in Luke 24:13-35).
As they walked, they conversed and reasoned with their minds (Vs 15). Their human tendency was to gravitate away from the will of God. Yet Jesus came to them and whilst the Holy Spirit restrained their natural eyes, He talked to them about the weekend’s events (Vs 16 – 27).

Their revelation of Jesus had fallen short of His true glory They saw Him only as a prophet and not the risen Messiah He was. They did not even believe the testimony of the women in the garden who had earlier seen the risen savior.

Jesus defines their problem: they were ‘slow of heart and full of unbelief’ without even knowing it (Vs 25). Jesus then focuses on the scripture, and plans to go on (Vs 26-28), but they constrain Him to stay (vs. 29) and they break bread together (Vs 30-31).

Their spiritual eyes are opened in the intimacy of that communion meal and they now knew Jesus ‘after the spirit and not the flesh’.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

The Holy Spirit of revelation had ‘burned’ the Word of God into their hearts. Like a CD burner on a computer etches a message onto the disc.

Luke 24:31-32
Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

As a result, they turned around and headed back to Jerusalem and back towards their destiny as disciples.

Right now ask The Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to you in a fresh way. Perhaps you too will be turned around and make significant progress towards what God has called you to do.

‘Constrain’ the Lord (vs. 29), and invite Him to break bread with you. Do not move on without invoking His abiding presence in your life, family and church.

Then ask for the strength of the Holy Spirit to help you have a walk worthy of His calling on your life (Colossians 1:9-10). Why not pray that prayer right now.

Reveals God to You as Your Father

Romans 8:14-17
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ

Another key ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life is to reveal God as your Father. A father is one who gives life.

The Holy Spirit will primarily use Jesus as the way to understanding, enjoying and receiving from God as your Father. Jesus said: ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). God extended His hand of mercy towards you in Jesus. This is His custom (Psalm 119:132), and when you relate to Him as a loving Heavenly Father, He is pleased with your faith.

Perhaps you struggle with relating to God as your father is because of the imperfect example your natural father has given you. It is comforting to know that Jesus Himself had an imperfect step father in Joseph, who along with Mary misunderstood who He really was and even His calling ( Luke 2: 48). Yet he honored and grew under them.

Allow the Holy Spirit to help you develop a healthy relationship with God as your father, who, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, waits longingly for your return to restore and establish you in a position close to his heart.

You belong in God’s family as his precious son because of what Jesus did, so receive His love, acceptance and forgiveness.

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October 30th, 2012

John 19:30
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

When Jesus uttered these dramatic and defining words on the cross at the hinge point of history, little did His onlookers appreciate the impact they would have on your life and mine. He had just put a seal on God’s plan to set mankind free from sin and its consequences. He had lived a sinless life, and had been the perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s demands. His work was finished! All that remained at this point was for God to raise Him from the dead thus vindicating His mission.

Romans 1:3-4
…3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Today, as far as pleasing God is concerned, there is nothing left to do except to trust Him in faith. So your Christian life begins with a big “done”, not a long “to do” list of religious observances. Jesus has done it all, and when we trust in Him we are completely acceptable to God.

Put it this way: does your behavior qualify you to believe, or does your belief impact your behavior? God positions you in Christ, and then your Christian practice flows out of this new place of favor and blessing. Your heart has to be changed, and then your hand will do what God wants. Your conduct depends on your calling, not the other way round.

In learning to walk free, don’t get the cart before the horse! The Bible way is to work things from the inside out, not from the outside in. Receive in your heart all that Jesus has already done, and then act out what is on the inside. This is the heart of what is described in the Bible as the ‘new creation’. This is truly amazing.

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May 20th, 2012

Exodus 33:10-11

11 So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

 

2 Corinthians 4:5-6

6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

More than any other part of your body your face communicates who you are. We don’t say about people, ‘Oh what interesting elbows they have’. No, we focus on describing their face! A person’s face gives you a window into a person’s inner man, especially when you look into their eyes. Some cultures hide their faces, leaving only the eyes uncovered, whilst others go to great advertising lengths to focus huge attention on the face.

 

Then some people have a nervous habit when spoken to: they hide their face (especially their mouth) in some way with a hand gesture. Magazines mostly put people’s faces on their covers. Plastic Surgeons sculpt faces more than any other part of the body, and people put softening cream on their faces more than on any other part of their bodies.

 

Faces speak volumes about what is going on in people’s hearts: Cain’s ‘countenance fell’ when he sinned, Moses’ face shone when he came from the presence of the Lord and Jesus’ face shone ‘brighter than the sun’ when He was transfigured on the mountain.

 

In the following prophetic account Isaiah speaks of the depth and intensity of our sin when it was laid on Jesus. The result was to dramatically mar the ‘visage’ or face of Jesus on the cross. Yes, He was brutally battered about the face by His captors all through the night, yet it was when He took our sin upon Himself that He (and His face) was most affected.

 

The onlookers were greatly astonished at the gross deformation of Jesus’ face when He suffered for us as He was pinned to the cross. Just as our faces are visibly twisted by physical pain and even emotional anguish, Jesus’ face was grossly deformed when the sin of the world was laid on Him. It affected Him spirit, soul and body.

 

Isaiah 52:14

14 Just as many were astonished at you,

So His visage (face) was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men; …

 

This gives us just a glimpse of how God went to great depths to bring us up to His great heights. He exchanged our spiritual darkness for His spiritual light at the cross. The record shows that even the natural light of the physical world fled as a literal darkness fell over the whole earth for approximately three hours – from noon to three pm.

 

Matthew 27:45-46

45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

 

It was towards the end of this period of darkness, when our sin was laid on Jesus, that He cried out in despair to the now more distant ‘God’, addressing Him no longer as His ‘Father’ (the intimate relational term He mostly used up till this point).

 

To me it is clear that there is a connection between the spiritual and the physical realms that only God’s Word can explain. You could say that even the greatest scientists outside of Christ are still ‘groping in the dark’ to understand the true nature of light, the cosmos and life itself.

 

Personally, I was trained at university to think about life with its meaning and mechanics outside of Christ. This led me nowhere fast. Eventually I ‘saw the light’ and my understanding was ‘enlightened’ by the truth of the Gospel when it was boldly and lovingly presented by an anointed minister. Far from becoming ‘narrow minded’, as some of my unbelieving friends claimed, my mind was expanded along with my heart, or so my wife says. I began to see things in a new light, and the Lord through His Word and by His Spirit helped me love my wife, family, and friends in a better way. Coming face to face with Jesus was a life transforming experience for me.

 

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April 29th, 2012

 

2 Peter 3:10-14

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; …(Emphasis added).

 

The Day of the Lord’s return will settle many issues. Things on the Earth that are not of God will thankfully be burned up, thus cleansing the earth of millennia of all manner of defilement. For example, think of toxic waste in the air, sea and land that pollutes our natural realm. All these manmade things that have caused so much disease and suffering to so many will be totally cleansed. Man’s sin and greed always has always had negative and destructive consequences on the environment and society, yet no amount of caring for the planet by man today will compare to the care God Himself will bring as He establishes a new heaven and earth.

 

Peter forewarns us of such a fearsome time and this serves to sober us to live our lives in such a way that we actually play our part in preparing the way for the Lord’s Second Coming. Peter’s passage teaches that holy living actually ‘hastens’ the day of His return! Remarkably, we are called of God to play a part in bringing on the Messiah’s return (Vs 11-12).

 

Our faith and obedience actually counts for the future. The end will only come when we have preached the gospel of the kingdom to all the earth.

 

Matthew 24:13-14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

 

When you see yourself as a vital covenant partner with God, then this scripture makes sense. God does not work independently from those he has delegated authority on earth to. His instruction still stands: ‘Go ye’.

 

We are encouraged to have hope as we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth. To hope is to ‘confidently expect’ that which God has promised. Hope is not a case of ‘maybe so, maybe not’, rather it is an assurance that God will watch over and perform what He has promised. Our faith is attached to our hope. Put another way, how we live today is impacted by what we believe about tomorrow.

 

Hebrews 11:1

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

 

Faith in what Jesus has already done is the foundation for diligence in our lives. We can live in today’s turmoil cocooned in a state of assurance about the future and be ‘found by Him to be in peace, without spot and blameless’ (2 Peter 3:14) when He returns.

 

The apostle Paul in his letter to Titus also highlights the connection between looking forward and how we are live out our lives right now. The ‘blessed hope’ he talks about in the following passage is not some abstract ‘pie in the sky’, but a driving force for righteous living that produces good works that serve as a witness to all men. Our lives right now count for eternity: people are watching how we live. We are living epistles, ‘known and read by all men’ (2 Corinthians 3:2).  Our lifestyle ought not give them any occasion to stumble. Besides, the Lord is also watching and looking to find faith in the earth, a faith that produces the intended fruit of the gifts He has so freely bestowed on us.

 

Titus 2:11-15

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

(Emphasis added).

 

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March 22nd, 2012

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, …
2 Corinthians 5:20

Any believer is Christ’s representative to a world that is suffering from unscrupulous people who very often use, manipulate and let them down every day. People are wary of those that seek only to take, and even misrepresent the truth. The truth is still the whole truth and nothing but the truth! As His ambassador, we must accurately reflect Christ’s person, nature, purposes and integrity.

Ambassadors of old were close to the heart of the kings and potentates they represented. They spent time in their presence, discovering the way their leader would act and react to a variety of situations. Even when they went to a far land as an ambassador, they were frequently called back to the leader to ensure that they were not being unduly influenced by the culture and practice of the people they were now living with.

It works the same way today with the Lord. If you are not careful, the ways of the world will subtly influence your way of thinking and practice. As His ambassador you have to constantly be renewed in the spirit of your mind as you meditate on how the Lord thinks in every situation. You have to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding you in every new moment where you have to bring God’s wisdom into the picture. Of course the Holy Spirit will always lead you in line with the scripture, so a thorough knowledge of the scripture is the foundation on which we are lead in any specifics.

Spend time simply soaking up God’s wisdom through His Word and familiarizing yourself with the voice of the ‘Good Shepherd’: He trusts you enough to call you His ambassador.

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October 6th, 2011

There is something about Jesus that stands out in the account of His early life with Joseph and Mary as well as His baptism at age thirty in the Jordan River under John the Baptist’s ministry.

Jesus grew up in Mary and Joseph’s household, increasing in wisdom and stature at least as it pertained to His humanity.

Luke 2:51-52

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

I believe He must have lived and walked by faith in those growing years, otherwise how could He have ‘pleased’ God as the baptism account highlights.

Luke 3:21-22

21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

Never before had anyone, whether they are a prophet, priest or even a king, heard these special words from God.

“You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Vs 22).

First, God focused on Jesus’ sonship. Jesus was His ‘beloved Son’ a – covenant term of endearment. Then He went on to say that He was ‘well pleased’ with Jesus! Notice this was before Jesus had even begun His ministry. He had not performed any miracles – His first was to come later at the Cana wedding where He turned the water into wine. He had not called any disciples, nor had He faced any of the temptations in the wilderness. He was in the starting blocks of His public ministry, yet God was already well pleased. How so?

Jesus had pleased God because of His faith. The book of Hebrews teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God.

Hebrews 11:6

6 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.

This applied to Jesus too. He obviously lived by faith all these years as He was being prepared to launch into public ministry.

It was not Jesus determination, talent, obedience to His parents or even His regular synagogue and temple attendance as He grew up that pleased God, good as all these were. No, it was His simple faith or trust in God’s goodness towards Him that pleased His heavenly Father, and which precipitated the favorable public endorsement He received at His baptism in the Jordan.

Likewise, in our own walk with God, we ought to be encouraged that He is pleased with our faith when it is rooted in what Jesus has done for us at the cross, and not in our own efforts. It was at the cross that Jesus paid the price for the total forgiveness of our sin. No amount of obedience to the Ten Commandments, hard work, witnessing, church attendance and service can ever measure up to what Jesus has purchased for us at the cross. We enjoy all that Jesus accomplished by simply receiving His gift by faith.

When we seek Him, we will be greatly rewarded for our faith. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Nothing has changed since those early days.

As children of God born again of His Spirit let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and His completed work, and not ‘fall from grace’ by relying on our own efforts to try to please God in some sort of Christianized works or behavior modification program. We live and grow in Him by faith and faith alone.

He knows we will fall short of His glory every time, so has provided a way out of this dilemma of sin through His Son. Jesus came as our perfect sacrificial substitute who fulfilled all the Law requirements on our behalf. This is grace: the unmerited favor of God.

Let us gratefully receive the abundance of this grace and the gift of righteousness so that we can reign in the realm of life.

Romans 5:16-17

17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

Very importantly, the works we ‘do’ therefore are the natural fruit that spring from our abiding relationship with Him. They do not make our faith alive (this would negate Jesus’ role), they merely express His life within (James 2:20).

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September 1st, 2011

Starting in new place can be daunting. Whether your transition is geographical, a new job or even a new season in life, like going to college, marriage, whatever, if you don’t keep the big picture in mind you can easily lose perspective and get caught up in the details of the transition.

Recently, we have made a major geographical move from California to Washington State with plans to pioneer a new church called Seattle Life Church on the Eastside. See www.seattlelifechurch.org

All the start up stuff needed when you move into a new area can get overwhelming if you don’t keep your eyes on the foundational reason you made the move in the first place: Jesus is still building His Church, His way, and for His purposes. Really, all else misses the mark and is a waste of time energy and money.

This scripture has challenged me as a vital checklist: is anything (and everything) I do finding its source in Christ, relying on His life and focussed on Him? Here it is:

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things…” Romans 11:36 (Emphasis added).

Yes that’s all things: no separation between the secular and sacred here – nothing excluded. Whatever we do must start with Him, be played out with His ways and land up bringing Him glory.

Thankfully, we can ask Him for wisdom in whatever we do, starting each day knowing that the abundance of His grace will empower, cover us and put a stamp of His favor on anything we do. His grace and mercy is a great catch-net which gives us the confidence to step out and be the witness He has called us to be.

He’s our benevolent Father and wants us to do well, and bring Him glory in our sphere of influence.

So ‘no worries, mate’ – or as the Bible says: “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6 NKJV)

He’s got you covered!

(For more resources to help you fulfill your calling and destiny in Christ, see: www.edhorak.com )

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