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Friday, August 1, 2014

The Signs of the Times

In Matthew 16:1-3 we read:

    One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus' claims by asking him to show them a miraculous sign from heaven. He replied, "You know the saying, 'Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.'  You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can't read the obvious signs of the times!

I would not be surprised if the Lord were to show up tomorrow and tell most of us, believers and non-believers alike, the exact same thing.


We are in the midst of a global upheaval. Everything seems to be changing faster than our minds and wisdom can keep up. The world seems to be finding a "new" unsolvable problem every week. Are we on the brink of planetary self-destruction? Is World War III on our doorstep? Are we in the End Times? I have to admit, when it comes to these questions, I am as clueless as anyone else. One thing seems to be clear. Only the "good guys" appear to be without vision. It looks like the bad actors of the world  know exactly what they want and how they intend to make it happen. The leaders in the free, democratic world appear to be lost in a cloud of unknowing.

While all of this is happening it is easy to get caught up in the panic of it all. It is easy to turn to worldly philosophies and tactics to protect our family and what is ours. Whether what we believe is ours and what we are trying to protect is property or more ethereal concepts such as "rights" doesn't much matter. As believers, we are required to go about it according to the principles the Lord lays out in His Word. No matter how good the outcome we pursue it will be less than worthless if we go about achieving it in the wrong way.

The Joseph Principle

This brings me to the Joseph Principle. Joseph's story in the Bible kicks into high gear in Genesis chapter 37 when he begins to have prophetic dreams. The Joseph Principle begins in Genesis 41. Pharaoh has a couple of nightmares. He knew they were important, but could not figure out why or what, if anything, they meant. Pharaoh's wine aficionado tells him about Joseph's gift for interpreting dreams. Pharaoh sends for Joseph. God gives Joseph the interpretation and and word of wisdom for the solution. Pharaoh appoints Joseph over the national project that is the result of this encounter.

This is the Joseph Principle.

God revealed a coming catastrophe for Egypt and the surrounding regions. He also gave Joseph and Pharaoh the solution to save thousands if not more than a million lives. Joseph was given the authority to implement the plan. He gathered the resources, put the delivery systems in place and when the cataclysm hit, he launched the solution into the marketplace.

We say we serve the same God as Joseph. Do we believe it? Pharaoh had an encounter with God. Joseph relied on the Holy Spirit to interpret the encounter and give a solution. The solution was practical. It did not rely on the miraculous, but on the pragmatic. Today we might call it 'saving for a rainy day." In this case it was "saving for no rainy days," but I am sure you get it.

We can read the signs of the times we are in. We know trouble is not around the corner. Trouble is here. Very bad things are around the corner. If we believe this, than isn't it time we add to our prayers for mercy, a few prayers for solutions to the coming problems?

      "But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. Live in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins."
                                                                                                              Jude 20 - 23 NLT

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fundamental Change

We’ve already mentioned that there was a fundamental change within the makeup of humans.

God’s testimony of Adam and Eve at the dawn of creation is this:

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

                                                                        Genesis 2:25

They were not ashamed in their relationship with each other. They were not ashamed in their relationship with their environment. They were not ashamed in their relationship with God.

They knew no shame.

Unfortunately, that soon changed.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And when they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Then the LORD called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

                                                                                    Genesis 3:9-10

They were ashamed of their nakedness and covered themselves up. And they were afraid of God’s voice and hid themselves from His presence.

Warning – Rabbit Trail Ahead

I have heard preached and taught, more times than I care to remember, that God cannot stand sin and won’t allow sin in His presence. Another take is that sin, and therefore sinful man, cannot be in God’s holy Presence.  As I read Genesis 3 and 4 I find both beliefs utterly false. God comes looking for Adam and Eve after they have sinned. In chapter four, Cain has just murdered Able and God initiates a conversation with him.

God is not concerned about being tainted by our sin. The answer is always to run to Him when we’ve sinned – not away.

Back on the Main Trail

The twins, Shame and Fear, ran rampant in my family growing up. What about yours? These two states of being are the cause and perpetuators of untold suffering in each of our lives and the world. 

Thankfully God has a solution.

John’s Obsession

The Apostle John seems to be obsessed with the book of Genesis in his writings. It might be that, because he had to memorize the entire book as a child, God easily spoke to John through the book of Genesis. I don’t know. I do know that Genesis is a theme in John’s gospel and all of I John.

In John chapter one, the apostle revisits Genesis chapter one and gives us an “addendum” that wasn't available when Moses first wrote what the Holy Spirit taught him about the beginning of the earth. He tells us that all of those words “God said” to accomplish creation were, in actuality, Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God that created the world.  (See John 1:1-14)

In I John, the Apostle of Love takes us back to Genesis chapters two and three. He wants our “joy to be full”. (I John 1:4)

He tells us, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

                                                            I John 2:1-2

He tells us how we can stay away from sin:

“But the anointing which you have received form Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

                                                            I John 2:27

This is clearly the indwelling Spirit of God. This is the Spirit of Truth’s primary vocation.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

                                                                  John 14:26

 The anointing comes from the Holy Spirit.( See 61:1; Luke 4:14-15; Acts 10:38 as just the beginning).

And what is the result of our allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us how to walk in holiness?

“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
                                                                    I John 2:28

We return to being unashamed before God.

Is there any greater peace than being confident and unashamed in God’s presence? If there is, I have not experienced it to this point in my life.

In I John chapter two he lets us in on a little secret. The secret to obeying God’s commands is:


Then, he reminds us, this is what Jesus taught. The two greatest commandments are: Love.

1.      Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength.
2.      Love your neighbor as yourself.

Then in I John chapter four he tells us something revolutionary:

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
                                                                 I John 4:16

God is love. When we live the lifestyle of love we live the lifestyle of God. We enter into the God community.

And what happens when we learn to live a lifestyle of love?

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect involves. We love Him because He first loved us.”

A lifestyle of love frees us from fear

The problems created in Genesis that cause us to run from God, Shame and Fear, are nullified by love.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit Who teaches us to live our lives loving God and our fellow man in such a way that it fulfills the law of God .

This lifestyle is true freedom.

God calls this lifestyle “eternal life”.

Are you living eternal life today?

A Prayer:

Holy Spirit, teach us to love today. Teach us to love in deed and in truth (I John 3:18). I ask you to guide us into all truth in loving God with all of our heart, mind, and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Lord, enlighten our minds and hearts to be able to live Your message of love. And set us free from all shame and fear. Restore us to love, boldness, and confidence in Your presence. In Jesus’ name I ask, Amen

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Holiness and the indwelling Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1-11

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who dwells in you.

There is a lot here so; I will attempt a simple summary.

1.      Since the fall, sin has enjoyed a comfy home in mankind.
2.      We were incapable of living by God’s law because sin had enslaved us from within.
3.      By His victorious, sinless life, Jesus condemned the sin that lives inside of mankind.
4.      He did this to set us free from indwelling sin.
5.      Our freedom from sin is lived out by submitting to or following the Holy Spirit Who lives within us once we have put our faith in Jesus. God calls this freedom “life”.
6.      The natural progression of the life the Spirit gives to our spirits is to spread into our souls and bodies.

The Fall
At the fall there was a fundamental change within mankind.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; “

This is the last time that we are ever talked about as being in God’s likeness. We are still in His image but, we are not like Him.  We hear David’s lament and determination to be like God in Psalm 17:15:

“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”

John picks up on this theme in I John 3:2-3:

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

And this is exactly where Paul is taking us:

Romans 8:29
“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.”

John also ends up here:

I John 4:17
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”

One of the benefits of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the gradual restoration of our “likeness” of God on the inside.

James tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” James 1:13

God the Holy Spirit is never tempted by any evil or sin – and He lives inside of every believer in Jesus Christ.

This truth reveals the possibility for every one of us to enjoy an “interior revolution”.

We have the opportunity to learn how to live like God the Son lived on this earth. Right here, right now, among our family and friends.

We can live in such a way that when our co-workers and neighbors stand before the Lord He can say, “If you've seen My people, you've seen Me.”

Because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit it is possible for us to live our lives free from the influence of sin.

And this is just the beginning. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holy Spirit and Family

“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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’”

                                                Acts 2:38-39

The first thing God instituted for mankind on the earth is the family:

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
                                                Genesis 1:27

The first thing God blessed on the earth is the family:

 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it;”

                                                Genesis 1:28

God is one and He designed the marriage relationship for oneness: Genesis 2:24; Eph. 5:30-32

The first thing on earth affected by sin was the family: Gen. 3:16

The first murder was committed within the family (Gen. 4:8)

When God called Abram, He told him, “In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”

                                                Genesis 12:3

God placed families in the center of the Ten Commandments: Ex. 20:12

Three of the Ten Commandments involve family: Ex. 20:12, 14, 17

The entire Old Testament and the four Gospels are the story of Abraham’s family as they walk with God.

The last thing God says to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is about family: 

                                                  Malachi 4:5-6

The evidence is overwhelming – God’s heart is for families.

It should be no surprise to us that God places such great importance on the family. The family is the most basic unit of society.

And this brings us back to our foundational passage. (Acts 2:38-39)

The Holy Spirit arrives and the first thing He announces through Peter is “I am here for your families.”  (Acts 2:11; 38-39)

God wants to heal planet earth. It is only logical that He would want to begin the restoration of all things with the family.

God’s primary means of revealing Himself to humanity is a family:
                        Father, Son, and Holy Spirit   
It is a mystery that we don’t quite understand but, family is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

Family is the place of primary formation of character, beliefs, morality, values, communication skills, reasoning abilities, and much, much more. And the Holy Spirit wants to invade, permeate, heal, and transform it.            

There are two more reasons God is so obsessed with indwelling families.

·         The first family devastated by sin was not Adam’s. It was God’s. Remember Luke 3:38?

             “…Adam, the son of God.”

·         The family that paid the highest price for sin is God.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

                                                John 3:16

God’s answer for the families of the world is His indwelling Holy Spirit.

If anyone can fix, heal and bless the families of the earth it is God. He has been doing this perfectly for a long time.

 He can be trusted with my family.

 He can be trusted with your family.

I wonder if we will choose to trust Him today.

A prayer:

Father God, today I trust you with my family. I invite you to invade us with Your Holy Spirit. Come and fill my family with Your presence today. Guide us and direct us how to relate with each other in ways that will make You feel welcome and comfortable. Make us Your permanent home. I surrender control of my family to Your Fatherhood. Come and order our family relationships and our home with and for Your presence. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

More Unity

We are exploring Jesus’ prayer for unity through the indwelling Spirit of God.

John 17:20-23

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them that they may be one just as We are one; I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

We've already seen how the church, the apostles, and the elders continually brought each other back to the indwelling presence of God to restore unity in the church in Jerusalem. Now, let’s look at how Paul dealt with division, the solution he used, and if it worked.

We find this situation in the church in Corinth:

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.

Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul’, or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

                                                                            I Corinthians 1:10-13

After reading this, I think it is safe to say that the church in Corinth was in a fairly unhealthy place, as far as unity goes. What is Paul’s solution?

“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.”

                                                                              I Corinthians 2:12

Paul spends most of chapter two encouraging the Corinthian church to be spiritual. He contrasts spiritual people and fleshly people. He extols the glorious wisdom of God that is found in Christ Jesus. He has us all thinking, “Yes! I get revelation like that! God shares His wisdom with me!” Then, Paul hits us with this zinger:

“for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”

                                                                               I Corinthians 3:3

Paul’s measure of maturity is not revelation but, the ability to maintain unity.

How does Paul say we maintain unity?

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

                                                                         I Corinthians 3:16-17

Yet again, we see an apostle returning to the truth of the indwelling Spirit of God to restore and maintain unity. This is the model for the New Testament church.

Did It Work?

So, did it work? Did Paul’s pointing the Corinthian church back to the indwelling Spirit of God work to restore unity?

I Corinthians is believed to have been written between 53 and 57 C.E. (AD). We have a letter written to the church in Corinth by Clement. Clement was the fourth bishop of Rome. He writes to the church in Corinth regarding divisions in their church. This letter is believed to have been written sometime between 95 and 97 C.E.  

So, did Paul’s solution work? It appears to have worked for an entire generation. The reason I say this is because Clement opens his letter with this:

“Because of the sudden and repeated misfortunes and reverses that have happened to us, brothers, we acknowledge that we have been somewhat slow in giving attention to the matters in dispute among you, dear friends, especially the detestable and unholy schism, so alien and strange to those chosen by God, which a few reckless and arrogant people have kindled to such a pitch of insanity that your good name, once so renowned and loved by all, has been greatly reviled. For has anyone ever visited you who did not approve of your most excellent and steadfast faith? Who did not admire your magnanimous piety in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificent character of your hospitality? Who did not congratulate you on your complete and sound knowledge?”

                                                                        I Clement 1:1-2

Allowing for diplomatic flattery, it appears that Paul’s pointing the Corinthian church back to the indwelling Spirit of God healed the church enough to live peaceably together for the next 40 years. It wasn't until all of the apostles had died that these issues (again, issues common to man) arose in this church again.

Our Two Lessons:

1.      Maturity is measured by our ability to maintain unity.

2.      Unity is maintained through the indwelling Spirit of God.

Father, please give us the grace to live in the unity You have provided for us by making us Your home.

Note:  The writings of Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch deal almost exclusively with divisions in the church. You can read their writings, in English, in “The Apostolic Fathers in English” by Michael W. Holmes, published by Baker Academic.

 Unfortunately, both Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch chose to go a different route in dealing with divisions in the church. They both basically said, “Submit to the bishop because the apostles said so.” The church has, for the most part, followed this path ever since. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Unity In The Book Of Acts

We have begun to look at unity and the indwelling Spirit of God. The early was confronted with this problem almost immediately.  We are still basking in the glory of the church’s earl experiences in Jerusalem in Acts chapters 2 through 5. The arrival of the Holy Spirit, the lightning like growth of the church, the miraculous healings, the apostles standing up to councils and imprisonments. 

This is heady, intoxicating stuff!

Suddenly, we are brought back down to earth. There is a petty disagreement between believing factions. They call on the apostles to mediate. The apostles had been present when Jesus prayed for unity. They, no doubt, remembered His solution. They gave the solution to the church:

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;”  

                                                                                     Acts 6:2-3

Full of the Holy Spirit

The apostles of the Lord believed that unity would be restored and maintained by leaders who were full of the Holy Spirit. They immediately turned to what the Lord had prayed the night before He was crucified – the indwelling presence of God.

In Acts chapter 7, Stephen preaches to a crowd. This is the pinnacle of his message:

“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
            ‘Heaven is My throne,
            And earth in My footstool.
            What house will you build for Me?
                   Says the LORD,
            Or what is the place of My rest?
            Has My hand not made all these

                                                Acts 7:48-50

And as Stephen is being martyred, he has this testimony:

“But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of the God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,”
                                                                        Acts 7:55

Finally, as he is about to go be with the Lord, Stephen prays for his murderers:

“Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
                                                                        Acts 7:60

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen is able to continue to pursue unity in the face of death.

May each of us be given this grace.

Peter and Gentile Believers

In Acts chapter 10, Peter is instructed by God to go to Caesarea and share the Good News of Jesus with a gentile named Cornelius. As Peter is preaching, the Holy Spirit falls in Cornelius’ house and fills every gentile there. They speak in tongues just like all the believers in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, years earlier.

“For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’”

                                                                                    Acts 10:46-47

Once back in Jerusalem, Peter gets called on the carpet for his actions. Peter gives a detailed account to the church in Jerusalem. He ends with this appeal:

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?

When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.’”

                                                                                    Acts 11:15-18

First, in Caesarea, Peter appeals to the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to maintain unity with the Jewish believers who were with him. Then, back in Jerusalem, he makes the same appeal, although a little more forcefully, to maintain unity in the entire church.

The Jerusalem Council

Finally, Paul and Barnabas are confronted by some men from the church in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas are leading many gentiles to faith in Christ but, they are not teaching these new believers to obey the Law of Moses. These men took it upon themselves to preach,

“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

                                                                                    Acts 15:1

When Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem they reported “to the church and the apostles and the elders” (notice the order).

“But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.’”
                                                                                    Acts 15:5

The apostle and elders of the church in Jerusalem decide they need to call a council.

“And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the world of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.’”
                                                                                    Acts 15:7-11

What was the result?

“Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.”

 Acts 15: 12

 Here is an excerpt from the letter the church in Jerusalem sent to the Gentile church:

“it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…”

                                                                                    Acts 15:25-28

Again and again, the early church, the apostles and the elders turned to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to secure and maintain unity.

Shouldn't we do the same?

Lord, by Your Holy Spirit who lives within us, I ask You to bring us back to unity in Your church!