Revival Thoughts – Number 5

In the spring of 1993 my family was on the way home from a revival week that had ended on Sunday night.  I remember laying down in the seat as we neared home I remember my thoughts vividly.  I remember thinking that I wanted a voice like my grandfather when he preached.  It could fill the room without any amplification.  I then felt a difference between him and myself.  He was a preacher, a true blue Christ and I knew that I was not like him.  I was raised in a Christian home but I felt something lacking in myself.  So at the age of eight I placed my faith in Christ and have never looked back.  I’ve made my share of mistakes but the Lord has kept me from a lot of heartache and pain.

    What’s your Jesus’ story?  Jarred has a Subway story.  He isn’t paid to know how to make the subs or to grow the plants or all the positions in the company.  He is only asked to share what Subway has done for him.  You are not expected to know every theological statement and have every scripture memorized.  Your just asked to share you Jesus story.  Where were you before you met Him.  What happened when you came to faith and soon after?  What is happening with you now?
   This is an attempt at a song I used to do as a child.  It used to be recorded by the Lauren Talley as a child and I can only remember parts.  In the end I think you get the idea.  You do not know have to know how to explain how God can take the darkest soul full of sin and apply the blood of Christ that was shed and make it whiter than snow.  All you need to do is now your Jesus story and be sure to share it.
What makes popcorn pop?
Or a black cow give white milk and yellow butter?
Jesus made the corn and the cow, and though I don’t understand the how.
I enjoy buttered popcorn just the same.
How can a mommy and daddy be born again?
Nicodemus came by night to ask the Lord about it.
And though Jesus answered he really didn’t get it.
You can change the outside
but only He can change the inside
To be born again.

Revival Thoughts – Number 4

“Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? and she answered, It is well.” – 2 Kings 4:26

     If you look at this woman’s situation you know that all is not well.  Her son had taken upon a sudden sickness and died as he was on his mother’s lap (2 Kings 4:18-20).  For many of us we would have fallen apart and never recovered.  Somehow this woman had confidence.  Somehow this woman had peace.  She told no one and when asked why she wanted to see the man of God she said, “It shall be well” (4:23).  This may let us realize that the pain of losing her child was real and not well at the moment but also that she had faith that it shall be well soon.

By faith she came to the man of God and only the servant would first and the man of God later.  The servant went with her and her “it is well” faith (4:25-30).  Her faith was strong in God even though her “soul is vexed within her” (4:27).  Faith does not deny the problems we have but it also knows the reality of God.  So to repeat, “If you look at this woman’s situation you know that all is not well ” but if you look at this woman’s God then you know that all is well.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

If you look at her circumstances without God in the picture and what He would do through the man of God then there is no purpose.  It could be said, “that’s life and a shame.”  God in the picture though adds a holy purpose to this event.  For those that seek God in all things will find His holy purposing in all things.  God takes all things and can use them for good to us.

It may not be clear how God is using your situation but if you keep your faith as this mother God can bring good out of the situation.  For her it was her son back to life.  For you it may be your family back together.  A new job or a new start.  God will take what you are going through and use it to his holy purpose.  So you to can say, “it is well.”

Revival Thoughts – Number 3

“She hath done what she could.” (Mark 14:8a KJV)

     Powerful thought that Jesus raises when a woman anoints His feet with precious ointment. The disciples were mad because they saw how much good could have been done but Jesus shares that what she did was the best for that season of life they were in. Jesus was about to be crucified and the disciples couldn’t grasp the moment. In our worship, families, service to God do we really do all that we could?
Think of blessings people recieved when they did all they could.
-The widow’s cruse of oil and barrel of flour.
-the little boys lunch that Jesus borrowed.
-the widows mite
-Peter healing the beggar who asked for money.
So many times the scripture teaches for us to do our best and give all we have and see God move. Little is much when God is in it.

Revival Thoughts – Number 2

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” – Psalms 122:1

In this second installment of my thoughts from revival I want to write about church attendance.  Not just going and sitting in a pew, singing a few songs, hearing a sermon, a going out the same way in.  I am also not writing about the attendance of an unbeliever in the worship service.  There is a way for believers to enter into worship.  It is with anticipation, expectancy, and reverence that has been built up by prayer, bible reading, and witnessing and fellowship.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” – Psalms 100:4

     The world has taken away our holy expectancy.  No longer do we look forward to worshipping with other believers.  Just as we go to the game or show we “hope” it is a good one.  We “hope” to pull out the win.  That’s not the mindset of the believer.  “I hope its a good service” should not be part of our  vocabulary when it comes to the set apart time of worship.  The writer in Psalm 100 is excited about worshipping in Jerusalem.  He is excited to stand before the presence of God.  He is excited to be with fellow believers in worship.  The writer in Psalm 122 is excited about the journey he is making.  He will sing the psalms of ascent (or degrees in 120-134) as he makes his each of his journeys toward Jerusalem for four festivals a year.  There he will worship and nothing has made him more glad than to say “lets go worship.”

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Acts 2:46

     “Gladness” in Acts 2:46 speaks of an unhidden joy.  The word in the greek “agallisei” means “the utterance of sounds with great joy” or “exuberant delight.”  Is it wrong to come with a heavy heart?  A burden? Maybe the loss of a loved one has recently happened.  Perhaps there are issues at home or work.  Does that mean a person comes in with a fake smile or a mask to cover up there true feelings.  No because happenings work with happiness and joy is of a different nature.  Gladness or joy is contentment no matter what.  For the believer “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b) and “My soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation” (Psalm 35:9).  Our Joy comes from God.  We may be hurting from tragedy and worn from trial but our joy and contentment is founded in God.

That should impact the way we come to worship no matter the circumstances.  We are coming to worship God not because we want to see something wild happen but to give thanks and praise to the One who has saved us. Not only has He given salvation but also provision.  We truly have so much to thank Him for.  Cherry Constance writes, “Worship is an invitation, not an invention…We don’t create worship; we don’t manufacture services.  Rather we respond to a person” (Constance, 2010, p. 4).  Worship is a conversation because “true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23).   God has spoken in the beginning to create.  God has spoken mercy, peace, and forgiveness.  God has called out to us all and those of us that have answered come in worship.

The set aside time is the local gatherings set apart time to gather and respond to the Holy Father’s seeking of worship.  We answer His call with thanksgiving and praise.  He responds again in the preached Word.  We respond again by heeding the invitation and our sending to live out the Word.  Worship is never about us but always a response to God’s actions.  That’s why we can anticipate and expect great things at worship.  The need for us to sing pretty enough, to shout louder, to run faster, is not there because we could never attract God into our presence with that.  We come before Him.  He is already there.  He has beat us to the gathering place.  So let us walk in with joy, gladness, thankfulness, and expectation.

Constance, Cherry; The Worship Archetect; Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2010

Revival thoughts – Number 1

Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? (Psalms 85:6 KJV)

    I am going to try and write a little bit after each service of revival this week. We are blessed to have the Libbys and Jeff Dickens ministering in song along with Paul Hagen bringing the messages. Revival is such an integral part of church life. An indispensable act of commitment and passion.
     It is an act of commitment and passion because no matter whether the revival is a full week or just the weekend today’s society demands we do nothing in making any extra effort to attend. Society is fast paced and not much is able to slow down the pace. Not even in the country anymore.
      It has always been my opinion that the church should be a place of rest and peace for weary souls. Revival requires us to slow down for a a period of time and become more in tune with God. It teaches us to adjust our schedule around God. Not God around our schedule. We have to take the time to seek God’s presence in prayer, Bible study and meditation before Him.  How many of us have a designated time of prayer and Bible ready for over a hour a day. Thirty minutes?  Ten?  How much do just fit God in for 20 seconds if prayer after the prayer chain call or the text message requesting prayer. Are we satisfied with only the one daily bread Bible verse  we grabbed on the way out or the you verse daily verse?
Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? (Psalms 85:6). Heavenly Father I thank you for revival. I pray that in this set apart time for our people to emphasize their spiritual dependency on you and need for a fresh anointing if your Spirit.  I long for your presence in my life and faintly. In this week let us learn to give you more of our time and attention.  Amen.

Time with my wife in her adventure through life.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. (Proverbs 31:10 KJV)

Enjoying the day with my wife and daughter.  She is putting her new classroom in order and I am “helping” her.  In all truth I really do not know what I am doing. Just being some muscle, chauffeur, and an advisor for just a few things.  It is worth it though just to see how excited she is for this opportunity.
What she has taught me about this verse today?
1) That a person, not just a woman, like my wife is a rare find indeed.
2) It is because of that rarity that she is unlike any other treasure out there.
3) The more I do with her and help her with increases how precious she is to me.
4) The more I do with her and help her increases what her and I can do both as a couple and as individuals.  We are enablers to each other while we should avoid disabling each other in any way.
5) We both push each other to be more Christ-like and that is invaluable.

Trimming and watering

I’m wore out and tired.  After two weeks of intensive courses (15 weeks of material in 1 week), I decided to get up today and help my wife have a yard sale while I trimmed bushes and did so much needed grounds keeping around the parsonage and church.  I haven’t felt this good in a long time.  I really have enjoyed my day being outside, even though my skin is now fried on my face and arms.

While I was out today trimming hedges, rose bushes, and a tree, I was reminded of scriptures that tell us about the trimming that needs to take place in our life.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1-2)

      Purging, pruning, or trimming is the act of taking away something that does not promote growth, and not just any growth, fruitful growth.  We can grow but it may not produce fruit.  We can grow financially, physically, or intellectually.  None of them, however, can produce fruit when they are not centered around our spiritual growth.  Sometimes we need to cut back in areas in order for the main issue in our life, which is our relationship with God, to grow and become fruitful.
      The most amazing thing that happened today though happened with another plant and some water.  Abbie, my wife, had left out a plant in the sun to long that didn’t need quite that much.  I seen it this morning and saw how pitiful it looked in its dried state.  I knew it was dead but decided to water it anyways to see what would happen.  When I came back to the house from my other work, to my surprise and Abbie’s rejoicing, the leaves that were withered were flat and the stems that drooped where standing tall.  It was an amazing act that took place.
      That spoke to me.  We sometimes get dry and withered in our spirit, in our mind, in everything we are.  Yet, the Lord speaks to us and like water we are restored, refreshed, revitalized.  Yes, Lord, I know I’ve been at school a lot this week hearing about the wonderful work of God, but now I know I must continue to receive the water of your word for my dry and thirsty soul. I thank you Lord, for your Word from heaven that you have given us.

As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. (Proverbs 25:25)

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26)

The Law.

Had a friend ask me concerning about the use of the law today.  How do we view it? Why does it seem we follow some Old Testament law and not others?  This was my answer and a link I found regarding this same thing.

The law itself was never intended to save.  It served two other purposes. First, to give guidance in how people should approach God and secondly, how to live peaceably and equally among others.  When God gave the law it was a way to help the people to understand how they were supposed to live in freedom.  In Exodus 19, the chapter before the ten commands are given, God tells Moses in verse 3-6 that God’s grace bare them out of Egypt on eagles wings (vs. 4) and that they are to respond with obedience (vs. 5).  The purpose is that the people would be the model God wanted all people on earth to follow (vs. 6).
The Moral Law.  The Ten Commandments are also know as the moral law.  Ten commands of God that form the foundation of those that would live faithful and obedient to God.  By study and by the help of Jesus (Matt. 22:34-40), we see that the ten commandments were divided into two parts.  The first four commands lays the foundation for a proper relationship with God.  The Last six commands lays the foundation for a proper relationship of respect to other people.  The next two divisions of the law, the Ceremonial and the Civil, build upon those two sets as guidance and principles to live by.
The Ceremonial Law.  Found mostly in Exodus 25-40 and Leviticus 1-17, 21-24.  These laws deal with how a people in an unholy world could approach a holy God.  The ceremonial laws deal with the concepts of holy and unholy, clean and unclean, pure and impure.  The book of Hebrews though does a thorough job of explaining why the ceremonial law is now no longer practiced by those of the faith.  Speaking of Jesus, “but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”
The Civil Law.  Found mostly in Exodus 21-23 and Leviticus 18-20, 25-27.  This one was for the citizenry of Israel.  It would help them find and retain their identity in a world of pagan culture as they did not do the things of the world.  Galatians 2:14 gives us an understanding of the separation of Jewish and Gentile lifestyle.  “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”  Hebrews, Galatians, and Romans all are excellent sources for understanding not only how we are delivered from ceremonial law but also civil law, and it is simply, we are not Jewish.  Those who are Jewish do not have to live that lifestyle either, if they choose to follow Christ.  Though a Jew that does not follow Christ would be practicing the civil laws in vain.
The moral remains intact as it represent the the two greatest commandments.  To love God and to love neighbor.  The ceremonial and civil laws find their fulfillment in Jesus (Matt 5:17).  The ceremonial or how we relate to God is fulfilled in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  The civil or how we relate to others is fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus.  We place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  We live in obedience to the life of Jesus.  The Old Testament ceremonial and civil laws are written for our instruction.  To develop our view of holiness and relationship to God and others.

Catch Phrase Christianity

Something that I have observed in many churches and individuals is what I would like to call, “Catch-Phrase Christianity.”  I have no problem with sermons and Sunday school lessons that have to deal with a word study or a nice little phrase out of a scripture.  The problem though is that many times we see this done as purely motivational.  Disregarding any context in the scripture.

We must be on the guard when we read our Bible for personal devotion and study, prepare a sermon, and a lesson to always be mindful of the context of scripture.  How does this word, phrase, or verse fit into the whole of scripture.  What is happening to the writer, the characters mentioned, the audience in the context of history.  Then and only then can we find our place in the grand narrative of salvation history.  It is good to have life or seasonal verses but in order to be Christians that stand strong we must become well acquainted with scriptures, their context, and their application to us.  Not in part but the whole.
I’ll end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together.  
There can be equally little doubt that brief verses cannot and should not take the place of reading the Scripture as a whole.  The verse for the day is still not the Holy Scripture which will remain throughout all time until the Last Day.  Holy Scripture is more than a watchword.  It is also more than ‘light for today.’  It is God’s revealed Word for all men, for all times.  Holy Scripture does not consist of individual passages; it is a unit and is intended to be used as such.”

Teaching about the Holy Spirit

Teaching about the Holy Spirit is quite possibly one of the most disregarded subjects of Christianity.  For many it is dismissed as a “thing” or it because of a lack of understanding.  Some shy away from it because of some church cultures attaching a charismatic emotion solely to the Holy Spirit.  Whatever the issue is for someone dismissing the Holy Spirit, the importance of having a correct foundational understanding of the Holy Spirit is needed.  John 15:26-16:16 is a brief introduction that Jesus gives to the Holy Spirit.  It is a promise of the Spirit’s coming as Jesus tells His disciples that He will leave them soon.  At this last supper discourse Jesus encourages disciples in that though He is leaving (16:16) there will be One sent to continue on with them.  This leaving and sending is to their “advantage” (John 16:7).  

This passage shows the strong relationship of the Spirit to Christ.  In John 15:26 and 16:13-15 Jesus shares with His disciples that the Holy Spirit will be a supreme witness and teacher of Christ and His truth.  “Accordingly, the disciples should speak with great confidence, knowing that a Greater Witness would attend their words and bring them to bear with telling effectiveness.”  In verse 26 Jesus says, “but when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth fromt eh Father, he shall testify of me.”  This sending by Jesus of the Spirit that comes to the Father is a very important teaching.  In reality it distinguishes the distinctions of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son while keeping the Oneness of God in tact.   “The relation of Father and Spirit is described not as generation, as in the case of the Son, but as a sending-forth and a procession.”   It is seen that the Spirit proceeds from both the Son and Father.  From the Father it is said, “Of the Spirit it is declared that He proceeds from the Father.  He executes the designs of the Father.”  Also it is said of the Son, “The Third Person is sometimes termed the Spirit of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:9), which title evidently relates Him to the Second Person as One whom the Second Person sends (John 16:7), and who executes the purpose and applies the values which arise in and through the Second Person.”  This is reason why the Spirit is able to declare what Jesus has already taught and more of what Jesus wants them to know (16:12-15).  

This continuation of Jesus’ ministry towards the disciples and later to modern Disciples of Christ shows the Holy Spirit also has a deep relationship with believers.  Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit in this passage as the “Comforter” (Greek paraklētos).  “The term paraklētos refers to a legal assistant in a court who pleads someone’s case before the judge.”  In other translations the word used is, “Advocate,” meaning helper or one that comes to side.   The relationship of the Holy Spirit towards the believer is a beautiful and important thing.  “The Spirit regenerates, indwells or anoints, baptizes, seals, and fills, thus not only creating the essential factors which together make the Christ what he is, but empowering him to walk worthy of that high calling.”  

Lastly, this passage also points out that the Spirit has its dealings not only with Christ and us but also towards the world.  John 16:1-4 records the words of Jesus about the suffering His disciples will endure.  To Him is necessary that disciples know they will not face those trials alone.  Jesus shares in John 16:8-11 that the Spirit will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.  “The Spirit is presented as the One who reproves, or enlightens, the world with respect to sin, righteousness, and judgment.”  It is here that we see that the Spirit works out conviction in the heart of unbelievers to bring them to salvation.  This is a witness to the world of Christ’s glorious Gospel.  

Thus it is that the teaching of the reality of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of men and women, boys and girls, must be faithfully and consistently taught.  For it is the work of the Holy Spirit sent by the Son from the Father that grace comes to each person for salvation.  It is also through the work of the Holy Spirit that people overcome their temptation and trials.  Finally it is through the work of the Holy Spirit that the message and witness of Christ continues to this day.

Dongell, Joseph, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, Indianapolis, IN; Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997Oden, Thomas C. Classic Christianity, New York, NY; Harper One Publishers, 1992Chafer, Lewis Sperry,  Systematic Theology Vols. 1 & 2, Grand Rapids MI; Kregel Publications, 1976ibid. John D. Barry, Michael R. Grigoni, Michael S. Heiser et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Jn 14:26.Chafer, Lewis Sperry,  Systematic Theology Vols. 1 & 2, Grand Rapids MI; Kregel Publications, 1976 ibid.