Friday, April 28, 2006

Waiting in Submission

Samuel 3 tells the story of how Samuel had his first encounter with God while still very young. God gave him a message for Eli, the high priest and Samuel’s mentor. As we read this passage, we realize that Samuel was afraid to deliver the message. Let us read in Samuel 3: 15 – 18,

Samuel 3:15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.
Samuel 3:16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I.
Samuel 3:17 And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.
Samuel 3:18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.

Samuel avoided Eli. But, Eli came to Samuel. So, when it was time for little Samuel to deliver the Lord’s word to Eli, Eli himself asked for it. God then gave to Samuel the words to say, the opportunity, and the courage to speak. Samuel waited to use his gift when it was given to him to do so.

This is the way God works. God may give you a message and the gift to deliver it. Or, He may give you a work and a gift to perform it. Buy, the exact details on how the message will be delivered or the work will be done, are normally on a need to know basis. If it is a message, the exact words to speak, the tone of voice, when and where to say to deliver the message God will provide. If we make ourselves available to His work in us, and if we listen to His Spirit, we will deliver the message as if He himself would have. This is how the Lord worked with His disciples.

Jesus told His disciples just before His ascension and after giving them their commission, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" Luke 24:49.

And, tarry they did. They lingered in Jerusalem studying the Scriptures, confessing and repenting of Sin, forsaking self-righteousness, and yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They believed the promise that Jesus gave them, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” Acts 1:8.

Ten days after the ascension of Jesus something incredible happened. Let us read in Acts 2: 1-6,

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Acts 2:2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Acts 2:3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
Acts 2:6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

The Holy Spirit took care of everything. He gave them the words to say, the manner in which they would be spoken, and opened up the opportunity. The sound of the Spirit rushing in the window as violent wind and the voices of the disciples speaking in foreign tongues unknown to them, however known to the people gathered in Judaea for the feast attracted the attention of the people.

There was no need for advertisement, promotions, or handbills. There was no need for preaching or teaching classes. There was no need for a market assessment or study. All that was needed was a heart in submission to the Indwelling Spirit of God. The disciples waited to use their gift when it was given to them to do so.

If we yield to God as little Samuel did. If we wait in submission to the Spirit of God as the disciples did. Then we will be waiting to use our gift when it has been given to us to do so. Then God will give us the words, the power, and the opportunity to say them with the power and manner in which to say them. So let us wait in submission and listen.
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Friday, April 21, 2006

A Conditional Promise

Like most children Andy loved dessert. He always looked forward to eat dessert. He especially loved ice-cream. But, his parents had a rule and were insistent on it. The rule was that he ate all his vegetables before he could have dessert. He did not like vegetables as much as dessert. In fact if he could skip vegetables to eat dessert he would be very happy. But, his parents never let him. They were very strict about their rule. Andy of course, thought that if he could skip vegetables he could eat more dessert. He thought that his parents were just giving him a hard time. One day Andy decided to defy his parents. He would not eat vegetables. They insisted, but the more they insisted the more Andy defied them. After a while they left him alone. And he thought, “I won the battle.” Soon every one at the table was ready for dessert. They took the plates away, including Andy’s plate with vegetables. After this, every one in the table received a bowl of ice-cream. Andy, thought, “Yeah, now I can eat a lot more than usual because the tummy is not full.” But, to his surprise they gave him no bowl with ice-cream. So he asked, “Where is my ice-cream?” Daddy looked at him with a very stern look, “You refuse to eat your vegetables, so therefore you get no ice-cream.” Andy did not know the exact meaning of therefore, but he understood what his Daddy said. So he asked, “If I eat my veggies now, will you give me some ice-cream?” His mother answered, “What veggies will you eat, Andy?” He looked at the table and realized they had taken away his plate. It was too late for Andy. He was very sad that day. He learned a very hard lesson. Andy’s parents would onlt fulfill the promise of ice cream to Andy, if he ate his vegetables.

The title of this week’s lesson is “The Promise of the Spirit.” We see in Scriptures that He was promised to us. Yet, we see no indication that God has fulfilled His promise. Has God not kept His word? Or is it that we as Andy have not fulfilled a condition for God to keep His promise. Hebrews 1:9 – which has the word therefore - can give us the answer. This verse says about Jesus,

Hebrews 1:9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

This verse is a perfect example of cause and effect. The word “Therefore” means: For that reason or cause; consequently or hence. What this means is that the first clause of the sentence causes the second clause. So we could rewrite the sentence, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; for that reason God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” We know that oil represents the Holy Spirit. And the term - fellows - refers to the partners of Jesus – meaning us. In other words, Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit farther more than us, because He hated iniquity and loved righteousness. Not because He was God, but because as the Son of man, who assumed the likeness of sinful flesh, He hated iniquity and loved Righteousness.

This implies that the reason why we have not been anointed or filled with the Holy Spirit, as much as Jesus was, is because we love iniquity and hate righteousness. In other words we yield to our Sinful desires and resist the Holy Spirit’s prompting to convict us of Sin. This may answer why God has not answered our prayer for the pouring of the latter rain. If He were to fill us with the Spirit while we are still cherishing Sin, we would be consumed or killed. Remember no sinner can see God and live.

How about the disciples? Were they not anointed with the Spirit and fire? Yes, they were. Were they not sinners too? Yes, they were. However, during the days they spent tarrying in the upper chamber, they poured themselves over the scripture, prayed, and as they were convicted of Sin, they yielded to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. As they yielded to the conviction, they confessed and repented. The more they yielded to the Spirit’s conviction, confessed, and repented, the more the Holy Spirit would dwell in them and they in the Spirit. This process continued until the Spirit filled them with His presence so much, that they virtually became one with the Spirit as Christ was one with the Father. Once they were one with the Spirit they became corporately united themselves. They abandoned all selfish, self-centered, and self-aggrandizing desires. Once they allowed the Spirit to show them all things from the perspective of the Cross, like Paul, all things became rubbish and Christ became their all.

Should we pray for the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit? Not unless we want to die. What should be our prayer? It should be that we yield to the Spirit’s prompting of convicting us of Sin. It should be that we confess Sin and repent. As with the disciples the more we do this, the more the Spirit will dwell in us. And, it will be that one day we will be so filled with the Spirit that we will be one with Him, and He one with us. And, therefore we will be one with those who are one with the Holy Spirit.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Spirit led or Self-driven

Ask anyone about the type of person they admire and most times you get the same list of attributes. They name some one that is self-driven, a goal-getter, hard working, self made, independent, determined, a leader, assertive, self-reliant, self-confident, persistent, insistent, self-assured, believes and has faith in himself. These are individuals who fought against all odds to reach their goals and fulfill their purpose. They work hard for what they have, they asked no one for favors or handouts, and they owe no one anything. But, notice that all the attributes are about self being praised and affirmed.

In contrast we have Jesus. Yes, he was hard working and fought against all odds. But not once did He use His own power to do anything. He never affirmed self, He affirmed submission to the Holy Spirit. Let’s read some verses that will show what I mean. In Isaiah 11:2 we read, “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him …” In John 9:4 we read that He says of Himself, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Luke says in chapter 4 verse 1 that, “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” Isaiah prophesied that he would say of Himself, that,

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Isaiah 61:2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

In the gospel of John, Jesus is quoted saying that He never did His own will. Let’s read,

John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
John 6:39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

The Bible passages say that the Spirit in all things guided Christ. Some verses say that the Spirit led Him and others say that the Spirit sent Christ. Since the Bible says that Christ did as the Spirit asked Him to do, this means Christ was willing to do the Spirit’s bidding, and we can conclude that Christ was not self-driven. Christ stands in contrast to those attributes above. Christ was not His own man. All the attributes of the self-made man above did not apply to Him. He did not open His own doors, he was not self-reliant, self-confident, nor did He believe or have faith in Himself. He trusted, was dependent, and had faith and believed in His Father and the Holy Spirit. Christ never did His own will. He prayed that the Father would reveal His will to Him, and did as the Father bid Him to do. Christ never asked the Father to bless His plans; He had no plans of His own. Instead He followed the plans given to Him by the Holy Spirit.

What about us? Are we to be self-driven or Spirit led? The words of Romans 8:14 have the answer, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Notice the conditional clause at the beginning of the verse. It does not say that that if we are children of God, then we are led by the Spirit. No, it actually says that those who are led by the Spirit are sons and daughters of Christ. Are you allowing the Spirit of God to dwell in you and lead you? I pray and hope that you consider this question prayerfully. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that if we do the right things – keep the Sabbath, pay tithes, study our quarterly, etc. - we are sons and daughters of God. None of it matters unless we are being led by the Spirit to do it.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Water Of Life

Recently it dawned on me how water has been present in many of my most enjoyable experiences while growing up. I used to live in a village between two bodies of water. Less than a mile west of my home there was a river and less than a mile east, there was a creek. Both of these bodies of water merged approximately one mile from where I lived. On several occasions, our parents and family members chose to picnic at one of our favorite locations which was near the river. While the adults set up the picnic area, we kids changed our clothes, and played in the shallow water until we had to come in to eat. When I reminisce about our trips to the beach - I can actually smell the salt water from the sea -- ah, such pleasant memories. As a result, today when someone says let's go to the beach, I always picture the sea, and am sadly disappointed when I remember that the only beaches we can go to here in the Midwest, have cool lake waters. Unfortunately, these don't satisfy me.

You know, we use water for myriads of reasons such as to wash ourselves, and our cars, do our laundry, cook and hopefully to drink. Water in the form of rain irrigates our lawns, gardens and yes, even the weeds. We need water in order to live, and thankfully it is usually present.

Maybe one of the reasons the Holy Spirit is compared to water, is His omnipresence. His presence surrounds us, and if we allow, flows in and through us to divinely orchestrated acts of love. Other reasons scripture may compare the Holy Spirit with water certainly are not limited to but include the fact that the Holy Spirit is life giving as is water, He is a cleansing agent, as is water, and finally He comforts, and soothes, as does a warm bath on a cool day. Water is an entity that we as humans cannot produce and yet it is a necessity for our basic survival. Likewise, we cannot produce the Holy Spirit. Sure we can attempt to imitate His power and force ourselves to do the things we're not gifted to do, but for our basic survival -- our basic salvation, we must depend entirely on Him. It is a fact, without water we'll die, and without the Spirit we have no life. Folks, are we drinking deeply from the well of the water of life? Christ is the only source from which we receive this water. Let's read what He says in John 7:37-39 --

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.
John 7:38 He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
John 7:39 (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that
Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Many of us drink plenty of water on a daily basis, but not one drop of that water flows from the river of living water. So, we continue to thirst, and thus it couldn't be possible that Christ was talking about the natural act of drinking earthly water. Then what was He referring to? Well, according to the text, Christ was referring to the spiritual refreshing and sustaining which the Holy Spirit brings as He possesses the recipient. As we thirst for righteousness, Christ pours the water of His Spirit upon us. When we receive the Spirit -- like water, He overflows our lives, quenches our thirst, and brings untold blessings in His wake. Thus all who not only come into contact with us as we possess the Heavenly flow, but drink deeply of the same drought as we've drunk, also find hemselves refreshed, and their thirst quenched.

Water not only serves to quench our thirst, but is a lubricant to our joints as well as our intestinal tract. Capable of regulating our body temperatures, water also acts as a solvent for various chemicals, fibers, and lipids (fats). Which of us can say that the Holy Spirit is not a softening agent, who makes smooth the rough edges of our lives? Which of us can say that the Spirit has not absorbed some of that hot anger that nations and people in our world dish out? Who can say that the Holy Spirit has not dissolved some of our disagreements and misunderstandings into things we now can laugh about? Who can say that the Holy Spirit has not helped them acquire a taste for Godly things? Probably very few of us can answer these questions in the negative. It is God who in His love and mercy is inviting us to drink of the Holy Spirit from His ever-flowing fountain. He's promised that if we drink, we will not be disappointed. I think He's safe to trust. Don't you?

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