PHARISEE INTERRUPTED

PHIL.3:5 – “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;”

Saul of Tarsus, known to us the the Apostle Paul, was at the top of his game. He had been raised for this, being taught at Gamaliel’s feet from his childhood. He was a leading Pharisee, charged with the duty to root out and destroy this new religious cult called the Way. Paul hated these people, these Christians, he saw them as a threat to his stature and prominence as a leader in Israel. It all came to a screeching halt that day on the Damascus Road. Paul was said to be “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” until that life changing interruption when Jesus suddenly appeared and Saul found himself in the dirt. In those moments in the presence of the Lord everything changed. This interruption was one that would change Saul into Paul and a Jewish sect into a worldwide religion. Paul nor the world could ever be the same.

Paul’s dogma was about to experience dramatic and permanent transformation. First he began to see Jesus as the Savior. Rather than a preacher of the law this converted Pharisee was a preacher of the cross. 1 Cor.1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The cross that brought salvation became central to Paul’s message. We also see that Paul caught a glimpse of the heavenly ministry of Jesus. Rom.8:33,34 – “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Paul saw Jesus as the resurrected, glorified heavenly high priest. Out of this Paul saw Jesus as our Advocate, Intercessor, and heavenly High Priest.

Paul also clearly saw freedom from our old life in Christ’s work on the cross. Gal.2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Out of this glimpse of the glory of the Lord Paul taught that our old life is dead, we are not the people we used to be. He also saw that we are alive now with the resurrection life of Christ in us. Paul also introduced the modern concept of the local church to us. Gal.2:20 – “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,”

Just one moment changed everything for Paul. Maybe we too need an interruption, an interruption that reveals Christ Himself to us.

WITHDRAW THE VEIL

Rev.1:17 – When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.

Have you ever fallen under the power? I used to think it was bogus. To me it was an embarrassing part of the charismatic renewal that I wanted nothing to do with. What changed my opinion? My opinion changed when it happened to me. What is falling under the power anyway? One way to explain it would be this, becoming so aware of the things of the spiritual world that you lose the ability to function normally in this world. It’s what happened to John on the isle of Patmos, Paul when he was converted on the Damascus Road, and Daniel when he was interceding for his nation. Today it often happens when the power of the Spirit falls upon an individual or a group of individuals and they end up on the floor experiencing His glorious presence. Jonathan Edwards often saw this manifestation in his services, here is part of his explanation.

“Let us rationally consider what we profess to believe of the infinite greatness of the things of God, the divine wrath, the divine glory, and the divine infinite love and grace in Jesus Christ, and the vastness and infinite importance of the things of eternity; and how reasonable is it to suppose that if it pleases God a little to withdraw the veil, and let in light into the soul, and give something of a view of the great things of another world in their transcendent and infinite greatness, that human nature, that is as the grass, a shaking leaf, a weak withering flower, should totter under such a discovery? Such a bubble is too weak to bear the weight of a view of things that are so vast. Alas! What is such dust and ashes, that it should support itself under the view of the awful wrath of infinite glory and love of Jehovah! No wonder therefore that it is said, “No man can see me and live.”

There was a season when Jonathan’s wife Sarah was experiencing this phenomenon in her life. He said there were certain words (like Holy Spirit) that he would avoid using at home because it would set her off. Its not falling or not falling that makes any difference. What matters is having a glimpse behind the veil; when that happens you might find yourself as a heap of joy stuck to the floor.

TOO EXCITED

Acts 13:52 – And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

The worldly man knows about the pursuit of pleasure. He chases it in bars, hunting and fishing trips, casinos, strip clubs, golf courses, and football season. When it comes to church the attitude is more like “don’t get too excited”. Excitement and joy in church is often written off as frivolous exploits into religious extremism and fanaticism. That is really strange if you think about it; being happy in the pursuit of carnal pleasure in earthly things is acceptable and healthy, the pursuit of joy and excitement in church is treated as weird and totally unacceptable. I wonder if that’s why so many people are abusing meds and alcohol, maybe it is the result of misdirected pursuits of joy. Jonathan Edwards wrote extensively about revival and the pursuit of spiritual joy. Here are some of his comments about excitement in church.

“Though there are false affections in religion, and affections that in some respects are raised high, that are flashy, yet undoubtedly there are also true, holy and solid affections; and the higher these are raised, the better: and if they are raised to an exceeding great height, they are not to be thought meanly of or suspected, merely because of their great degree, but on the contrary to be esteemed and rejoiced in. Charity, or divine love, is in Scripture represented as the sum of all the religion of the heart; but this is nothing but an holy affection: and therefore in proportion as this is firmly fixed in the soul, and raised to a great height, the more eminent a person is in holiness. Divine love, or charity, is represented as the sum of all the religion of heaven, and that wherein mainly the religion of the church in its more perfect state on earth shall consist… therefore the higher this holy affection is raised in the church of God, or in a gracious soul, the more excellent and perfect is the state of the church, or a particular soul.”

So when was the last time you got criticized for being too on fire or being too expressive in your worship of God? Maybe our tendency to back off and but a lid on our affections in church is really holding us back. I think the desire to live for God outside of church springs from our affections that we have and show toward the Lord. So I say don’t hold back, let your love of God be released in demonstrations of affection.

MY TRIALS AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD

Deut.5:24- The Lord our God has shown us his glory.

One of the things that changed radically for me in revival may seem small to the casual observer but proved to be cataclysmic in my life. I guess you would say my preaching in the early years of my ministry was man centered. What do I mean by that? That God was all about me and everything that He created was focused on me. The results of that emphasis can be quite predictable. If I do certain things then God will do certain things for me. It’s not that the Lord doesn’t want to do things that will be a blessing to me, its just that I had the motivation wrong. Everything God does is for His glory. Everything from creating solar systems to sunsets are to display His glory. Jesus healed the sick first of all to display His glory. He said that the man who was born blind was born that way for an opportunity to display the glory of God in healing. When we see that and focus on His glory we are filled with satisfaction and a joy beyond compare. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.

“God’s great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man’s eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honor, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he brings his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.”

So what kind of trial and challenges are you facing today? Could it be that all this really is is an opportunity for the Lord to be glorified? When you finally see that our whole reason to exist is to display His glory in redemption the pressure comes off of us and we can finally stand still and watch Him in action.

TOO GOOD FOR WORDS

Acts 9:3,4 – Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

Jonathan Edwards wrote several volumes defending the Great Awakening. Actually the famous missionary book, THE DIARY OF DAVID BRAINERD, was written by Jonathan Edwards in defense of the Revival. Brainerd had been strongly influenced by the preaching of Edwards and George Whitefield. His amazing story of expulsion from Yale and his missionary work to the Native Americans were all connected to the outpouring of the Spirit. Edwards took the diary David had compiled shortly before his death and used it as a testimony to the legitimacy of the outpouring. Here is a quote from Edwards defending his wife’s response to the Spirit. He left her anonymous in this account.

“sometimes the sufficiency and faithfulness of God as the covenant God of his people, appearing in these words, “I am that I am”, in so affecting a manner as to overcome the body: a sense of the glorious, unsearchable, unerring wisdom of God in his works, both of creation and providence, so as to swallow up the soul, and overcome the strength of the body: a sweet rejoicing of soul at the thoughts of God’s being infinitely and unchangeably happy, and an exulting gladness of heart that God is self-sufficient, and infinitely above all dependence, and reigns over all, and does his will with absolute and uncontrollable power and sovereignty; a sense of the glory of the Holy Spirit, as the great Comforter, so as to overwhelm both soul and body; only mentioning the word, “the Comforter,” has immediately taken away all strength; that word, as the person expressed it, seemed great enough to fill heaven and earth: a most vehement and passionate desire of the honor and glory of God’s name”

Edwards said that he couldn’t refer to the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, after his wife Sarah had been touched. She would be incapacitated by just remembering the awesomeness of the Lord’s touch. Brainerd turned his own awakening into evangelistic fervor. His passion for God spilled over into his zeal to reach the Native Americans. Sarah and David became powerful, irrefutable examples to the reality of God’s outpouring. It becomes impossible to argue with the testimony of Jesus. Theory folds in the presence of the reality of the testimony of Jesus.

NO WANT

Psa.23:1 – The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

How much of our lives are spent pursuing our wants. From pre-school through college and often beyond we are preparing ourselves to make a living so that we and our family will not want. We then often spend our working years in preparing for retirement so we will suffer no want in our latter years. Sounds like an exercise in futility. Like Solomon said, “All is vanity, vanity of vanities and striving after wind”. If you think about it, Solomon had a handle on man’s life without God. Chasing Don Quixote’s windmills and running hard after the “Impossible Dream”, that pretty much describes life in the fast lane. That is exactly what set me on my search as a young man that landed me in the Shepherd’s arms. Here is how Spurgeon describes today’s verse.

“I might want otherwise (want), but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore “I shall not want.” I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve?… I may not possess all that I wish for, but “I shall not want.” Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but “I shall not.” “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” It is not only “I do not want,” but “I shall not want.” Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, “I shall not want.” Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because ‘The Lord is my shepherd’.”

So where does this rest come from? It comes from knowing the Lord for yourself and trusting Him. David was a shepherd himself and knew he would risk his own life to care for his sheep. How could the Chief Shepherd ever forget or neglect the sheep of His pasture? Impossible !!! If the Lord is your Shepherd, you shall not want!

OFFENDED BY GOD

Matt.18:7 – Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Every move of the Spirit of God throughout history has been opposed. One example was the extreme resistance to the Azusa Street revival and its practice of speaking in tongues. It was called by one renowned evangelical leader “the last vomit of Satan”. The laughing, crying, shouting, and trances were also hot button topics. People falling in the Spirit and rolling on the floor at Azusa gave birth to the name “holy rollers”. Jesus was criticized for hanging around with people of ill repute, John the Baptist scorned for his “tee-totaling” ways. The Wesleys and Whitefield were criticized for their outdoor meetings. I guess many people would rather have a dead service so that can catch up on their sleep.

When Revival fell on us in 1994 we had our fair share of critics. One of my fans said that we were having daily meetings because I didn’t have a life and didn’t want to be with my family. Another special person criticized me for calling out in service “It’s raining”. They actually accused me of public urination (in a spiritual way), I still laugh every time I remember it. Jonathan Edwards spoke about one of the dangers of criticizing the messy move of God, you keep waiting and totally miss out. Here is how Edwards put it.

“Tis probable that many of those that are thus waiting, know not what they are waiting for: if they wait to see a work of God without difficulties and stumbling blocks, that will be like the fool’s waiting at the riverside to have the water all run by. A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected: “It must needs be that offenses come”. There never yet was any great manifestation that God made of himself to the world, without many difficulties attending it. It is with the works of God as ’tis with the Word of God; they are full of those things that seem strange and inconsistent and difficult to the carnal things that seem strange and inconsistent and difficult to the carnal unbelieving hearts of men. Christ and his work always was, and always will be a stone of stumbling, and rock of offense; a gin and a snare to many.”

So don’t be like the fool Edwards cited, waiting by the river for all the water to pass. When a move of God breaks out go ahead and jump in. You might be pleasantly surprised.

WHEN YOU WALK INTO THE ROOM

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream”

Ps. 126:1

August is so historical for Frank and I, it sweeps us up every year because that is the month when everything changed for us. Now some forty five years ago at the sweet age of 16, Christ found me at the bottom of the heap and put a new song into my mouth. That old song had done run its course! Thank God! Frank and I were married soon and swept up into a course of redemption that has never let us go. We have lived a somewhat unbelievable life. If there were ever two losers never to go anywhere in life, we would have been the poster children. When Christ walks into the room everything changes.

Bryon and Katie Torwalt sing it this way-

“When you walk into the room

Everything changes

Darkness starts to tremble

At the light that You bring

And when You walk into the room

Every heart starts burning

And nothing matters more

Than just to sit here at Your feet”

Then 1994 God just outdid himself by bringing us a fresh touch from heaven. He got tired of our dry, sorrowful services and came down with holy ghost power! Jonathan Edwards writes about the Surprising work of God that happen to his city in North Hampton. He puts it this way.

“The daily conversation of virtually everyone was the revival – “Other discourse than of the things of religion would scarcely be tolerated in any company. The minds of people were wonderfully taken off from the world, it was treated amongst us as a thing of very little consequence. They seemed to follow their worldly business, more as a part of their duty, than from any disposition they had to it; the temptation now seemed to lie on that hand, to neglect worldly affairs too much, and to spend too much time in the immediate exercise of religion. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it. The engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances. There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.”

Will you allow Christ to invade your lives like never before? Your worship will change, your outlook will be transformed, even your dog will love you! Your focus will shift from the natural world to Christ world-his eternal world, the world of love.

OVERFLOWING CUP

Psa.23:5 – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

Obviously David often thought of the times of solitude he spent as a youth watching the sheep. He must have had a special relationship with these sheep, sensing the tenderness seen in this Psalm when he sees himself as a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd. In these simple yet profound words we can see an ocean of the Lord’s love and care for us. The Shepherd loves His sheep and makes sure his basic needs are met. David said that he would never want because the Lord was His Shepherd. Here is how Albert Barnes describes the temporal benefits of having this Shepherd.

“It is not merely “full”, it runs over. This, too, indicates abundance; and from the abundance of the favors thus bestowed, the psalmist infers that God would always provide for him, and that He would never leave him to want.”

There is also a sense of total spiritual satisfaction that flows from the life of the Shepherd. David always sang about being satisfied as God for His portion and delight. Augustine concurs as he talks about this inebriating cup.

“My cup runneth over.” Or as it is in the Vulgate: And my inebriating chalice, how excellent it is! With this cup were the martyrs inebriated, when, going forth to their passion, they recognised not those that belonged to them; not their weeping wife, not their children, not their relations; while they gave thanks and said, “I will take the cup of salvation!”

There is also a sense of extreme excess in David’s words. His cup is not just full, it is overflowing. Even when we are full the Lord keeps pouring. Out of this fulness is where we minister to others. My overflowing cup is a cup of ministry. Here is John Trappe’s explanation.

“My cup runneth over.” He had not only a fulness of abundance, but of redundance. Those that have this happiness must carry their cup upright, and see that it overflows into their poor brethren’s emptier vessels.”

So how is your cup doing today? Is it empty, half full, or overflowing? This is the life that began with David during those years as a shepherd. Samuel anointed David with oil and the Holy Spirit began to rush and remain on David. The rest of David’s life he was pouring out his songs from a full and overflowing cup.

MY SOUL LONGS FOR GOD

Ps.63:1 – O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The birth of the Great Awakening that influenced the birth of our country happened in a small frontier town, Northampton, Massachusetts in 1734. There was a sudden interest in spiritual things that came upon this town with a surge of conversions starting first with the young people. There apparently was a radical life change in some of them that served as a catalyst igniting the fires of revival in this Puritan congregation. Jonathan Edwards became known all around the western world through his writings, chronicling the move of God in his church. Here are some remarks from his publication, A Faithful Narrative.

“But as to those that have been thought to be converted among us in this time, the change in them seems abiding. They appear to have a new sense of things, new apprehensions and views of God, and the great things of the Gospel. They have a new sense of the truth of them, and they affect them in a new manner; though it is very far from being always alike with them, nor can they revive a sense of things when they please. Their hearts are often touched, and sometimes filled with new sweetnesses and delights. There seems to be an inward ardor and burning of heart which they express, of which they never experienced the like before. There are yet new kind of breathings and pantings and breakings of soul for the longings it hath. Some that before were very rough in their temper and manner, seem to be remarkably softened and sweetened. And some have then souls exceedingly filled and overwhelmed with light, love, and comfort, long since the work of God has ceased to be so remarkable.”

What catches my attention from this account is the passion that is apparently birthed in these new converts. Edwards speaks of an “inward ardor and burning of heart” in these new Christians. He also speaks of “breathings and pantings and breakings of soul”. What a contrast to the “pray this prayer and now you are saved” theology of this age. I think we have become so afraid of offending people with the gospel that we have watered our message down to the point of it being void of power. Lord send us some inward ardor and breathings and pantings after God.