TO KNOW HIM

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.

Do you know Jesus? That is a common phrase heard amongst evangelical believers. The problem with this is it is easily misunderstood. What does it mean to know Jesus? Does it mean have you answered an altar call, or prayed the prayer ? Or does it mean you have answered the question right when you are asked are you going to heaven when you die? Paul talked about “knowing” Jesus in today’s verse. For Him it wasn’t a casual statement or something that happened once upon a time, it was a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord that was increasing throughout his life. It wasn’t an add on in his life, for Paul knowing Christ was his life. Paul said that to know Christ was the most valuable possession that he owned and the very pursuit of all his energy. His ministry seemed to be an overflow of his pursuit. Here is how Steven Fry describes Paul’s statement.

“From a prison cell in Rome, Paul pens this personal letter in which he comes to terms with an accomplished past and a confining present. After his past as a persecutor of God’s people and through his “superior” religious activities as a Pharisee, Paul came to the liberating conclusion that all is rubbish compared to knowing the Lord! Freed from the stagnation of yesterday’s victories and the emotional paralysis of yesterday’s mistakes, Paul knew that the only thing that ultimately counted was knowing the Lord and being obedient to His will. Not only was his past subsumed by this singular passion, his present imprisonment could not snatch from him the joy of knowing Christ. Prison chains could not keep him from pursuing God, nor dull his effectiveness in ministry. Paul’s desire to know Christ sprang from no other motive but to enjoy Him. He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own. He was a lover of God, not a user of God.”

I love that statement, He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake. So let me ask that question once again, do you know Jesus? Do you know Him as your passion, your goal in life and your friend? Answering this question is where life begins.

AMBUSHED BY GOD

Is.30:18 – Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.

This is a very precious promise from Isaiah the prophet. In the original language there is a powerful shade of meaning in the word “wait”. This word implies some sort of ambush. Isaiah pictures the Lord waiting at strategic places in our lives to ambush us; He wants to ambush us with His compassion and mercy. It’s easy for us to get restless when we are waiting for some sort of breakthrough, the Lord uses those seasons to teach us why we are seeking Him after all. The breakthrough involves intimacy with Him, His gifts and provisions became secondary. I can imagine Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah waiting in the bushes of the turns in our lives waiting to pounce on us to devour us with His love. Here is how Dick Mills sees this verse.

“The mercy in store for them is very affectingly expressed. He will wait to be gracious; he will wait till you return to him and seek his face, and then he will be ready to meet you with mercy. He will wait, that he may do it in the best and fittest time, when it will be most for his glory, when it will come to you with the most pleasing surprise. He will continually follow you with his favors, and not let slip any opportunity of being gracious to you. He will stir up himself to deliver you, will be exalted, will be raised up out of his holy habitation, that he may appear for you in more than ordinary instances of power and goodness; and thus he will be exalted, that is, he will glorify his own name. This is what he aims at in having mercy on his people.”

So maybe you feel like you have been forgotten or forsaken. Let this season in your life increase your hunger for Him. Rather than forgotten you are remembered. He is looking for the perfect moment to ravish you with His love and bring restoration to the broken places of your life. Let this verse be a word from the Lord for you, “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him”.

FOUNTAIN IN YOUR SOUL

Eph.5:18,19 – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

Being drunk in the Spirit is not some new bizarre twist on Christianity forged in the halls of charismania. Spiritual intoxication is as old as communion or any other sacred part of our Christian faith. Even though this intoxication is often characterized by laughter and extreme joy it is saturated with the very holiness of the Lord. Actually it has erupted throughout church history often scandalizing segments of the body of Christ. It has often been connected to critical seasons for the church, equipping Christians for the persecution and temptations that are rampant in the world. Here is how Augustine described spiritual intoxication and drinking in his day.

“The Holy Spirit has come to abide in you; do not make him withdraw; do not exclude him from your heart in any way. He is a good guest; He found you empty and He filled you; He found you hungry and He satisfied you; He found you thirsty and He has intoxicated you. May He truly intoxicate you! The Apostle said, “Do not be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery.” Then, as if to clarify what we should be intoxicated with, he adds, “But be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart”. Doesn’t a person who rejoices in the Lord and sings to Him exuberantly seem like a person who is drunk? I like this kind of intoxication. The Spirit of God is both drink and light.”

Many have left the church in our generation because of a dissatisfaction that has developed in their souls. Churches have scrambled and morphed into a culturally acceptable model to try to keep the crowds. The changes in church hasn’t helped meet the nagging thirst that is in the dissatisfied souls of this age. The solutions are as old as the gospel itself, man is thirsting for God and nothing less will do. The solution for today’s world is the same as the one that has surfaced throughout history. Man is thirsty for living water, the water that becomes a veritable fountain in our souls.

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.

THE SHOCKING WORK OF GOD

Mk.5:15 – They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.

I have been attracted to the Great Awakening for many years now. This awakening was closely connected to the birth of our nation in 1776, maybe it will be connected to this season we are currently in. We need another national awakening desperately. Jonathan Edwards and his congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts were closely connected to the birth of the Great Awakening. His account of its beginning told of some shocking conversions. Here is one of those accounts.

“And then it was in the latter part of December that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work among us; so that there were, very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons that were to all appearance savingly converted; and some of them wrought upon in a remarkable manner. Among these, I was surprised with the relation of a young woman that had been one of the greatest company-keepers in the whole town, in whom there appeared evident a glorious work of God’s infinite power and sovereign grace; a new and truly broken, sanctified heart. Yet I was filled with concern about the effect it might have on others, and was ready to conclude (though too rashly) that some would be hardened by it in carelessness and looseness of life, and would take occasion to reproach religion; but the event was the reverse to a wonderful degree. God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening others, of anything that ever came to pass in the town. I have had abundant opportunity to know the effect it had, by my private conversation with many. The news of it seemed as a flash of lightning upon the hearts, both of young people and others… The noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder. All other talk but about spiritual and eternal things was thrown by. All the conversation in all companies, and upon all occasions, was upon these things only; except so much as was necessary for people’s carrying on their ordinary secular business.”

The woman who was a “company keeper” was probably the least likely candidate in Northampton to be a catalyst for revival. Her life was scandalous but the grace of God apparently made her conversion a sign and a wonder to her town. Who knows, maybe you too can become a sign and wonder to upend your community. What does it take? A life touched by God is where it all starts. From there, it seems to spread like a fire in a dry land. Before long, your whole community can become a raging fire.

THAT BLASTED BURNING BUSH

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS- “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” Ex.3:2 Everyone has experienced it, the day eternity knocked at your door. When our life got divinely, supernaturally interrupted. We were going one way just to turn around and go the other. Life before was dull, the sights and sounds around us boring and offensive. Everyday was another letdown and people just annoyed us. I laugh when I think of poor Moses! He too was leading an idyllic life shepherding sweet sheep, married to a great wife and having wonderful darling kids. He could almost put his past, Egypt, and his kinfolks all behind. Life was good until……that blasted bush chased him down. The commander of heaven and earth who never sleeps nor rests found him and had enough of Moses daydreaming his life away. McClaren says, “His former impetuous confidence had all been beaten out of him. Time was when he was ready to take up the rôle of deliverer at his own hand; but these hot days were past, and age and solitude and communion with God had mellowed him into humility. His recoil was but one instance of the shrinking which all true, devout men feel when designated for tasks which may probably make life short, and will certainly make it hard. All prophets and reformers till to-day have had the same feeling. Men who can do such work as the Jeremiahs, Pauls, Luthers, Cromwells, can do, are never forward to begin it. He works with ‘bruised reeds,’ and breathes His strength into them.”What a precious divine call Moses heard that eternal day! God called him by name and Moses returned the call saying ; “here am I”. Whatever was on the bush jumped on Moses and Moses left his quiet obscure life of peace and tranquility. I wish I could say his wife and kids were skipping right along. I wish I could say Moses spent his next 40 years laying around basking in his success. But in the middle of it all, Moses is looked at as the one of the greatest men of the Old Testament and he did what the Lord asked him to do. He was divinely interrupted! From the moment he was found floating in the river to being raised in Pharaoh’s house he looked for the heavenly reward choosing to suffer affliction. That blasted burning bush saved his life, brought him into his heavenly reward and delivered a whole nation out of bondage. What is your burning bush? Have you’ve experienced it? Embraced it? Or are you running away from your calling out of some stupid offense? Way too many Christians have left the business of the kingdom cause there so called God didn’t jump through enough hoops for them. Let the fire of the bush consume you!

UNUSUAL VISITATION

Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

It seems like everybody knows we need an awakening and many are calling for a Third Great Awakening in our land; I’m not sure everyone knows what they are asking for. Revival often gets quite messy, it never comes the way we think, and many times not in the way we want. The First Great Awakening found great resistance in the American colonies in the 1700’s. Jonathan Edwards published an account of its early beginning in his church called A FAITHFUL NARRATIVE. The folks in Northampton were quite surprised at the way many were effected when that revival began. Here is a glimpse into one woman’s experience.

“There is a pious woman in this town that is a very modest bashful person, that was moved by what she heard of the experiences of others earnestly to seek to God to give her more clear manifestations of himself, and evidences of her own good estate, and God answered her request, gradually gave her more and more of a sense of his glory and love, which she had with intermissions for several days, till one morning the week before last she had it to a more than ordinary degree, and it prevailed more and more till towards the middle of the day, till her nature began to sink under it, as she was alone in the house; but there came somebody into the house, and found her in an unusual, extraordinary frame. She expressed what she saw and felt to him; it came to that at last that they raised the neighbors, [for] they were afraid she would die; I went up to see her and found her perfectly sober and in the exercise of her reason, but having her nature seemingly overborne and sinking, and when she could speak expressing in a manner that can’t be described the sense she had of the glory of God, and particularly of such and such perfections, and her own unworthiness, her longing to lie in the dust, sometimes her longing to go to be with Christ, and crying out of the excellency of Christ, and the wonderfulness of his dying love; and so she continued for hours together, though not always in the same degree.”

What is being described in this account is what often happens when humans come in contact with divine glory; it is just too much to bare. Maybe a dose of this glory would help us move from man centered seeker sensitive services, into meetings where the glory of the Lord is welcomed. Do it again Lord.

F BOMB ALTAR CALL

Mk.1:23 -27 – Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

This was not what was expected at the Sabbath Service in the Synagogue in Capernaum. Service had always been predictable as far back as anyone could remember. Peter and his band of fishermen had attended services here all of their lives, this one was not going to be like any service they had ever seen. Jesus was the guest speaker that day. That sounds funny – come to service today- Jesus of Nazareth is our special guest speaker. Somewhere in the middle of service an angry voice began to cry out “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God.”

I think Mark probably used the sterile version of what the demonized man actually said. I have never seen a demon yet with a clean mouth.

That brings us to a service almost forty years ago at our church on Kawanee in Metairie, Louisiana. During the altar call at the 11 am service a well dressed young woman who was answering the altar call began to shout obscenities. This was the first time I had heard so many F bombs in church. I have never seen a church empty so quick. The good news is the young woman got free and gave her life to Jesus. Several years ago she went home to heaven. That miracle atmosphere shaped the future of Victory Fellowship. You may not be attending a church that has obscenities during the altar service. I would rather have obscenities than the dead services that are far too common.

Back in that service in Capernaum jaws dropped as the shouting and convulsing intensified. The profanities and commotion ended just as quickly as they started. The man was suddenly just as normal as everyone else. I’m sure no one ever forgot the day Jesus was guest speaker in Capernaum, they probably never forgot the profanity laced altar call either.

FALLING UNDER THE POWER

John 18:4-6 – So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He *said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

I used to have a really hard time with people falling under the power. It seemed forced to me. I guess seeing some evangelists shoving people over didn’t help much. All of that has changed for me now. The change started when I was caught by surprise by falling on the floor for myself. I was embarrassed at first, I had fallen down and couldn’t get up. After laying on the floor for a while I began to yield. As I was laying on the floor, I became more and more aware of a strong presence on me and frankly I no longer wanted to get up. I was hooked. From that point on I began to go on my search in the Bible and into historic Revival to see if this manifestation of the Spirit was tenable. Of course the Bible is full of examples. Today’s verse from the Garden of Gethsemane saw the soldiers coming to arrest Jesus fall down under the power. Of course there was Saul of Tarsus rolling in the road on the Road to Damascus and Daniel in his time of fasting and prayer doing a face-plant in the dirt. We also can’t forget John on the isle of Patmos, he fell on his face when he saw Jesus shine like the noonday sun. The Bible is full of these examples.

As for historic Revival, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Finney experienced this phenomenon in their meetings. People would often fall into an unconscious state and be there for extended periods of time. This manifestation was also common at the Azusa Street Revival, the Charismatic Renewal, as well as the outpourings under John Wimber in the 1980’s. This is nothing new and has been in the church from the beginning.

What happens when someone is under the anointing experiencing this manifestation? I like to call it the Holy Ghost operating table. Whatever needs to come out is removed by the Lord. He can heal us physically, restore us emotionally, bring deliverance from oppression and addictions into our lives.

He also pours into us. Whatever we are lacking for the task at hand He can add to us. He is passing out gifts for ministry and even giving us instruction and creative ideas. He pours into us exactly what we need.

So what shall we do? I say press in until you are lost in His glory, that’s where it all begins to happen.

WHAT A WASTE

Matt.26:8,9 – And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

What we value says a lot about us. In the last week of the life and ministry of Jesus we see the conflict of what really matters in life raise its ugly head in the inner circle of the disciples of Jesus. For Mary, her actions told her story. She loved Jesus and how He had changed her life. She loved sitting in His presence and just listening to His gracious words. For Mary, He was the prize. Not even what He could do or His miracles, Jesus Himself was her treasure. She showed that as she poured out her most precious treasure, an alabaster box with spikenard valued at one year’s wage (today maybe valued at $40,000). She poured out her treasure of love because she valued Him above all things.

Judas saw things differently. Why waste this valued spikenard. We could sell it and do something for the poor. Judas valued ministry and the power ministry wields more than Christ. Things haven’t changed much over the years. Today we face the same kind of temptations. The crowds that ministry attracts brings power and influence. Too often we see successful ministry by the size of the crowds and the size of the offerings. Maybe a good Sunday is more than that. Maybe pouring out our love on Christ Himself is a better description of a great Sunday. Here are some thoughts from Barclay on today’s passage.

“We see one of the laws of temptation. Jesus would not have put Judas in charge of the money-box unless he had some capabilities in that direction. Westcott in his commentary said: “Temptation commonly comes through that for which we are naturally fitted.” If a man is fitted to handle money, his temptation may be to regard money as the most important thing in the world. If a man is fitted to occupy a place of prominence, his temptation may be to think first and foremost of reputation. If a man has a particular gift, his temptation may be to become conceited about that gift. Judas had a gift for handling money and became so fond of it that he became first a thief and then a traitor for its sake.”

So which kind of disciple are you? One lost in worship at His feet, or the one drunk on the power and influence of ministry. They look strangely familiar until someone pours out the oil.