LESSONS FROM A HARLOT

Jn. 4:13,14 – Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jesus loved to shock people into reality. This story in John 4 is an example of Jesus and His tendency toward shocking and borderline scandalous behavior. For us twenty first century readers we may not catch the radical nature of this story at first glance. Jesus is stepping on centuries of racial tension by going to Samaria, engaging a questionable woman in conversation, and actually asking her for a drink of water. This is unthinkable to Jesus’s disciples and unthinkable to the Samaritans living in this village. What was Jesus after? What He is always after, He was looking for worshippers. So What does He do? He decides to find a woman of the night to teach the world a lesson about worship. Here is a description from John Piper.

“Sometimes casual sleepers need to be shocked. If you want them to hear what you have to say, you might even need to scandalize them. Jesus is especially good at this. When He wants to teach us something about worship, He uses a whore!

“Go call your husband,” he says to the Samaritan woman.

“I don’t have a husband,” she answers.

“That’s right,” Jesus says. “But you’ve had five, and the man you sleep with now is not your husband.”

She is shocked. We’re shocked! But Jesus simply sits there on the edge of the well with His hands folded, looking at the woman with razors in His eyes, ready to teach us about worship.”

So what was the Lord’s point? Worship is closely associated with pleasure and satisfaction; this woman was in search of both and had found neither. So the Lord offers her what she was looking for in all of the wrong places. He told her that if she would come to Him and ask, He would give her living water that would satisfy her thirst for the rest of her life. He was offering her forgiveness for her past and a solution for her future. He is offering us the same thing today. What well are you drinking from? Is it sexual sin, or alcohol, or maybe even a career, or even something as wholesome as your family? It’s all the same and none of those wells can quench our thirst. Just leave your bucket by that worldly well and ask the Lord for a drink, like He promised, you will never thirst again.

I Press In

Brandy Monnerjahn

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” Luke 8:46

 

We all want to be touched by God but many stand in service week after week wondering, “When, when is God going to come and touch me?” I can remember being one of those people. I stood watching others get touch and wondered, “When would it be my turn?” “When would God come and touch me?” One day as I sat in service, the guest speaker began to teach on the woman with the issue of blood. He talked about the crowd surrounding Jesus and how they were all pressing in to receive something from Him. Then he began to speak of her desperation. She was painfully conscious of her need for a touch. A feeling of desperation began to pound in my chest. I knew that there was a desire in my heart to be touched but God always seemed to be passing me by. Then the Lord began to speak, “She pressed in.” The woman with the issue of blood acknowledged her need and acted. I had sat in service after service waiting for a touch but had I never taken action? Had I ever pressed through and touched Him instead of waiting for Him to touch me. Matthew Henry states, “A poor woman applied herself to Christ, and received mercy from him by the way. If we do but touch, as it were, the hem of Christ’s garment by living faith, our worst evils will be healed;” I needed to apply myself. I needed to push through my crowded flesh and reach out for Him. I began to take steps to touch Him. I spent my morning bible time reading about people who were desperate for a touch; Zacchaeus climbed a tree, Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, a woman who was not to be in a public place pushed through a crowd. I stood in every prayer line not wondering when He would touch me but excited about when I would get the opportunity to touch Him. My walk became less about why He hadn’t touched me and more about what I was willing to do to touch Him. That moment in my life has made all the difference. When I feel far away from Him, I know He hasn’t moved so I begin to shake myself until I reach the hem of His garment. I deliberately touch Him and His power consumes every inch of my doubt.

HAPPY

Phil.3:8 – 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,

This verse gets to the very heart of life, the pursuit of happiness. That basic motive in everyone’s heart is often that huge elephant in the room. Everyone knows it is there but no one would ever acknowledge it. That is except for Paul, he had been chasing that elusive elephant all his life. If you still don’t know what I am talking about let me be really specific; all humans are directed, motivated, and empowered in the pursuit of happiness as the basic drive of their life. Many are not even aware that this is what motivates them but it is always present. Paul is saying he found out why that desire for happiness is the common denominator in everyone’s life. The businessman in pursuit of success is pursuing happiness. The athlete in pursuit of a championship is after the happiness that would bring. Even the prostitute in her humiliation is looking for happiness at what lies after the next trick. Drug addicts, alcoholics, policemen, and politicians (and preachers too) are looking for happiness they hope their choices will bring. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this verse.

“Young people commonly seek pleasure in company, and oftentimes spend much of their time in mirth among their companions; but none have such delightful company as those that live in the exercise of religion, and virtue, and holiness, for they have their conversation in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ has become a friend and companion. Oftentimes when they are alone and seem to the world to spend their time solitarily, they indeed have company enough. It is their delight to withdraw from all the world, the more freely and intimately to converse with Jesus Christ…. The Father and the Son come to seek young people and walk and make their abode with them, and manifest themselves to them. They have an intercourse with heaven by meditation, and prayer, and other duties of religion. They with a spiritual eye do see Christ, and have access to him to converse; and Christ by his spirit communicates himself to them, so that there is a spiritual converse between them and Christ Jesus. And must not this needs be the pleasantest and the happiest company?”

Edwards spoke about young people in their pursuit of happiness among friends. Edwards said that even the youth could find their greatest happiness in the pursuit of the Lord. So Paul and Edwards came to the same conclusion, ultimate happiness is found in Christ alone.

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.

ACCELERATION

Rom.9:28 – FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY.”

This week we have been in revival services with Rodney Howard Browne. Just before the first service I was going over my notebook of Bible prophecies given to me by Dick Mills over the years. Today’s verse was one of those words given to me by Brother Mills. He used it to share with me an expectancy he had for the Lord to enlarge and accelerate the things he was doing at Victory Fellowship. I was kind of caught by surprise when Brother Rodney begin to talk about an acceleration of God’s work over the next three years. The timing and confirmation of reading that prophesy just before service and Brother Rodney sharing about acceleration was more than coincidental; prophetic words confirm the things that the Lord is speaking over our lives. Here is that word Brother Mills gave me twenty years ago.

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“I feel the Lord is changing your anointing, your vision, your methodologies, your ministry and is adjusting you for all the changes going on in the world. You’ll have a variety of outreach activities as you sow besides all waters – all ethnic groups- all strata of the social order and the unchurched society that are looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. Put your spiritual seatbelt on because Romans 9:28 says it will be accelerated!”

In 2000 I received another scripture promise from Dick Mills. He had no way of knowing about those first few performances of Beyond the Grave that had taken place overt the past few weeks before he gave me this word from Jeremiah.

Jer.1:11,12 – The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Brother Mills went on to explain how the almond tree was the first tree to be harvested each year in Israel. He said it was an indicator to the farmers in Israel of the size of the coming harvest. Applying that word to our circumstances; Beyond the Grave was to be a sign of God’s accelerated harvest in the days and years to come.

This week has brought an expectancy in my heart of the acceleration of the work of the Lord. I feel like we have already entered into a new season over the last year, now acceleration will kick in. Get ready, something amazing is happening all around us.

HUNGRY

Matt.5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Have you ever thought of spiritual hunger as a gift from God? If you really think about it how could it be anything else? If the Bible is true no one has a hunger for God unless it comes from the Lord. Paul said it like this,

“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;

THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”

If Paul is right then how can there be any hope for any of us? We can see the answer in Paul’s personal story. Paul was angry, full of hatred toward Christianity when everything changed. In a moment he went from angry to hungry. What changed him? He was changed by one glimpse of the glory of God. Spiritual hunger is created when Christ becomes real to us. Here is how the great Puritan pastor Matthew Henry described this phenomenon.

“We must truly and really desire them (spiritual things), as one who is hungry and thirsty desires meat and drink, who cannot be satisfied with any thing but meat and drink, and will be satisfied with them, though other things be wanting. Our desires of spiritual blessings must be earnest and importunate; “Give me these, or else I die; every thing else is dross and chaff, unsatisfying; give me these, and I have enough, though I had nothing else.” Hunger and thirst are appetites that return frequently, and call for fresh satisfactions; so these holy desires rest not in any thing attained, but are carried out toward renewed pardons, and daily fresh supplies of grace. The quickened soul calls for constant meals of righteousness, grace to do the work of every day in its day, as duly as the living body calls for food.“

To the natural mind spiritual hunger doesn’t make sense. How can we want what we don’t know or see? That’s why I say spiritual hunger is a gift, we receive it like everything else from the Lord, by faith. In a moment we are justified by grace through faith and hungry becomes part of who we have become. So this is what Jesus meant, blessed or happy are those who hunger after righteousness, they shall be filled.

SUITABLE FOOD

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John 6:35 ¶ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

We were made to live off of God. This is the lesson of communion, God is the very sustenance of our lives. What is really troubling is what we try to satisfy the hunger of our souls with, for most it is anything but the Lord. Recently there have been many reports of the suicidal epidemic related to opioid use. There are people from every social group, ethnic group, and age group that are falling prey to drug abuse and actually thousands who have died as a result of overdosing. What would cause someone to resort to such drastic measures? Actually the answer is spiritual; we were made to live off of God. When we look to other things as the source of life and pleasure the results become catastrophic. Man has a basic need for God in his soul, that is the way we were made. Our capacity for happiness is God sized and nothing else can fill that God sized hole. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes our need for spiritual food.

“This excellency of Jesus Christ is the suitable food of the rational soul. The soul that comes to Christ, feeds upon this, and lives upon it; it is that bread which came down from heaven, of which he that eats shall not die; it is angels’ food, it is that wine and milk that is given without money, and without price. This is that fatness in which the believing soul delights itself; here the longing soul may be satisfied, and the hungry soul may be filled with goodness. The delight and contentment that is to be found here, passeth understanding, and is unspeakable and full of glory. It is impossible for those who have tasted of this fountain, and know the sweetness of it, ever to forsake it. The soul has found the river of water of life, and it desires no other drink; it has found the tree of life, and it desires no other fruit.”
It’s funny that no matter how much man advances his basic need is still the same. We need the Lord. He is our food and our drink. In Him alone we find life and in Him alone will we find peace for our souls.

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

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John 6:35 ¶ And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”.

Food keeps us alive. Obviously, we eat for more than survival, pleasure also comes into play, but food is the very strength of our life. As the old adage goes, “you are what you eat”. That’s why what Jesus taught in today’s verse is so important, our spiritual food determines what and who we become. Jesus called this spiritual food our daily bread. Now here is where this parallel between natural food and spiritual food becomes interesting. Just as I said before, we eat physical food for pleasure’s sake, spiritual food begins to take on a spiritual attraction. The more we feast on the written word the more we acquire a taste for it. Reading the Bible can actually become the greatest pleasure of our lives. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this spiritual food and spiritual nourishment.

“The grace of Christ Jesus, it nourishes the soul; it gives life and strength to it. Before the soul receives this grace, it is dead. In this it doth more than bread does to the body, that does but preserve the life of the body and revives it when weakened and languishing; but this heavenly food revives men when dead. And it also continues the life of the soul: the soul, after it is revived, would die again, were it not for the continuance of supply of grace and spiritual nourishment. It strengthens the soul as food does the body. The soul in its natural condition is a poor, feeble, languishing thing, having no strength; but the grace of Christ makes it strong and vigorous. And this spiritual nourishment makes the soul to grow, as food doth the body. The supplies of the Spirit of God increase the life and vigor of the soul, increases the understanding, increases holy inclinations and affections…”
Edwards describes how we are made alive by spiritual food, nourished and kept alive, strengthened by this food, and actually begin to have inclinations and affections for the Lord awakened by the bread from heaven. Why is this ? Because the very life of God pulsates in every word of God. Remember, Jesus Himself is the word of God. So go ahead and dig in, the table is spread and the meal is better than you can ever imagine.

HE IS CALLING FOR YOU

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Mark 10:49 ¶ So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. ¶ Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”

The attraction of Jesus is like nothing else in this life. It seems strange to the unconverted, but the person called Jesus of Nazareth has an attraction like no other. Isaiah said, “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance nothing to attract us to him”. There was nothing about His physical appearance that made Him stand out but something that emanates from Him draws us. Solomon said it like this, “His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem”. To the unrenewed mind this sounds conflicting, to the born again it makes perfect sense. The man Jesus was quite ordinary in appearance but their was something about Him, there is still that something about Him that makes Him irresistible to His sons and daughters. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this attraction of the Lord.
“Christ encouraged him to hope that he should find mercy; for he stood still, and commanded him to be called. We must never reckon it a hindrance to us in our way, to stand still, when it is to do a good work. Those about him, who had discouraged him at first, perhaps were now the persons that signified to him the gracious call of Christ; “Be of good comfort, rise, he calls thee; and if he calls thee, he will cure thee.” Note, The gracious invitations Christ gives us to come to him, are great encouragements to our hope, that we shall speed well if we come to him, and shall have what we come for. Let the guilty, the empty, the tempted, the hungry, the naked, be of good comfort, for he calls them to be pardoned, to be supplied, to be succored, to be filled, to be clothed, to have all that done for them, which their case calls for.”
Have you ever felt like the Lord is calling you to Himself. That is exactly what happened to Bartimaeus, Jesus was calling for him and everything was about to change. If you sense the Lord calling you near just yield to Him. You will find His wooings are guarantees of His blessings being added to your life. Respond to His call, your life is about to change.

SEARCHING FOR TREASURE

Related imageEph. 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

This verse is amazing to me. First, Paul calls himself the least of all Christians. Now remember, this is not just Paul but the inspired Word of God. How could arguably the greatest of all Christians be considered the worst? Paul persecuted the followers of Jesus. Paul was responsible for the death of the first Christian martyr, Steven. It doesn’t get any lower than that. That’s why Paul called himself the chief of sinners. Then, Paul was called to open up the gentile world to the gospel. He was called not only to do this with his missionary journeys, but also he was set apart to write most of the New Testament. Pretty amazing! Now this is where it gets really good. His message was a revelation of Jesus Himself, Paul called it the unsearchable riches of Christ. Beginning at his conversion on the Damascus Road, the Lord unveiled Himself to Paul for our sake. His message was the amazing, untraceable treasures of Christ. Here is how Adam Clarke describes it.

“The unsearchable riches of Christ. The word exicniaz, to trace out, from a step, is exceedingly well chosen here: it refers to the footsteps of God, the plans he had formed, the dispensations which he had published, and the innumerable providences which he had combined, to prepare, mature, and bring to full effect and view his gracious designs in the salvation of a ruined world, by the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of his Son. There were in these schemes and providences such riches — such an abundance, such a variety, as could not be comprehended even by the naturally vast, and, through the Divine inspiration, unparalleledly capacious mind of the apostle.”
Once we are born again we begin to be drawn into Paul’s, Christ centered world. Our hearts long for Christ who we meet in Paul’s letters. In them we taste His love, we are dazed by His grace, overwhelmed by His glory, and captured by His sovereign plans. The more we search, the more amazed we become. We are convicted of our sins, shocked by our apathy, and then challenged to draw near by the blood of Jesus. As we draw in closer, we hear Paul’s words to his son in the faith Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands”. Stir up His gift and you will be searching for the untraceable riches of Christ.