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.

CHRISTMAS TREASURE

Lk.6:20 – And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”.

How do you measure a really good Christmas? Is it the haul of presents and gift cards you got, the family reunions over holiday celebrations, or the bonus check at work? Obviously gift cards and prizes don’t last, the thrill is over pretty quick. The bonus usually disappears in the black hole of Christmas bills, and family time isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. Maybe the mystique of Christmas is much deeper than carols and candy canes, sleigh rides or sitting on Santa’s lap. Maybe its about the Savior’s birth and why He came, to restore man to a relationship of intimacy with God. Maybe Christ Himself in us is the true measure of a really good Christmas. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in prison in Germany in WWII because of his faith in God. He wrote a letter to his fiancée from prison during Christmas season that speaks volumes about the true measure of Christmas time. Here is a portion of that letter.

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth. I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We’re beggars; it’s true.” The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

Amazing, “I think we are going to have an exceptionally good Christmas”. How could anyone have an exceptional Christmas, all alone in prison, separated from their loved ones? The answer is simple, we are not alone, we are never alone. Bonhoeffer believed that in the midst of horrible circumstances what really matters in life becomes more precious and even more real. So if you are going through some unusually tough time this Christmas, take Bonhoeffer at his word, “The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

EXPOSED BY WORSHIP

John 12:3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

It’s funny how worship can expose the heart of everyone involved. Mary had just poured out the fragrant oil on the feet of Jesus when another fragrance filled the room. It wasn’t enough for Judas to have his own opinions, he had to attack Mary and her extravagant display of affection. Why do you allow this kind of affection? Why do you allow this kind of waste? Shouldn’t we have fed the poor instead of wasting the oil on your hands and feet?

Have you ever wondered what was really eating at Judas? Sure, he was bummed about the apparent waste of resources (he had other ideas of how to use the money). That wasn’t the real issue; the real issue was the pubic display of affection. Judas couldn’t let that slide. It put too much pressure on him and the others. Were they expected to worship this way too?

What Judas did’t quite understand was what had made Mary this kind of worshipper? What had changed in the last few days? From something Jesus said we can see into the heart of Mary’s actions.

“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.”

That was it! Mary seemed to be the very first from the inner circle to get the implications of His death. This is why He had come. Mary finally understood the source Of His mercy and her forgiveness. He was the sacrificial lamb that John the Baptist had prophesied about. Jesus had come to die. This is what exposed Judas’ heart. Judas wanted the power that would result from a revolution, His death would be the end of those hopes and plans. That’s why that blasted fragrance was so disturbing; it was the smell of Mary’s worship. This was the fragrant worship that sprung from revelation. Jesus had come to die for sinners, this was Mary’s only hope.

This brings us to us. Who is Jesus to you. Is He just a way for us to accomplish our earthly dreams; maybe business, ministry, or even family. Or is He more than that, maybe He is way more than that. How will you know? You will know when you next find yourself in a room where that aroma of worship begins to be poured out. It has a way of uncovering the condition of our hearts.

THE KISSES OF HIS MOUTH

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

SOS 1:1,2 – May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.

It’s funny what church people fight about.Our first church fight started when I put shells on our empty lot next to the church to make room for more parking. People actually left the church over that. Since then, people have fought about too loud music, too long services, preaching about God too much (that’s a true story). I guess many of us try to create church in our own image. The only solution for any of that is a move of the Spirit. That brings us to the funniest of all church offenses, this one was about kisses. When our church began to experience a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 1990’s, our music, as well as most everything else, began to change. One of the songs we began to sing in those days was ‘True Love’ by David Ruis. In the song he sang about the kisses of the Lord. That was it for some folks. The audacity of singing about kisses, especially from the Lord in church. I decided then that I couldn’t worry about pleasing people, I just wanted to be pleasing to the Lord. Here are the words to David Ruis’s song, hopefully you won’t get your knickers in a twist.

‘Jesus I need to know true love

Deeper than the love found on earth

Take me into the King’s chamber

Cause my love to mature

▪ Let me know the kisses of Your mouth

▪ Let me feel Your warm embrace

▪ Let me smell the fragrance of Your touch

▪ Let me see Your lovely face

▪ Take me away with You

▪ Even so, Lord, come

▪ I love You Lord

▪ I love You more than life

My heart, my flesh yearn for You, Lord

To love You is all I can do

You have become my sole passion

Cause my love to be true’

At the end of the day we are all looking for love, we just want this love to be authentic. True love is what Solomon’s Song is all about, he sang about kisses, embracing in affection, and the beauty of His name. I believe the world has always longed for love, especially the love of God found in Jesus Christ. Authentic Christian worship moves us deeply, it effects the deepest springs of our affections. So don’t be afraid to express your deepest feelings and words on the Lord. People are always going to be offended by spiritual intimacy. So go ahead and read Song of Solomon again, set aside some time for intimate worship, let Him kiss you with the kisses of His mouth.

He was there

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In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God

He was the light shining in the darkness. John 1:1

Before the world was, there was Christ and he gave the world its existence. The more we dive into the word the more we remain in awe of a mighty Savior, the more redemption takes on a fuller and deeper meaning. He forever is the “the light shining in the darkness” over fallen man. It does one well to ponder the present ministry of Christ. Christ was “there through it all”. He saw Adam and Eve as they grabbed the first bite of unbelief, he watched Noah as he built the ark, stood by Abraham before he killed Issac and he provided another offering. He oversaw the killing of all the firstborn of Egypt while the plague passed over the Israelites. He has been on task throughout eternity and he ever lives to make intercession for us now. Christ is there and he is ever there and he made his way among us.

Far too many of us negate the work of Christ in our lives. In our hustle and bustle of everyday life the precious blood of Christ seems to slowly loose its mark upon us. Our redemption story becomes more like a fairytale of bygone years. Somehow we make it all about ourselves again. Going to church, reading his word, being thankful all become laborious! No wonder our faith grows weak and our prayers silent. He becomes a God that once was rather than he is and will continue to be. My friend your lamp has run out of oil and the light is slowly becoming extinguished. The Shulmaite in the Song of Solomon experienced a Holy Ghost awakening when she desired his kisses again. When he took her into his chamber she exclaimed. “look not upon me for I am black, they made me a keeper of the vineyards and my own vineyard I have not kept”. She knew somewhere, somehow she had left her first love. She got caught up in the things that make her sorrowful (the blackness of life) and spent her years toiling under the burning sun. She had forgotten how he loved her and brought her out of all of that. How precious it is that Christ comes to us again and again, telling us how we are loved, like his special rose. He takes each part of us and shows us the beauty in it. My friend Christ can be the light shining in your present darkness. Somehow the little foxes came and took your joy away, ate away the words sown deep within and left you barren. He is there with you now waiting for you to turn to him.

CHRISTS FINAL PROMISE

John 14:2,3 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

You can usually tell what is important to people when death draws near. I’ll never forget the day of my dad’s death. It was Thanksgiving Day 1987. My dad wasn’t interested in his bank account or any of his possessions that day, he wanted to be with his children. We all gathered around his bed as he said his last goodbyes and took his last breath.

Today’s verse is just that for Jesus, He is gathering with His friends for His last words before He died. In chapters 14-16 in John’s gospel we see an intimate glimpse into those last moments with His friends. In this passage He talked about what really mattered. He revealed why He really came, to open up a way for us to live a new kind of life. This flows out of a new intimacy with God characterized by a profound relationship with the Holy Spirit. Here are some words from Jonathan Edwards about this passage.
“The promises of the new covenant were never so particularly expressed and so solemnly given forth by Christ, in all the time that he was upon earth, as in this discourse. Christ promises them mansions in his Father’s house. Here he promises them whatever blessings they should need and ask in his name. Here he does, more solemnly and fully than anywhere else, give forth and confirm the promise of the Holy Spirit, which is the sum of the blessings of the covenant of grace. Here he promises them his own and his Father’s gracious presence and favor. Here he promises them peace. Here he promises them his joy. Here he promises grace to bring forth holy fruit, and victory over the world. And indeed, there seems to be nowhere else so full and complete an edition of the covenant of grace in the whole Bible, as in this dying discourse of Christ with his eleven true disciples.”
Here we see that Jesus died for more than just a life that lasts forever, we already had that being created in the image of God. He came and He died to give us a different quality of life. This life is the very life that Jesus enjoyed with His Father. He purchased that for us. This new kind of life begins when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit filled life is life indeed.

MY SOUL LONGS FOR YOU

Psa.63:1 – O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Deep in the heart of every human there is a sense of why he was really born. We all know it but most spend their lives trying to ignore it, cloak it with other purposes, or simply deny that it even exists. I’m sure you know what I am talking about, our hearts long to know the Lord intimately; that’s why we were born and nothing else can complete us. No athletic accomplishment, no title or position, no earthly position, and no sexual or family relationship can even come close. At the end of the day Augustine was right, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You”. This is why David’s songs still captivate us 3000 years later, David gave himself to that great pursuit, the pursuit of satisfaction in God. Think about it, David had access to power, finance, women, and anything this world could afford and his pursuit was totally focused on God. He captured what our hearts really long for. Here is how Andrew Murray described it.

“What is the most worthwhile thing humankind can experience on earth? Nothing less than God Himself! And what is the first and most important thing to be done each day? It is nothing less than to seek, to know, to love, and to praise God. As glorious as God is, so is the glory that begins to work in the hearts and lives of those who give themselves to live for God.

It is a great step forward in the life of a Christian when he or she truly sees this and regards their daily fellowship with God as the most important aspect of their existence.

Take time and ask yourself whether this is indeed not the most important thing around which your life should revolve—to know God and to love Him with your whole heart. This is what God desires above all else; and it is that which, in answer to your prayer, He will enable you to do.”

So just go ahead and give in; give in to the hunger that is at the core of your being. It’s not so much in what the Lord can do for you, it is God Himself that you really want and need. David got it , “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

GOSPEL FEAST – LOVED BY GOD

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Is. 25:6 ¶ On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

Today we will continue our gospel feast. Today’s course is one of the most delightful; we will delight ourselves with His love. God’s love is different from human love, human love has a beginning and an end and also has major conditions. God’s love is unconditional and has no beginning or end. He has loved you before there was a you, before there was an earth, before there was a creation. He has loved you eternally and will love you through eternity. This love describes an intimacy; He has known you and loved you always. He doesn’t fall in love or out of love; His love never ceases. This love is what attracts us to Him, satisfies our hungry heart, and keeps us from the temptations in this life. Charles Spurgeon describes God’s love in his comments on today’s verse.

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you upon the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Why, beloved, this indeed, is a fat thing! And I may add that it is full of marrow when you remember that not merely has the Lord thought of you from everlasting, but loved you. Oh, the depth of that word, “love,” as it applies to the infinite Jehovah, whose name, whose essence, whose nature is love! He has loved you with all the immutable intensity of His heart—never more and never less—loved you so much that He gave His only-begotten Son for you. He has loved you so well, that nothing could content Him but making you to be conformed into the image of His dear Son, and causing you to partake of His glory that you may be with Him where He is! Come, feed on this, you heirs of eternal life, for here are fat things full of marrow!”

When you read about Jesus in the Bible, love overflows from every page. When you draw near to Him in worship His love pours on you like a heavy rain. His love is constant and available for us all the time. Go ahead and dig in to this gospel feast, every course oozes with the Father’s love. Don’t rush through your meal, take time and taste and see that the Lord is good.

TAKE A BREAK

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We which have believed do enter into that rest.
Hebrews 4:3
Christianity often speaks of things that at first look seem like a contradiction. One of my favorites is found in Heb. 4:11 “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience”. This absolutely makes no sense to the unrenewed mind. How can someone strive and exert extreme effort to enter into rest. Wuest brings out the power of this word ‘strive’.
“The verb speaks of intensity of purpose followed by intensity of effort toward the realization of that purpose”.
So which is it, strive or rest? Actually Paul is pointing us to the key to powerful Christian living, using our energy and strength to press into the very presence of God. Actually, the whole book of Hebrews is about that, entering into the life of the Spirit behind the veil. Here is how Watchman Nee describes it.
“Rest follows work. In the fullest sense rest is only possible when the work is completed to a point of satisfaction. It is no trifling matter that God rested after those six days of creation. How, we may ask, could He—this God of purpose, this God of abounding life—come to rest? Genesis 1:31 gives us the reason: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” He had accomplished something which rejoiced His heart. The good pleasure of His will had been realized, its goal attained. In resting He proclaimed His approval. Today God invites us to share with Him His rest in Christ. Another work is accomplished, a new creation secured. His good pleasure has been realized, and no fuller realization is necessary or possible. We enter into God’s rest when, ceasing from our own strivings, we find all our satisfaction in Christ.”
That is the key, our efforts are aimed at finding satisfaction in Christ. Religious systems are all about work and effort to please God. There is no amount of effort any of us can exert to please Him. That is the frustration of the law, we all fall miserably short even with our best efforts. He is already pleased. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not our works that He finds pleasure in, it is the work of His Son. The finished work of the cross is what we rest in. We rest in what Christ has done and press in to find pleasure in His presence. That is the essence of finding life in Christ, striving to enter His rest.

HONEY IS SWEET

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Psa. 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

What does an avocado taste like? There is really no good answer to that question. Of course an avocado tastes like an avocado, it is unique. The only way to know for sure is to taste an avocado for yourself. That is the way it is with spiritual things. Someone can explain in great detail their understanding of God and His word or even tell the stories of their own God encounters but until you taste the goodness of God for yourself what you hear from others is just an idea about God. That is one of the things that troubles me about the current status of Christianity. How many supposed Christians have an idea about spiritual things and have not tasted spiritual reality for themselves? Only when we have a personal spiritual revelation can we be truly born again. This was the heart of the message of the Great Awakening and the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. Here is a thought from his sermon ‘A Divine and Supernatural Light’.

“Thus there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man can’t have the latter, unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance….”
David had tasted of the Lord as a young man and this taste sustained him throughout his life. He had heard about the Lord from his father all his life but the moment the Holy Spirit fell on him, David knew the Lord for Himself. He had tasted God’s goodness, the Lord was filling him with His sweetness. Have you been awakened by God? It is more than reciting a prayer, you have to taste and see for yourself. When you taste His goodness your whole being will be flooded with light; go ahead and taste and see that the Lord is good.