WEIRD UNCLE FRANK

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1 Cor. 4:15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Christians can be really weird. One minute they call you their spiritual father, the next minute they treat you like a weird uncle. It always strikes me funny when someone who was converted in our church, grew strong in the Lord, and even launched out into ministry and even calls me their spiritual father acts as if I’m their weird uncle instead. You know, weird uncle Frank. It used to really bother me but not so much anymore. I don’t presume to compare myself to great men of God in history but many of them were also treated like a weird uncle. ‘They are sort of related but you know, a little off.’ Jesus’ family thought He had lost His mind and tried to get Him to stop the nonsense and just come back home. Paul was betrayed and abandoned by many of his sons. 1Cor. 4:12-15 “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Matthew Henry describes the relationship Paul claimed as their father in the gospel.

“They were made Christians by his ministry. He had laid the foundation of a church among them. Others could only build upon it. Whatever other teachers they had, he was their spiritual father. He first brought them off from pagan idolatry to the faith of the gospel and the worship of the true and living God. He was the instrument of their new birth, and therefore claimed the relation of a father to them, and felt the bowels of a father towards them.”
Just like natural fathers, spiritual fathers are far from perfect, I say give them a break. So whether I am your spiritual dad or just weird uncle Frank, God is still God. The Lord is the one that does the work. At the end of the day we are just vessels of His grace.

DO YOU GET IT?

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John 1:4,5 – In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

All of us are born in a state of spiritual darkness. No matter how many good things you do, no matter how many prayers you pray, no matter how much fasting or other spiritual regimens you perform, without the intervention of God’s grace we are groping around in the darkness of our world. We may think we see or even think better of ourselves after we hear a spiritual pep talk about self image or spiritual goop describing a so called ‘grace message’ that never changes us or opens our eyes to His majesty and holiness. It’s the touch of God on the gospel, the word of God, that opens our eyes to His glory. It’s only by divine help that we can even comprehend the simplest scripture. Here is a quote from John Piper on the glory found in God’s word.

“But many people hear the gospel and do not see divine glory. Why? It is not because the glory of God is unreal. It is not because the glory of God is not there in the gospel. It is because human beings, by nature, “are darkened in their understanding . . . due to their hardness of heart”. It is not owing mainly to ignorance, but to hardness. This hardness is a deep antipathy to the truth. They are “perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved”. Satan, the “god of this world,” exploits this hardness. Paul says he “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”. But the glory is really there in the gospel. To hear the gospel faithfully and fully presented is to be responsible to see divine glory.”
This is why a relationship with the Holy Spirit is so critical in our lives. The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. So for a simple tip that will help clear the air of problems and distractions is this: If you are born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit pray in your heavenly language. Pray in tongues a lot. Secondly, read your Bible daily and systematically. Following a Bible reading plan can help a lot. Those are the two ingredients, the Word and the Spirit. You emphasize those two in your life and the Bible will come alive.

RELIGIOUS FANATICS

Eph. 2:8,9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

This is the stumbling stone of the gospel, we are saved by faith and our works have nothing to do with it. At the end of the day, all of us want some credit for our salvation. Surely it is something in me that warranted God choosing me. After we get saved and begin to actually have good works in our lives we want to take credit for them. If the Lord ever uses us to reach people or to build a small group or a church we start moving toward celebrity status in our minds (I speak from experience). From there we are going to fill stadiums (I can’t count the number of people who have said that). Why not be a Christian that loves and touches hurting people and remains nameless? Luther had a funny way of expressing this. He said there is an evil monk or religious fanatic living inside all of us. Here is one of his classic rants.
“None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works.”
So have you ever seen this religious fanatic raise his ugly head in you? Few will admit it but he is there none-the-less. How do we destroy this religious fanatic? We destroy him by constantly giving glory to the Lord. It is God who is at work in us and by the grace of God we are what we are.

ENJOY YOUR TRIP

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

I wonder what would happen if Christians began to live as if they really believed in another world beyond this one. We all say we believe in life after death and say that we look forward to eternity in heaven but I am not so sure that eternity is very real to many of us. If you think about it, all the doctrines of the Bible are just that, doctrines, until the Holy Spirit comes and gives us a revelation of the reality of each particular belief. When we are born of the Spirit this process begins to take place in our lives. Sometimes in bunches, other times here a little and there a little, we come to realize the truth of the teachings of the word of God. When the Spirit opens our eyes to the frailty and temporary nature of this world and the eternal nature of heaven, our perspective on everything is radically changed. Martin Luther had a way of making these spiritual realities very simple. Here are his thoughts on today’s verse.
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“We can’t see or understand this spiritual birth. We must simply believe it. What is born of the Spirit is spiritual, and the primary benefit of this new birth is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Nevertheless, Christians still have an external existence. While they live here on earth, they are nurtured by a mother and father, eat and drink, wear clothes and shoes, have a house and garden, and own money and property. They view all of this as if they were guests who were traveling through this land to another city—their true destination. When they arrive there, they will no longer care about the places where they stayed along the way. During the journey, they were always thinking, “Today, I am a guest. Tomorrow, I will continue my trip.” In the same way, a Christian also thinks, “Today, I am a guest on this earth. I eat and drink here. I live honorably and modestly in this life. But tomorrow, I’ll proceed on my way to an eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, where I am a citizen.” So Christians also journey through this life. When they come to the end of this life, they will let go of everything physical and enter a spiritual life that will never end.”
Like Bunyon’s Pilgrim Progress we are all on a journey, passing through this earthly land with heaven as a final destination. Only the spiritual birth can awaken us to this grand adventure. The funny thing for me is this, the more I long for the heavenly destination, the more enjoyable the journey becomes.

HOW DEEP IS THE RIVER IN YOU?

Ezek. 47:4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.

At first glance, it seems like this vision is about you wading out into the deep places in God’s river But maybe there is more to it than that. Maybe this vision is about the river in you. Maybe this vision is about the deep places of God’s grace that He has worked in your life. Didn’t the Apostle Peter talk about growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus our Lord? If that is the case, are you growing up into the knowledge of Jesus our Savior? Is Christ being formed in you or are you stuck in the stagnant swamp of lethargy or worldly behavior? Let’s follow Ezekiel as we allow God to work His work in us. Here are some thoughts from Maclaren on the powerful prophetic vision.

“It came from the abundant welling-up in the sanctuary. The fountain was the mother of the river—that is to say, God’s ideal for the world, for the Church, for the individual Christian, is rapid increase in their experience of the depth and the force of the stream of blessings which together make up salvation. So we come to a very sharp testing question. Will anybody tell me that the rate at which Christianity has grown for these nineteen centuries corresponds with Ezekiel’s vision—which is God’s ideal? Will any Christian man say, ‘My own growth in grace, and increase in the depth and fulness of the flow of the river through my spirit and my life correspond to that ideal’? A mile from the source the river is unfordable. How many miles from the source of our first experience do we stand? How many of us, instead of having ‘a river that could not be passed over, waters to swim in,’ have but a poor and all but stagnant feeble trickle, as shallow as or shallower than it was at first?”
So rather than hanging out in the shallow places of our early experiences let’s press on to know the Lord. There is more of God available for each of us, more than we ever imagined. Letting go and following Ezekiel as he wades deeper and deeper will begin your greatest adventure, it will start you on the journey that will define your purpose in life.

ALL THINGS FOR GOOD

Rom. 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

What an awesome passage of Scripture! The Lord is working everything out in my life according to His plan. Actually Paul was speaking out of his own experience. If anyone ever tasted adversity, it was the Apostle Paul. He was betrayed, slandered, falsely arrested, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. Yes, Paul knew about the struggles in this life. Through all of his struggles he had come to an amazing conclusion, the Lord was working through every circumstance in Paul’s life for the advance of the kingdom and for Paul’s ultimate good. From his decision to go to Macedonia, that led to beating and imprisonment, to his arrest in Jerusalem, that brought him to jail in Rome. Paul believed that the Lord was working through all these things for the good.

In verses 26 and 27 of Romans 8, Paul talks about supernatural prayer. The Lord actually anoints us to pray the will of God. The all-knowing God orchestrates events on the earth through our prayers. The Lord searches to and fro throughout the earth to find a heart turned toward Him. When He finds this heart, this person, He anoints them to pray. As we yield ourselves to the Lord, praying in the Spirit, we begin to pray the will of God. The Lord answers these prayers and orchestrates the events of our lives for our good. How incredible are the ways of the Lord! He plans the events of our lives and brings them to pass by anointing us to pray supernatural prayers according to the will of God. He is causing all things to work together for the good in our lives. What an awesome God!

Maybe your life has taken some unexpected and even unpleasant turns. Don’t lose heart, this is also part of God’s plan. Pray in the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit a lot. You will find a fresh anointing to pray coming upon you and several things will happen as a result. First, the Lord will give you a sense or an understanding of why these things are happening. Secondly, these prayers, given by the Spirit, will be used by God to usher in His plan for your life. Finally, you will experience a real strengthening and encouragement from the Lord. Your worst moments will suddenly be turned into the best moments of your life.

COMFORTING THE COMFORTLESS

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-

“For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” IS.51:3

We are having our annual Summer Saturation. Nightly meetings right in the middle of the summer where it’s so hot you can hardly breathe. It is nice to gather around church folk like an old fashioned camp-meeting and see what The Lord does. So many people need healing, refreshing and direction from God. Last night while worshipping this scripture came up on the overhead and I felt The Lord’s presence speaking comfort to me and others. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. saith your God”. Is. 40:1 Many times throughout my walk with God I feel the rain of His presence just like last night.
Spurgeon puts it this way, “The Holy Ghost, who brooded over chaos, and brought order out of confusion; the mighty Spirit who came down at Pentecost in tongues of fire, with a sound like a mighty rushing wind – that same blessed Spirit will come to the hearts of the members of his Church and comfort them. There are sorrows for which there is no solace within the reach of the creature; there is a ruin which it would baffle any mortal to retrieve. Happy for us that the Omnipotent comes to our aid. It is “he who telleth the number of the stars; calleth them all by their names”; who also “healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds! Where he is, rolling the stars along, filling heaven with wonder as he creates majestic orbs, and keeps them in their pathways, making the comet fling its gorgeous light across space and startle nations, holding the burning furnace of the sun in the hollow of his hand; yet he stoops down to minister to a desponding spirit, and to pour the oil and wine of heavenly comfort into a poor distracted heart! Yes, it is Zion that is to be comforted, but it is Jehovah himself who has promised to be her Comforter!”
Do you need a breakthrough? My friend the best thing you can do is to get out of your “comfort zone”. Shake yourself and find a Holy Ghost drinking hole. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. The worst thing you can do is just to sit there in that wasted place. He brings a comfort that no one else can bring-healing balms from heaven itself. He will come and step on your boat in the worst possible storm. Holy Ghost winds of change, deliverance and breakthrough are coming your way! Stretch forth that hand, pick up your pallet and walk, go show yourself to the priest, rise and be healed my friend. And when He comes, make sure you sing the song of thanksgiving for He is just that kind of God!

GET PLANTED

GET PLANTED

Psa. 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

I’ll never forget the one and only Jesus festival Parris and I went to. It was probably 1975 and it was called “The Festival of the Son”. It took place somewhere near Carmel in California, the place was breathtaking. There were several thousand Jesus freaks camped out in this beautiful valley, listening to Jesus bands and preaching day and night. The one message that really hit me that weekend was actually preached by our Bible School director, Bob Forester. The word he brought was “Get Planted”. The Lord used that word to confirm in my heart about my connection to The Lord through His word and my connection to the body of Christ. To avoid drifting through life, tossed to and fro by every doctrinal trend our by all of the various trial in life, being planted in God is essential. Dick Mills brought out the importance of meditating on God’s Word in relation to being planted in God.

“meditates, hagah To reflect; to moan, to mutter; to ponder; to make a quiet sound such as sighing; to meditate or contemplate something as one repeats the words. Hagah represents something quite unlike the English “meditation,” which may be a mental exercise only. In Hebrew thought, to meditate upon the Scriptures is to quietly repeat them in a soft, droning sound, while utterly abandoning outside distractions. From this tradition comes a specialized type of Jewish prayer called “davening,” that is, reciting texts, praying intense prayers, or getting lost in communion with God while bowing or rocking back and forth. Evidently this dynamic form of meditation-prayer goes back to David’s time.”

I love that, muttering God’s word over and over is closely associated with getting planted. This is the place where our roots extend deep into the waters of life, this is the place where we begin to experience spiritual growth. Martin Luther also spoke about the verbal nature of Hebrew meditation. Here are some of his thoughts.

“To meditate, as it is generally understood, signifies to discuss, to dispute; and its meaning is always confined to a being employed in words, as in Psalms 37:30, “The mouth of the righteous shall meditate wisdom.” Hence Augustine has, in his translation, “chatter;” and a beautiful metaphor it is — as chattering is the employment of birds, so a continual conversing in the law of the Lord (for talking is peculiar to man), ought to be the employment of man.”

As chattering is an employment of birds rehearsing God’s word verbally should be the employment of man. Next time you hear the birds chattering outside your window, you can be reminded to join right in, chattering God’s words to yourself.

STUNTED AND DWARFED

STUNTED AND DWARFED

Grow up into him in all things.
Ephesians 4:15

Christianity is never meant to be stagnant. We are intended to be ever changing, always growing, being transformed into the image of God’s beloved Son. We are like the rest of God’s creation. We respond to spiritual nutrients just like the plants respond to the sun and the rain. I often think about the trips I used to take into Costa Rica several years ago. The locals used to say the ground was so fertile that even the fence posts would grow. I don’t know about fence posts but most everything else would grow there. The climate was perfect. There was plenty of sun, lots of afternoon showers, and the ground was as fertile as anything I have ever seen. You throw something in the ground and it is going to grow. In many ways that is how the kingdom of God is. There is plenty of Son shining down on His people, there is the rich nutrients found in the word of God, and His showers of blessing are guaranteed. What could keep someone from progressing in The Lord? You would have to avoid His provision on purpose. Here is how Spurgeon saw it.

“Many Christians remain stunted and dwarfed in spiritual things, so as to present the same appearance year after year. No up-springing of advanced and refined feeling is manifest in them. They exist but do not grow up into him in all things. But should we rest content with being in the green blade, when we might advance to the ear, and eventually ripen into the full corn in the ear? Should we be satisfied to believe in Christ, and to say, I am safe, without wishing to know in our own experience more of the fulness which is to be found in him. It should not be so; we should, as good traders in heaven’s market, covet to be enriched in the knowledge of Jesus.”

David gave us some good insight about spiritual growth in Psalm 92:13 “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” One of the great keys to putting yourself in a place where spiritual growth is sure is found in this verse. What is the key? Get planted! Get planted where? Get planted in the house of God. The local church is intended by God to provide the proper atmosphere and ingredients for spiritual growth to result. Here we find the good teaching from God’s word that provides the food we need to grow strong in The Lord. Here we find the awesome presence of The Lord, this is like the showers of blessing that bring the rain upon the seeds causing them to grow. We also find the light of His presence as we walk in the light in fellowship with the body of Christ. Light, food, rain; we have all we need. The only way we can not grow is by avoiding His church on purpose.

DON’T QUENCH THE SPIRIT

DON’T QUENCH THE SPIRIT

1Th. 5:16-23 ¶ Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ¶ Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. ¶ Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am not sure what part of this verse many modern, trendy preachers don’t understand. It seems to me that many churches are designed exactly for that purpose, to quench the Holy Spirit. First of all the amount of time in worship is limited.
“We don’t want to worship too long, people may get nervous and something may actually happen.”
The song selections are a dead give-away;
“Never ever sing songs of an intimate nature, The Holy Spirit may actually fall.”
Then of course there can be no pauses in the flow of the service, someone may actually feel impressed to give a tongue or a prophetic word. If someone actually gets touched in one of the services and makes a noise, they have to be taken out quickly before too much damage is done. Yep, sounds to me like the decently and in order thing has actually backfired to the point where the services have become way too predictable.
Another scripture that has been pretty much ignored recently is this,

Acts 2:17-18 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.”

It sounds to me that we should be living in the season of the Holy Spirit. Rather than putting obstacles in the way for people to move in the Spirit, maybe we should be teaching on these things and providing an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to move. Extended times of worship, waiting (even in silence) in His presence, and praying corporately in the Spirit would provide the needed atmosphere to experience more of His power in our church services.
Then there is this other troubling scripture,
1Cor. 14:18 ¶ “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;”
Paul prayed in tongues, he prayed in tongues a lot. You see, the more you pray in the heavenly language, the more familiar you will become with the spiritual realm. The more familiar you are with the realm of the Spirit, the easier it will become for you to actually be used by the Holy Spirit in His spiritual gifts. So what are we to do? Rather than quenching the Spirit we should be stirring up the gift of God. This is Paul’s word of encouragement to his young disciple Timothy.
2Tim. 1:6 “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”