THE GREATEST JOY

Matt.5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I have to admit, I always struggled with the persecution thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I am honored to be criticized for my faith but I am not too excited about beatings, stonings, or beheadings. I used to feel inferior when I read about the joy of the martyrs. It made my faith seem so small. It wasn’t until I was touched by supernatural joy, the blessedness Jesus spoke of, that I began to understand. Peter even said, in 1 Peter 4:14 – “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” To me that answers everything, there is a special anointing and joy reserved for physical persecution for Christ’s sake. Here is how William Barclay described John’s disciple Polycarp and his persecution.

“To have to suffer persecution was an opportunity to show one’s loyalty to Jesus Christ. One of the most famous of all the martyrs was Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna. The mob dragged him to the tribunal of the Roman magistrate. He was given the inevitable choice–sacrifice to the godhead of Caesar or die. “Eighty and six years,” came the immortal reply, “have I served Christ. and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” So they brought him to the stake, and he prayed his last prayer: “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well-beloved and ever-blessed son, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee … I thank thee that thou hast graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this hour.” Here was the supreme opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Jesus Christ.”

There is a special celebration reserved for the martyrs in heaven. There seems to be an anticipation growing as the world is judged at the end. If God is God, there can be no greater honor than to suffer for the sake of His Name, it will not go unnoticed or go unrewarded. Again, the joy is not reserved for the next world only, this joy is connected to the sufficiency of grace in this life to rejoice in the Lord when facing extreme resistance. So if you are being attacked for your faith, rejoice; the Spirit of the Lord is on you.

BLESSED

MATT.5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest of all sermons, nothing else even comes close. In it we find the summation of the teaching of Jesus to His disciples. He starts off His message with His beatitudes. These short, profound statements introduce us to a different kind of life. It is makarios in Greek and toowayhon in Aramaic. These words could be defined as supernatural or God’s kind of joy. This is the joy that humans were meant to enjoy and Jesus is teaching us the kind of life that enjoys this blessedness. Here is how the Passion Translation Notes describe this blessedness.

“Blessed are they.” The Aramaic word toowayhon means “enriched, happy, fortunate, delighted, blissful, content, blessed.” Our English word blessed can indeed fit here, but toowayhon implies more—great happiness, prosperity, abundant goodness, and delight! The word bliss captures all of this meaning. Toowayhon means to have the capacity to enjoy union and communion with God. Because the meaning of the word goes beyond merely being blessed… The implication of this verse is that the poor in spirit have only one remedy, and that is trusting in God. This total reliance upon God is the doorway into the kingdom realm.”

He starts this teaching with today’s verse, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”. Here are some comments from the passion Notes about this verse.

“humble in spirit,” or, “poor in spirit,” which means to be humble and totally dependent upon God for everything. It is synonymous with “pious” or “saintly,” not just in the sense of those who possess nothing. It could be translated “Delighted are those who have surrendered completely to God and trust only in him.”

This is the beginning of supernatural joy, total God dependency. This describes leaving behind human effort and leaning on God for all things that pertain to life. This is a description of those who have learned to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. Its in dying to self and no longer trusting in our own resources that we can begin to access the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, the supernatural realm of the Spirit, belongs to those who have humbled themselves. This is the beginning of supernatural joy, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”

FINDING YOUR MINISTRY VOICE

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

Judges 6:11-13 – One day the angel of GOD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of GOD appeared to him and said, “ GOD is with you, O mighty warrior!”

Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If GOD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t GOD deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, GOD has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”

Poor Gideon, he was having quite a day! We all have been there! How does one thresh out wheat in the winepress anyway? He was having a twirly whirl! And to think this angel was just sitting there having a chat with Gideon and yet Gideon was definitely missing the moment! He was so caught up in the natural world, all he could do was look at what he didn’t have and forget what he had. Gideon did find his voice after a few “if your with me then tests” and off he went to deliver his people and become yet another powerful man of God.

Do you realize that God gives his presence to his people for a purpose! Have you ever asked yourself what is your ministry? I believe it is offering your whole life in service to God. It is devoting all that you have to serving people for his glory. It is using all of your talents, gifts, training, and opportunities for the building up of his church and living every moment for his purposes and glory. This must be supernatural! Christ came to set us free and commission us for him! Are you activating your gifts for his body?

All of us have some very special gifts given to us. It is amazing to me how I can still remember so vividly, sisters in Christ offering me their gifts of love, service, intercession, prophecy and encouragement my whole life as a Christian. I love the body of Christ, it is how I have grown all these years! I pity the person who has grown offended and isolated themselves from the body. Our voice of ministry lie’s dormant and we have taken his gifts and buried it into the ground.

Ephesians 4:7-13 says, “But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.”

Stop hiding out living your life reacting to every twirly whirl. There is most probably an angel sitting right next to you ready to launch you into the greatest adventure of your life!

THE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP

Gal.4:6 -TPT – And so that we would know for sure that we are his true children, God released the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts—moving us to cry out intimately, “My Father! You’re our true Father!”

Have you ever really thought about this verse? The Lord has sent the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts. One translation says that He has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. That must mean I was once not a son but now I am. There was a time when I was a child of darkness or you could say a child of the devil. That dark nature was prevalent in my life seen in the things I loved and the things that I did. One day, the Lord sent the Spirit of Sonship into my heart.

A number of things changed radically as a result. First, I was no longer part of the brotherhood of man in this present world. I was translated from one community to another, The spirit of the world is hostile to the kingdom of God. I am no longer a part of that dark world. Secondly, The spirit of Sonship immediately began to cry out prayers of intimacy to my Father in heaven. I recognized by this new Spirit in my life that I am loved and in turn I now have a love for my Heavenly Father. Next, my loves have been changed. Putting it plainly, I love different things now. My affections have been turned toward the things of God.This is how Albert Barnes describes this new life. He says in it we have…

“The feeling of affection, love, and confidence which pertains to children; not the servile, trembling spirit of slaves, but the temper and affectionate regard of sons. Adoption is the taking and treating a stranger as one’s own child. It is applied to Christians because God treats them as his children; he receives them into this relation, though they were by nature strangers and enemies. It implies,

(1.) that we by nature had no claim on him;

(2.) that, therefore, the act is one of mere kindness—of pure, sovereign love;

(3.) that we are now under his protection and care; and

(4.) that we are bound to manifest towards him the spirit of children, and yield to him obedience.”

Christianity is a radical new life. It is more than going to church and getting a weekly pep talk, it is a drastic heart and life change. The Spirit of His Son in me yearns for more of this great Father God.

OF COURSE I WANT YOU TO BE HEALED

Mk.1:41 – Being deeply moved with tender compassion, Jesus reached out and touched the skin of the leper and told him, “Of course I want you to be healed—so now, be cleansed!”

Most people would take a major step back when they encountered a leper. The response was probably a combination of repulsion at the grossness of the disease and fear of being contaminated, if not physically, certainly spiritually. The Jewish society had zero contact with lepers and zero answers for their dilemma. In one sense leprosy was a long, slow, horrific death sentence. This was all different with Jesus. No foul appearance or odor could offend Him, no threat of contamination or uncleanness could effect Him. When He saw the leper and heard his pitiful cry for help He immediately responded, “Of course I want you to be healed—so now, be cleansed!”

The difference with the Lord was the compassion that was seated deep within His bosom. He was moved and directed by His love for hurting people. That’s why He had come among us in the first place. Without hesitation Jesus broke all of the accepted codes, He reached out and physically touched the leper. Instead of Jesus being contaminated the leper was cleansed. Here is how Mary Healy describes this compassion that empowered and motivated the Lord.

“Seeing the man’s wretched condition, Jesus was, “moved with compassion.” The Greek word means physically churned up or stirred with gut-wrenching emotion. It was deeply human reaction of the Son of God. Jesus never looked upon afflicted people with detachment or indifference, but always with the empathy that comes from knowing the human condition from within. We can imagine the love in his eyes as he replied, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Does he will to make a man whole, to undo the ravages of the fall? This is what he came for!”

Now, are you ready for the best news? The Lord knows what you are going through. He is not disgusted or afraid, but just like He was for the leper He is moved with compassion for you. Maybe you think your sin is so foul that there is no hope for you. That is the whole point of this story. No matter how dirty you feel Jesus has a plan of washing and healing you of your impurities and the ramifications of them. He is willing to heal you; just come to Him and bow down like the leper, Jesus will gladly touch you and raise you up from your affliction.

FREE BIRD

Mk.1:41-44 – Jesus reached out and touched the skin of the leper and told him, “Of course I want you to be healed—so now, be cleansed!” Instantly his leprous sores completely disappeared and his skin became smooth! Jesus sent him away with a very stern warning, saying, “Don’t say anything to anyone about what just happened, but go find a priest and show him that you’ve been healed. Then bring the offering that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a living testimony to everyone.”

I love the healing miracles of Jesus. He was always stirred, or moved with compassion, when He saw people suffering with disease. Leprosy was one of the miracles we see quite often in the ministry of Jesus. Lepers were similar to prisoners. Their disease had placed them in isolation from their family, friends, and society in general. They were suffering with the stigma of disfigurement, the physical pain and suffering, and the separation from living any kind of a normal life. Leprosy made life miserable. Jesus touched this leper and His healing love cleansed this man of his disease. “Go show yourself to the priest”. This was quite significant, here is a description of the significance of going to the priest from Mary Healy.

“Jesus instructed the healed man to keep quiet about his healing, to show himself to a priest, and to offer the sacrifice prescribed in the law of Moses for the cleansing of skin disease. The prescribed rite was to take two birds, one to be sacrificed and the other, dipped in the blood of the first, to fly away free (Lev 14:3-7). If the man obeyed these instructions, before his eyes was a vivid symbolic image of what Jesus had just done for him. Once is sacrificed; another is set free. Although he could not have understood it then, this man has been set free from leprosy at the cost of Christ’s own blood, soon to be shed on the cross.”

This is a great picture of the ministry of Jesus. I was the spiritual leper disfigured and isolated until I was touched by Jesus. He took my sickness and I was set free. All of Jesus’s healing miracles pointed to the cross. Like Isaiah said, “Yet he was the one who carried our sicknesses

and endured the torment of our sufferings”. So now we have become that free bird. Once we were bound by our leprosy of sin, now we can fly away.

CHANGED BY A PORTRAIT

Col.1:15-17 – TPT – He is the divine portrait, the true likeness of the invisible God, and the first-born heir of all creation. For through the Son everything was created, both in the heavenly realm and on the earth, all that is seen and all that is unseen. Every seat of power, realm of government, principality, and authority—it was all created through him and for his purpose! He existed before anything was made, and now everything finds completion in him.

I love the way the Passion Translation translates this text. Jesus is the divine portrait of the Father. Jesus told His disciples, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father”. Paul says In Hebrews 1:3 that “The Son is the dazzling radiance of God’s splendor, the exact expression of God’s true nature—his mirror image!” Wow! This is why I say my job as a preacher is to paint His portrait with my words. As we testify to others what we have “seen” of Christ for ourselves He becomes real to the hearers. After all, the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophesy. Here is how John Calvin describes this verse.

“The sum is this — that God in himself, that is, in his naked majesty, is invisible, and that not to the eyes of the body merely, but also to the understandings of men, and that he is revealed to us in Christ alone, that we may behold him as in a mirror. For in Christ he shews us his righteousness, goodness, wisdom, power, in short, his entire self. We must, therefore, beware of seeking him elsewhere, for everything that would set itself off as a representation of God, apart from Christ, will be an idol.”

So it is in Christ that we find our God. We can see glimpses of Him by His handiwork in creation, but at the end of the day they are all shadows pointing us to the substance found in Christ. We can find Him standing outside Lazarus’s tomb calling Lazarus back from the realm of the dead, we see Him with His hand on the casket of the young man from Nain answering the prayer of the grieving mom, we see Him multiplying the fish and bread, walking on water, and casting out the demons. God lives in Christ and reveals His glory to all who are hungry. Open the gospels and you too can see a snapshot of the Lord, one glimpse of His portrait can change you forever.

ANOINTED

Isa.61:1,2 – The mighty Spirit of Lord Yahweh is wrapped around me

because Yahweh has anointed me,

as a messenger to preach good news to the poor.

He sent me to heal the wounds of the brokenhearted,

to tell captives, “You are free,”

and to tell prisoners, “Be free from your darkness.”

I am sent to announce a new season of Yahweh’s grace.

This is a very special prophetic word first spoken by the prophet Isaiah. Think about it, of all the scripture texts Jesus chose this one to be His first message and to be preached in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth. What is it about this scripture that is so vital? First it declares the messianic claim, the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. That is exactly what Messiah means, the one who is anointed. Next, He begins to proclaim the very essence of His ministry; good news to the poor, healing for broken hearts, freedom for captives of sin and addictions, prisoners are no longer isolated in darkness, and the season of God’s grace has come for all mankind. This is literally the fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee. Here is the description from the notes in the Passion Translation.

“The title of Messiah is taken from the Hebrew verb “to anoint.” Messiah means the Anointed One in both Hebrew (mashiach) and Greek (Christos). Our Lord Jesus quoted this passage in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21) and introduced his “jubilee” ministry to Israel (Lev. 25). The first three verses of this chapter describe the twofold mission of Jesus: (1) to open the door of the day of grace to the world; (2) to proclaim the day of vengeance coming on sin, darkness, sickness, and eventually, the “goat” nations. As a prophet, he comes to preach the new season of grace; as a priest, he comes to heal; and as a king, he comes to decree and herald peace and freedom to the captives.”

I love the last part of these notes; He is our prophet, proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. He is our heavenly priest, He has come to heal us on the outside and the inside. He is our King who brings pardon and freedom to the guilty. That sermon marked the beginning for a new day for all mankind. The Messiah has come and Jubilee has begun.

CHRIST IS OUR MESSAGE

Col.1:28,29 – Christ is our message! We preach to awaken hearts and bring every person into the full understanding of truth. It has become my inspiration and passion in ministry to labor with a tireless intensity, with his power flowing through me, to present to every believer the revelation of being his perfect one in Jesus Christ.

I often talk about how I was changed by a Holy Spirit visitation in the 1990’s. One of the things that changed for me was my preaching. I felt it was my duty as a pastor to be an expert on virtually all topics. I would preach on finances, marriage, child raising, healing, church growth and even dabbled a little in the political world. My subject changed drastically shortly after my 1994 encounter with the Holy Spirit. Rather than preaching topics my message became Christ. Christ as Savior, as Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Provider, Deliverer, Healer, and soon coming King. The Lord said that He had called me to be an artist. He said to paint pictures of Jesus with my words. Here is how Wolfgang Musculus responded to the preachers and priests do his day, his answer was to preach Christ.

“Do they not also proclaim Christ? They proclaim Christ, we confess, but what kind? The only begotten of God, true God, of one substance with the Father, and true man, as he is according to the Gospel stories? I confess that truly in this they fall short because they do not proclaim  Christ as our only righteousness and only mediator, but in the matter of justification and our salvation they add in intercessions, different merits, offerings of oil and roses and our good works.”

As we magnify Christ with our words while we are preaching or testifying, the Holy Spirit always comes. I often think of how Peter’s message was the message of Christ. In Acts 10 when he was preaching to a gathering of gentiles at a Roman officer’s home the Holy Spirit actually interrupted Peter’s preaching. Sometimes interrupted preaching is a good thing. What kind of message does God Himself interrupt? Part of what Peter preached was this “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Peter started rehearsing what he had seen and heard Jesus do and the room was suddenly filled with the glory of His presence. Let Christ be your message, anything else tends to bring us back into a works mentality or worse.

BAPTIZED IN FIRE

Matt. 3:11 – Those who repent I baptize with water, but there is coming a Man after me who is more powerful than I am. In fact, I’m not even worthy enough to pick up his sandals. He will submerge you into union with the Spirit of Holiness and with a raging fire!

The prophet John shocked his world with his lifestyle, his apparel, and mostly his message. He had lived as a veritable hermit all of his life until he suddenly burst on the scene. Talk about a throwback, John was dressed like prophets from hundreds of years before, drinking (even the social kind) was out of the question, and his vow of a Nazarite meant he had never cut his hair or beard. The most shocking thing about John was his blunt message. Repent, turn away from sin, and turn to God was his cry. He said the Messiah was about to appear and He would baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire part is quite interesting. Here is how Barclay describes the effect of this fire.

“(i) There is the idea of illumination. The blaze of a flame sends a light through the night and illuminates the darkest corners…. In fire there is light and guidance. Jesus is the beacon light to lead men into truth and to guide them home to God.

(ii) There is the idea of warmth…. When Jesus comes into a man’s life, he kindles his heart with the warmth of love towards God and towards his fellow men. Christianity is always the religion of the kindled heart.

(iii) There is the idea of purification. In this sense purification involves destruction; for the purifying flame burns away the false and leaves the true. The flame tempers and strengthens and purifies the metal. When Christ comes into a man’s heart, the evil dross is purged away.”

Two thousand years later and I think our world needs the shock treatment once again. Its time to turn from our sins and turn back to the Lord. Too often, folks are Christian in name only but their lifestyle is no different from the rest of the ungodly culture. It will take this fire of God to help us become different kinds of people. This holy fire burns us on the inside. He illumines us to Christ, cleanses us from our sins, and then puts a passion in our hearts for the Lord. I think its time to be baptized in His fire.