Thursday, November 24, 2016

Peace, Peace, Wonderful Peace

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The biblical concept of peace is not the absence of trouble. Biblical peace is something that is not related to circumstances or situations. As believers, we may be experiencing problems and still experience the peace that Jesus promised.

The Apostle Paul proclaimed that he had learned the secret of being content, regardless of his circumstance: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

He demonstrated that peace in the jail at Philippi, he sang and remained confident that God was being gracious to him. He told the Philippian jailer about God’s goodness and the jailer and his family were saved.

How can we experience the kind of peace that cannot be affected by trouble, danger, or sorrow? I find it somewhat ironic that one of the best descriptions of peace in scripture, John 14:27, was given by Jesus the night before He died on the Cross. Jesus knew what was coming next, He knew what He was about to face, yet He took the time to comfort His disciples with a message of peace.

The New Testament speaks of two kinds of peace: objective peace and subjective peace. Objective peace is about our relationship to God. Subjective peace is about our experiences in life.

When we come to Jesus, we enter a relationship with God, we enter a covenant of peace with God. This peace is objective it has nothing to do with how we feel or think. It is an accomplished peace: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

When we place our trust in Christ, we are redeemed, we are declared righteous by faith. Our sins are forgiven and we have peace with God. That was God’s wonderful purpose in salvation.

Colossians 1:19-20a says, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;”

Because Christ died for our sins, we are reconciled with God, we have peace with God because of what Jesus has done. This is the heart of the message of the gospel.

But Jesus is not talking about objective peace in John 14:27. Jesus was saying that he was leaving us with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And comforting us with the knowledge that the peace He gave could not be taken from us by our circumstances. The peace Jesus speaks of here is a subjective, experiential peace. It’s tranquility of the soul, it’s settled, it’s positive, it’s a peace that affects the circumstances of life, but is not affected by the circumstances of life. It is a supernatural stream of peace. It’s permanent peace, it’s positive peace, it’s peace that will calm the heart in every situation, in every circumstance, and in every storm of life.

The peace of God is not based on circumstances. The Apostle Paul described it as a peace that surpasses comprehension. It is an immoveable peace that exists in all the problems and troubles we go through. This is divine peace, supernatural peace; it cannot be figured out on a human level.
In Philippians 4:7 the Apostle Paul uses the word “guard.” He says, “let the peace of God guard your heart.” The word translated “guard” is a word that is used in a military sense, it means to stand at a post and guard against the aggression of an enemy. When the peace of God is on guard, the Christian is within an impregnable fortress. The name of the fortress is Jesus, and the guard is peace.

The peace of God stands guard and keeps worry from corroding our hearts, and the whispers of the devil from tearing up our minds. This is the kind of peace we have, a peace that forgives our past, a peace that fortifies our present, and a peace will flourish us with a guaranteed promise for our future.
Jesus is the One who gives peace. The Supernatural peace of Jesus is His gift to us. The same deep peace that stilled His heart amid mockers, haters, murderers, traitors, and amid incomprehensible persecution, Jesus was calm and unfaltering; He was a rock.

When Jesus appeared before Pilate, He was so calm, so serene, so controlled, so at peace, that Pilate became greatly disturbed. He was furious that Jesus was standing before him fearless; Pilate said, “Why don’t you talk to me? Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” (John 19:10).

In perfect peace Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11).

That’s the kind of peace the Holy Spirit gives to us. Undistracted, fearlessness, and unwavering trust. Our source of peace is Jesus. He provides us with the same serenity in danger, the same calm in trouble, and the same freedom from anxiety.

Jesus says, “the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”
His peace is not like the peace the world offers. Jesus has given us real peace through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost in our lives. It has been made available to all who repent and are baptized in Jesus’ name. It is here, it is ours, it is free, it is a gift, but we must take hold of it.

The peace Jesus offers, the gift, must be received and applied in our lives. When we receive the promise of the Holy Ghost, we will have calm, untroubled hearts, regardless of the circumstances. I leave you with the words of an old hymn that says it far better than I ever could:

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:

Ah soul, are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;

Oh, accept this sweet peace so sublime!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Two Voices, Two Choices

II Kings 6:1-7
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.
2 Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.
3 And one said, be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.
4 So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.
5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
6 And the man of God said, where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
7 Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.

This is a very simple story that contains an incredible miracle. The basic gist of it is that there were some young men who determined to build a new house because the old one was too small. They set out with each of the young men getting an assignment of having to gather up a beam so that a house could be built. It was not long into the enterprise before a borrowed axe head ends up in the bed of the river.

The axe is flying and the blade is biting deep into the tree. The tree trembles and then it falls to the ground. He passes on to the next tree and starts to take it down, but amid his work the axe head comes off and sinks to the bottom of the river.

The young man begins to panic: How is the building to be finished? How is the rest of the wood going to be gathered? What are we going to do? How was he going to explain the lost axle head?
One sudden stroke, during the young man’s efforts to succeed, and everything collapses. Everything comes to a grinding halt and a crisis appears.

There are such crisis events that will take place in the life of every believer and every church. No one is immune from it. If you trace the lives of the greatest of God’s saints and the greatest churches, somewhere, there will be a record of a lost axe head.

It happens in various ways to churches. It happens when leaders backslide, when Truth is not carefully taught, when the people get into quarrels and unity is destroyed, when complacency begins to strangle the anointing of God, or when sin enters and is allowed to continue without correction.

There are many ways the axle head can become lost in a church, and the same holds true for individuals. If we are willing to admit it, all of us at some point in our lives have come to the place where we lost the axe head.

It can happen when we allow responsibilities overwhelmed us, when sickness prevails in our body, when we allow offenses to take over our best intentions, when we begin to watching others instead of God, or when we get weary in well-doing.

But regardless of the reason, the axe head becomes lost and it shuts down our vision, impedes our spiritual dreams, stifles our prayer life, and chokes out our faith. It literally shuts down every bit of the productive fruit that has been growing in our lives. I have been there more than once in my life.
When you have lost your axe head, you are much more susceptible to listening to the voice of the enemy. Discouragement gives him an open road into your soul. It is in the middle of weeping over the axe head that despairing voices seem the loudest: “We are never going to get this thing done. There is too much work and not enough resources. What we needed most has been lost.”

In an atmosphere like that it is hard, in fact almost impossible for our faith to prevail. It is an atmosphere like this that will test your thinking. The fact is that the highest challenge to our thinking is our feelings. How a man feels about his situation, his set of circumstances, and his lot in life will determine what happens in the end.

John Maxwell wrote, “If you are willing to change your thinking, you can change your feelings. If you change your feelings, you can change your actions. Changing your actions can change your life.”

I have been sick lately and I won’t lie, it’s brought thoughts of discouragement into my mind. The lies of the enemy have been assaulting my faith. The voice of the devil has sought to vanquish my soul. But as I meditated on God’s Word, as I have prayed, and have had so many praying for me, the voice of God shouts louder: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world…no weapon formed against you shall prosper…He who begun a good work in you is able to complete… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

I am determined to have revival in my life! I am determined to retrieve the axe head and continue the restoration that God has only just begun in my life. I will not let the devil have his way! I will not shrink back! He cannot defeat me, because he cannot defeat the God that lives inside me! I will, “Call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies!”

God’s carpenters sometimes show more strength than skill. We can put a lot of confidence in our flesh or in the human wisdom of the heart and leave no room for God to work in the middle of the dilemma. Regardless of how much strength we have or how many skills we possess, they can never compensate for the lack of the supernatural anointing. 

There are no substitutes for the lost axe head. There are no substitutes for a church or an individual life that is on fire for Jesus! There are no substitutes for answered prayer! There’s no substitutes for receiving the Holy Ghost! There’s no substitutes for liberty in worship! There’s no substitutes for having a passion for the Word! There’s no substitutes for personal revival!

We don’t usually lose our greatest assets deliberately. The thing most valuable to these young men at this point in their project was the axe. They were on their way to do something noble and important, but in the process, they lost what they needed most.

The majority of those that lose their axe heads do not do it purposely or with evil intent, it happened while they were doing the best they could with the situation that presented itself to them. They were thrown a pitch and they had to swing at it. Life is like this all the time, you don’t get the choice of pitches thrown to you, you can only react to what has taken place. For most of us, we don’t just decide to thrown in the towel, it is through the course of living, the crosses we wrestle, and the burdens that weigh us down that our joy is stolen from us. 

It is at these times that there are two competing voices, both calling for surrender, but offering two very distinct choices: surrendering to the voice of the enemy offers defeat, surrendering to the voice of God offers victory.

I am Certain that there are places in our lives that we should never return, but that axe head at the bottom of the river can only be recovered where it was lost. If you have lost something, go back to where you lost it and pick it back up again! God still has more work for you to do. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gratitude, The Key To Recovery

Luke 17:11-19
11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

In my opinion, ingratitude is far too common in our society. God does so much for us and our indebtedness to Him is enormous, yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what He has done. In fact, most professing Christians don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We take all the blessings we have for granted then cry out to God if they aren’t exactly what we expect them to be.

In this passage of scripture, we read a story of ten men who were healed from leprosy. The word “Leprosy” means to be stricken, smitten, or to receive a blow. The Jews believed that leprosy was God striking or punishing the afflicted person. Leprosy is an awful disease. It begins with specks on the eyelids and the palms, gradually spreading over the whole body, bleaching the hair white, crusting affected parts with white scales causing terrible sores and swelling. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the entire body, piece by piece. In the later stages of leprosy, the diseased person’s limbs can literally, fall off.

Leprosy was a fatal disease and it affected the sufferer far beyond the physical realm. Luke says here they stood afar off. The disease of leprosy was a painful disease, but the physical pain was not the only area suffered by those inflicted. Lepers were separated from the rest of society. They were shut out from their family and friends. They were forbidden to worship or fellowship in the synagogue or temple. They were the outcasts of their society.

Notice that Jesus on his way to Jerusalem entered a certain village and there met the lepers. The religious crowd had no room for these leprous men. The law shut them out. The law set forth the conduct of lepers. The law said when you pass one, pass on the other side and cry out Unclean! Unclean!

As Jesus entered the city, from a distance, He heard their voices crying out to Him, “Have mercy on us!

They had been afflicted physically, relationally ostracized, they were mentally “unclean,” and they were emotionally wrecked as loneliness had most likely gripped their hearts. This group of men, in my opinion, were spiritually bankrupt.

As a person who has recovered from alcoholism and addiction, I can relate to their circumstances. I know what it feels like to be cut off from society, to be shut out from your family and friends, to be written off by the religious, and to be cut off from fellowship with God. In that regard addiction is much like leprosy, although I believe that addiction is more of a spiritual affliction than a physical one.

I chose this passage of scripture because of the relation that I see between how the leper suffered and how the addicts in our society still suffer today. But more than just the similarities between how they suffer, I chose it because I believe it holds the key to true recovery for those who suffer in addiction.

When they cried out to Jesus, he healed them all. Then He told them to go and show themselves to the priest so that they could be declared clean. This was a requirement of the Law of Moses. They all went to the priest as Jesus directed. Every one of them was declared ritually clean by the priest. All ten of these men were healed, but only one returned to Jesus to give thanks for what he had received; only one was grateful, and only one was made “whole.”

The other nine would have been declared ceremonially clean again and would have returned to the lives that they had left behind. They would have found that some of their family and friends were there waiting for them, but some had most likely moved on. They most likely would have found that some of the religious people accepted them back with open arms, but others kept them at arm’s length, or rejected them outright. And eventually they would discover that even though they were healed, they were not whole – they were still broken inside from the leprosy and all that it had cost them.

In the time that I have been involved with the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous I have seen many people come into the rooms and receive the gift of sobriety. I have also seen many of those same people go back out and drink again. Why? I am sure that there are many excuses that could be used to explain it, but the simplest way that I can describe it from my perspective is: they stopped drinking, but they were never made “whole.”

They stop drinking and then go back and try to re-enter society as if nothing happened, but they are still broken. The things that made them sick are still there. The effects from the life they have lived still haunt them. They try and go about their lives forgetting about the God that rescued them and gave them the gift of sobriety.

Being made “whole” is more than just an initial healing, it is restoration. We are whole only when we are restored to a right relationship with Jesus. And the key to total restoration, a restored relationship to Jesus, is gratitude. All nine of the men were healed, but only one returned to give thanks. And only the one that returned to give thanks was declared “whole” by the Lord. Gratitude is the key to total recovery.

I have learned that I must thank my Lord, Jesus is His name, every day for the gift that I have received. Every morning I ask him for another day free from drugs and alcohol and the strength to do His will, and every night I thank Him for another day that I didn’t drink. Every day I thank Him that He has removed the desire from my life. Every day, I show gratitude to Jesus because I am truly grateful for all that He has done and is doing. Every day, one day at a time, He is making me whole.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Holy or Harlot? A Church Can't Be Both

Over the years I have come to understand that one of my greatest responsibilities is to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to me and to faithfully, and correctly, interpret that message and then to declare it with boldness regardless of whether it tickles the ear or is popular.

I know that there are many messages that I could share, but I must speak what I hear the Holy Spirit saying and I believe that there is an urgency to this message He has given me today.  Today the urgency of the Holy Spirit’s word to me is, Jesus is coming.

I remember when I was growing up, we rarely left a service without hearing, “Jesus is coming.”
We lived with a sense of Urgency of the hour, we were constantly reminded that these are the last days. I literally lived with a fear of missing the rapture, it was that real to me.  There were many times during my rebellion, when my heart was not right with God, I would find myself fearing that I may be left behind, and it was a fearful prospect.

But today something has happened and it seems like the church has fallen into a slumber, many have begun snuggling up to the world, many are falling in love with money and pleasures, and out of love with Jesus.  It seems that most people's lives have become more and more concerned about being happy and less and less concerned about being holy.  They have become more and more concerned about being comfortable and less and less concerned about being consecrated.  Their focus has become more and more on this kingdom and less and less on His.

Just like the Virgins they’ve fallen asleep waiting on the bridegroom.  It is an undeniable fact that the church has been asleep, it has long been referred to as the “Sleeping Giant,” because Satan knows what the church is capable of when it is awake, but when it's asleep the church is laughing stock, and a source of criticism and humiliation.

Why is this point so important?  Because a church that is asleep is powerless, it is without influence in the world, and it becomes tolerant and accepting of everything.

One of the greatest indications of a church that is asleep, is that they have no sense of the urgency concerning Jesus’ return.  All throughout the scriptures we are instructed to keep the soon coming of our Lord in our thoughts and in our hearts, and to live every day in the urgency that He could return at any moment.

There are some things in the scriptures that are conditional and relational and whether they occur depends on our attitudes and our actions. But this is one thing that God has determined will occur, He didn’t ask for our participation or input, He doesn’t care if we agree or like it, and it has been settled forever: Jesus is coming!

The disciples lived with urgency because Jesus said:
- Work while it is day for the night cometh when no man can work. 
- Behold I come Quickly 
- Go into all the world and preach the gospel…
- These signs will follow those who believe…

This urgency filled them with expectancy and it fueled them to preach and reach as many people as they could. This sense of urgency also kept them diligent, alert, and holy.

When the church gets sleepy, the church gets sloppy.  It begins to look like the world, talk like the world and act like the world and sadly in many cases you can't tell the difference between the two.  That is what we are seeing today, a church that has fallen asleep with its head in the lap of the world.
Like Samson the church has been in love with a prostitute, the hedonistic spirit of this age that says, “If it feels right, it must be right.”

I'm talking about apostate churches, a backslidden churches, the churches that accept and ordain homosexuals and lesbians, churches that teach that there is no such thing as hell and your heaven is here on earth, the churches that accept the hedonistic teaching that you are your own god so you decide your own destiny, the churches that teach there's no such thing as the rapture, and there's no such thing as a judgement day.  This is the Apostate church, it is the backslidden church, and it is the harlot church!

·        - They still have Sunday services
·        - They still carry a bible
·        - They still sing religious Songs
·        - They still talk about God
·        - They still lift their hands and go through the motions
·        - They may even speak in tongues, but Jesus said, “Their hearts are far from me and they are just Vain   Babblers.”

I know this message is not politically correct, but it is Biblically correct!

But thank God there is another church, a remnant seed, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!  She is the bride of Christ and she believes the words of Jesus.  The church of Jesus still:

·       -  Believes in holiness, sanctification, consecration, and separation from the world.
·        - Welcomes the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin
·        - Preaches that without holiness no man shall see the Lord
·        - Understands that there is a Heaven and there is a hell and that there is an eternal judgement and that   those who reject the mercy of Jesus will be eternally lost
·       -  Knows that sin Separates us from God
·        - Sees that sin is darkness and darkness and light cannot dwell together
·        - Are very aware that the coming of the Lord is imminent and only those who are covered by his      blood and robed in His righteousness will go with Him when He comes.

Noah lived every day with the sense of urgency.  He worked, he prayed, he preached, and he pleaded with the urgency and intensity of one who believed that this could be the day the flood is coming, and that judgement is coming.

We are living in just such an hour!  God’s judgement is at the door, while multitudes of people who are sitting in the churches have fallen asleep.

Matthew 25:5-6
“5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’’

That cry is going out today, the Holy Spirit is sounding the wake-up call!  The trumpet of His love and mercy is being sounded from every righteous pulpit of every true man of God.  All over the land and around the world the cry can be heard, “The day of the Lord is at hand!”

Even the media, scientists, and many people who are not believers have a sense that something big is about to happen.  They may not know what they are doing, but they are echoing the prophets as they are forecasting drought, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis, financial collapse, martial law, nuclear war and government take overs.

But I have a message to the true church, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the called-out ones, those who are sanctified and washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness: “Lift up your heads, your redemption draweth nigh!”

What is going to be the greatest grief and tragedy that has ever hit this planet is also going to be the church’s finest hour.

Matthew 24:36-44
“36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

To those who are ready, we welcome his return, we've been expecting Him, but to those who are not ready He is coming like a thief in the night.

Are you ready today? Are you covered by his blood, is your name in the lambs book of life?

Acts 2:38

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”