Saturday, September 23, 2017

Anointed or Disappointed

Scripture reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel was a very unpopular prophet when he first started his ministry.  He had been prophesying to the children of Israel for years that the sins of Israel were going to cause the fall of Jerusalem.  It was a message that didn’t tickle their ears, so they chose not to heed the warnings that He gave them.  Many of his contemporaries, who were proven to be false prophets, proclaimed positive, feel good messages, but Ezekiel continued to proclaim the truth of God and eventually his prophecies came to fruition.

Now as we find Israel captive, Jerusalem in rubble, we see God giving Ezekiel a new message, a message of hope in a valley of dry bones.  The man of God is surrounded by death, hopelessness, and despair. As far as his eye can see there is only brokenness emptiness, despair, and death. The valley that he is standing in, is the valley of death.

Today, especially here in the United states, many in the church are discovering that they are in a valley of death much like the one in Ezekiel’s vision. Ministries have died here, hope for healing has died here, marriages have died here, dreams have died here, and hope for a better tomorrow has died here.  The smell of the corpses is in the air, there is not one drop of blood or moisture anywhere because the altar has been torn down.  There is nothing, not even a hint that their situation could change.

But don’t you know that the God we serve loves impossible situations?  Why?  Because when the impossible becomes a reality, He gets all the glory! I want to tell somebody today who is facing an impossible situation:  God can turn it around!  It doesn't matter how impossible it looks, you just need to look at that mountain or look at the valley of dry bones and start speaking, “thus saith the Lord.”
The key to everything is in v. 9: it is the wind.  The wind represents the Spirit of God being placed back into their hopeless situation. In v. 14 God says He will put his spirit back into their dead bodies and they will live again.  Without the operation and activity of the Holy Spirit’s power instead of a mighty army all that would have been there was a valley full of dead bodies with no power and no life.

The bones were connected and muscles, ligaments, sinews and skin were restored to them, but there was still no life in them.  There was no power in them until the wind began to blow.  When the wind began to blow everything changed.  When the wind began to blow power and life came.  As the breath of God filled them the valley of dead corpses became a mighty army of God.
The breath of God, the wind in Ezekiel’s vision, is the same wind that flooded the place where Jesus’ followers were gathered on the day of Pentecost, the same breath that filled the bodies of 120 men and women with the supernatural life of God.

One of the most important lessons we learn from Ezekiel 37 is that as far as God is concerned, if you leave the Holy Spirit out of the equation you have nothing.  Without the activity and operation of the Holy Spirits power instead of a mighty army of warriors’ ready for battle all we would have seen was a valley full of dead bodies.

We can put it together, we can dress the way that God expects, we can put on great Sunday School lessons, we can sing the right worship songs, we can preach all the feel-good sermons you can imagine, but if we don't have the life giving anointing that comes from the presence and the power of the Holy Ghost we have nothing.

Without the Holy Spirit's power, it doesn’t matter how many people are sitting in the pews of our church, it doesn’t matter how big our offerings are, or how big of a following we have, our church is dead, it's worthless, it's powerless, and it's impotent.  Without the Holy Spirit's power and presence and operation, all of our activity is dead and all death can birth is more death.  Dead preaching kills, dead teaching kills, and dead singing kills.  Only the Anointing of the Holy Spirit can produce life.
Just as the body without blood is dead, the church is dead without the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Dead means void of the presence, and power of the Holy Spirit. Death is incapable of producing life.  It is powerless to lift, powerless to heal, and powerless to deliver anyone from the chains of sin.

We see here in Ezekiel’s vision that one of the first things that must happen is a divine connection.  We must find our divine connections. God’s children don't fit everywhere with everybody.  One of the biggest hindrances to gaining the power and anointing that God wants for us, is wrong connections.  

Flesh connections, connections and relationships that are birthed by fleshly lusts, wants, and desires. 
You cannot have fellowship with the world, and with the Savior of the world at the same time. You cannot win the lost by becoming lost yourself. No matter how well-intentioned you are, my grandmother was right (she was always right), bad company corrupts good moral. You will never have the full potential of God’s power in your life until you have broken your flesh connections.

Flesh connections war against the will and the Spirit of God.  Abraham had a great promise and destiny, but it could not come to pass until he cut off his flesh connection with lot.  Flesh connections will always war for first place in your life, they will always war against the Spirit.

Divine connections will always feed into your anointing and your destiny.  They will always strengthen your faith in God. If you have fleshly connections, get rid of them, cut them off before they destroy you, your family, and your ministry.

Now in the valley the bones are connected to their right bones and then muscles and flesh and skin come upon them, but they are still dead.  Why?  Because the Word alone is not enough.  Yes, the Word will put meat on your bones, yes the Word of God will fatten you up.  But without the anointing the bones are still dead.  The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  It doesn't matter how much Hebrew and Greek you have studied or how many verses of the Bible you have memorized, what matters most is that you have the Holy Spirit.

The bones were placed in order, all the components were there, on the surface everything appeared good, but they were still dead.  The Holy Spirit is the life source and the life force of the church.  The Holy Ghost is not an optional accessory like power seats or power windows, or heated mirrors. The Holy Spirit is a necessity, in fact the Holy Spirit is a command.

Acts 1:4-5
“4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with[b] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

We need to understand that we have a very real adversary who is bent on destroying us.  The one who gives you power over the devil is the Holy Spirit.  The name of Jesus gives us authority to exercise that power.  Every believer has the right to the use of the name of Jesus to exercise the power of the Holy Spirit, but if you do not have the Holy Ghost, you don't have power.  You're like a security guard with a badge but no gun.

The church that rejects the Holy Spirit and all His manifestations and operations will experience death.  Their building may be beautiful, their message may sound good, they may have a large congregation, and the services may be impressive, but without the Holy Spirit, it is dead. Life in the presence and power of the Holy Ghost, or death in a valley of dry bones: It’s a choice we must make, anointed or disappointed!

The Church can survive without a lot of things: we can live without stained glass windows, we can live without padded pews, we can live without great talent, and we can even survive without central heating and air conditioning, but we cannot live without the breath of life.  We cannot live without the power of the Holy Ghost!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

You Shall Be Witnesses!

It doesn’t matter how “good” you think you are, how much time you invest in your community, or how much money you give to charity, you’re not getting into to heaven unless you are born again!  Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3 that unless a man is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
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.

Following Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, they believed his words, that God had made Jesus whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ, they believed and were convicted, and asked: What must we do? Peter gives them a very clear answer: Repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Ghost.

Many Christians begin the process, but never complete it. They live powerless lives, constantly struggling with the same weak and defeated existence. Never overcoming their temptations, they constantly struggle with the same sins, year in, and year out. Their life is weakened by sin, and their witness for Christ, well it is non-existent. Because they never seek the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Jesus believed the Baptism of the Holy Ghost to be so important that he commanded his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received it. (Acts 1:8)

Acts 2:1

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Why is this Holy Ghost so important?  Because the Holy Ghost is the power of God, filling the human vessel with the very presence of the indwelling Spirit of Jesus, allowing us to live lives that reflect His image (Romans 8:29). The only way we can become His witnesses, and advance the Kingdom of God, in through that indwelling presence.  The Holy Ghost is God’s supernatural way of equipping us to fulfill the great commission and to carry on the ministry of Jesus.

What was the ministry of Jesus?  “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the captive free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’” (Luke 4:14-19)

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, to comfort the sick, to reach out to those in need, establish the Kingdom of God and to destroy the works of Satan.

I John 3:8 – “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Jesus ministry has never changed and we have been commissioned and anointed to continue his ministry in the earth.  If you read the book of Acts you will discover that is an account of the NT church in her infancy, it is the record of how the Holy Ghost operates through yielded vessels.  The book of Acts is the pattern for the church.

Mark 16:17-18 - And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost are the defining characteristics of the NT church. To put it more simply, the Church acted just like Jesus; they healed the sick, they cast out devils, and they performed signs and wonders. How?  Through the Power of the Holy Spirit!

There are a lot of things that are lacking in our lives today, but of all the things that we need, it is a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit!  We need an invasion of the Holy Ghost!  We need God to storm our services, we need a divine interruption to “our” agendas, and we need the Holy Ghost to show up like He did on the day of Pentecost and fill God’s people with power from above, power to be His witnesses!  We need a sudden, undeniable, supernatural stirring of the Holy Ghost! 

We need to pray like they did in acts 4:29-31, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

Come on Lord, stir us up!  We need an invasion of your Holy Ghost today!  Something that originates from heaven, something that will shake us up, something that will wake us up, something that will stir us up, and set us on fire! 

We need a divine interruption!

You can be saved right now, you can be set free right now, you can be healed right now, you can be delivered right now, and you can get your miracle, or your breakthrough right now!  Everything you need is a breath of God away, but it can only come to you through the power and anointing of the Holy Ghost.

I started with Paul’s words to Timothy, but he might as well been speaking to us.  If there’s one thing we’re missing in many of our lives today, it is the vitality, the life, the fire, the power and the anointing of the Holy Ghost.

We can look at the world, we can try and blame the government, we can claim religious persecution or the atmosphere of our society, but the truth is that we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We are the keepers of our flame.  Every person is responsible to stir up the gift, the flame that is in them and it is our job to keep the fire burning.  We have to stir up the gift!

There is an anointing in you, a fire in you, it may be low, and it may seem like just a flicker, you may think it has gone out, but if you’ll begin to stir the embers a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit will begin to blow again and the fire will burn.

We can’t afford to let the fire go out, it’s too close to midnight, too close to the end and the bridegroom is drawing closer.  There are people who are falling asleep all around us, still singing the same songs, still saying amen and hallelujah, but the fire has gone out!  It’s time for us to stir up the gift that is in us, time to wake up our calling, time to wake up our destiny, to stir up that anointing and wake up that fire!

I’ve worked on some pretty high-performance engines in my secular job, some that give you goose bumps just listening to the sound of them roar and you can tell that their power is intimidating to every other car on the road, but one thing is true about every one of them; if the battery is dead, you’re dead in the water.

It doesn’t matter how much destiny is in you, or how many gifts or callings are in you, unless they are activated by the Holy Spirit, they’re dead.

I doesn’t matter how many God given dreams you have, or how many prophecies you have been spoken over your life, they are not going to come to fruition without the stirring of the Holy Ghost.  When we allow the fire to be stirred in us, we can activate the flame in others and then we become a threat to hell.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Put Up Your Dukes!

As most of the descendants of Abraham moved into the Promise Land and took possession of their inheritance, there were seven tribes, that for some reason had failed to receive their inheritance. It is important to understand that when it says they had not “received” their inheritance, it means is that they had failed to drive out the enemy.  

The land that had been promised to them by God was inhabited by people who opposed their right to the land.  For them to receive their inheritance, they had to take it from the enemy.  The land belonged to the children of Israel by right of inheritance, by promise, but it was occupied and dominated by their enemies.

Listen to Joshua’s words:

“How long are you going to sit around on your hands, putting off taking possession of the land that God, the God of your ancestors, has given you? (Joshua 18:3 MSG)”

The point is:

·        The land had been given to them by God
·        It had become occupied by an enemy force
·        Now, it was their responsibility to take possession of it.

Joshua was asking them how long they were going to hang back, and put off, possessing their inheritance.  How long were they going to be lazy, afraid, and unwilling to engage the enemy and take possession of their birth-rite?

We find this same spiritually lazy and fearful culture in the church today.  The word of God is full of His promises toward His children.  We are also by faith the seed of Abraham, and we are heirs to the blessing of Abraham, Gal 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

We have been filled with the Holy Ghost, and we have received power to drive out our enemy. Oh yes, friends, I said enemy! Our enemy is real, his name is Satan, and he roams about like a roaring lion seeking to devour those who allow him to.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (I Peter 5:8)”

As it was then for Abraham’s seed, it is true for us today, our enemy does not want us to take possession of our inheritance, and unless we enjoy living substandard spiritual lives, receiving only the crumbs that fall from the table, wandering about in this world like spiritual nomads, we must be willing to fight for what is ours. Not just make a meager defense against the enemy’s constant attempts to devour us, but we must be willing to pursue our enemy, through fasting and praying, and tear down the devil’s strongholds and drive him from our lives forever!

Jesus told us that He has given us authority over all the power of the enemy, and nothing can harm us (spiritually). He said that we would receive power when the holy Ghost comes upon us. So we have the authority of God over the enemy, and the power to defeat him.

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)”

One reason many of Gods people are cheated out of their inheritance is: because they do not know what belongs to them, they are unfamiliar with the will, Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”

Another reason is: we are just plain slack, lazy, unwilling to fight for it.  Many Christians would rather live the mediocre self-preserving life of a spiritual pauper, than to have to engage the enemy in spiritual warfare.  It’s time to recognize and start admitting that we “have not” because we ask not, and won’t stand up and fight for what is ours! 

Our inheritance is not in heaven waiting for us to die so we can go and get it!  Our inheritance is in Christ, it has been paid for by His blood, now all we must do, is drive out the enemy in the mighty name of Jesus, and take back what the enemy has stolen!

I remember a cartoon when I was a kid, Snagglepuss. The cartoon feature a lion, and whenever the lion faced opposition from an adversary, his favorite line was, “Put up your dukes, put up your dukes.”

But then when his opponent stood their ground, he would flee the scene with another famous line, “exit stage left!,” and then he would run away!

It’s time to tell the devil to put his dukes!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Don't Be Afraid to Holler For Help

Mark 10:46-52

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Verse 46 says, “then they came to Jericho,” and then it says, immediately, “As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city.” In One verse Jesus came, and then he was leaving. This is a great passage to show how quickly His presence can pass us by, how easy it is to miss being touched by Him, if we are not prepared to cry out for help. We must prepare ourselves for His coming, or He will come and go, and we will forfeit the opportunity to be touched by His presence and receive nothing.

Only one man in this story was desperate enough to reveal his true condition, He was willing to let down the walls that kept him from God’s blessing and admit his true emptiness.  He was beyond caring what anyone thought of him, what they might whisper behind his back, and he was prepared to endure their persecution for admitting that he had a need.

Bartimaeus “heard” the crowd.  Praise God!  The Lord always gives us something to work with.  He was blind and could not see, but he could hear, he couldn’t see but he still had a voice, and so he worked with what God gave him.

“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout”

Bartimaeus had come to the point of desperation and he was willing to admit he was powerless, it had cultivated within him a spirit of desperation.  His shouts for mercy were cries of desperation for deliverance.

Meanwhile all the “good” followers of Jesus told him to shut up, after all he was a beggar and they were the true followers, but he was desperate and he wouldn’t be kept from his blessing and so he shouted even louder.  It was his shouts for mercy that stopped Jesus in his tracks.

Interestingly enough, those who had told him to shut up, now said, “Cheer up, on your feet, He’s calling you.”  Does it ever amaze you, it does me, how quickly people can change their tune when it will make them look more spiritual?  If they had had any concern for Bartimaeus they would have taken him to the Lord to begin with instead of trying to silence him.

“And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.”

His garment was a symbol of his past, of the lifestyle that he had lived in this garment, the life of a blind beggar. It represented his restrictions, his limitations and the impossibilities of the infirmed life that he had been stuck in and it was symbolic of the mentality that had held him captive and led to his desperately determined actions.  This robe said, “I am blind therefore I am helpless, I am unable to do anything for myself, to provide anything for myself, I am a beggar, my life and my existence are determined by the generosity of those who can see.”

I wonder, how many are spiritually blind to the things of God and are spiritual beggars in God’s Kingdom.  How many in the Church know nothing of the spirit of revelation, and truth made alive within their spirits through the Holy Ghost.  Too many of God’s people choose to live like beggars and settle for receiving everything second hand.  They are blind by choice.  Why?  Because to have their eyes opened comes with the obligation to change!

Bartimaeus knew that to receive his sight would end his right to beg, he would now have to work and provide for himself, and he publicly made that decision.  Jesus called him beyond his condition and convinced him of a fuller life. His faith gave him spiritual sight and he began to see himself whole.  He threw off the bondage of his past and he rose and came to Jesus.  He chose to be changed, he was determined to be different, and he made a declaration to be healed.  He was leaving the position that defined him as hopeless, he was leaving the condition that defined him as a beggar, and he was stepping into the unknown.

Every phase of growth in our spiritual lives requires us to step into the unknown. Like Capt. Kirk, we have to go where we’ve never gone before, to leave the comfort zone for the opportunity to receive a greater blessing.

As the children of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan into their inheritance, they were told to leave a space between them and the ark so they could see which way to go because they had never passed that way before. So many are missing what God wants for them:

Because they are not willing to trust Him, if they cannot see or make sense of what He is asking, they refuse to follow.

Because they are not willing to throw off the robes of their past, Jesus said you can’t put new wine into old wineskins, we have to be willing to let go of the old to receive the new.  As Elijah’s mantle fell to the ground Elisha took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.  What was he doing? He was removing the old to make room for the new.

Because they are not willing to admit that they live in spiritual poverty.

Because they are not willing to change.

True healing can only take place when we are desperate enough to shout to the Lord, loud enough to stop Him in His tracks, admit our desperate need for His touch, and then once we are at His feet we throw off the past and allow the presence of the Holy Ghost to bring real change and to remove the scales from our eyes.  Do you want Jesus to stand still where you are?  Are you willing to do what it takes to get him to stop Him in His tracks?

Then your healing is just a shout away from you!