Calvary Love

To make the statement “There is freedom in surrender” may make some question your logic.  The reality of life in Christ’s kingdom is that very often the “foolish things of the world confound the wise” and the weak confound the mighty.  The way up is down.  The way to live is to die.  The way of freedom requires a cross.  Surrender to the cross of Christ brings freedom that can only be described as abundant life in Christ.

Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 and died in 1951. She spent fifty-three years in India setting up orphanages to rescue children from prostitution in Hindu temples and ministering to the people she met. Amy affected the lives of countless Indians, giving them a hope for a future on earth and in heaven.While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary, She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is a chance to die.Continue reading “Calvary Love”

WE ARE IN A WAR!

“A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:5-6, NIV).

Wherever people honor wickedness, darkness prevails and it sets the spiritual atmosphere. As the spiritual climate in our world deteriorates, we are facing warfare as never before.  A spiritual warfare climate tries to make us feel insignificant – lives no substance, no worth – battle futile.  However, the truth of the matter is, we are already victorious! Read the back of the Book!

In Judges 2, we find Israel coming under the principalities and powers of their day – worshiping the Baal gods… instead of Israel influencing their world.

In times of spiritual warfare, you cannot honor the heathen climate of your area.

The commission of the church today is to displace the kingdom of darkness and replace it with genuine Christianity and power.  As the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi went…  “where there is hatred, we must bring love.  Where there is strife, we must bring peace.  Where there is sickness, we bring health.  Where there is death, life.”  It is not just speaking but acting out principles of the Kingdom that will displace the kingdom of darkness.  When church is filled with obedient believers, active faith, darkness is pushed out. The church must be more than just a group of people with set of doctrines, beliefs, and rituals.  Darkness is not dispelled by what goes on within the four walls of the church.  We must take the warfare to the field.

When our inside relationship with Jesus is hot – we have the law of the life of Jesus flowing through us.  When this relationship wanes, we start battling lust of the flesh, things of the flesh, darkness creeps in.  We must keep walking in the light and having fellowship or light turns to darkness.

We must never fall into the deception that comes with believing that accumulated knowledge is the same as applied knowledge.  It’s not!  Books on prayer can be tremendous but knowledge of prayer is useless unless we pray. We may know all the Greek words for love but if we hold bitterness in our heart toward one another all that knowledge is to no avail.  We must live what we know!  Knowledge in action will produce substance and fruit.  Without the action we will not have Biblical Christianity; we will not displace the kingdom of darkness.  God’s people acting on truth in love, brings displacement of darkness.  The devil directs his warfare against the actions of our faith – not just what we say.  You can say all you want.  You won’t intimidate him until you start doing.  He can still say, “Jesus, I know and Paul I know, but who are you?

Obedience is a vital part of every miracle. In the Old Testament, everything God did after creation was done in cooperation with man.  God could have scraped land of Canaan free of inhabitants, but He didn’t.  He had the children of Israel march around Jericho – and shout – before the walls came down.  They had to do something for the substance – the deliverance – the victory – to come.

In the New Testament, Jesus could have snapped a finger and filled the pots at the wedding in Cana with wine.  He didn’t.  Instead, he had men take the existing waterpots, fill them with water, and carry them to the head waiter.  It has been approximated this was about 168 gallons of liquid.  Yet the miracle was contingent on their obedience to His instructions.  Obedience is the pre-requisite for miracles.  When you obey God, He releases power.

The battle we face is against passivity and inactivity.  It seems our struggle is to act on what we believe, not on what we feel.  The enemy often intimidates us into inactivity.  Manifestation of the kingdom ceases when we are inactive.  We can sing songs about warfare – but singing about warfare and doing warfare are two different things.  We pray and suddenly a wave of unworthiness tries to undermine our confidence in prayer – a barrage of questions comes.  Did I pray right?  Did I use right words?  Did I pray long enough?  Did I pray in faith?  Do I need someone to agree with me?  What’s going on?  It is demonic warfare against our confidence to make us believe our prayers haven’t reached God.  That’s not true.  God hears.  The time frame for answering is His and His alone – but He hears every word.

When we worship we face warfare.   The Old Testament war instructions for Israel were to let Judah go first.  (Judah is representative of worship and praise.)  But Judah, the praisers, had to be prepared spiritually.  So must we!

Satan tells us we’re not worthy – that’s warfare of guilt and condemnation.  Remember, though, he is the father of lies and he is not going to start telling the truth with you.  When someone went to the Temple to sacrifice, it was the sacrifice, not the worshipper, that was examined and judged as to its worth.  If the sacrifice was acceptable and sufficient, then the worshipper was fully accepted.  The Lamb who was slain is worthy – therefore we are accepted.  God’s acceptance of our worship isn’t based on our mechanics – but on our faith and on the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Our salvation is built on the foundation of grace, not law.  Many Christians live under the weight of guilt, condemnation, constantly trying to gain God’s approval. Our minds and senses war against things of God.  If we bow under warfare we miss the miracle – miss the very thing we are praying for.  If you bow to Baal you get cheated out of the miracles!

Here’s some advice for warfare:

  1. Don’t Bow to Baals – Greed – materialism – lust – worldliness.  These spirits don’t belong in the church – and don’t belong in our lives.  Don’t bow to them. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to affect culture not bow to it.
  2. Don’t Let Men or Devils Define You – Don’t judge yourself in a storm.  There is an anti-Christ sentiment that wants to define us.  Read the newspaper, listen to the radio and you’ll hear all kinds of misrepresentation and misinformation about God and Christians.   Don’t let the devil define who you are or what you believe.  If we bow to the pressure and start apologizing, changing the message to suit people, telling people what they want to hear to avoid trouble – we’ll find ourselves in the worst of trouble.  Rise up with a weapon of truth.  Don’t let the devil define your message.
  3. Don’t Give In To Feelings of Failure and Uselessness – God has given us project to do.   Don’t bow to discouragement, hopelessness.  Rise up with God’s word in your mouth – “The gates of hell will not prevail!”   If we don’t rise up verbally and with action to confront the Baals, we will submit to their influence and be discouraged or depressed.  Courage is not the absence of the fear.  Courage is the presence of God.
  4. Don’t Drift Into Things – You never fall onto a mountain – you climb it.  The Scripture says, “Give more earnest heed to the things which we’ve heard lest we let them slip…”   The word “slip” there means drift.  You are not going to drift into victory – into holiness.  More often than not, when one drifts – you are drifting away from something – not into something.  Yelling at the devil won’t make him go away.   He must be displaced by right living.  We need to affirm the truth not only with our mouths but our actions.

We are in a war.  The victories we win, the defeats we suffer are not just for the moment but for eternity.  Souls are stake.  Read the back of the book – we win!

“‘And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).

The Priority of Prayer

As Apostolics, we are firmly rooted in the Book of Acts where, in every chapter, prayer is either mentioned or alluded to.  For Apostolics, there is no priority preceding prayer.  Without the modern marvels of communication and travel, the book of Acts church made a global impact.  This impact traveled on the wings of prayer around the corner and to the four corners of the then know world.  Prayer continues to be the prerequisite for global impact in the twenty-first century.  All of our extensive plans and expanded efforts will require extreme prayer to impact our world.

 Without Acts 1, there would be no Acts 2.  Prayer was the priority of the apostolic church.  It was born in a prayer meeting and it will thrive only in an atmosphere of prayer.  The back door of the prayer room will become the front door of evangelism.  Evangelism without prayer is like an explosive that has no detonator.  Prayer without evangelism is like a detonator that has no explosive.  Together the church can blow the gates of hell off their hinges.  It was said of the early church that they turned the world upside down.  That is global impact.

 Apostolic doctrine must be accompanied by the apostolic agenda and priority of prayer.  This will produce the power for effective impact.  Acts 6:4 clearly sets the apostolic agenda:  “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer; and to the ministry of the word:” and please note that prayer precedes the Word.  How would Acts 10 read if the apostle Peter had been too busy with plans and programs to pray in the middle of that notable day when Cornelius turned the handle on the door of the Gentile world, opening it for the gospel?  The door of evangelism for the continent of Europe swung open on three hinges of prayer:  Lydia’s prayer meeting by the riverside, the deliverance of the demonized girl as Paul and Silas were on their way to a prayer meeting, and the prayer meeting in the jail.

Prayer meetings were the pivotal points of the early church.  It was while Peter and John were on their way to a prayer meeting that the lame man was healed, which produced a ready audience to receive the message, resulting in multitudes believing.  After an earth-shaking prayer meeting, the words “multitude” and “believers” appear again.  The impact of preaching is absolutely dependent on the priority of prayer.

 A praying disciple by the name of Ananias was led in a vision to a praying religious leader by the name of Saul, and by praying and going, the religious system was cracked, and the greatest persecutor of the name of Jesus was turned into its greatest proponent.

 The apostolic agenda of prayer (first) and the word made the early church effectively impacting:

  • They affected the religious world of their day with the conversion of Saul and a great number of priests.
  • They affected the business world of their day as noted by the conversion of Cornelius.
  • They affected the ethnic structure of their day as noted by the conversion of Grecians, Romans, and others.
  • They impacted individuals, people groups, cities, villages, nations, and continents.

 They kept the priority of prayer.

 Apostolic doctrine must be accompanied by the apostolic agenda of the priority of prayer.  It has been said that you can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.

 The fire of revival will never fall on empty altars.  A sacrifice at the altar has always been required before the fire falls.  It has always been so and remains so even in the twenty-first century.

 Real global impact is not dependent on our preaching, singing, planning, organizing, or working.  All of these will contribute, but prayer is the first essential.

 Let it be said of us as it was of the early church, “…they continued . . . in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Little Things

A few years ago there was a popular slogan on bumper stickers and t-shirts and an array of items that proclaimed, “Don’t sweat the small things.”  We have heard similar comments so often, “It’s no big deal – just a little thing!”  It’s the idea – though somewhat erroneous in most cases – that something is so inconspicuous that no one will notice.

Little things, though, can have huge impact. 

 I read some statistics about leaking faucets that arrested my attention.  We have all been annoyed by the constant dripping of a faucet that, regardless of the applied pressure, just would not stop.  Someone might look at that and say, “That’s not much water…just a drip…”  Consider this:  There are 1,680 drops in one pint of water which equals 3,360 to a quart.  According to calculations it takes about 30 minutes to accumulate that quart of water.  In 24 hours a consistently dripping faucet becomes 12 gallons of water.  In one week, that is 84 gallons – 372 in a month – 4,380 in a year.  Small things really do make a difference.  Just in case wasted water doesn’t really matter to you, think of this:  at $1.75 per 1,000 gallons that means your leaky faucet could be costing you almost $80.00 a year.

There are some people who think God doesn’t notice little things.  It was my old pastor who used to tell us, “That man that is too big to do the little things is too little to do the big things.

 I learned long ago that the triumph of God’s church did not come by the gigantic shoves of His champions, but by the gentle everyday nudges of His everyday people who are God’s men and women doing God’s work in God’s way.

Little things…every day! 

A precious saint who will stop and pick up a piece of paper in the aisle of the church – another who remembers the pastor’s wife on her birthday with a pie or a special lunch – the saint who slips a special gift to the pastor’s kids at Christmas – the one who anonymously (or not) gives a little extra in this week’s offering – These are all people who have learned the value of little things is not little.

 We all need people outside our family circle who are committed to our children.  It is no small thing for a faithful man of God to put their arms around the shoulders of a little boy and say, “If I can every help you, I will…” and mean it for a lifetime.

 Years ago my wife received a letter from a young evangelist.  He reminded her of many years ago when he was just a boy in our church.  One day Sister Tenney drew him aside in the aisle of the church and simply said, “God will use you if you will let Him.  He has a plan for your life.”  It was such a small thing – in fact, she had forgotten about it.  He never did.  Those words finally emerged into a fulfilled call in the world of God.  Little things.

 “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and learn of his ways…”  Here is a little creature but in corporate union ants take care of their little things and consequently they become a tremendous colony.  You are not everybody, but you are somebody.  You cannot do all things, but you can do something.  There’s a little task somewhere calling for you.

 Sin always starts small.  However, it is greedy.  It never remains small.  It always wants more.  It may have been just a glance and a smile at coffee break then a lingering handshake then… Sin will always take you farther than you ever intended to go.  It starts out small and ends up bigger than you ever imagined anything could be.  One little pull on a slot machine can become a gambling addiction that costs you everything.  One little “private” drink of alcohol can be the opening volley of the ravages of alcoholism.

 “If you will be faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many.”  It pays to be diligent in noticing the little things for God, His Kingdom, and His people.  It also pays to be diligent in staying away from the little foxes that will spoil the vines.  As my old grandmother used to say, “Son, take care of the pennies, and the nickels will take care of themselves.”  That adage applies to other things in life as well.  Take care of the little things and you’ll be surprised how you will find yourself able to overcome the big things.   Take care of the little things and know that God will reward you with bigger things than you ever imagined.

The Wounded Healer

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 14:15).  Our High Priest has this understanding of who we are, and how we hurt, because He walked where we walk and felt every emotion that we will ever feel.  He Himself has been wounded by life and by others.  Zechariah speaks prophetically of the coming Messiah who answers the question, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” by saying, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”  He has been wounded, too, not for His own sake but for ours.  Isaiah tells us, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  He can fully and completely heal us because He Himself is a wounded healer.  Only hurt people can heal.Amy Carmichael wrote:

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

So it is that in His world, it is the wounded and scarred He calls to Himself.  For they, like Him, have known the agony and despair, yet in dying to self live again in Him.

Just as the runaway check mark identifies a Nike runner and golden arches identify McDonald’s, scars are the trademark of Jesus Christ.  After the resurrection, Thomas saw Jesus appear in the room without opening the door.  He heard His voice.  It was only when he saw the scars that he said, “My Lord and my God!”  We are recognized as His by our scars.

Jesus Christ trafficked in every emotion.  He explored the vast treasury of pain so that when we cry He could truly say, “I understand.  I have been there.

When He was falsely accused and the crowd that had been crying “Blessed is he…” had changed their song to “Crucify him!” He could say from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

When a penitent thief, dying next to Him, cried out He had a word of assurance: “…Verily I say unto thee, this day…

There was a word of provision for a heartbroken, grieving mother, “Woman, behold thy son.  Son, behold thy mother.

He even understood the feeling of being God-forsaken.  He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

He knew physical need.  He said, “I thirst…

He even knew what it was to commit what appeared to be an impossible situation into the hands of a loving God.  “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  Notice, here He said, “my spirit.”  It’s an important thing to release your spirit into the hands of God.  If something cannot affect your spirit, it cannot affect your destiny.

At some time in our lives every individual will experience the stabbing heartbreak of betrayal by a trusted loved one or friend.  Our reaction as the one betrayed determines our future success in life.  A betrayal can be a blessing.  We give far too much glory to the devil, the world, the flesh for the circumstances in our lives.  We blame our enemies when we are under attack.  Yet, great peace and quietness become ours when we refuse to recognize second causes in our life.  God is sovereign.  He is our Father.  This is first and foremost.  He allows, He overrules, or He sanctifies.  Whatever comes your way falls into those three categories: He allows it – He overrules it – or He sanctifies it and makes it serve us.  Always remember, God is sovereign.

In the blessedness of quietness David endured, with a patient spirit, the cursing of Shimei.  He forbade any evil be done to him.  This was the loving hand of God working good through Shimei’s evil.  His men saw it and marveled at David’s strength.

Joseph was betrayed – betrayed by his brother, betrayed by Potiphar’s wife, betrayed by a fellow-prisoner.  Joseph should have been, could have been, mortally wounded in his inner man by the things that had happened to him to such a degree that he would perish under the bitterness.  He had been so often personally rejected it could have literally destroyed him.  Yet, he had a dream and he never forgot his God.  The secret of his sanity, the triumphant conqueroring patience he possessed  is revealed in his words to his brethren, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive”(Genesis 50:20).

If you have a word from God, anything that happens to you between then and its fulfillment is temporary.  His Word will always come to pass despite the pain and pressure of the time in between.

You might find yourself now in a situation where you are perplexed over the betrayal of a friend or a disappointment at church or work or in your family.  If you can only grasp this simple truth, it will make all the difference in your world.  God is sovereign.  He could have overruled it if He so desired.  However, He allowed it to happen so rejoice in the blessing as He is owning you as His own and preparing you for the comfort and the blessing of others.  “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).

He has graced your life with the glorious privilege of sharing with you the most intimate of the sufferings of Jesus Christ – the fellowship of betrayal.  Jesus had need of the betrayal in His own life so God in His own faithfulness may have chosen our betrayals.  He knew full well that had the choice been ours we would never have chosen a betrayer.

Following his Damascus road experience, Paul lived a life of God’s will worked out in humanity.  One time he was heading for Bithynia when God said, “Don’t go.”  He tried to go again.  God said, “Don’t go.”  Finally, he had a vision of Macedonia and followed it.  Paul had wanted to go east; God wanted him to go west.   Paul was very human.  He had personal desire and ambition.  He also was committed to the God who rules and overrules what ultimately ends up in our lives.  Paul went on in the next verses to remind us that we are chosen, adopted, and accepted:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Notice the three words Paul used in this passage.  We are chosen, adopted, accepted.  That is the God-ordained chain of events for all of us.  He chooses us, He adopts us, He accepts us.

When you are chosen, you are specifically selected.  Does your stomach still drop when you remember grade school playground games when teams were being chosen and you weren’t first?  David was forgotten by his father, ignored by his brothers.  He was definitely last in the line.  However, sometimes God chooses from the back of the line and those who the world might label losers become winners in His kingdom.

God chooses us to use us.  A key can be cut and carefully designed but it is totally useless until someone picks it up and uses it.  We should rejoice when we get in God’s hands.  He slips us in where He wants us.  We must be committed to His hand in restful trust.   Can you imagine having to chase a key that doesn’t want to go in its designated slot and open up the door it’s designed to open?  Please remember, too, that frequency of usage has nothing to do with the significance of design or purpose.  Some keys are used more than others.  But, when that particular key is needed, no other will do.  It’s what being chosen means.

There are three Greek words that are used for adoption in the scriptures.  In this particular passage the word actually refers to a son and infers that it is a full-grown person, mature in purpose and person.  In our role as His adopted children, He does not deal with us as runny-nosed babies or spoon-fed infants.  He sees us as grown ups. He sees me becoming – He doesn’t see me failing.

Even when we do fail, acceptance steps in.  He does not boot us out.  He loves us.  The verb “accepted” means that while I’m standing here in my fear, He accepts me as I am and invites me to grow beyond my failure.  He moves in my direction.  He pursues me in grace.  That’s what it means to be accepted in the beloved.

Jesus Christ heals and delivers beyond our dreams to a place where His expectations of us are fulfilled.  Jesus Christ – The Wounded Healer – chooses, adopts, accepts.  It’s how He feels about us.

That He Might Be Lord

 The heart and soul of evangelism is found in the story of Easter.  Without the cross – without  the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ – there is no evangelism and no winning of lost souls.  Jesus Himself proclaimed,  “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me…

It is only when we lift Him up that the lost are drawn to Him.

Salvation is a divine act. Evangelism is our responsibility. We must lift Him up! And in so doing, we all find ourselves at the foot of the cross proclaiming Him both Lord and Savior.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…”  In Romans 14:9 we read: “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord….”  Integral to evangelism and soul-winning is the proclamation of His Lordship.

Why did Jesus Christ die?  For our sins, yes – but that He might be Lord.  Why did He rise from the grave?  That He might be Lord.  We must comprehend that we live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  He was referred to as Savior 33 times, yet as Lord over 400 times in the New Testament.

We read in Acts 2:36-38 that to the Jews he became “both Lord and Christ.”  In Acts 10:46, to Gentiles, He was made “Lord of all.”  The sign on the cross proclaiming Him King of the Jews was written in 3 languages.  Latin was the language of politics, finance, and commerce.  Greek was the language of the media, philosophy, the arts, education.  Hebrew was the language of understanding and religion  This simply means that you can plant the cross anywhere – in any culture – He can become Lord in any occupation — But you will never be in alignment with heaven until you enthrone Him on earth.

At that name every knee shall bow…every tongue shall confess” – on earth, under earth – paying homage – When this name is thundered, Jesus is Lord!  However, it is not – nor can it ever be – just words to us.  He said of some, “You’ll say ‘Lord, Lord’…I never knew you…” – Just saying it is not enough.  It has to become a lifestyle.  They said to Him, “But we have cast out devils – done many miracles in your name...” His response was “I never knew you…” – I was not intimate with you.  “Why call ye me Lord and do not the things I say?”  Obedience denotes Lordship.  He said, “You call me ‘Master’ and ‘Lord’ – but if I be your Lord and Master...” – notice Lordship precedes mastery in His eyes.  They said “Master and Lord.”  He said, “No, it’s Lord first and then I can be your Master.

There are varied responses to the concept of Jesus as Lord.  Some reject Him outright.  The parable in Luke 20 tells us that when the Son was sent they rejected him and said, “We won’t have this man reign over us.”  Another response is “nominal” Lordship, if there even is such a thing.  Luke 6:46 references individuals who called Him Lord but did not do the things He said. He becomes like a king in a limited constitutional monarchy – just a symbol, with no real authority.  You sing to him, call him by name, but make your real decisions of life yourself.  There will be no crown of life without the cross of discipleship.  Jesus said, “He who does the will of the Father in heaven…” – the miraculous may not necessarily mean you know Him.  He said you are evil-doers if you don’t do His will – “Depart from me.

Lordship is not optional; it is mandatory.

A third option is to live one’s life confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.  In John 20:28 we read the heart’s cry of Thomas as He fell at the feet of His risen Savior: “My Lord, and my God…”  Does your life demonstrate that He is Lord?  If Jesus Christ is to be Lord, we must voluntarily surrender to Him.

Jesus made reference to taking up your cross… What is a cross?  When you know what you want to do and God’s will is the opposite and in spite of feelings deliberately you choose to do the will of God – that is a cross.

For Him to be Lord of our life means making godly choices on a daily basis.  In Acts 22:6 Saul said, “Who art thou, Lord?”   He knew it was God’s voice, but couldn’t put it together.  “I am Jesus…” was the reply.  The next question was what ours should be:  “What would you have me do, Lord?”  The second is the logical consequence of the first – “What do you want me to do?”  Jesus Christ told him.  He obeyed daily.  “I was not disobedient to that heavenly vision….”  The only thing of value at the end of life is what there was of God’s will in our life.

Several years ago I came across a writing by S. M. Lockridge that is a fitting conclusion to this article:

He is my risen Lord!

The Bible says that my King is a seven-way King.  He is the King of the Jews, the King of Israel, the King of Righteousness, the King of the Ages, the King of Heaven, the King of Glory, the King of Kings, and He is the Lord of Lords.

He is my risen Lord!

David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”  No means of measure can define His limitless love.  No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.  He is enduringly strong, He is entirely sincere, He is eternally steadfast, He is immortally graceful, He is imperially powerful, and He is impartially merciful.

He is my risen Lord!

He is the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of the world.  He is God’s son.  He is the sinner’s Savior.  He is the centerpiece of civilization.  He stands in the solitude of Himself.  He is August and He is unique.  He is unparalleled and He is unprecedented.  He is the loftiest idea in literature.  He is the highest personality in philosophy.  He is the supreme problem in high criticism.  He is the fundamental doctrine of true theology.  He is the miracle of the ages.  He is the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him.  He is the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient Savior.

He is my risen Lord!

He supplies strength for the weak.  He is available to the tempted.  He sympathizes and He saves.  He strengthens and He sustains.  He guards and He guides.  He heals the sick.  He discharges the debtors.  He delivers the captives.  He defends the feeble.  He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate.  He rewards the iligent. He beautifies the meek.

He is my risen Lord!

He is the key to knowledge.  He is the well-spring of wisdom.  He is the doorway of deliverance.  He is the pathway of peace.  He is the roadway of righteousness.  He is the highway of holiness.  He is the gateway of glory.

He is my risen Lord!

His office is manifold.  His promise is sure.  His life is matchless.  His mercy is everlasting.  His love never changes.  His Word is enough.  His grace is sufficient.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

He is my risen Lord!

He is indescribable.  He is incomprehensible.  He is invincible.  He is irresistible.  You cannot get him off of your mind and you can’t get him out of your head.  You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.  The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him but they found out they couldn’t stop Him.  Pilate could not find any fault in Him.  The witnesses could not get their testimonies to agree.  Herod couldn’t kill Him.  Death couldn’t handle Him.  The grave couldn’t hold Him.

He is my risen Lord!

That is my King!  That is my King!  And thine in the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever…and ever…and ever…and ever…and ever…and ever…and ever…and forever…and ever…And when you get through with the forevers He is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Amen and Amen!

He is my risen Lord!

Don’t Miss Christmas!

 

“All went to be taxed…”

How many times I have read this with sober concern, but today I smiled at the practical interpretation that came to my mind.  I have special insight into what makes the holidays special to so many.  It is women.  They bake, they cook, they shop, they sew, they clean.  They work hard on the dramas and the music.  They write notes and cards to distant relatives and friends.  They pack baskets of food and gifts of goodies to share with those they love.  And, of course, this is all in addition to their usual 24-hour-a-day job.  How taxing the holidays can be!

Disrupted schedules, stringing lights, standing a tree, extra dress up occasions, extra company and extra expense can make the holiday taxing for men, too.

With all this added tax . . . Don’t miss Christmas!

The pots and pans will soon be empty. The wrapping paper will be crumpled and cast aside. Decorations will be packed away for another year. Friends and relatives will all go home.  Bills will eventually be paid. Holidays come and go. Christmas is eternal.

Christmas is the greatest gift ever given. For the stress of the season to dull our joy for this gift would be much like a child who prefers to play with the wrapping paper and ribbon, ignoring the gift  it brought.

At the first Christmas season those who were sensitive to the event worshiped and were blessed. Mary’s soul magnified the Lord.  The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God. Wise men fell down and worshiped Him. Old Simeon held the infant Jesus and worshiped God. Anna, the wise widow, gave thanks unto the Lord.

Too busy with the seasonal stress to be sensitive, the innkeeper missed the opportunity to be among the first worshiper. Could Herod have been the fourth king if he had not been so troubled and too busy with his own plans and affairs? Don’t miss the marvel of Christmas in its profound simplicity.

Relieve the strain of the holidays. Sing with joy at any moment. Look at the stars and pause to wonder. Snuggle a baby in your arms and give thanks. Comfort a stranger. Give a gift of expressed appreciation. Surprise someone with words of affirmation. Capture again a child-like heart.

It’s Christmas! Emmanuel – God with us.

That’s what really matters.

–Thetus Tenney

When Faith and Fear Collide

Sitting in the little prayer chapel near my house, slowly I surveyed the furnishings.  Among them were the altars, a few cushions, some chairs, a Bible and a little leather bound book of God’s promises.  All of them had been carefully put there to make this a place of welcoming comfort.

On this day, however, comfort eluded me.  My spirit felt overwhelmed; my heart was heavy and my mind was clouded.  My day was  filled with frustrations and plagued by problems.  Sickness swirled around me.  There was  friction between me and the people who mattered to me.  Even my hand felt heavy with the cluster of urgent requests that had brought me to this place of prayer.

What was I to do?  Discipline and duty had brought me here, but how was I to rise above the despair and desperation I felt?  Faith seemed far-fetched in that moment.  The conflict of my mind and heart told me that fretting and faith did not flow well together.

The story of Hannah’s plight helped me in my quandary. When her adversary “provoked her sore for to make her fret”…”in bitterness of soul she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore” (See I Samuel 1).  She poured out her sorrowful spirit and the abundance of complaints and grief before God, weeping the words, “Look on my affliction!”  All the daily annoyance, the grief of family worries, and the torments of life seemed to fuel the thrust of her prayer.  Her voice was not heard–only her sorrow, grief and pain spoke for her.  Where was faith in this sad situation?

It is not spoken.  Hannah’s faith is evident only in her willful decision, what she did and where she went when fretting besieged her faith.  Can I fret and have faith, too?

The frantic father of the demonized boy cried to Jesus with tears, “I do believe; help thou mine unbelief” (See Mark 9:14-29).  Belief and unbelief, faith and fear, praying and fretting all rolled together–such a mess, but so human.

Again, on that day in the prayer chapel, the Word brought life to me, separating my troubled thoughts from the good intent of my heart.  Reflecting on Hannah’s fretting and the father’s fear gave me a fresh understanding of faith.  Hope for help was there, and that hope took all three of us to the right place–to Him who can be touched with the feelings of our weakness.

There are times when we do not know how to pray as we ought, but our groanings are understood by the Spirit (Romans 8:26).  In these troublesome and worrisome times, fear and fretting may weaken my faith, but it does not necessarily negate it. The strength of my faith is never the object, it is only the means by which I reach Him.  He  is the object of my faith, and He is able!

David’s prayer in Psalm 56 expresses it so well.  In verse 3, he said, “what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  In verse 11, he said, “In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid…”  When my fears seem to overwhelm my faith, I still trust in God’s faithfulness.  Then my fears are quieted and faith moves me on.  The important thing is not my paralyzing fear nor my powerful faith, but I know in whom I have believed and He is able;  He is faithful (II Timothy 1:12).

When fear and faith collide, trust holds me secure!

Why Pray?

Why should we pray?  Does God need help?  Is He not able to do anything He desires?  Is He not self-sufficient?

Careful reading of Ezekiel 22:30-31 can help answer these questions.

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 22:30-31

It is very apparent from this reading that God desired to avoid exercising just and deserved judgment. He actually sought for someone to ask, to intercede, that judgment be diverted.  Finding no one, God, bound by His own justice, meted out deserved judgment.  If no one intercedes, God must exercise judgment when He does not want to.  Why is this?  His justice demands judgment.  His love seeks an intercessor to intervene.

God does nothing in the realm of human redemption outside of the plan of prayer and intercession. This is underscored by many Biblical references to prayer and multiple entreaties, urgings and invitations for us to pray.  A translation of Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, I ask you to ask—seek, I entreat you to seek, knock, I urge you to knock.”  The importance of prayer is made evident as there are 667 references to prayer found in the Bible. God invites us, urges us, and commands us to pray.

Furthermore, the importance of prayer is underscored by God’s binding Himself to unequivocally answer.  “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).  “…ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2b).

In light of this, the entire responsibility for prayerlessness or ineffective prayer must rest on us.  His promises to answer are always circumscribed by His will, but any truly yielded child of God would never will anything outside of God’s will.  So, there is no “small print” on God’s part in the plan of prayer.

The plan of prayer is God inviting man into partnership with Him to implement His word and will in the affairs of men.  Man does have a will.  God tells us that whatever we bind or loose on earth, the same will be done in heaven (see Matthew 16:19).  In Luke 10:19, we are told that He has given us power (authority) over things on earth.  We are the “deputies” with full authority.

The scheme of prayer also encompasses God’s plan to fulfill His purpose for a bride that will rule and reign with Him.  Prayer becomes the training arena.  It is the apprenticeship for the eternal position of ruling and reigning.  We practice enforcing the will of God on earth as it is in heaven.  We bind, loose, agree on earth and reign in life!  God will not act without our exercising our will in prayer to intercede for His will to be done.  He will not sabotage His training program to bring us into full stature, into our inheritance of the ruling, eternal partnership with Him.  His part is complete and He gives us the opportunity, through prayer, to enter into this partnership as joint heirs with God.

John Wesley said, “God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.”  S. D. Gordon said, “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and for man is to pray” and “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.

Prayer is—should be—the main business of the church.

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is entering into partnership, “joint heirs,” with God.  What He has willed in the heavens can be done on the earth.  His word that is settled in heaven completes its circuit on earth as we declare in prayer, with faith believing, that His word is true.

God had declared His intentions, His will in Jeremiah 25, “…Because ye have not heard my words…land shall be a desolation…shall serve the King of Babylon seventy years.  I will recompense them according to their deeds….” Years later, Daniel reads the prophecy of Jeremiah and realizes the time for deliverance from Babylon is near and sets himself to seek the Lord by prayer and fasting for the fulfillment of the prophecy.  The prophetic promise had to be prayed into fulfillment.  God declared His will from His eternal perspective.  Man prayed it into earthly reality!

In Exodus 25, after the incident of the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf, God’s intentions were to consume them in the fury of His anger.  Moses interceded on the basis of the covenant promise made to Abraham and God spared the people.

God’s law and justice dictate judgment and consequences.  God’s love and mercy wait patiently for an intercessor to plead the case.  God’s word is settled in heaven.  Our prayers bring them to reality in the earth.  As we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” our prayers become the discipline training of our future ruling and reigning with Him.

Why pray?  God waits for our will to bring His will to earth.

What If She Had Not Been Faithful

My salvation, my whole life as I have known it, probably depended on a simple saint who was faithfully committed to prayer meeting.

It was in the early ’30’s when walking was more common than driving.  Port Arthur, Texas was the place. A young couple from central Texas had moved there to work in the oil refinery. They called a small apartment home for themselves and their three young children.

Church attendance was not on their weekly agenda.  In fact, it was not on their agenda at all. But a faithful prayer warrior changed that.

Every morning a little before nine o’clock, a little lady passed in front of their little apartment with her Bible under her arm.  To the young mother inside the little apartment it soon became a part of her morning routine to watch for the little lady who always passed her door a little before nine o’clock.

Where is she going every day?  Why does she always have a Bible under her arm?  Who is she? What is this about?

Then one morning, some would say as fate would have it, she stopped and knocked on the door.  (From my vantage point, I know it wasn’t fate, but unspoken faith from a fertile heart.)  When the young mother stood face to face with the lady from the sidewalk, she received an invitation to an old-fashioned tent revival.  Few words were spoken, but the simple invitation seemed to speak to the young mother all day from its resting place on the dresser. By five-thirty in the evening the children were bathed and dressed for going out and supper was on the table.  A little bewildered, the hardworking young man looked at his lovely dressed-up wife, wondering.

“We are going to church tonight,” she explained.

Willingly, he agreed.

It was a strange experience–the tent, the people, the praying, the preaching.  But at the close of the service the young father said to his wife, “You go and pray.  I’ll stay with the children.”

Kneeling at an altar, she was totally transformed by the baptism of the Holy Ghost!

Among those gathering around was the little lady from the sidewalk with the Bible under her arm.

“Where do you go every morning?”

“We have nine o’clock prayer meeting every day.”

“Could we come?” asked the young couple.

“Well, we normally don’t have prayer meeting on Saturday morning,” the Pastor interjected, “but we will if you want to come.”

Saturday morning, nine o’clock prayer meeting found the young couple joining the faithful saints.  Prayer was made.  Baptism was explained.  Both agreed to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.  Now, it was the young man’s turn for transformation as he broke the waters of baptism, speaking in tongues, filled with the Holy Ghost.

The young couple were my mother and father, E. W. and Johnnie Ruth Caughron.  These events transpired before my birth.  Consequently, I was born into a Sprit-filled home. My parents’ dedicated ministry carried them in soul-winning revivals and building of churches from Texas to Alaska.  Dozens and dozens of preachers were called and hundreds and hundreds of saints were impacted by their ministry.

What if the little lady on the sidewalk with the Bible under her arm had not been faithful to prayer meeting? I shudder at the thought–I probably wouldn’t be writing this now.