Where’s the Power? Patient Endurance

November 22

Wheres-the-power

“You have need of patient endurance, so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Yesterday, in looking at the question of “Where’s the power” in our churches today, we focused on the obvious need for a complete commitment to the Lord Jesus. Part-time commitment cannot hope to gain God’s full-out response to us. He will love us and care for us (because we ARE His children) but He pours the fullness of Himself only into those who have poured the fullness of themselves into Him.

This was so clear when we read of the early Church – they were abandoned to God, and He used them in mighty ways to impact their world.

acts 3_6

Today, we must touch on something that is not so obvious – yet essential to our understanding of the link between our commitment to God and with His power working in, and through, us.

In the first days of the Church (just after Jesus had ascended to the Father’s side), all the disciples were operating under Jesus’ final command. It was a very simple command – with an astounding promise… Jesus told them to “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49b) Easy. Hunker down in Jerusalem until God shows up and changes your lives forever “not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5)

What they were not told was the specifics. It was just… “Go… stay… wait.” Then: “Goodbye.” (As Jesus went up into the clouds and disappeared).

JesusAscension

I don’t think we should miss this – because it is so essential in our relationship with God. Have you ever noticed, in Scripture, just how often God makes a promise to someone and then makes them wait patiently for the fulfillment of that promise?

Abraham had to wait 25 years (for his own heir to be born). Joseph had to endure many years and many misfortunes before he saw the fulfillment of God’s promise to him. Moses had to endure 40 years of exile before he was ready to be God’s deliverer. David was God’s chosen king but had to spend many years on the run from a jealous Saul, before he could become Israel’s greatest king. And on and on… The promises of God are seldom, if ever, bestowed immediately.

The reason should be evident to us. The promises of God come to those who have an enduring faith. To those who refuse to give up on God (even when they might appear foolish to trust in Him for so long!). This is because our hearts can only grow up right and true in the “soil” of a hopeful faith. In many ways, we are not ready to receive what God offers until the promise has become our consuming passion… in every fiber of our being.

This was “in play” in the early Church… One hundred and twenty souls were “staying” and awaiting the promise. They were there, trusting in the Lord’s promise.

But here’s the sad part… The Bible tells us that approximately five hundred believers saw the Lord after His resurrection (1Cor. 15:6), but of those five hundred, ONLY 120 remained in the upper room to “stay and wait” for the promise. We know nothing about the other 380, except that they were not there for the greatest event in the Church’s early history. Maybe they had things to do. Maybe they WERE there and bugged out early. Maybe they lost hope. Maybe they were perturbed that they had to wait so long… longer than they thought was necessary.

But only the 120 remained – and were at ground zero when the Holy Spirit fell in power, to empower (Acts 2:2-4)!

Acts 2

This lesson is more important than we know. In our microwave, credit-card, Instagram society… our churches are not exempt from the pressures to see instant gratification. For this reason, the promise of God’s power can be so appealing… and so frustrating at the same time.

We want God’s power. We want to see our church services filled with God’s miracles. But are we willing to wait in the “soil” of enduring patience for what God desires to give?

There is no doubt… the promise of God’s Holy Spirit is ours. But with the promises of God, there seems to be a personal “staying and waiting” period to make us ready to receive what only God can give. Are we truly ready for what God desires to do in and through us?

Sometimes, it is true… only time will tell.

Prayer Focus: God, ready my heart for receiving everything You desire to give… and set my mind on patient endurance, with my hopes fixed upon You.

 

waiting-is-not

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Where’s the Power? Abandoned to God?

November 21

We are addressing the question of “Where’s the power of God in our churches?” We believe that God is a God of miracles and that He lives within us – so why don’t we see more of His power at work through our lives?

Wheres-the-power

In thinking about this issue, I thought it best to look back at the early disciples and the early Church – to see what they had that, perhaps, we lack. The hope is that in discovering the why behind the power at work through their lives, we could adopt those patterns and principles into our own lives – in the hopes of seeing the same results unfold in our own lives. (There is one major caveat in this… of which I will address at a later date.) But for now, we seek for understanding behind the power at work in those first believers who inspire us in the pages of the Book of Acts…

acts

The first thing we must notice is that the call of Jesus is a call to abandon all… and follow Him. Jesus was very blunt… “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:38) In its simplest, to “take up our cross” is to willingly embrace the end of our own life (just as they did back in the day when those crucified had to carry their cross to the place of their execution). Those Jesus called to be His disciples knew exactly what He meant. They had to make the choice to abandon everything to walk with Jesus – and receive all that He had to give.

And what Jesus had to give was… Himself. His truth. His grace. His wisdom. His understanding. His guidance. AND His power.

Jesus calls every disciple to abandon the life they know… to discover a life they can ONLY know by possessing Him. And Jesus came to invest Himself in ANYONE who would abandon all to follow after Him.

So we see Peter, James, and John leave behind their boats and their nets to answer the call to follow Jesus.

calling Peter James John

We see Matthew leave behind his tax collector’s table to answer that same call.

Calling of Matthew

Their livelihood – all they had ever really known – was simply tossed aside to embrace the infinite value of the Lord Jesus… and to give themselves to Him.

When it comes to us, we must begin by asking ourselves the all-important question: “Are WE abandoned to God?” Is Jesus our whole life… or is He, in all honesty, just a part of our lives? What have we left behind and lost… to gain the fullness of Christ?

The real answer to our question (Where’s the power?) is that the Source of that power is Jesus. A truth emerges… Only those who have fully invested themselves in Him will discover that He is fully invested in them!

The story of the early Church begins with the understanding that those first believers had invested all that they were, to know all that Jesus is – and in their full-out commitment to Him, they found that He was fully committed to doing what only He could do, through their lives.

surrendered 1

Truly, the fullness of the Kingdom of God can only be placed in empty hands…

Our first lesson to be learned is that IF we desire to see Jesus really show up (in power) in our churches – then it begins with Him showing up in our personal lives. He longs to be our consuming passion. He is eagerly desiring that His people embrace Him with all that they are — so that we might know Him for ALL that He is.

Prayer Focus: God, help me to see every area of my life that needs to be totally surrendered to You. Place within me the longing to be abandoned to You.

abandoned to God quote

Posted in Belonging to God, Daily devotional, Dying to Self, God's power, Miracle Power, True Christianity, Walking with Jesus | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Where’s the Power?

November 20

“Then Peter said (to the man lame from birth), ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” …(the lame man) jumped to his feet and began to walk.” (Acts 3:6)

PeterHealingCripple

Just the other day, a good friend texted me with a really important question. He mentioned the verse quoted above and simply wanted to know: “Why don’t we see that kind of power in the Church today?”

Great question! Why don’t we??

We say that we believe in the power of God. And we believe He is still able to do miracles. But when it comes right down to it – what we say we believe and what actually happens in our churches is (so often) two very different things. When was the last time you remember when God moved so powerfully that your whole city was shaken to the core? If I am really honest, the answer to that question is… never.

That should bother us!

We read about the ministry of Jesus — and immediately notice that it was a ministry laden with power. We have the Book of Acts — normal people, used by God to do amazing things. And we have the powerful moves of God (Revivals!) throughout human history. Undeniably, God has revealed Himself in powerful ways at many times in the past. He is real. He is powerful. He moves in miracle power.

And we have the testimony of how God is moving, in power, overseas… even today! In Africa and Asia, documented miracles ARE happening almost daily.

heidi-baker-blind

Why not here? We believe in the same God. We are trusting in the same promises of the same Bible… and the same covenant. Why are we not seeing the same results?

Over the next several days, I want to explore the why behind the why not…

But before I do, I just want to establish a few things right up front…

It is not my intention to attack anyone, or any denomination, personally. This is not anti-anybody. I believe that God is bigger than whatever “brand” is on our church door. There are true believers to be found in every church, regardless of the label. Christians have spent way too much time casting aspersions on other Christians – and quite frankly, it isn’t right.

Sometimes we forget that we are ALL called to be like Jesus – and He was described as being “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) So many Christians want to make it all about the truth. But the truth is cold and harsh without the tenderness of grace. Jesus was BOTH truth and grace. Both are essential. But grace must lead the way – especially with those who may be in some form of error.

Feder im Wind

Ephesians 5:25-27 tells us that Jesus gave Himself to “Purify His Bride (that’s us!).” He came to make us pure and holy in thought, word, and action. And it must begin with minds that are centered in the very thoughts and thinking of God.

If we are truly Christian, we desire to be everything God wants us to be. We also believe that He desires for us to be “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

espiritual01

Above all, we must understand… the Book of Acts is not the description of extraordinary Christianity – it is the description of normal Christianity. It is the record of what the Church was created, and destined, to be – and what it will be when we are truly centered in all that God has for us.

Prayer Focus: God, open our eyes to see the fullness of all You have for us… and give us a revelation of all You desire to do… in our day!

Posted in Daily devotional, God's power, God's Presence with us, God's provision, Grace and Truth, Miracle Power, True Christianity | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God’s Guidance

November 19

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

For all of us, there are those times when we just need some direction. We come to that proverbial “fork in the road,” and we just need to know which way to go – which way is best. Admittedly, this is not easy. We don’t really like our roads with forks. We want a straight path. No turns. No choices. And certainly NO obstacles in our way. Nothing in our path that causes us frustration, or doubt, or anxiety. We just want to “keep on truckin’” – one foot after another – without hesitations or delays in our journey.

fork-in-the-road

But, as you may have discovered, that just isn’t real life.

Life is always presenting us with challenges. And changes. And choices. And most of the time, we struggle to have a clue about what to do.

But for the Christ-follower we are never clueless. We are not in this by ourselves. We have a life-Partner who walks with us every step of the way.

Jesus reminded us of this… “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) Jesus was speaking, of course, of the Holy Spirit. “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (14:17b) The promise of Jesus is that every true believer will receive God’s Holy Spirit… to make the presence of Jesus so palpable, it will BE just as if He is right there with us.

Jn 14 17

One of the Holy Spirit’s main roles is to be our Guide. To lead us in God’s ways for us – and to make us aware of God’s divine Presence and His divine favor. Because most of the time, we really don’t need as much direction as we think we do – we just need to know that the One Who knows all things is right there with us. We are not alone. We are not forsaken. GOD is with us – and it is His pleasure to take us wherever we need to go.

This is at the heart of the wisdom of our verses from Proverbs. They are so well-known that sometimes we forget they are actually divine truth.

Our task, when faced with any unclear choice is to remind ourselves of God’s goodness, God’s Presence, and God’s commitment to our welfare.

We are tempted to try and figure it out on our own. We are tempted to “try and give God a little help” by trying to forge our own path. (But that’s often how we end up in ditches!)

Prov-3.5-6Our solution is so simple. Trust in the Lord (place our complete faith in His commitment to our good)… with all your heart (with everything we are – leaning only on His goodness). In all your ways acknowledge Him (SEE Him as our only hope, our only solution) and HE will make your paths straight (He will do far more than tell us what to do or where to go… He will take us by the hand and walk us through).

So much of the time we are trying to blaze trails into the unknown – when God is just asking us to fully trust in His ability to see ALL things.

This is why we have received the Holy Spirit. He is God WITHIN us to guide us through every part of our life’s journey. Our task is just to trust Him… with our whole heart.

Prayer Focus: God, in this walk of life, make me so aware of Your Presence with me and within me… Holy Spirit, allow my heart to trust You in every way I need to go.

Posted in Daily devotional, God's Guidance, God's Presence with us, Holy Spirit, living by the spirit, The Holy Spirit, True Christianity, Trust | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Source of Moral Standards

November

A few days ago, we talked about a moral standard, used to determine good or evil.

right-vs-wrong

“Of course, there is a moral standard… but that doesn’t mean it came from God.”

This is the objection of those who question that a moral standard came from beyond ourselves. This conclusion is borne from the idea that humans are thinking creatures who have figured out that certain behaviors are good for us (as a society) and others are detrimental to us. God had nothing to do with it… it is all us – we figured out what is “good” and “bad.” No god was needed.

But this line of reasoning does not work.

During the Holocaust, the Nazis had concluded they were doing a “good” thing by ridding the world of the Jews. Some, including Hitler himself, attached a moral value to his actions by claiming they were done for the sake of Christ. In the minds of many Nazis, they were doing the world a favor by: A) exterminating the “scourge” of the Jews; and B) establishing the dominance of a “superior” (Aryan) race.

Holocaust 1

The rest of the world, to this day, does not share their reasoned conclusion.

In fact, anywhere there is genocide, mass killings, subjugation of “undesirables,” or acts of terror – those who commit these acts believe they are doing good. They have considered the options and have concluded that oppression and violence toward others are not only right – it is justified. They are acting in accord with their standard – a standard they have thought through, and determined by their own reasoning.

And the rest of the world does not share their conclusions.

The problem with humans “figuring out” the moral standards of a society is that those standards are always shifting – depending upon current societal norms… and current everything is permissablepopular and accepted moral views. When those standards change, other standards are called into question. Before long you have a world in which everyone does what is “good” or “right” in their own eyes – and there are virtually NO standards by which to determine right and wrong, good or bad.

While this may seem like a proper way of living, it can only lead to disillusion and chaos. We all need boundaries to keep us safe – and to keep us from destroying… ourselves.

Think about it… Homosexuality. Same-sex marriage. Genetic manipulation. Illicit affairs. Abortion. Murder. Divorce. Good things? Bad things? It all depends on your standard of goodness – upon what you have accepted as good…

Whenever you get human thinking involved in determining standards of goodness you can never be certain that any conclusion is any better than any other conclusion. And you have no way of ascertaining which is better or worse, good or evil. You still have no standard to make a reasonable determination – except the ever-shifting arena of human opinion.

Standards that are the result of current human (or societal) opinion are really no standards at all. A standard is immutable. Unchanging. Is right and true today, the same as it was eons ago.

Just such a standard can only originate from Someone who has always been… and Who never changes – Who sees things the same today, as always. Who has always known what is best for us — in spite of what we might currently think about it. 

God knows best

A moral standard is only as good as the Source of that standard – and a good God alone can provide that Source of immutable goodness.

Posted in bad things, choices, Daily devotional, Humanism, Morality and Morals, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God… and Preventing Evil

November 17

We have been talking about the important question of “Where was God?” when something tragic occurs.

where was God when

In the midst of tragedy or suffering, the question often arises: “Why didn’t God prevent this from happening?”

The assumption is that if God is good, and truly loving, and all-powerful, He would prevent bad things from happening. Some point to the fact that bad things aren’t prevented as “proof” that God either doesn’t exist… or He doesn’t care about us. “How can anyone believe in God in the face of terrible tragedy?”

evil pain sufferint NO God

But is there another issue at hand? Is there something we are missing?

Let’s think about this… what do we want God to do?

Most want Him to prevent all bad things from happening. Natural disasters, terrorists attacks, church killings, mass shootings, rapes, murders and the like. That sounds good. We want our world to be a safe and peaceful place. In our minds, God should be the One policing everything (and preventing every bad thing).

But it’s not just that… we want God to get rid of all evil actions – to prevent them before they happen. We seem to think that God should be in the business of stopping evil – rather than just comforting those who are touched by it.

But let’s really think about what we are saying. IF we want God to prevent all evil – HE would be the One deciding what evil to prevent… and He would be preventing all the evil acts in every person. God would be preventing all abortions. He would be preventing all extra-marital sex (and all homosexual relationships). He would be preventing all lies. He would be preventing “fudging” on our taxes. Or cheating at some game. Or stealing some little thing that no one would ever miss. And so on…

We really don’t want that. We want to pick and choose when and where we want God to act. We don’t want Him meddling in our affairs (especially since we aren’t hurting anybody) – we just want Him meddling in the affairs of those who are committing terrible acts.

But here’s the thing we don’t seem to grasp… In the sight of God, every selfish or self-serving act is an act of wickedness. And every act of wickedness is terrible in His view. What we often see as harmless (not hurting anybody) wounds the very Heart of God. Every sin, no matter how insignificant in our eyes, is a blatant disregard for the holiness and goodness of God.

If we are asking God to get rid of all evil… none of us would survive the day.

The answer to the problem is the same as our answer in yesterday’s post. Jesus came to pay the price for every evil act, ever done, by every person. God’s act to “do something about all this evil” was to send His Own Son to “deliver us from evil.” And to willingly receive the punishment for every evil act, ever done.

That is hard for us to grasp. We want God to dole out terrible justice on those who commit horrible acts – failing to realize that we are ALL included in that category. And we also fail to realize that God poured out His wrath upon the One Who was sent to carry all our sin and evil upon Himself… for each of us.

God has never been indifferent to our suffering. And He has never turned a blind eye to the evil that men do. But He stops short of preventing us from choosing to do bad things. He seeks to honor our choices – even the regrettable ones.

Instead, God seeks to draw us to Himself – and align our minds and hearts with His. He is seeking that we would choose to think and act in accord with His thoughts and actions.

Jesus came to make that possible. Jesus came to deal with all the evil, at its source. And He came to turn our hearts to Him.

Jesus-reaching-into-water

Hearts abiding in Him leave their wicked ways behind them.

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Why Not Now?

November 16

Yesterday, we mentioned that the Bible tells us that someday God will end all the evil (and suffering) and usher in a new earth – one that will be governed by Jesus Himself — in peace, goodness, and righteousness.

christ ruling

But, inevitably, the question arises… If God is able to end all evil at any time He wants… why doesn’t He do that NOW? Why not intervene to stop all the nonsense?

Why all these tragedies? Why all the natural disasters that devastate the lives of so many? Why not stop all the killing, the raping, the hate… NOW? If God is able… why does He wait so long?

At the heart of this question is an important observation. One that was answered by the Apostle Peter: 

2-Peter-3-9

At the very core of repentance is this idea that every person must choose to think differently. That God has made it so we are all free to determine HOW we will think – and how that thinking will affect our actions. Our choices in life (good or bad) are the fruit of our thinking – they are the product of what we accept as right and true.

God’s desire, from cover to cover (in the Bible), is that we would choose to align our thinking with His. That we would conform our thoughts with His thoughts. This is up to us. He has provided what we need to come to a reasonable conclusion about God and about His love for us – but we must choose to embrace Him. We are also free to reject Him. And in rejecting Him, we open our thoughts to accept things that mislead us, delude us, deceive us – and in some cases, lead us to commit horrible acts against others.

choose God      rejecting-god

This was the case in the tragedy in Sutherland Texas. One individual, filled with rage and anger, released his rage at the people in that small Baptist church.

People have said… “Why didn’t God protect His Own people? Why didn’t He intervene to stop such a terrible thing from happening?”

God may have been doing just that.

It was interesting to learn that just a few days before the tragic killings, the killer had attended a social event at that very church. The people of the church knew of him, had heard of his domestic violence issues, and reached out to him. They saw his appearance at their event as a sign that he was seeking help – that he needed what only God could provide… help and healing for a troubled heart.

S Sprgs Celebration

Could this have been God, seeking to pre-empt the strike? Could this have been God working in this man to bring him the help he needed – and to avert the fruit of the terrible seeds that had taken root in his heart?

We do not know.

But what we do know is that God loved that man – as He loves all of us. God seeks to capture all our hearts with His love. He patiently waits for us to choose to turn away from our own self-serving ways… to Him. It is the freedom of the act of our wills that He chooses to honor most – even when that choice leads to terrible things.

S Sprgs Prayer

 

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